Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive 6 (34 miles via The Mill Cafe Bar and Restaurant, Yaxham)

Note Mill Cafe is now closed down

Yesterday saw the 6th Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour sportive take place. Due to injury, apathy and foreign holidays the trip was whittled down to only 4 riders registering at race HQ.

One of the riders was Dr Hans who had been very disappointed with the quality of the first aid kit taken on the last sportive, particularly as it lacked any gauze, and he insisted on checking it had all the first aid essentials before we were allowed to set off. The kit was laid out and his approval given.
First aid kit getting the medical thumbs up, including two pink tablets no one was sure about
So under a grey and drizzly sky we set off on the ride out to The Mill Cafe Bar and Restaurant at Yaxham which had performed very well on my previous visit back in January (see Is there such a thing as a free lunch). We hadn't gone far when we realised no one had remembered to pick up the first aid kit after it's inspection so if there was a medical emergency today Dr Hans would have to improvise on equipment. I decided not to tell him in case he made us go back for it.

On the navigation front I had finally read up on how my sat nav was meant to work and it was now operating correctly. We therefore arrived at the Mill Cafe Bar and Restaurant near Yaxham with out further incident.

Sportive entrants with bikes parked up in outside seating area of the Mill Cafe Bar and Restaurant
On arrival we parked our bikes and as it was still a bit cold and grey we decided to sit inside. The Mill Cafe Bar and Restaurant has a number of indoor and outdoor seating areas to choose from and on this occasion we went for the leather sofa seating area. Before we sat down we checked out the cakes, of which there was only a small but tempting selection. Dr Hans and Little George (Son) opted for rocky road while myself and Chris (wife) went for the white chocolate and raspberry sponge cake. Little George also had a cheese scone and I was pleased to see it was warmed up and stuck to the advice from the scone rhyme; "Cheese scone hot, fruit scone not".
Drinks and cakes on the coffee table in the leather sofa seating area
The hot chocolates and coffees were all very good and scored well. The cakes were also excellent and I thought the bit of rocky road I tried was the finest I had had despite not being a supporter of the marshmallow. Last time I came I had not been a big fan of the cheese scone but George reported that it was now very tasty. When I had totted up today's ratings the Mill Cafe Bar and Restaurant had come out with practically the same overall score as on the last visit and maintained it's place in my cafe top 10.

With drinks and cakes consumed we had to set off home. On the way back I took the opportunity of consulting Dr Hans on my bunged up ear, due to three swimming sessions last week. He advised I put olive oil in it for a few days which I will do but as added innovation I will put vinegar in the other ear in case I come across a salad that needs dressing.

It was another successful Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive and everyone said that they were already looking forward to the next one on October 18th. All welcome.

Updated scores for The Mill Cafe Bar based on 2 visits.
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.0
8.0
6.5
7.38
7.5
7.48

This is map of the route
Click here to download 34 miles Norwich Yaxham loop GPX file for your GPS

Friday, 19 September 2014

Celebrity ride. (Every Days a Picnic, Hedenham)

Every days a Picnic,
Hedenham,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:00-17:00, Sat 10:00-16:00
Highly Recommended
Today was the first time it had been possible to arrange a ride with Big George since our epic ride to Paris a few weeks ago (see London to Paris by bike day 1). As well as catching up with him we were going to start thinking about a possible route for next years trip.

Due to Big George having a dentist appointment we only had time for a morning ride. Fortunately last week I noticed a new cafe, called Every Days a Picnic, on the Norwich to Bungay road just outside Hedenham so this seemed an ideal opportunity to check it out.

