In May of 2013, my brother, Luke, and I had the idea to cycle to Paris from our home in Reading, UK. The small ball of an idea soon snowballed into the purchase of new bikes and over £100 worth of equipment, not to mention the investment in a GoPro camera to capture the journey.
We set off blissfully unaware of what lay ahead. From our driveway, the 422 kilometre ride was still hidden behind the familiarity of Reading. The trip had the illusion of neve really beginning, as I had been cycling around the area to warm myself up to the challenge, and so each extra hour of cycling for those first few days seemed to be just more preparations. Not to mention that it took a few days to get out of the country.
Our journey took us to Newhaven, and across the channel to Dieppe, where an old railway that used to connect Forges-les-Eaux with the coast has been converted into a 59 kilometre stretch of flat, smooth cycle path. After that easy ride, we entered the countryside of France for the last few days on the way into Paris, tumbling down hills and struggling back up others.
Once in Paris, we stayed near the centre and spent the days avoiding most of the tourist attractions, cycling instead on aimless trips through the tight, busy roads and exploring the bustle of Paris. We then caught a train North-West to Rouen and cycled back to the coast, Dieppe, from there. Again, we were blessed with a converted railway that took us on an easy downhill path for the last few hours of France.
Back in the UK, we struggled with the faff of late-night trains, attempting to get back to Reading the quick and easy way, but instead taking a detour by bike across central London to catch a train back from Paddington. It was a thoroughly rewarding trip, and much of the cycling let us fall into a trance, a meditation of constant pedalling through endless green and yellow fields. It has instilled in me a love for cycling and I would love to set off on another, perhaps more ambitious, trip again soon.