Picardy & Champagne

Although an uncertain weather was announced for the weekend, I took my bike and looked forward to see the countryside northeast of the Paris area and famous places I’ve never been to such as the Compiègne forest, the castle of Pierrefonds, Reims and its cathedral and the Champagne vineyards.

(By the way I’m still writing in English, that’s a good practice and more peole can read that)

Day 1 : Compiègne & Pierrefonds

Riding from Paris is not very pleasant to go North. I would have needed several hours to be out of the suburbs. So I just biked the usual way along the river to the center of Paris and to the train station « Gare du Nord ». One hour ride, 5 minutes waiting and 30mn train and I was in Creil, Picardy. That was efficient. Without checking the train schedule before !

Nothing to see in Creil. It still looks like a far suburb of Paris. From there I biked along the Oise river, and a few kilometers later I crossed my track from last summer.

Bridge over the Oise riverThat’s where I crossed las year

Time to present the bike ! This is the first long distance trip (other than commute) I do with this bike. It’s a kind of test before the holidays. I bought some new panniers, same as the ones I already have, but black. I realized black is not really good idea under the sun. No way to store water and food in it if it’s to hot and sunny !

Verneuil-en-Halatte

The road crosses some nice villages before the Compiègne forest.

Pont-Sainte-Maxence

RhuisI should have crossed this property. It was Ok on the map.

Saint-Vaast-de-Longmont

At the entrance of the forest some roads are not allowed to motorized vehicles at night. And of course a whole network of bike tracks run through the forest. So almost all the day was on bicycle tracks from this point.

I picnicked along the river, in a place where a dozen of rabbits crossed in front of the bike. So I stopped hoping to be able to take pictures of them but I saw none anymore.

Picnic place along the Oise

Shortly after lunch I arrived in Compiègne. The center looks rich. Only big houses from when the castle was the emperor’s favorite residence. The castle is not great from the outside. I think the best building is the city hall.

Church of Compiègne

City hall of Compiègne

Immediately after the city, I was back in the forest and it’s wonderful bicycle tracks. Compiègne is really surrounded by its forest.

Bike track in Compiègne forest

Following the bike track it’s only 15km to reach Pierrefonds. So I made some detours in the forest. First to the Beaux-Monts point of view.

Compiègne from the Beaux-Monts

And then to the place where the armistice of WWI was signed. Despite it’s historic significance, the place is rather boring and kind of ugly.

Then I head to Pierrefonds, looking for a view of the amazing castle. And yes it’s as impressive as it was on pictures I saw. Really huge and with a lot of towers everywhere. It was rebuild by Viollet-le-Duc during 19th century. So it’s a kind of idealised vision of a medieval castle.

Pierrefonds castle

Pierrefonds castle

I met my German host Elias at the end of the afternoon. He was with his Austrian flatmate Irina and her German boyfriend Konrad. (There is no french couchsurfer in Pierrefonds !) All 3 are volunteering in France with childrens and Konrad with disabled people. They’re involved in what they do and are interesting people to talk with. Elias plays saxophone in the university of Compiègne band (named Ocatarinetabellachitchix) and he palyed in an open air concert in Compiègne this evening. The park wasn’t really crowed, an effect of the World Cup maybe (France – Uruguay playing).

Track of the first day.

Day 2 : Pierrefonds – Reims

It rained during the night and all saturday was foggy and gray. It was cooler to ride, and that was pleasant because the ride was 40km longer than the day before.

Even in the fog, cereal fields looked huge, almost endless.

Somewhere in Picardy

The first town I crossed was Soissons. It was severely bombed during the wars and this is what remains of the Saint-Jean-des-Vignes abbey.

Saint-Jean-des-Vignes, Soissons

This is an historic weekend, the armistice place, then Soissons. After that the Chemin des Dames was an important part of the day. Along this hill north of the Aisne valley occured an important battle of WWI where 200 000 men died on the french side, and maybe the same on the german side. This is why there are a lot of national cemeteries along the road. Here is a german one.

German cemetery on Chemin des Dames

It seems that a lot of tourist come there to remember history. It wasn’t crowded because of the foggy weather but I saw a lot of foreign plates.

Back in the valley again I finally reached the Champagne vineyard area. (Yes I don’t have many pictures for that day …)

Prouilly

Short before Reims, actually only a few meters of the entrance sign I got a flat tire. And no key to unmount the wheel (I was used not to need some with my previous bikes). So I walked to the center where I met My host and his american guest, right in front of the cathedral.

Reims cathedral

It’s still under reconstruction because of a fire that occurred during WWI !

Thanks to my host and his friends we managed to fix the flat tire without having to unmount the wheel. We spent the evening partying and watching the US -England match. And in the morning the tire had still air in it. Good news !