Once again I had my new Sat Nav which had failed spectacularly to navigate correctly on its first outing earlier this week (see Garden Delight). I thought I had worked out what was wrong so confidently set off. Unfortunately once again it must have got confused as it made me follow a different route from the one I planned and we were soon going in totally the wrong direction. When I eventually realised it must have gone wrong again I switched it off and corrected ourselves using the old fashioned method of following sign posts. However we had to speed up to make sure that Big George would get to the dentist. We eventually arrived at Every Days a Picnic cafe. Note to self 'open and read Sat Nav instructions before next ride'.
Outside Every days a Picnic cafe in outside seating courtyard area
Every Days a Picnic cafe has a well presented outdoor seating courtyard area where we parked our bikes before going inside to check out the cakes. The staff were very friendly so we got chatting and I happened to mention my cycle cafe review blog. I was extremely pleased when they seemed to know all about it and had even forwarded a post to a biking friend of theirs. Big George was getting very excited and didn't want to miss out. He leapt forward to introduce himself. 'I'm Big George'.he said, 'and I'm often the star of the blog'. After much more Big George led blog chat I reminded him of our time constraint and was eventually able to check out the cakes. There were lots of tempting ones to try but I was persuaded by Mrs Picnic to go for the Chocolate and Guinness cake (although I was very tempted by banana and walnut). I therefore awarded a good effective cake selection rating.
Some of the cakes on offer,
which were all made on the premises and looked very good
Now that Big George thought he was a celebrity he clearly felt he no longer had to pander to my cafe reviewing needs and instead of ordering a cake he went for a bacon ciabatta. As a bacon caibatta is clearly not a cake, celebrity or not, he would be playing no further part in any cake related reviewing activity today.

We sat outside where Big George wanted to know if the other visitors to the cafe wanted his autograph (they didn't).
Cakes and drinks ready to taste.
 Note the extra bit of home-made cake with the drinks which was a nice touch
 and makes a change from a pre wrapped biscuit
The chocolate and Guinness cake was superb and would be a definite contender for the 'Norfolk cafe cycle tour cake of the year 2014' award (if there was one). (Note there is now and it did win!!) As the barista had promised, Big George's Cappuccino had excellent froth and he thought it was a very good guest drink. My hot chocolate was nice but not as chocolaty and thick as the best ones I have had.

Mrs Picnic quizzed me on what I thought of the cafe as they had only been open 10 weeks. I said it was right up there amongst the best cafes but the hot chocolate could be a little stronger, she assured me that next time I came I would get an extra spoonful of powder. I look forward to coming again soon and recommend a visit.

On the route back I tried to arrange a date for the next ride with Big George but he only wanted to discuss image rights and his new 'Big George' merchandise range. He made it clear that in future I was only to deal with him through his agent and he set off for the dentist, I assume to have his teeth whitened.

(note I also visited EDAP on sportive 7 and again in November 2016)

Ratings for Every Days a Picnic cafe based on 3 visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.33
7.83
7.5
8.5
7.42
7.52
Map of route
Click on link to download 31 mile Norwich Hedenham loop GPX file for your GPS

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Garden delight (South Green Cafe bar, Mattishall)

South Green Cafe,
Mattishall,
Opening times Mon- Fri 09:00-16:00,
Sat-Sun 09:00-15:00
With summer coming to an end I decided it was about time I combined cycling with the world of gardening. For clarity, by this combination I mean I would cycle out to an open garden for a look round, not that I would trying to do the weeding whilst riding my bike. Earlier this year I had successfully combined cycling and art (see looking for art), and had been given the National Gardens Scheme booklet at one of the galleries. The booklet informed me that the High House gardens near Shipdham was to be open to visitors yesterday.

Therefore myself, with guest Chris (Mrs Crusader), set off for Shipdham where, on route, we would include a cycle cafe review stop at the South Green Cafe bar at Mattishall.

To add excitement to the trip I had installed my new bike sat nav and planned to test it out. I had foolishly let Chris have my old one so she could follow the route as well. Things started badly as the new sat nav didn't work the same as the old one. Obviously, whilst still riding, I started to fiddle with it in order to try and make it find the route we were meant to be on. With my attention distracted I didn't notice that Norfolk county council had installed a street light right in the middle of the cycle path. I only became aware of it when I hit it with my shoulder and ended up sprawled across the pavement. I will be writing to the council to ask them if they could move the lamp post back a bit in case I need to fiddle with my sat nav in the future.

