Winter has finally started in full force, and it snowed in many parts of the UK overnight. I slept in super late, but eventually we got up, and biked up to Devils Dyke, for some exercise. It had totally snowed, though most of it had melted by the time we got up there. However, we enjoyed the bracing air (ie freezing), and wandered around in the mud for a while, to get excited about the itty bitty bit of snow. Looking forward to our ski trip in a few weeks, when we get to see real snow!
Ferry arrived in Dieppe about 4am. It was dark. And cold. And we’d only had a few hours sleep. Uncomfortable sitting up sleep (Henri and I both had blow up neck pillows, an excellent idea of hers!). But we were quite excited about being in France, so we weren’t that sleepy. Well, a little, but in all the effort of finding bikes, getting them untied, bags reattached, and off the ferry, we managed to stay awake. Out through customs, then off down the dimly lit streets of Dieppe. It was dark, quiet, and a little bit misty. We rode beside the water for a time, then across a bridge and through the town. Nice and quiet streets, barely any cars, however it felt a little weird, not really knowing where we were… when the sun came up, we would be somewhere different!
We biked for a while found the start of the Avenue Vert (Green Avenue), then stopped by a little lake, where we put more clothes on (including jackets, as the mist made everything a bit damp), used the cooker to cook up some hot water, and had some tea/coffee and biscuits. We then rode on through the night (well, early morning, really. Was about 5.30am ish).
The first part of the Green Avenue was very easy, the first 50km is a wide, flat, paved bike trail, lined with trees on ether side. It was lovely, but easy, and more than a few times I just wanted to close my eyes for a bit. Would have ended up in a ditch. About 7am ish, the sky started to lighten imperceptibly, and every time you looked, it seemed lighter and lighter. We finally saw the sun shine through the mist, and then we started waking up a bit again.
We found a little town with a cute little castle, and with the mist and sun coming up, was quite romantic. Le Chateau de Mesnieres-en-Bray. A quick ride around the village revealed cute little houses, an old well, and lots of pretty gardens.
Our first stop was in Neufchatel-en-Bray,where we bought baguettes, delishuz pastries/tarts, and, of course, some cheese. Neufchatel is known for it’s cheese, made in the shape of a heart. A creamy, smooth, tasty, cheesy heart. Neufchatel cheese is apparently one of the oldest cheeses in France, dating back to the 6th century. It is delishuz.
We headed further along the Avenue Vert, until we found a nice place to sit and eat our breakfast, which had been a long time in coming. MMmmmmm finally, french baguettes and cheese, custartd and fruit tarts. So much better than being at work. It was also very lovely to see the sun. Henri had packed us a cheese picnic set, complete with plates, chopping board, and both soft and hard cheese knives. Perfect!
It was very interesting to call up my mum on Skype and have a quick chat, and show her where we were, and then to call Garth and Neke (who were in Fiji) and have a chat to them too.. the wonders of modern technology!
We continued along in the lovely sunshine, until we reached our destination of Forges Les Eaux. where we were staying at Hotel St Denis, in the middle of town. We gladly stored our bikes out the back, and headed up to put our bags away. The rooms were quite nice, the beds very wide, with the weird pillows that they have in France – one long pillow across the head of the bed, and then a few square pillows.
We headed out to the nearest patisserie, to get more bread, cheese and tasty treats, and a couple of bottles of cider. We had more neufchatel cheese, some emmental, and some lovely cheese complete with a layer of ash (not volcanic, it was vegetable in origin!). We achieved lunch in our rooms, and then retired to nap for a couple of hours. A good nap, to be sure. A shower, non riding clothes, then a wander around to take in the sights of the town. We ended up having pizza for dinner, with french cider and wine, and got a good nights sleep. Overall a good start to our trip, and we’d managed about 65kms since beginning.
After a busy weekend of work, getting final bits ready for our ride, and a long ride out to Faring, we counted down the final days. On Wednesday my padded seat and padded pants arrived, with no days to spare! The girls at work sent me home early, so I could finish packing, and we packed the last of our stuff, loaded our bikes, and wiggled on out the door. And I do mean wiggled: with paniers on both sides of the bike, it was a tight fit out the narrow and bendy hallway of our flat.
Henri and Alastair met us outside, where we had final passport and ferry ticket checks. A few final adjustments, and we were off! It was getting dark, so lights were on. The first thing we noticed was that the bikes were a whole pile heavier, what with moderately full panniers on the back. Very hard to lift the bike, and if you were standing, it liked to try and roll out from under you in awkward ways.
We took the waterfront trails, and then the bike route from Brighton along the coast to the east, to Newhaven, where the ferry was leaving from. Check-in was supposed to start at 9pm, but didn’t actually start till 9.30, so we zoomed back up the road to the nearest pub, so we could have dinner. Cue our first attempt at locking up the bikes and removing all the gear. It seemed to take forever. Putting it all back on again, seemed to take just as long. We hoped we would get faster at it!
It felt super weird going through the ferry check in on our bikes, with passports in hand. I have never done anything like that before, so it was quite exciting. More stamps! (for me anyway, not so much for Dale, with his British Passport).
Had to walk onto the ferry, as the ramp is apparently slippery for bikes, then we headed to the little alcove that they directed us to, where we unloaded the bikes (again!), and tied them up securely in a pile against the wall. Picked up all our gear, and situated ourselves on the least uncomfortable seats we could find, for our 4 hour ferry trip.