Thurs 25th April.
Henonville to PARIS.
I would be in my first major city be the end of the day. Paris, a city I’d never been too despite living in London for several years and having travelled here and there before.
I probably left Denis and Cecine’s around 12ish. The sun was out again and I was starting to tan and get burnt in places. Denis was worried that I wouldn’t make the distance, but I calculated it was about 30km to the outskirts, not too far at all.
I envisioned cycling down a hill and seeing the whole city sprawled out for miles with the Eiffel tower in the middle of it all. The reality was very different. It very similar to entering London. You go through miles of crap and small towns inter-locked with one another before you get anywhere near it. Like swimming through junk, although having said that the towns I went through were quite modern, green and nice at times.
I stopped in a McDonald’s for wi-fi (a consistent feature of the trip, for better or worse) and after waiting about 10 minutes to be served while 5 employees aided one guy who was annoyed about how much something cost, I left the queue and sat at a table pillaging the internet.
Despite all my friends who had offered to put me up in Paris, all had rejected or not replied. I was starting to worry, and although there were many hosts there, none where replying to my mails. I was getting desperate. I didn’t mind paying for a hostel, but wasn’t even sure if one would take me with the bike and stuff.
Luckily, a lovely host agreed to take me in for a night, but one night only, as they were off on holiday the next day. Claire Leproux. Another massive relief.
Shortly after receiving this email, a bunch of kids with their parents were running around after eating. One of them came back to her mum complaining about something, and then emptied the contents of her stomach on the floor. They had been running around and shrieking the whole time. I was rapidly going off the thought of kids.
I decided to shoot before the smell got to me and was glad to leave the whole mess behind. I sympathised for the mother, who didn’t look surprised at anything and just cleaned it up in good nature. The Dad laughing at times.
Getting in to Paris was tough, it struck me as a fairly hard place to leave, especially if your wage was under a certain figure, which it seemed to be for many. There were large groups of homeless people sharing wine and living under bridges on the outskirts of the city.
It took me a while, but I found the Claire’s flat. I had some trouble getting in, but with the help of an art class teacher in the shop next to Claire’s front door, I was in, sharing stories and getting comfy for the night. Max, Claires husband helped me up the awkward staircase with the bike fully loaded.
They were a young couple, good English, super nice and interested in everything I was doing. They themselves had travelled extensively by bike, around north and south America. Although we couldn’t talk too much, as they were packing for their two week trip to Normandy the next day.
Afterwards, I looked out the window onto the street of this nice little niche of the French metropolis and started to take in my minor achievement, connecting London and Paris by cycling and the first significant part of the trip complete.
People were out walking their dogs, late night shops open, groups out enjoying their company and drinks. Paris didn’t seem so bad…