Fortunately I knew the route we were taking to Mattishall as it was becoming clear that my new Sat Nav didn't and we arrived at South Green Cafe bar in Mattishall safely.


Arriving at the South Green Cafe bar in Mattishall
On arrival I was pleased to see an outside seating area overlooking the river so we could sit outside and keep an eye on the bikes. First though, we went inside to check out the cakes. They were displayed on a welsh dresser display area. There were not many cakes to choose from but the ones there were looked nice so I awarded an appropriate effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
Cakes on the welsh dresser display area
I ordered Victoria sponge with my hot chocolate and Chris ordered chocolate cake with her skinny mocha. We then we returned to our table in the outside seating area. Unfortunately the noisy extractor fan didn't help the ambiance of what should have been a peaceful setting and got a little annoying by the end of our visit.
Cakes and drinks ready for tasting
The drinks were both fine although not exceptional with the hot chocolate part of both drinks being a bit sweet. The cakes were also nice without being great so overall South Green came out as a solid but not spectacular stop. As an aside the baguettes we had for lunch were very good.

We set off again for our garden venue. By now Chris was getting the hang of her hand me down bike sat nav which, unlike my new one, was taking us on the correct route. I was getting uncomfortable with the new found cycling independence this was giving her so when she went over a bump and it fell off (the sat nav not the wife) it gave me the excuse to confiscate the GPS and nip in the bed any more ideas of her organising rebel trips.

We arrived at the Hill House garden and were warmly welcomed as they said they wished more people came on bikes as they had limited car parking space. However they became less welcoming when we wanted  to cycle along the edge of the herbaceous border, so to avoid an incident we parked our bikes and walked round instead.
One of the very nice flower beds at the Hill House garden
The garden was very nice but as I don't know much about plants we raced around everything rather quickly, although we decided we should have more purple in our garden.

By now my new sat nav was completely lost and decided to totally freeze up. Despite this we managed to get home safely. I think the new sat nav might be good if I new how it worked properly and I may even be tempted to have a peak at the instruction manual before my next ride.

I think the cafe garden cycling combination works well and I look forward to planning some more combined trips next year.

Ratings for South Green Cafe bar
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
6.0
5.0
6.5
6.5
6.00

Click here to download 44 mile Norwich Shipdham loop gpx file for your gps

Saturday, 13 September 2014

More Tea. (Calorie neutral cafe bike ride world record fact find)

Calorie Neutral Bike ride World Record Fact Find 
You may recall that when I first entered the world of cafe cycling one of my aims was to set the world record for the most cafes visited on a calorie neutral bike ride. I have had some set backs on this goal as first the Guinness book of world records refused to validate this activity (see Going alone) and then I had my 'funny turn' and hospitalisation earlier this year (2014) delaying further progress.

So yesterday (Sept 2014) I took the opportunity to take my plan forward by having a trial run and fact find to see how a world record attempt might work.

Since the Guinness Book of so called World Records washed their hands of me I consider myself the self proclaimed arbiter of this record so I have come up with the following rules.

1. The holder of the record will have visited the highest number of different cafes during a single day.
2. All cafes must be independent and not part of national chains
3. All cafes must be visited within their normal opening hours and not open early or kept opened late for a record attempt
4. At each cafe a standard portion of cake or a scone (fruit or cheese) must be consumed. Biscuits, flapjacks or anything pre-packaged will not count.
5. At each cafe a hot chocolate must be consumed. 
6. From the time of arriving at the cafe 400 calories must be burnt off before the next cafe can be visited thus making the ride calorie neutral. (400 calories is based on in-depth internet research on average calories of cakes or scones plus calories of a typical hot chocolate). 
7. If extra calories have been used between cafes then that is tough as they can not be credited against other legs of the ride.

Using the simple set of rules set out above I planned a 5 stop trip visiting some of my favourite cafes to see what I could learn about high speed cafe cycling and to be able to set what I believe a challenging number of cafes would be for an acceptable world record.

