The initial plan
Our route to Paris was in simple terms…simple:
- London to Newhaven
- overnight on the boat to Dieppe
- first day in France on the Avenue Verte
- get to Paris over the following two days
- one night in or nearby Paris
- get train and/or ferry back home.
A key thing for us was that we wanted to ‘make the trip as French as possible’, we had no desire to stay in faceless accommodation like Campaniles, instead we favoured country B&Bs or tranquil places, but we were keen that the budget was kept low too.
Rough route planning
After researching the standard London to Paris route we decided to follow Donald Hirch’s route, especially for the final stretch into Paris with its green forest trails. This trip was about enjoying ourselves so we decided to take 4 days instead of the normal 3 and we also choose to leave London on a Sunday when hopefully the traffic would be less, thereby making day 1 more enjoyable.
Opting to stay near Paris for the end of days 3 and 4 would mean that we wouldn’t have to carry any luggage for the last leg to the Eiffel Tower whilst Sue’s epic find of a bike storage company in Paris meant we wouldn’t have to travel on the train with our bikes after arriving in Paris, just pick them up the next day.
NOTE: It’s worth thinking about how to navigate the route properly
Rough overnight locations of Beauvais and Poissy/Cergy were decided and the hunt for accommodation started. Initially we looked at staying in Beauvais but the options whilst various didn’t suit our ‘make the trip as French as possible’ mentality, we had no desire to stay in faceless accommodation like Campaniles. Hirsch’s site has some good recommendations for places to stay and we picked one, Les Chambres d’hÃ´tes du Confiturier de MalÃ©thi.
For the nights before and after our arrival in Paris options weren’t so forthcoming and it seemed inevitable that we’d have to stay in a hotel chain; we weren’t pleased at this prospect. So we widened our search area of Poissy/Cergy and stopped just looking for hotels and B&Bs and came up with the awesome La Proue Peniche Calyx near Triel-sur-Seine/Villennes.
Accommodation was booked and we couldn’t have been happier with our choices.
Firming up the routes
The standard London to Newhaven route involved too many kilometres so I looked for alternatives and came across this one on the Travel Log Lewis site.
As France was our focus I set about minimising the kilometres and climbing elevation to a bare minimum, see the route we took for more detail.
Catching the overnight ferry to Dieppe meant we wouldn’t waste any time during the day on a ferry and we would save money on a hotel. On reflection I’d probably try and catch a ferry in the morning next time or maybe a later one and stay a night in Dieppe.
With our ferry leaving at 11:30pm it meant we didn’t set off from London until around 1pm which meant we didn’t need a stupidly early alarm call that morning.
Read Day 1’s trip report for more information.
Initially I hadn’t realised just how early the ferry docked in France: 5am! This would mean a few things, notably a lack of sleep on the ferry and a very early start with no chance of breakfast in Dieppe first.
Still, we’d have 12 hours to cover the 100km to our accommodation which we couldn’t get in until 5pm, meaning a really leisurely pace of 10km/h including stopping time.
We decided to kill a little time in Dieppe first, have breakfast in Neufchatel-en-Bray (after a flat 40km on the AvenueVerte) and stop somewhere for a picnic.
Read Day 2’s trip report for more information.
I created Day 3’s route from scratch after looking at the various well-travelled routes. I was quite excited about this route and it remains as my favourite one of the trip.
The route rolls through farmland and pretty hamlets before coming to Chaumont-en-Vexin with its shops and supermarket (ideal for buying picnic things for later).
After a couple of hours there’s a lovely lake to eat your picnic by, surrounded by ducks, geese, coots and moorhens. Then on through more little villages, rolling hills and the odd bar before doing a little sightseeing at the gates of Chateau Villette (from the Da Vinci Code) before reaching our destination on the banks of the Seine.
Read Day 3’s trip report for more information.
The route for getting into Paris is superb, starting with quiet roads, through acres and acres of forest, down kilometres of cycle paths. None of my colleagues could believe how green this route was, I think they all expected a lot of concrete, busy roads and buildings.
After Versailles whilst you feel like you’re in Paris you’re suddenly back in Forest which then breaks into a view of Montmatre, then the Eiffel Tower whilst you’re crossing the Seine on the Passarale de l’Avre.
Although I made a few key alterations to the end of the route after passing the Hippodrome to suit our tourist needs (Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysses, Trocadero) I can’t believe there’s a better route in to Paris.
Read Day 4’s trip report for more information.