Saturday, May 28, 2005

Charente Cycling : London to Paris

Last year I went on a cycling holiday in the west of France, and got rained on a lot. So I'm trying it again, later in the season, hoping for better weather. 10-day forecasts on the net lead me to expect temperatures of about 20C, maybe showery at the end of the week; with the hot spell from yesterday breaking down in rain in Paris and on Sunday, violent thunderstorms over most of France.

I make an early start, the 09:15 fast train to King's Cross and then there's nothing much to do in town so I just dead-reckon through the back streets to Waterloo Bridge, and am at the station with about an hour to wait for the scheduled departure. I'm just checked in when the fun starts - a goods train failed at West Dulwich, no ETA for fixing. This turns into a 30 min delay to start.

I'm the first to make the long hike to my carriage when we're finally allowed to board, and the second is the passenger in the window seat next to mine, a young French lass who is amused at the happenstance. We chat a while before traveller's doze sets in (with me having to wake her when the Eurostar rep comes around to find what needs to be done about making connections).

Get into Gare du Nord about 50 minutes late, and I hike through the heat. We'd passed a lot of "Non" posters in the suburbs, and only in the very centre did I see many "Oui" ones.

Room 36 at the Flor Rivoli, this time; and a very welcome shower - though the weather is hot enough that it's a job getting dry.

Check out the little creperie where we ate last October, but it's shut, so head to the Trappiste for food as well as beer. After, I wander past the gardens at the Forum des Halles, and then down to and across the river, to see folk catching the rays, and picnicking.

Parisians basking in the evening sun

There are dance classes in the sunken areas around the sculpture park — salsa, Flemish pipe and viol, old-fashioned squeeze-box driven country dancing; plus some ad hoc bongoing.

Charente waterways

Mediaeval Midi

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