So yesterday morning I skipped my breakfast, so as to start the day on zero calories, and at 8.30 I set off to my first destination which was the Box Tree cafe in Brooke.
Early morning sun ruining my photo at the Cafe in Brooke.
On arrival I noticed the cafe had changed it's name from the Box Tree Cafe to just The Cafe. While ordering my hot chocolate and orange cake I enquired as to the reason for the name change. Apparently a rival Box Tree restaurant in Sheffield had baggied naming rights and written to all other Box Tree's to tell them to change their names. This seemed a little harsh but anyway I will update the blog with the new name as I don't want to be held responsible for anyone setting off for a short ride to Brooke and ending up in South Yorkshire. 

The Hot Chocolate was very hot, which normally I approve of, but made it hard to drink quickly. The cake was very tasty and made a nice breakfast. 
Hot chocolate and Orange cake for Breakfast at the Cafe in Brooke
I checked my calorie counting watch and noted that I had burnt 34 calories whilst at the Cafe. This was a bonus as I hadn't taken the cake eating calorie burn into account in my original planning. It meant I would have calories in hand for the rest of the ride, although rule 7 makes it clear that this will not give me an advantage.
Calorie counting watch showing I was well ahead calorie wise.
I left The Cafe in Brooke, pondering that they properly could have spent a little long coming up with a new cafe name, and headed off to the Hen House near Wymondham. On arrival I checked that enough calories had been burnt, they had, and headed straight to the counter to get my next energy refill. On this occasion I had a cheese scone to accompany my hot chocolate. 

I took the opportunity to ask if the owner knew the calorie content of the drink and scone. She didn't but appeared to be a bit of a calorie expert and was more than happy to perform some energy estimating. Her conclusion was that it would be about 180 for the Hot chocolate, which is from Holland although it wasn't clear if Dutch calories are the same as British ones, and 200 for scone plus butter. This seemed in line with my in depth on-line research so I happily went to the outside bench seating area where once again the hot chocolate was too hot to drink quickly.
Hot Chocolate, which is Dutch, and cheese scone refilling my calorie bank
While I waited for the drink to cool I got side tracked discussing saddle comfort options with some fellow cyclists and spent a lot more time here than I had planned thus falling further behind schedule.

The next stop was a ride up to Mattishall, and Tabnabs. On arrival I was very pleased to hear from Mrs Tabnabs that she had had several cyclists visit her after reading the recommendation from my blog. 
Outside Tabnabs where I got to use the outside seating for the first time.
I had heard on the cafe grapevine that a new Peanut cake was available so decided to try it with my next hot chocolate. Mrs Tabnabs likes to put a bit of gratted veg into her cakes as they help keep them moist. You can have peanut and courgette, or chocolate and beetroot or plain carrot cake. All taste great and as she pointed out, if you had a piece of all 3 cakes then you have also had 3 of your 5 a day before lunchtime.
Thick and hot hot chocolate with peanut cake
I did ask if they had any idea on calorie content but unfortunately no one in the cafe could help. Again drinking the excellent thick and hot hot chocolate quickly proved challenging but with the clock ticking I finished both and set off for Reepham.

I decided to go to Reepham railway station as on the last visit I had had a very tasty and infeasibly large cheese scone which I really fancied again.
There were several cyclist at Reepham Station.
I ordered the cheese scone and was pleased to see it was still infeasibly large and yet another hot chocolate. The scone was great but I really didn't fancy my fourth hot chocolate that morning. There was nothing wrong with it, in fact it was a very nice drink and I did eventually worked my way through it, however I knew if I was to have another at the next stop I would probably be ill.
Fourth hot chocolate plus infeasibly large scone
At this point I realised I would have to change the rules to include other hot beverages and not just hot chocolate. This would have the added advatage of reducing the number of calories needing to be burnt between cafes. Therefore rules 5 and 6 were amended to

5. At each cafe a standard hot drink must be consumed. (Tea, coffee or hot chocolate)
6. From the time of arriving at the cafe 300 calories must be burnt off before the next cafe can be visited thus making the ride calorie neutral. (300 calories is based on in-depth internet research on average calories of cakes and scones plus average calories of a hot drink (Tea, coffee, hot chocolate). 

