France, it’s not all wine and roses !!

A strange title but all will become clear in time. So how did we end up cycling through France especially after such an extreme adventure as Cairo to Capetown ?
Well it all started a long time ago really, long before we’d actually signed up for the TDA ride. We’d already decided we wanted to go to South East Asia but we also knew that anytime before September would still very much be the rainy season. This left us two clear months after TDA and Glastonbury to go somewhere and cycle. As it happens my father lives in Cervignano in North East Italy so we decided to cycle from the UK to go and visit him there. Our journey would take us down through France crossing the Alps on the way. Everything was sorted, dates arranged etc, we’d even booked a campsite in Epernay so our friends could come for a weekends cycling.
We would leave just after Glastonbury festival in time to meet friends as arranged. As it happened the festival was a week later than Naomi thought and as there was no way she was missing Glastonbury we decided to catch a train to Paris then out to Epernay instead. This would mean that we’d still be able to spend some time with friends and cycle around the champagne region and sample some of its produce !! We would also find out that my father was on holiday in Southern Italy so we were gaining rather than losing kilometres!
The day finally arrived and we left my mums home in Stokenchurch on our bikes and headed for the local train station, no problems and soon we were in London. We met a friend of Naomi’s outside the station and he acted as tour guide to Saint Pancras station to catch the train to Paris. Again no problems and soon enough we were relaxing on the train heading through the tunnel. Due to experience Naomi flew out of the carriage at Paris to catch our bikes before they were taken to the luggage office some distance away. Our kit was loaded back onto the bikes for the short journey to the next station for a regional train out to Epernay -a bit of a wait as we’d just missed the train but it gave us time to grab some food πŸ˜‰
The train arrived on time in Epernay and our friends were there to meet us,

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Tim, Jude and Brian had already set up at camp and guided us back along the cycle path. We soon had our tents up, unpacked, showered and were ready for dinner. We took our bikes and cycled into town and found a nice quiet little restaurant, the food was good but the beer was pricey so we went to a cheaper bar after for a couple of beers and a good old chat. Great to be with our friends, we were looking forward to getting out on our bikes in the French countryside πŸ˜‰

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Outside the restaurant and in the bar later !
Morning arrived and Brian acted as host and provided us all with breakfast while Tim sorted the coffee, nice to be looked after πŸ˜‰
Naomi had another friend arriving in Epernay and she would be on an early train so all on the bikes and off to meet her at the station. Lee arrived on time and was soon back at camp putting up her tent? No rest for the wicked though as we’d arranged a cycle ride !

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Lee arriving at the station πŸ˜‰
The ride included a stop at a champagne house, Merciers to be exact, and we would get a tour of their cellars and taste some of their fine produce. The ride to get there was short and fairly flat but was quite hot so we were all glad to be inside in air conditioned luxury !
We were stunned by the size of a huge barrel in the atrium as you go in, it held 200,000 bottles and weighed 20 tons when empty !! Added to that the 18 kilometres of tunnels and some great champagne to taste and you have a great visit, a fantastic start to our French adventure !!

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Merciers champagne house, some of their cellars, the huge barrel and Tim indulging in a glass of bubbly πŸ˜‰
We went for a fairly long ride afterwards and were amazed by the beauty of the landscape – poppy and wheat fields all laced with wild flowers, medieval villages, clear rivers, churches, stunning views from rolling hills, quiet country lanes and the occasional cafe or bar for refreshment. We arrived back at camp tired, hungry but very happy πŸ˜‰

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Lee riding past poppy fields. Wild flowers. Vineyards. And Naomi with her dream house behind her ;-).
Brian again played host and cooked for us all and very good it was too !
The following day saw us back out on the bikes, more great scenery and this time a picnic lunch. Naomi was out on a friends bike as her own bike had not been serviced in time, it needed some alterations to make it comfortable so we stopped at Decathlon just outside Epernay. Two very helpful staff soon had the bike sorted and it made a huge difference to Naomi’s comfort.

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Picnic lunch πŸ˜‰

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Naomi and the two very helpful Decathlon staff πŸ˜‰
Next morning Tim was going home so we waved him goodbye before heading out for some more champagne tasting. The first place was a very small family run business and we were shown into the kitchen where we were each given a glass of champagne. They didn’t speak much English and we didn’t speak much French so it was a little embarrassing but it soon became clear that they only produced the one champagne so there wasn’t anything else to try. The champagne was actually very good and Brian and Jude purchased two bottles.
Well, it was Judes birthday!

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Champagne tasting on Jude’s birthday πŸ˜‰
We continued on to the next place our guide recommended, a larger place, much more used to dealing with tourists. 5 euro each entitled us to try four different champagnes, good measures too !!
Although we enjoyed the visit and everyone enjoyed the champagne we didn’t buy, we already had what we needed so we left. We were looking for something to eat when we came across a village fete. Old cars, people in costume, craft stalls and yes, places to get food and drink. We ordered our sandwiches and beer and took our place on the refectory tables. Good food, good beer, warm sun and even better friends…..another great day in the French countryside πŸ˜‰

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Classic cars, music, costume and a little dancing πŸ˜‰
On return to camp Lee packed up her tent and we went to the station to wave goodbye. Another guest was due in an hour so we went for a beer and found ourselves in a bar watching Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final……he won !!
Thijs our Dutch friend arrived, we’d met him on the TDA Cairo to Capetown ride and he was joining us for the next few weeks.
After good pizza and a few beers we headed back to the tents to drink the champagne they’d put in the fridge for us…..another good night πŸ˜‰

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Pizza and champagne, welcome to camp Thijs πŸ˜‰
Next day would see Naomi, Thijs and myself start on our way south through France.
That’s for next time πŸ˜‰
Take care
JC

PS, about the title, not wine and roses….more like champagne and Poppy’s πŸ˜‰

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About John Chevis

I'm a forty something single guy who spent far to long depressed, but luckily for me I found an answer in the form of exercise !! I started running and cycling on a regular basis and now two and a half years later I'm cycling the world !!
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One Response to France, it’s not all wine and roses !!

  1. Jude says:

    That was a fun time. Brian & me went back to the 2nd champagne house, and brought some home. πŸ™‚

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