Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

For more information on the Cafes I have visited and the latest cafe cycle news go to http://www.cake-crusader.co.uk/

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Saturday, 30 August 2014

London to Paris by bike. Day 3, the slog.

London to Paris,

Day 3
Day 3 was going to be the big one as we had to travel over 100 miles to reach tonight's destination. If I had had a route map guide book I could have checked out the terrain and estimated the journey time but I didn't so I couldn't. Sophie had prepared us a super breakfast of fresh eggs from her chickens and a selection of homemade breads and jams. Before we left she gave us some emergency bread as she could obviously tell we were the type of cyclists likely to need it as we seemed to have a lot of emergencies.
Me and George about to set off from 
With an early start under our belt we quickly conquered the Normandy hills and made good progress. Big George told me some story's about when he had cycled in these parts may years ago. He kept apologising in case I had heard these tales before. I explained that I don't actually listen to his stories so he was free to tell them to me as often as he liked. Which he did.

By mid morning we were in need of refuelling and on the look out for a cafe stop. It may have been because it was a Saturday or because it was August but France appeared to be shut and we couldn't find anywhere to stop. I had imagined that our stops would be at little village cafe bars or patisseries which we would find around every corner but so far we hadn't come across any. I was a bit disappointed when the best we could find was in the centre of the large city of Beauvais, by their cathedral.
Beauvais Cathedral
The cafe was called Le Zinc Bleu (The blue Zinc) and was fairly basic. The outdoor seating area was packed away as the chairs and tables were folder up and under cover, so we had to sit inside. 
Outside Le Zinc Bleu (Blue Zinc) cafe
I asked if they had gateaux (which I believe is French for cake) but they only did croissant, baguette and jam.  So we ordered that and hot chocolate for me and coffee for Big George. 
Croissant, baguette and jam based mid morning refreshments at
 Le Zinc Bleu (Blue Zinc) cafe
It was all nice and typically French but certainly did nothing to threaten the hotel Vitranic in Slovenia who are currently placed at the top of the Cake Crusader European cafe of the year 2014 leader board or Poppy's as the best cafe between London and Paris (which I happen to stop at).

As an added plus I did notice that next door was the tourist information centre. This could be the opportunity to replace my route map guide book. I went in waving the London to Paris bike ride leaflet that I got off the ferry yesterday and asked if they had the full guide. With much mutual excitement they whipped out the very book I was after. I quickly started to thumb through but noticed the words made no sense, I deduced that this must be what French looks like. I asked if they had it in English but 'non' ('no'). Sadly we were to continue our journey route map guide bookless.

We set off again with the route starting to flattern out after a morning of hills but within a few miles Big George annouced he was almost out of water. I on the other hand still had most of a full water bottle. As a team player I kindly offered to sell Big George some of mine at an appropriately inflated price. This would not only help to rehydrate him but give him a useful lesson on market forces as well. He politely declined my selfless offer.

Further down the road we were stopped and asked to complete a census about the Euro velo cycle network. It turned out that we were currently on route 2 that goes from Oslo to Spain. I randomly ticked some boxes on his form which seemed to make the census man very happy. As a reward he then showed us a map of where all 15 routes go and I got very excited to see London to Rome was one of them. Further research could be happening soon. Big George asked the census man if he knew where he could get some water, but he didn't nor did another French cyclist standing with us also randomly ticking away. The talk of water had made me thirsty so I had a nice large gulp from my bottle obviously forcing the price to Big George to go up again.

It appears in France that they think it is a good idea to build all their towns at the top of hills and the joker who put together the London to Paris route (avenue verte) thought it would be funny to keep getting us to cycle up to the top of several of them.
About to go up a hill to another French town
When the joke was played for the third time we had had enough and decided to stop for our lunch at the top of Claremont.
As France was still mainly shut we had to do with a takeaway picnic style lunch with items brought from the patisserie (cake shop) and delicatessen (delicatessen). The effective cake selection rating was therefore very high.
Good selection of cakes in the patisserie (cake shop)
In the deli the owner asked me something in French. I translated this as 'are you going to Paris' so I said 'oui' and wondered how he had known. Big George told me what he actually said was 'did we want to pay separately'. What a strange language where two completely different things in English sound almost exactly the same in French.

We ate our food on the benches at the top of the hill but the overall experience didn't score that highly, especially as we couldn't get any take away hot drinks, although unfortunately Big George did get some water and the price of mine plummeted. 
Eating our DIY picnic style lunch seeing how France was shut
We now hit some good bits of cycle track but there were also too many parts going through towns and villages on roads so it was becoming a long afternoon cycling slog. In one village we found our route was blocked as there was a local bike race doing circuits around the village. The marshal's won't let us on the roads when the cyclists were coming, which appeared to be all the time. It looked like it would take a long time to get through so we hatched a cunning plan. The next time a group came past we would leap on our bikes and pretend we were in the race. This seemed to work well as we hopped on our bikes and started to chase down the main peloton

They weren't actually very good as even with my pannier and off-road tyres I started to catch them up. Fortunately our route turned off at the next corner as if I had won the race I had no way of getting the trophy home as my pannier was full.
Cycle race in village. We had to join the race to get back on track
After this the route went up a very steep (and I mean very steep hill) to the start of a long section through the woods. I promised I would not put in the picture of Big George having to get off and push his bike up the steep hill so as not to embarrass him. So I haven't. Instead here is one of him just about to start pushing.
Big George having to push bike up a very steep hill
Once at the top of the hill there was the best section of the day which was through woods for several miles until we got into Senlis. It was 4:30 and sunset was in just over 3 hours so with only 30 of our 105 miles left we decided to have a cafe break. Big George explained to me that French people get their cake from the cake shop (patisserie) and take it with them to eat at the cafe bar. So I got the cake and Big George the coffee and hot chocolate at cafe le Balto.
Cake and drinks French style
Cafe Balto seemed typically French but neither of us liked the amount of smoking going on around us. Our drinks were at the better end of the spectrum both being strong and hot enough. The cakes I had purchased where very good, as I'm sure you can tell from the photo, but overall it did not do enough to win either of my current best cafe prizes.
Cakes and drinks at Cafe Balto
After our stop I was confident of an easy finish but If I had had a route map guide book, even a French one, I would have discovered much of the next section was proper off road and that our speed would therefore dramatically fall. 

We were first surprised when the route signs turned off the smooth cycle path and across a field down to the river. We assumed this would then be on a nice concrete tow path but it turned out to be a slippery mud track. We battled on across this type of terrain for several miles until it returned to proper roads. We eventually got to our hotel later than planned just as it was getting dark. I was glad I had upgraded my bike lights yesterday.
Cycling across a field where we expected a cycle path to be
The hotel I booked was a posh French 4 star job which I had got a special deal on the internet. Because it was late and we were tired we opted to eat in the restaurant. The only food they did was fancy French style when a double burger and chips would have been much more appropriate. It was very tasty but the portions were tiny so I was still hungry when I had finished it. As this was an emergency it was good that I was able to fill up on Sophie's emergency bread when I returned to our room.

The route had been a little disappointing as in amongst the panoramic hill sections, good stretches of cycle path and interesting off road bits there had been too much in and around towns. Hopefully the final stint to Paris will be better.

To see if we made it to Paris go to London to Paris by bike day 4


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

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