With the new rules in place it was back to Norwich and my local Cafe; Stephanie's cafe in Eaton.
Round the back of Stephanie's cafe
Here I went for tea and blueberry muffin. The tea was great and refreshing and I manged two cups which settled my stomach down. 
Refreshing tea and Muffin round the back of Stephanies
I got home to study the data (see below for all you cycle calorie data buffs) and work out what a challenging cafe target would be for a world record attempt next year. I had lots of learns on the trip which I need to incorpertae in my next trial run in the spring before the big one next summer.

All 5 of the cafes I visited today performed really well and will definitely be on my final list when I do the world record attempt.  
calories  time (min) miles av speed mph calories/mile calories/min
To Brooke 407 46 12.3 16.17 33.09 8.85
The Café, Brooke 34 17 2.00
To Wymondham 508 51 13.86 16.03 36.65 9.96
The Hen House 59 26 2.27
To Mattishall 404 33 10.23 18.6 39.49 12.24
Tabnabs 40 18 2.22
To Reepham 483 66 10.72 9.7 45.06 7.32
Railway station 60 25 2.40
To Norwich 553 57 16.1 14.34 34.35 9.70
Stephanies 33 15 2.20
Totals 2581 354 63.21 14.99

Route


Click here to download 60 mile 5 cafe tour route gpx file for your gps

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

New Roads please. (Kings Cafe, Shipdham)

Kings Cafe,
Shipdham,
Opening times Mon-Fri 08:00-16:00,
Sat-Sun 9:00-16:00
It had been a week since the end of my London to Paris cycle cafe ride and my derrière had just about recovered. Therefore it was time I got back on my continued mission to cycle to and review all the cafes I can find in the Norfolk, North Suffolk and Cambridgeshire area. Today, with guests Chris (wife) and Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please), I had chosen a 41 mile round trip to the Kings Cafe in Shipdham.

On an increasingly cloudy morning we headed west at a nice fast pace enjoying the quite Norfolk country lanes. After a while we came to a long stretch of newly 'repaired' road. These days repairing the road seems to consist of tipping as much gravel as you can find in a load of uneven piles and waiting for the passing traffic to drive over the road in order to flatten the gravel out a bit. The amount of road 'repaired' depends on how much gravel you managed to find before you ran out. On this occasion a lot of gravel had been found and not much passing traffic had been by as we skidded and bumped our way through the piles of pebbles at a snail pace for sometime. Fortunately and despite a few near misses, none of us fell off but we were all a bit shaken by the experience. I have therefore crossed this road of my routes list for the next few months.

After this stretch the rest of the ride to the Kings Cafe in Shipdham was a breeze.

The Kings cafe is right at the end of the village in what looks like a converted pub. Inside has a nice bright feel and out the back there is a good looking patio outdoor seating area. As myself and Andrew had mistakenly chosen to wear only short sleeve cycle tops, and it was colder than it looked, we opted to stay inside.
Outside Kings Cafe in Shipdham
I checked out the cake selection in the glass cake display tower. There had obviously been a run on carrot cake as there was only one bit left. Although there were not that many cakes to choose from they were all ones I liked so I awarded a medium effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
Cakes on display in glass cake display tower.
There was also a lemon cake I seemed to have cropped from the photo and scones on the counter
I went for the last piece of carrot cake with my hot chocolate and Chris went for chocolate fudge cake with her Mocha. Andrew (who I'm starting to suspect isn't taking cycle cafe reviewing seriously) went for a pot of tea with egg and chips. Egg and chips is clearly not cake so he played no further part in cake reviewing and frankly I now wasn't that interested in his view on the tea.
Drinks and cakes ready for reviewing whilst Andrew eats his egg and chips
There was certainly no complaints about the size of the drinks however due to the large volume they were both very weak. Chris decided to ask if they could beef her Mocha up strength wise and the extremely nice waitress was very happy to do so. The new improved Mocha was excellent and doubled the mark Chris had originally given it. I only wished I had done the same with my hot chocolate. I now had a rating dilemma as to how to score the Mocha. I referred to the cycle cafe rating handbook which had a section covering such an occurrence stating that the average of the before and after drink rating should be used. So I did that.

The cake was good if not exceptional but we all agreed that, as long as the drinks were strong enough, the Kings Cafe was an excellent cycle cafe stop with a very friendly atmosphere.

On the journey home my thoughts turned to my next planned ride where I plan to break the world record for the most cafes visited on a calorie neutral bicycle ride (see going alone). I just hope there have been no more road improvements on my planned route to slow me down.

Ratings for Kings Cafe
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
4.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
7.5
5.90
Route
Click link to download 41 mile Norwich to Shipdham Loop GPX file for your GPS

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

London to Paris by bike on Avenue Verte. Route and top tips

Avenue Verte Route and Top Tips
After completing the London to Paris cycle ride on the Avenue Verte (Green route) in August 2014 I thought it would be useful to share my top tips and route information for anyone else thinking of doing the same. We did it over 4 days which I wrote about on my blog (London to Paris day 1). We did the ride on road bikes, mine was a Ridley Cyclocross bike which I put a pannier rack on, and Big George had a Cannodale Caad with a rack attached to his seat post. We both do lots of cycling so expected to average up to 15 Mph, but this was a big mistake.

About the route
The Avenue Verte is one of the longer routes you can take to Paris but has the advantage that as the 'official route' the majority of it is really well sign posted. Apart form getting out of London or the final 10 miles into Paris, then the rest of the route could almost be done by following the signs alone.

I had the route downloaded on to my Garmin E trex GPS. I planned the route on my PC using Garmin mapsource software and the maps from the official Avenue Guide book. On the few occasions we missed a sign the GPS quickly got us back on track (I have put the GPX files I used at the bottom of each day's map which you can download). 

We caught the train from Norwich to London on a Wednesday night and cycled the first 10 miles of the route to the Premier Inn Wandsworth, near the start of the Wandle Trail section. Even at 7.30pm it still took longer than expected to get out of the city. I would imagine during the day it would be fairly busy. There were no London to Paris Avenue Verte signs that we could see on this bit of the route.
The start of the Avenue Verte is the London Eye
Route on first evening

Click link to download London to Paris day 0 route GPX file for your GPS

Day 1  London to Seaford (see blog post London to Paris Day 1 ) 
Next morning we left at 9.00 and continued out of London on cycle tracks, side roads and through some parks, then along the Wandle trail. The sign posting from this point on wards was very good but it was still slow progress as there are no nice long sections where you can build up speed. This section continues in this way until you reach a hilly bit over the North Downs to Redhill.

The route continues south to Gatwick airport (the cycle path goes right by the runway) and Crawley. It took us about 5 hours to cover the 35 miles to get to this point, however fast a cyclist you are you will find the first section very slow so don't over estimate your speed. Things do get faster from here.

The route turns east along the Worth Way to East Grinstead. This is nearly all on a flat offroad track although the surface isn't great you can keep rolling along as opposed to all the stop start there had been up to this point. East Grinstead looks like a good stopping point if you were doing the English part of the route in 2 days. Unfortunately we weren't so had to push on with time against us.

The next section heads further East towards Tunbridge Wells on another old railway line, this time the Forest way. Once again it is very pretty and flat but also a fairly rough surface. It is possible to go a bit faster, if need be, but would also be very pleasant for those not in a hurry. Having a cycle cross bike with 28mm tyres was a help as it felt a bit like riding in Paris-Robaix spring cycling monument race (not that I have).

Here the route turns south over the South Downs. There are several challenging hills to get over but with some great views and you also go through some lovely little villages. However be warned that a little way before you reach Heathfield, at Oxon woods the path turns off into a field for some proper off road which you really need a mountain bike to conquer. If you are on a normal bike with panniers etc you may well have to walk bits of this short section. There is an alternative road route which I would recommend using having tried this way.

The next section is the best on the English route as it follows the old Cuckoo railway line on a tarmac cycle path. It is a lovely smooth track going through some great country side and a real pleasure to cycle on.