Track of the day from Pierrefonds to Reims.

Day 3 : Reims – Épernay : Champagne route

I wasn’t very comfortable with my newly fixed tire which I didn’t manage to get as hard as it was before (I might buy another pump for the holidays). But it was so sunny that I couldn’t miss the chance of riding the Champagne route !

Along the « Montagne de Reims » there are a bunch of small villages in a sea of vineyards.

Champagne vineyards

Champagne vineyards

Champagne vineyards, Verzenay

The road kept going up and down hill. That was exhausting under the sun. In Verzy one last steep way leads to the heart of the montagne de Reims and then it’s a long and fresh slope in the forest, down to the Val d’Or (golden valley) and Épernay.

Along vineyards are the name of Champagne properties. I had to stop for the most famous I recognized.

Moet et Chandon

Veuve Cliquot

I arrived in Épernay after a short day with only 60km. But that was undoubtedly the most beautiful part of this weekend ride.

The Castellane tower is the most recognizable tower in the city skyline.

Castellane Champagne, Épernay

There was a flee market in the center of Épernay. That was strange to see everywhere champagne caps on sale for people collecting it. Beside that the city seemed a bit sleepy.

Épernay

I catched the train back to Paris after waiting one hour and a half, and it was far more expensive and longer than it was to go to Creil. Then I rode back through Paris from the station to my place. Including these ways to and from the stations that was a 285km ride.

Track of the Champagne route.

Publicités

Convergence (Critical Mass) and graffiti hunting

This Sunday took place an important event in the bike community in and around Paris.
It’s called « Convergence ». Groups of cyclists are leaving their suburb towns and ride to the center of Paris. In each city crossed new cyclists are joining the groups and it ends up with a critical mass in the main streets of Paris.

I rode from East so the first important meeting was at the castle of Vincennes. Some said we were 250 cyclists there.

But not only cyclists, also 4 unicycles were part of our group (in the foreground).

Then we used only the main streets, straight to the center of Paris. Avenue du Trône where the columns are slightly undressing their scaffolding clothes. I used to compare them with the Argonath, which is what they are actually, the pillars of the kings (with Philippe Auguste and Saint Louis at their tops).

Nation - Giraffe bike

Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine

Rue Saint Antoine

Rue de Rivoli, next to the city hall

We met all groups from South, West and North at Louvre-Rivoli. I think we were around 2000 there.

Meeting at Louvre-Rivoli

After gathering we head to the Opera. A great street with the Louvre at one end and the Opera Garnier at the other end, usually not very bicycle-friendly.

To the Opera

The opera as seen from the pilot's seat

(Opera as seen from the pilot’s seat, with my special demonstration horn)

The Opera

vélomobile

A very special bike, like a small car, I have unfortunately no other picture of it.

musical tandem

These 2 people were great, the woman driving and her husband playing trumpet at the rear !

Place de la Concorde

We filled the whole Concorde square ! That’s also a square meant only for cars. Then the last few hundred meters lead to the Invalides Dome.

Invalides

And finally a well deserved picnic next to the Eiffel Tower.

Picnic at Eiffel Tower

The weather was ok. It only rained before the start. That may explain why we were not many more than last year.

After the picnic I left the cyclists for an other kind of activity.

Graffiti hunting

I was supposed to meet a group of couchsurfers at 2pm at Belleville, on the other side of Paris. I arrived there at 3:30pm. and started following the planned route expecting they didn’t finished already. Rue Dénoyez was very busy, there was a kind of street party. And it’s full of graffiti.

Rue Dénoyez

Riding up to the Belleville garden, one of my favorite point of view, and one of the less crowded in Paris, because outside of the tourists tracks.

From Belleville garden

I found the group in a steep street of the neighborhood, admiring each paint stain on walls ! Well not really but some of the street art they were looking for were difficult to locate and had sometimes disappear.

Steep street

I suppose this building was a fountain (Fons in Latin). The hill used to provide a lot of clear water to Paris.

Fountain

Then we found some really nice painted animals on a school wall.

School wall

School wallSchool wall

School wall

School wall

Of course we also found some occurrence of this man in black signed Nemo. This was what we were looking for.

Nemo with umbrella

Bike, group and graffiti

(I swear this is the only pictures featuring the bike)

Letter boxes

It says « mail for nowhere » and « gone without giving an address »

White man with Lemur

These white men where also everywhere in the neighborhood.

Ménilmontant

(I don’t remember the name of the original painting)

Nemo with bike

Nemo with baloons and dragonflies

After a drink I came back to Saint-Michel with 2 friends in Vélib’. It was the sunniest part of the day so I stopped to take pictures of Notre-Dame with this beautiful light.

Notre-Dame

Ile Saint-Louis and Notre-Dame

I can end this with a map of the day.