It’s been a long time coming but the edit-train has begun to blow a few puffs of smoke – this week I commenced from Day 1 of the European leg of our expedition. Hopefully over the next few weeks we will have progressed right through Europe and begin reliving our journey into Central Asia.
Following the often remote, sometimes uncomfortable and always new- experiences of West Africa, we were looking forward to getting back to some familiar comforts once we hit Europe. We’d booked a flight on a oneworld airline between Morocco and Paris for two reasons:
- So that we would not be lumped with some outrageous charges for our bicycles, and
- So that we could exploit our membership to the airport lounge with a six-hour layover in Madrid where we indulged with a hot shower and lots of food including several servings of ice cream and espresso 😛
Hitting the tarmac in Paris it was pushing midnight so we decided to save ourselves the mission of finding/paying for a hotel or a sneaky camping spot in the parks – and sought the comfort of airport sleeping to provide our shelter for the night. So out came our camping gear as we pitched under a staircase inside the airport. It turns out there’s quite a community of airport sleepers – and even a website to support them.
For all the beauty that Paris provides we tried to do it justice with a day of cycling around the landmarks – though our pockets and our appetite for mileage into the country led us out of there within 36 hours.
Heading north out of Paris we meandered through beautifully manicured fields and quaint villages before hitting the old cobbled roads which form the race route of the historic Paris-Roubaix spring classic cycle race.
Hitting the cobbles was a whole lot of fun – there were remnants of the race from six weeks prior forming a sense of being a part of the race; quite a buzz after only ever seeing this gruelling event on the television.
In a country notorious for its social nuances we found France to be a stunning place to ride albeit one of the least engaging communities we’d travelled through. We are told this all changes when you speak a little french – but I still find it a strange social barrier that must limit the experiences shared in contrast to the open and welcoming connection we feel with so many places we travel.
It took us less than three days to ride from Paris to Belgium, where we felt very welcome, and almost famous at our first drink stop.
So here it is, a taster for the riding and experience we had in France – enjoy: