Two weeks ago I set off on a little adventure, cycling all the way to Paris from our home! The whole way on a bicycle with a ferry in between to cross the English Channel. I shared lots over on my social media at the time which was really wonderful and also surprisingly motivating for me. Knowing that so many people were following along really did help to keep me going and I received so many kind and encouraging messages! 🙂 💙
Now here’s a blog post with lots more details and photos from what turned into a wonderful few days. There was crochet along the way too which is why I’d really love to share it with you all here. It’s a long one, a very long blog post, but then it was a long journey!! 😄 So why not take a seat, get yourself a drink… and enjoy! 🥰
Firstly, why did I cycle to Paris and where’s the crochet?!
So that’s a little background on our trip and why I took these granny squares along with me.
The route we followed was the Avenue Verte, literally translated as the Green Avenue. It’s an official cycle route between London and Paris…isn’t that wonderful?! Here’s the official website: https://www.avenuevertelondonparis.co.uk
And here’s more info from Sustrans: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/find-other-routes/avenue-verte
If you’re feeling inspired or even just a teeny bit interested in doing something like this yourself then please don’t hesitate. If I can do it then I honestly believe anyone can! During the trip the story of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ often came up in conversation and became a little family joke… I was the tortoise! I got there; surely, slowly and steadily…😃
Towards the end of this blog post I’ll share a list of the top tips we’ve learned if you’re interested in doing something similar…
So here I am, ready to start the journey in the same position as the photo taken last year. But this time it’s different… For starters I’m on a different bike, we’re without our sweet little Salty, and of course my dear father is no longer with us…
I found the hours of cycling very mindful, contemplative and almost therapeutic during this trip, and focussing on leaving my Granny Squares along the trail was an added bonus!
Just before midnight on Saturday 8th July, along with my husband and two of our older children Morgan and Bronwyn (it’s such a shame that our Rowan was working and couldn’t join us), we got on our bicycles and left our home in the south east of England to catch a ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe.
The ferry left at 01.30 in the middle of the night- it’s only a 4 hour crossing but we had a cabin booked to squeeze in some sleep…
We awoke in Dieppe to a beautiful sunrise and left the ferry to embark on our journey…
We cycled 122km on that first day! We knew it was going to be a long day and we’d planned the biggest distance into this first day. I’d found a gorgeous hotel that we felt was worth going the extra mile for, but 122 km was certainly a challenge!
From just outside Dieppe, the Avenue Verte follows the former Dieppe – Paris railway line for 25 miles, providing a fully surfaced, wide and traffic-free route. And that is what made this trip so achievable – the cycling was mostly flat and easy going, I just had to keep turning those pedals!
But we had only just left the ferry when I spotted the perfect place for my first granny square yarn bomb. There, with the beautiful backdrop of Dieppe harbour…
It was a beautiful moment… a perfect spot for the first crochet to be left. I hope it brings a smile to the people who walk on by. 😊
And off we went! We joined the Avenue Verte and enjoyed miles of traffic free smooth cycle ways… Beautiful scenery awaited!
The views were simply stunning. The problem was I kept wanting to get off my bike to take photos! That slowed our progress a little… 😆
As did a wonderful spot by a lake for my second granny square yarn bomb which meant another stop.
The changing dramatic skies above told us rain was on the way and yes, it did rain a little on that first day. But it didn’t really affect us. The warmth in the air soon dried us off.
We loved the amazing views across fields and French countryside…
We passed old station platforms…
Beautiful French châteaux…
And quiet villages…
I found myself saying out loud “this is glorious”! And that’s a word that kept coming up over the next few days… it really was glorious!
Then the sun came out again and Morgan found the best spot for my third and final granny square yarn bomb of the day. This was on a bridge in the town of Forges-les-Eaux. At this point we’d done 56 km from Dieppe! We weren’t even halfway through our day yet…
There were people dressed in traditional costumes which was rather unique to see…
And my crochet looked so good on that bridge with all the flowers…
But we knew we had to get going and really had to start making some headway! One of the lovely things about being on a bike is that it’s easy to chat to other people. Unlike in a car where you’re all enclosed, whilst waiting to come off the ferry in Dieppe we found ourselves chatting to other cyclists. One was a friendly French guy who recommended a cafe to us along the Avenue Verte. He told us we should really go to this cafe called the ‘Vélo Jaune’ – the yellow bicycle – and that it was about 60km on the route from Dieppe.
So that’s where we were heading when Morgan encountered our first puncture!!
I have no skills in cycle repair but my husband fortunately does… so I supplied the energy whilst the puncture was fixed!
With the repair complete we got back on our bikes and kept cycling. But by 65km there was still no cafe in sight. It turns out it was nearer 70km from Dieppe but it was oh so worth it when we finally arrived!!
This cafe is owned and run by a really nice Scottish man. He told us how he’d lived in the house for over 20 years and over the years he would often get knocks on his front door from thirsty cyclists needing a refill of water. So the idea of a cafe emerged and he opened one up in his front garden! It really is in the perfect situation along the route. Coffee, ham and cheese toasties with salad, and a water refill set us up perfectly for the final part of the days cycling!
The final 50km were tough! Some hills, weary legs, saddle sore bottoms and tired bodies meant it was a struggle but we knew that a wonderful hotel and a pool was at our destination so we just kept turning those pedals!!
And we arrived at the incredible Château Hôtel De La Rapée: https://www.hotel-la-rapee.com
I’d found this hotel on Booking.com when simply searching for hotels close to the Avenue Verte which we could stay in and what an absolute gem it was! It wasn’t too expensive, there was somewhere to safely leave our bikes and the staff were super friendly!
I will simply leave you with some photos. Needless to say it was a magical stay and I can highly recommend it if you’re ever in the area.
I just kept wishing I’d brought my Rooms with a View blanket because there were plenty of rooms with the most beautiful views!!
We did sleep well!
Day 2 was a hot one which made the cycling feel extra challenging at times!
We cycled 68km which was a lot less than in Day 1 but because we knew it would be a shorter, somehow I expected it to be easier, but that really wasn’t the case. We were of course still tired and a little saddle sore from Day 1… but we still set off enthusiastically!
You’ll also notice from the route below that we didn’t go in straight lines. I’d made the big mistake of using Google Maps at breakfast to see the route to our next hotel and was told it would be 45km. But of course Google Maps suggests the straightest route which might not be the best! And the Avenue Verte we were following is the scenic route taking in the most traffic free and cycle friendly ways… so when after 45km I discovered we still had over 20km to go, that was a heart sinking moment!
But we did it and throughout the day I left another 3 of my crocheted granny squares in perfect places along the route. The first being by the river in the beautiful town of Gisors…
Much of the route to start with was through beautiful forests which provided welcome shade from the heat of the sun…
And my next yarn bomb was on a bridge across a river…
A butterfly took a shine to my bicycle saddle…
We then went on to cycle past sunflower fields, charming villages, and beautiful castles…
… it was glorious!
Some of the stretches of countryside were quite vast across gravel tracks and fields… we were grateful for public water taps along the way!
We arrived in Cergy for our next stop which is where I placed my third yarn bomb…
We were now entering the North Western suburbs of Paris and the hotel ‘B&B HOTEL Cergy Saint-Christophe’ was much more basic but clean and comfortable and exactly what we needed. As well as a welcome McDonald’s!! 😄
We awoke to perfect blue skies… it was going to be another hot day and today, after 70km, we would arrive in Paris!
Again you can see from our route above that by cycling the Avenue Verte it follows the beautiful meandering River Seine into Paris. Definitely not a straight route into Paris! So when we passed a sign quite early in the day saying Paris was 30km it really wasn’t accurate for our chosen route and we had a lot further to go!
We started the day at the incredible ‘Axe Majeur’ – an area containing huge pieces of public architectural art stretching over 3 km. Construction began on the immense work of art in 1980 and was not finished until the early 2000s—some pieces are still considered works in progress. It really was a sight to behold with amazing views too… there’s Paris you can see in the distance!
And it was here where I left my next granny square!
Going the scenic way into Paris meant we cycled along the River Seine, through forests and quiet parks… there’s that word again… yes, it was glorious!
And there’s my next yarn bomb beside the River Seine…
And then it inevitably started to get more urban and busier as we got further into Paris. Coming into the city from a direction most visitors never see was also quite an eye opener. We saw parts of the city that were chaotic at times with busy traffic, scooters, pedestrians and other bicycles.
But we made it!! Arriving at the Notre Dame by bicycle was quite something and the sense of achievement was simply wonderful! It was fabulous to do it together with my family… I’m not sure I’d have liked to do the trip on my own.
We had only 18 hours in Paris before having to head back home. We crammed a lot into those hours including an evening by the Eiffel Tower which looked stunning all lit up!
The next morning I started by placing my final granny square yarn bomb in sight of the Eiffel Tower. It felt like the perfect place for my final one…
That’s nine granny square yarn bombs in total that I left in a trail along the Avenue Verte between Dieppe and Paris.
Our bikes came in really handy in Paris itself to whizz around and absorb the vibrant, beautiful and bustling city. Paris has become a bit of a cycling city with lots of designated cycle lanes which often felt busy.
Here’s a few highlights of our morning in Paris through photos I took…
We caught the train back to Dieppe and then got the ferry home the next morning.
As we cycled to the ferry I was so happy to see that the first yarnbomb was still there…
And as we arrived back in England, my Mum was there waiting at the harbour to wave us in…
My Dad would have been proud and I know he would have followed along avidly. I thought about him a great deal during this trip.
I can honestly recommend this trip to everyone… it really was glorious!
Thanks so much for getting this far if you’re still reading! 😄 I’ll leave you with some of the things we learned to help anyone else who might be thinking about a similar trip…
Our Top Tips
1) Plan your route and use the signs along the way as well as a navigation system- but NOT Google Maps!! For scenic rides it’s definitely something like Komoot that’s needed… https://www.komoot.com
2) Get good equipment! It’s a case of you get what you pay for. I had Ortlieb panniers that are widely regarded as among the best in the market but they’re expensive! Morgan had much cheaper panniers but it was noticeable! They simply weren’t as good and made packing the bike up each day far more fiddly. https://www.ortlieb.com/uk_en/
3) Be the tortoise not the hare (unless you’re a keen sport cyclist and you’re in a rush!) I simply went slow and steady and it got me there each day with energy left to enjoy a few sights!
4) Get enough sleep. We definitely didn’t sleep long enough some nights and we could feel it the next day! Our bodies need looking after.
5) Bring enough water and containers for refills along the way. You’ll get thirsty!
6) Wear cycling shorts! I did get a teeny bit saddle sore on Day 1 but I’m sure the padded shorts I was wearing prevented it getting too bad.
7) You could do it over more days so there’s less cycling to do each day. We had a tight time frame but it would be lovely to do over a week.
8) Don’t over pack! The lighter the better on a bike. I brought some crochet (of course) but didn’t really get much done. I should have taken half of what I brought along.
9) Go for it!! This really is a trip that so many people should do! A sustainable way to travel, adventurous but also seeing amazing sights with long distances of cycling providing down time and contemplation. It felt mindful and therapeutic at times… and the overwhelming sense of achievement at the end was priceless.