After an all too short but definitely needed sleep on the boat we disembarked at Dieppe as late as we could, after all the boat docked at 3:30 French time. At that time it was still dark, so we made our way into the ferry terminal, the waiting passengers were a little surprise to see eight cyclists troop into the building complete with laden bikes, where we stretched out, laid out and tried to rest until dawn. The passengers eventually boarded, and the ferry terminal staff happily wanderedback and forth, ignoring our presence. Dawn broke around 6 and we prepared ourselves for the departure. First problem was that were still “air-side” and the doors out were all locked. We finally decided we would have to climb over the counter and pass the bikes over too! Just as we starter to do so with the first bike, a member of staff appeared, so I had to rapidly get himself back and take the official route out.
Finally underway, the first thing is the climb up from the port in the freezing cold and gale force winds. What an intro to our cycle in France! It looks like the map in the ferry terminal may have been left over from the days when the terminal was close to the town centre, it certainly didn’t appear like the 10km ride we had to the town, where we looked for an open cafe. We started at the rail station, you’d think therewas somewhere open there, but no. We did find a policeman who pointed us in the direction, and off we went. We found a cafe, all entered but were mighty disappointed to find only two croissants. They gave us bread and jam instead, the hot coffee very welcome.
Refreshed and slightly fueled, we headed off down the D184 south. It was overcast and cold but we kept going,stopping at another cafe a couple of hours later, no croissants, but the bar owner just directed us to the boulangerie next door,happy for us to consume in the bar. We did get Rome funny looks and believing comments – “you’re cycling to Paris!?” I’m sure we didn’t look that bad a bunch! After another hour and a half, another cafe. By this time the sun was occasionally shining and we sat outside, Ed as usual started chatting to locals, there was a group of three septagenarian cyclists there, who when they heard our route, told us the road was all dug up, and that we’d be better going a different route. Eventually they offered to guide us on a route (promising no major hills) and off we went. They were not what you might call amateurs, given the chance, we were rolling along much of the way at well over 30kmh, maybe a littlefast for our group, but they guided us along some great roads and countryside we simplywould not have seen and appreciated. When after 30km or so, the first of them peeled off, we thought what’s going on? A while later the second peeled off,and we were left with one. No idea where we were, and just this very amicable septagenarian guiding us along. Then he pulls up at a monument, to the first man to win the tor five times, turns out he lived in those parts, and our man had ridden with him. No wonder he was bowling along so easily!
He was very kind and took us on, past his own home on to a cafe by the Seine for our lunch. This also meant he was going to have climb back up a 4-5km climb back up the escarpment. The cafe was in the process of being re-decorated, and they suggested we sit outside, but we were chilly and got them to clear the table of decorating equipment and we sat inside. Our guide wouldn’t join us for lunch, but did have a short coffee and departed. We showed our gratitude and thanks, and enjoyed more hospitality of the cafe. We had a couple of bottles of wine,and as usual Ed got chatting, the chef then showed him & Dominic the kitchen and a round of hid fois gras was delivered, complimentary, along with a glass of desert wine each!
After that we had to do a very challenging 7km ride to the Moulin de Conelles. It was at this point the only falling off of the whole trip happened, as I came down the drive, I found the metalled drive ended, and a newly laid deep gravel area had been laid, I proceeded about 3metres in and straight over! This twisted the ankle which did hurt rather, as was the pride as the rest of the crew watched this and laughed together.
Dinner at the Moulin was rather good, as was the wine and camaraderie.