From here its back on the little roads again going through a number of typical Sussex villages to Seaford and then along the sea front on some more nice cycle track all the way to Newhaven. 
Cycle path to Newhaven
We stayed at the White Lion Hotel (pub) in Seaford before catching ferry on day 2.

Route from London to Seaford

Click link to download London to Paris day 1 route GPX file for your GPS

Day 2 Seaford to Dampierre en Bray (See blog post London to Paris day 2 )
We cycled to the port and caught the 11:00 ferry. Apart from the restaurant stopping serving hot food 90 mins before docking in France (with no warning) then the ferry crossing is very straight forward. There were a number of other cyclists on the ferry and the crew are very helpful in getting you on board. The crossing takes 4hrs and gets to France 16:00 local time.

The alternative ferry leaves at 11:00pm getting into France 4.00am. We met some cyclists who had done it this way although they looked really tired.

At the other side the trickiest bit is getting out of Dieppe as the Avenue Verte only starts again on the outskirts. There are some signs but they are not clear and the road that goes out from centre of Dieppe, to the re start of Avenue Verte, looks like a road on to an industrial estate. Once again using a GPS made it straight forward. I suggest you have a route planned and mapped to get through Dieppe quickly.

There are then a few miles on the road before you come to a fantastic 28 mile stretch of uninterrupted, flat and tarmaced cycle path. There are toilets, water stops and picnic benches along the path. Take care as the path crosses lots of little roads and you may be speeding along and not want to slow down. These junctions are well marked with barriers but I don't think we actually had to stop for a car.

The path continues past your exit as you have to take the turn off to Forges-les-Eaux so be careful not to miss it (we did).

You are now in typical Normandy country and the next few miles are over rolling hills. We stayed near Dampierre en Bray at Chambres d'hôtes "La Brayonne" (www.chambresdhoteslabrayonne.com). 

I haven't included the 3 mile route from Seaford to the ferry as it is straight along the seafront cycle path and you can't miss it if you keep the sea on your left.

Route from Dieppe to Dampierre en Bray
Click link to download London to Paris day 2 route GPX file for your GPS

Day 3 Dampierre en Bray to Mery-Sur-Oise (see blog post London to Paris day 3)
This was our longest day at over 100 miles. The route continues over the hills for sometime until you reach Saint-Germer-de-Fly where the Avenue Verte splits into an East or shorter West route. We took the East way. I believe an off road section is being planned to run in the valley and avoid this hilly, although very picturesque, section. After the split the route continues in the same way going through a number of villages until it reaches the city of Beauvais. Although progress is quite slow it is still a nice peaceful ride. Beauvais itself is fairly big and there are lots of cafes and shops (as well as a decent tourist info place) you can refuel at.
Beauvais Cathedral
The next stage goes through Bresles to Clermont. Both of these are on hills but there are some good stretches of cycle path along side the main roads to get you there safely. We stopped at Clermont for our lunch were there were lots of shops, bars etc to choose from.
Clermont
From Clermont the route is a bit disappointing as it weaves in and out of some towns and villages on roads until you get through Pont St Maxence. After here there is a particularly good part where you join Euro Velo route 3, which goes from Norway to Spain, for a few miles. On this section you go up the steepest hill on the route and once at the top you join a long off road section which goes through Hatatte Forest which is extremely pleasant. This section ends in Senlis where we stopped for a coffee. It is a nice town for a stop.
Top of steep hill before wooded section
From here it is again a selection of nice off road bits and some not so good on road bits. The route goes past the impressive Chateau de Chantilly and Chantilly race course and from here there is a lot of on road sections which are all rather dull. After a few miles of this the route inexplicitly turns off into a field with a narrow muddy track. It continues like this before reaching the river Oise where it continues on a very poor track for some time. Progress along this section is very slow.
Route goes off road on some very poor muddy sections.
You then pick up some roads again that take you to Mery-Sur-Oise where we spent the night. We rode 106 miles that day and it took us just under 12 hours. 

Route from Dampierre en Bray to Mery-sur-Oise.

