Day 92, Rouen, 7.592 km
A new initiation for Jay and Bob in the last days: we went to see the sea! To be fair, we are talking about the North Sea, I did not dare to go for a dip either, but it is still the sea! And on top of things, under the sun (it seems that the statement in my last post that the weather was cold and rainy in the north is wrong… or the limit between north and south is in Lille…). And since no one had been told that it could also be sunny in October in the region, we were pretty much alone during the last few days!
But let’s go back to Brussels first … my cousin Antoine who welcomes me in Lille asked me not to arrive before 6 p.m., so I take advantage of a quiet morning to have a huge breakfast, chat with Anaïs and Tunc and read a little. It doesn’t rain, is not too cold and there is very little wind, perfect weather for cycling! I leave Brussels fairly quickly and cross part of the Flemish countryside. The villages all have names that are more unpronounceable than each other, and I’m not talking about street names… My GPS is definitely very mischievous lately and takes me for a little ride through the fields (I don’t know who said there was a cycle path there but he should try to go there himself…). It must be the air of Belgium which makes it a little weird. To make my life easier, I decide to rely more on signs than GPS, and I’m doing pretty well. Until somehow there are stairs in the middle of the cycle path… interesting concept, especially with a bike that weighs 45 kilos…
I find myself riding along the Espierres canal and I run into a contingent of geese who demonstrate… I did not fully understand their demands but it is another sign of the current social tension… if even the geese get started… This canal takes me to France. Again, no border, sign, or anything that points the passage from one country to another. Only a few more trees on the banks of the canal, which is now called Canal de Roubaix.
Another sign of the passage in France: the buildings. Bricks everywhere. Red. And brick chimneys. Red. The whole thing looks a little sinister under the gray sky. The classic cycling atmosphere is still there, and I tell myself that I will not be doing Paris-Roubaix this year but Roubaix-Paris (via Boulogne sur Mer and Rouen, not sure that this is validated by the organizers… and on top of that a week in advance). I then stay the rest of the trip in town and end up arriving in Lille. I’m probably passing very close to where my parents lived, but I don’t have enough memories to recognize. The day ends with beers and a nice discussion with Antoine.
The next day, however, I am kicked out at 7:30 am. Antoine has to « go to class »… We all know what students do in the morning and « going to class » is rarely one of their favorite activities … (Since he probably won’t read these lines, Antoine won’t be mad at me, at least I hope…). But at least I tell myself that I will potentially be able to move a little faster than expected in the direction of Rouen (330 km planned over 3 days). So I head for the sea. It’s flat, I have the wind at my back, I’m riding fast. In the sky the battle rages between the blues and the grays and I am afraid of being one of the collateral victims. Fortunately the blues do not let down and never stay too far. Saint-Omer. Ugly. The trees change along the road. It smells like the sea. Boulogne sur Mer. Disappointing. Fortunately I arrive at the edge of the beach with a little bit of sun. It was still worth making this little detour!
I rejoiced all day telling myself that I was going to follow the North Sea path. Stupid as I am, I imagined a cycle path on the seafront, rocked by the sound of the waves, pushed by a light sea breeze … As a seafront, I am served a departmental road, the sound of engines replace this of waves and exhaust gases the smell of salt. Great… On the other hand, the wind is still there to push me, and when I start looking for my bit of forest for the night I realize that I have almost done 190km. So I will push a little harder on the pedals the next day to arrive in Rouen on Friday evening!
I wake up early in the cold morning (4 ° when I leave) and I make a first stop by a bike repairer: I broke a spoke again, I will have to seriously think about lightening myself up, unless it is the cobblestones which got the better of this one… The sun is present but it has a hard time making itself felt. By mid-morning the countryside still looks sleepy. And I finally have the right to my end of the road along the sea. Between Le Tréport and Criel-Plage, I am at the top of the cliffs, I have the sea on my right, the sun in my eyes and the wind still in the back!
Carried away, I take advantage of the descent and the wind and tell myself that all roads lead to Dieppe. Bad luck, I find myself making a detour through a power station. A clever mix of signs and GPS should be the solution… Dieppe, my last stop on the coast before turning off towards Rouen. I try to take a walk in the city center but I quickly decide to find a park instead… These northern towns are definitely a little sad…
Last stage towards Rouen. It’s straight, slightly hilly (the kind of hill you can see from a distance that hurts your head more than your legs), and it’s starting to get a bit long. Fortunately it goes down at the end and I end up arriving at my aunt Flo and my uncle Laurent before night.
We also found an interesting game to get an idea of the distances: 7.500km, that’s about the distance I would have had to cover if I had wanted to go from Rennes to Kabul by bike … or go 7,5 times from Paris to Milan.
See you next time!!