Not my favourite way to start the day: a 4:30 alarm! Vic, my room-mate, saved the day by making us a cup of tea, and we got ourselves sorted as quickly as we could. To catch the first ferry to Boulogne, we had to leave the hotel at 5:15, which was long before the restaurant opened for breakfast. But soon enough we found ourselves back on the road for a lovely smooth sweeping route down to the docks in quite a heavy early morning mist – the only time in the entire ride I put my lights on. In fact, it was a heavy enough mist that the group managed to get split up and someone had to go back to check that the others were on the right road.
Down down down to the ferry
It took a while to get us all checked in, and there was a bit of a frustrating waiting around, but we were the first on board the ferry, and delighted to find that there was a proper restaurant on board that hadn’t been there when Andy checked out the route a couple of months ago. Most of us treated ourselves to a big cooked breakfast.
Several riders took the chance to catch up on a bit of sleep as we made out way to Boulogne, and soon enough we were having to get to grips with riding on the wrong side of the road. Those crazy Continentals! Boulogne itself provided us with our first stop, as a local bike shop sorted out Jen’s back wheel for us, and then we were on our way. Quite a climb up through the town, followed by a fabulous sweeping downhill the other side, where I reached what I think is my personal top speed ever of 43 miles an hour. And that was freewheeling. (The one advantage of having such a heavy bike is the speed it builds up down hill.)
After this we were into a long, long, mostly straight, undulating road, alternating climbs and freewheels, with regular short stops to allow the group to reassemble when we’d managed to spread out a bit. Riding in France was a new experience for me (heck, merely being in France isn’t all that familiar) but I soon got used to expecting traffic on my left, and enjoyed the countryside. We had fantastic weather and everything looked beautiful. But here’s what surprised me the most: after 87 miles on day one, I fully expected to find day two hard work from the very beginning. But slowly it dawned on me: it didn’t feel any different. This realisation was very encouraging, and I had little doubt by now that I shouldn’t find it too difficult to reach Paris.
Our lunchbreak was by a little lawned area in Mont Cavrel, where we were treated to another great picnic and where a local school kindly allowed us to use the loos.
As the afternoon progressed, it was great to notice that we seemed to be riding as a group more. We’d got to know one another a bit by now, and one of my memories of the ride will undoubtedly be the way a group of strangers became friends over the course of four days cycling. We did have another “wrong turn” incident, but this time it turned out great, as the wrong turn added only a short distance, but cut out a nasty hill. And at 50 miles or thereabouts we had a beer break at a roadside bar (and the use of another proper loo!) before heading back off towards Abbeville. Oh, but just before reaching Abbeville we had another beer break in a beautiful place called Saint-Riquier.
The IBIS hotel in Abbeville had great food, and we all ate well. And free wi-fi, too, so I managed to catch up with a few bits and pieces before sloping off to bed a wee bit too late. Day three report coming soon!