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.
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 !
The road crosses some nice villages before the Compiègne forest.
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.
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.
Immediately after the city, I was back in the forest and it’s wonderful bicycle tracks. Compiègne is really surrounded by its 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 …)
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.