Here I am, ready to start a new chapter in my life after 2 years of working part-time and cycling most of my spare time. I will start a new job with more work hours and hopefully with more goals to achieve, making work a joyful part of my normal cycling commuter life.
How can I relocate to my new city with one of my bicycles? The easiest way would have been just to pack my stuff and cycle there. Which is basically what I did, with some “side” arrangements. I gathered everything I thought I would need for the upcoming winter season in London: 5 pairs of trousers, 5 jumpers, 5 T-shirts, 2 skirts, 5 pairs of shoes (including my spd shoes), 2 scarfs, 2 heats, 2 glows, socks and pants. In no time my life was closed in 2 boxes and ready to be shipped overseas.
How small is a life that can be packed in 2 boxes, I wondered about it a lot, without finding an answer. The important thing was that I was ready to go, even if I couldn’t answer that question or find a way to not feel guilty for leaving my friends and my beloved mountains for the time being.
Day One “Cycling throughout Paris” (Koomot)
Monday morning at 7 am I was in Turin at the Susa Train Station with my bicycle packed in my usual 2 black sacks and the 2 bags in my hands. I was able to start my journey with an easy transfer thanks to my father and his friend who drove me there. The TGV ticket to Paris was very cheap so I was able to get a first-class ticket, with more room for my bicycle and for myself.
After 5 hours, I was in Paris Gare de Lyon, where a nice guy helped me to unload the bike when I got out of the carriage. While I was reassembling the bike it started raining, so I immediately put on my rain gear. Despite the fact that I was supposed to have an easy ride, it took to me a very long time to get out of Paris because of the many construction sites, constantly evolving construction sites between underpasses and upcoming crossings. It has been interesting to observe the Paris cycle network, several underground streets are dedicated to bicycles transit, while there are overpasses in the newly developed area of “La Defense”. Paris is redesigning its urban planning in favour of a new slow-mobility, cycling mobility.
The first stop: Chambly, through the royal forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, reaches Conflans-Ste-Honorine, along the edge of the Oise Valley, with its succession of remarkable towns and villages. This charming valley has inspired some of the greatest painters, including Van Gogh, Cézanne and Daubigny. At the end of the day my bike was already full of mud.
Day Tow “Trans ‘OISE” (Koomot)
My clothes had dried the night before, so I packed everything up and left. I walked to the bakery for breakfast with a huge butter croissant and one of the infamous expensive French coffees. A quiet day and little traffic, following small roads that led me to the Trans ‘OISE, a cycle lane through a lovely region with gently rolling hills and farms. I arrived at a good time near Contry in a small village where I booked a room in Airbnb. In this area there aren’t many lodging options. I left my bags and I went to the village to grab some food. When my french hosts returned home, I was unable to communicate with them at all even though I could see they were very kind people. They did not speak a word of English, and my French is just as terrible as their English.
Day Three “Vallée de Somme” (Koomot)
I woke up on a very foggy morning. I couldn’t see further than 50 meters from my eye. All the hills and colourful fields of the day before were lost in a greyish atmosphere. I’ve even got lost a couple of times unable to see the junctions of my track. Around lunch time all turned out, after I rode down along the Valley “de Somme”, I could find some bright spell, I followed the cycle path along the canal, without a car, a dream trip to Normandy on a bicycle. Taking pictures, admiring nature, listening to birdsong, and smiling at other cyclists was out of reach. As soon as I arrived in Abeville, I took a shower and walked back into town to have my front derailleur fixed. It was a bit frustrating not to be able to use the biggest gear for the whole day. I think my light bag was to blame. Despite the lack of sights in the town, I could already smell the sea air.
Day Four “Normandie” (Koomot)
I am always surprised when the weather forecast is so accurate. At 9 o’clock it would have stopped raining and it did. I waited a moment and went out towards the Norman coast. With more than 100 kilometres to go, and a very loaded bike, I couldn’t ride any further, so I stayed on the straight road for the first 15km. I arrived at the coast, an area full of places for tourists, all closed this season. A strange feeling of peace and solitude together. The Vèlomaritime (Euro Velo 4) guided me following the sea, the uninhabited villages, and the canals. Around the Bay of the Canche via Étaples, a port with the largest British military cemetery in France. Then I rode beside Mont Saint-Frieux Nature Reserve up to Boulogne sur Mer. Two punctures in one day slowed my ride, I would have liked to see a tiny bit more of the city. Darkness always comes too quickly in this season. In spite of this, I had a quick chance to visit the upper citadel and see the murals along its uphill streets.
Day Five “Crossing borders” (Koomot)
An early departure, 45 km to the ferry booked for 1 pm, and fear of not making it on time. Another puncture or headwind could had slowed me down. My journey began with the light of the city illuminating the steep hills that follow the course of the irregular coastlines. A breathtaking view as soon as the sun rises. It was not a difficult route, and despite traveling slowly, I was boarding two hours early. Fortunately, at check-in they allowed me to get on the ferry earlier and so I was able to get to the other side with a bit of an advantage on the second part of the route. In both Dover and Calais, the arrival and departure of bicycles are straightforward; inside both ports, there are signs directing bicycles to the boarding and un-boarding areas. In Dover I stopped to move my mirror from the left to the right. Even in this case, driving on the left is effortless with a bicycle. From Dover, I followed the Dover-London cycling-route, which immediately steepens as it approaches the white cliffs. The road leads to the lighthouse that I had noticed from the ferry and extends towards it. However, the bike is too heavy for a detour. I promised myself that I’ll come back another day. I continued following my path, skirting the sea after Kingsdown for 12 km before heading into the hills towards Cambridge. An afternoon on the back roads of Kent, between fields and nature. The small streets are shared only with those who live in the cottages of the area and those who travel on horseback. A very different environment from what I am used to. I am happy to cross the countryside and avoid traffic. Cambridge is a well-known destination, but my goal was to split the route to get to London the next day. I have not planned a visit to the city. I’ll have time for this too in the future.
Day Six “Who said tat England is flat?” (Koomot)
On another day of mild weather, my route often followed the English National Network, passing through secondary roads and unpaved cycle paths. Mud is inevitable on these paths, but on the other hand, you can breathe clean air, listen to the silence and meet squirrels. The roads follow the terrain between small hills, sudden jolts and short descents. I arrived at 2 pm at the ferry that took me to the other side of the Thames river coast. Fortunately, on Saturday the time is extended to the afternoon; I would have been without a connection without even knowing it. I paid 1£ to be taken to the other side where a gallery tells the stories of migrants. I leave the river behind me to cover the last 25km before arriving at my destination. Romford, North East of London. A journey that will lead me to live a new life, explore new territories, and seek new destinations. Maybe I wasn’t convinced that I was ready to turn the page yet since I was barely interested in riding the last few stretches. I continued ahead, I didn’t want to arrive in the dark.
TOUR IN NUMBERS: 6 days, 636 km, +4090 m, budget 360 € (from Turin to London all-inclusive)