Click link to download London to Paris day 3 route GPX file for your GPS

Day 4 Mery-Sur-Oise to Paris (see blog post London to Paris Day 4 )
Our final day took us to Paris. The route starts off going up through the side roads of Mery- Sur-Oise but then follows the river with some lovely off road and on road sections. The route then cuts through the Forest St- Germain-en-Laye on nice off road tracks, although on a Sunday morning it was packed with joggers and other cyclists. This takes you to the river Seine which you cycle alongside for several miles, again trying to avoid the joggers. This is one of the best parts of the route.
Cycling along river Oise

When you turn away from the River you head for Saint Denis on the out skirts of Paris and things start to slow down. You start by following the tramway into Northern Paris and then weave along the side of the canals until a final road stretch in the heart of Paris.Throughout this final few miles the Avenue Verte signs seem to disappear and the ride becomes very stop start. On a Sunday morning there was not much traffic but I imagine it could be really busy on other days. This makes progress mighty slow but eventually you reach Notre Dame and your journey is complete. 

Click link to download London to Paris day 4 route GPX file for your GPS

We then cycled up to Gare du Nord, which is about 3 miles away to catch the Eurostar back to London.
Gare du Nord
Top tips from my experience if you are attempting the route.

Bikes
Although the route is mainly on good surfaces there is enough of it on bumpy cycle paths and some completely off road. I wouldn't attempt the ride on a normal road bike with slick tyres but any other type of bike would be fine on most sections. I took my cross cycle bike and Big George his Cannodale road bike. However we fitted some hybrid type tyres (Schwalbe Marathon Tyre: 700c x 25mm Reflex Wired) which were great and we only suffered a single puncture between us.

My bike had holes in the frame to enable a pannier rack to be fitted. George got a pannier rack that fits to the seat post but this type only takes a few kilograms. If you are planning to spend more time doing the route and therefore need more stuff I think you would need a proper touring bike that could take the weight.

Navigation
First of all I suggest you try not to loose your guide book, like I did, as it is useful to read about the terrain coming up, where the next village or town is etc. 

I put the routes on to my Garmin etrex by plotting a route on the Garmin mapsource software. I use the free Garmin compatible open source maps which are very detailed. You can down load OSM maps here.

You can also down load the GPX files I loaded on to my Garmin at the bottom of each route map.

I would recommend using a bike GPS if you can as it avoids the possibility of getting very lost or having to back track etc. However the sign posts are very good so if combined with a map you should have no problem. The 3 places to have a route plotted are leaving London, leaving Dieppe and getting into Paris where the signs are poor or non existent.

Equipment
Apart from the basics like puncture kit, pump, inner tubes, bike multi tool etc I would always recommend taking a roll of duct or gaffer tape as it got us out of trouble a couple of times. 

If you are planning to do a lot of miles in a day I also suggest you have some bike lights as we twice ended up cycling when it was starting to get dark and we needed them.

Misc
All the hotels we stayed at had somewhere secure for our bikes so we didn't need locks but it is worth checking with the hotels before hand.
If you are travelling on Eurostar note that your bike needs to be with them 90 minutes before departure to guarantee being on the same train as you.
Finally make sure you leave enough time for each section as we underestimated the speed you could go. The table below may help with your planning.

Route Statistics

Miles
Average moving speed (MPH)
Average overall speed (MPH)
Moving time (Hrs)
Stopped (Hrs)
Total miles
Liverpool street station to Wandsworth premier inn
10.1
9.1
7.5
01:06
00:14
10.1
Wandsworth to Seaford
96
10.7
8.3
08:56
02:36
106.13
Seaford to Newhaven ferry
4.54
8.6
4.2
00:31
00:33
110.68
Dieppe to Dampierre en Bray
46.5
14.4
13
03:14
00:20
157.16
Dampierre en Bray to meet sur Ouse
105
11.7
8.7
08:58
02:45
262.43
Mery sur Oise to Notre Dame
47.4
9.8
8.1
04:51
00:59
309.79
Notre Dame to Gare du Nord
2.05
8.2
5.7
00:15
00:06
311.85