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London to Paris

Having planned my two week trip to the Alps way back at Christmas I begun to ponder how best to get to France? I could fly to Geneva but that would require a bike box which I suspected I wouldn't be able to fit on my back for the entire trip, or I could ride to France and catch the TGV from Paris to Geneva. I'm a little bit crazy so opted to ride to Paris, and given I was riding to Paris, why not do it in 24 hours? The perfect way to arrive fresh in the mountains. 

I had planned to ride solo overnight which in hindsight would have been soul destroying, but thanks to some chance meetings I ended up gaining some company for the road to Paris. I'd popped down to London in April and whilst the 10,000KM CC group were unavailable for a ride, some of their friends were around for a ride to Brighton. I'd never met Joel before but after chatting about my trip he instantly declared he'd be there! Such is the beauty of cycling- that in the course of one ride you talk so much you can make friends and plan a stupid trip.

Unlike the traditional routes, we started near Windsor following some excellent overnight accommodation and fuelling from friend Steph. Glorious sunshine greeted us on the Saturday morning and a small peloton rolled out and south of London in search of brunch. There was no great rush to get to the ferry so it was great to give Steph the chance to get out in cleats for the first time and gain some confidence in riding them on the road; nailed it! 

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After some top quality coffee and a scone, we parted ways with Steph and her friend Sarah and rolled further south. The rest of the UK leg of the trip was fairly uneventful if I'm honest- we spent most of it chatting and joking whilst Joel rolled around most villages popping a wheelie! 

We arrived in Newhaven with plenty of time to spare so grabbed plenty of food and got on the ferry early. The plan was to sleep but that never happened so we watched the ferry do some kind of random 360 degree turn in the channel, fearing we were being taken back to England... 

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The fun started once we got to France. First things first, remember to ride on the other side of the road. It's pretty important and doesn't go down well when you forget! It was roasting over the Channel so we were able to ride in shorts and jersey which was a great bonus. 

Things got a bit weirder overnight as we got more and more tired. There is a random tower in France with a massive red dot where we ended up pretending we were hobbits trying to escape Sauron. Thankfully we negotiated Mordor pretty well and eventually got past all of the rolling hills... 

We hadn't really thought a great deal about food overnight, assuming we would happen across some garages or a McDonalds along the way. It turns out that the French haven't really put much between the ferry and Paris so we realised we were in a bit of trouble as we had very little food with us! After a brief stop in one of France's more friendly looking bus stops Joel managed to find a bakery that was supposed to be open in the next town.

We arrived in town and despite being unable to find a bakery, we were able to find a bar full of drunk people dancing so badly they wiped out most of the bar in front of our eyes. The bar man seemed a tad confused to see us but was extremely confident he had absolutely no snacks to sell us. Giving up hope on finding much food and feeling tired we began to roll out of town. 

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By some sheer luck we found a garage with the lights on and honed in like we were sprinting in a race... only to find no-one around! Lady luck shined upon us once more though as a Frenchman rocked up in his car, rapped on the window and out came the attendant! We frantically pieced together our terrible French to order a few baguettes and some snacks before heading to the all important bus shelter. God knows what people thought seeing two lycra clad males in a bus stop looking with such love at a baguette at 4am...

Refuelled and with much joy, we began the last leg towards Paris, greeted by the most spectacular sunrise. Obviously, life dictates we had to stop for the Instagram opportunity so we hung around for a little while to appreciate that morning light. It's fair to say at this point Joel was handling the lack of sleep better than me...

When we hit the last 20 miles the hills came back and Mr Wheelie sensed the smell of pastry, fired up the after burners and promptly dropped me, posing one small problem; he had the only remaining food, and I was bonking and having to chase that food. Thankfully he realised just in time but not before I shot some shade. Thankfully such was the bromance by this point we were able to forgive everything over some Haribo. 

We arrived in Paris around 9:30am, having not slept for over 24 hours and massively ready for breakfast. All that stood between us and food was a a picture of the Eiffel Tower- or so we thought... 

As we posed for our selfie we were mobbed by some absolutely bonkers people that were filming a music video for their upcoming song release and strongly prodded into being involved. Prodded so strongly we had to sign a contract. I'm not going to lie, I have no idea what it said but it ended with us having to dance around in a field with our bikes outside the Eiffel Tower after being covered in foundation because we were too shiny. The most random way to end the trip. 

It was a fantastic start to my time in Europe and it just goes to show how cycling brings people together; at the end of this ride, I'd known Joel for a total of 36 hours and already safely assured myself he wasn't going to murder me with a multi tool. Onwards to the Alps!