Our “official” role as pelerins started at Newhaven ferry port on the 24th of November. The weather was not good and the crossing was very rough and I was slightly sick on the ferry. Nevertheless after the previous days cycle a rest day was needed. There was only a short cycle to the hotel.
We set off after a short pray on the 25th, in the rain heading for the Avenue Verte. This is an official cycle route to Paris. The path which starts by following an old railway path from near Dieppe is tarmacked and gentle in gradient.
Despite chocolate and an apple by 12:30 I was wilting. The rain kept coming and going. For lunch we found a small cafe. Madam could not have been more welcoming. We had a great lunch of chips and omelette washed down with local cider and dried off.
Day 2 as cycling pelerins dawned very differently to day 1. The weather was cold, clear and frosty. This made cycling difficult. The path was icy and four peoples’ brakes froze. Added to this a mistake in our hotel bookings meant we had to potentially cycle 65 miles having cycled 50 the day before.
At this point we were near Paris and the Avenue Verte started to go a bit crazy. The route took us down twists and turns past schools with children coming out along old railway lines (not well surfaced), through a huge forest, by the Seine, through a posh part of Paris and onto the suburban streets of Paris. Things started to get scary. The traffic was awful. At one point we cycled down a quiet dark alley (a relief). However three cannabis smoking youths debated whether to mug us.
Day 3 was supposedly an easy ride into Paris with a very short distance of 15 miles or so. Unfortunately the Avenue Verte was by now just very crazy and very scary (called a family section!). It zigzagged around and various sections were closed. We were looking for a brunch. Again we found a café with another wonderful madam who could not have made us more welcoming. At the pilgrims event we were heading for had to present a song. We wrote and practised this in the café. At this point group of people came in asked what we were up to. They told us they had also come from Bayonne for the COP and that a protest was planned for Sunday morning.
The rest of the cycle (Avenue Verte intermediate section!) was a nightmare of traffic, other cyclists and pedestrians who did not like us on the shared sections and it was with some relief we arrived at Notre Dame. After a photoshoot it only remained to take out bikes to Gare Du Nord to leave with Eurostar. This final day was a 6 hour ride.