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/

Cake Crusader Book

There is now a Cake Crusader book available where you can follow my journey from humble local trips to world record attempts and near-death experiences. How did a simple method of keeping track of decent cycling café pit stops turn my life upside down? Track my adventures into Europe, up mountains and right across Great Britain as I become a 'rising star' on social media. Will I prove my critics wrong? Should cheese scones be served hot or cold? Do I really have nothing better to do with his time? A must read for lovers of cycling and cake or anyone wanting to make it big in the virtual world

Available on Amazon

Friday 29 August 2014

London to Paris by bike, Day 1 the start.

London to Paris,
Day 1
Poppy Cafe, Coulsdon,
Open Everyday 9-4,
Charlie's Deli, Crawley,
Open Mon-Sat 7-6, Sun 8-5
Forgewood Campsite bar,
Open Everyday campsite is
Yesterday saw the start of an epic cafe cycle review trip from London to Paris. Not only do I aim to find the best cafe anywhere between London and Paris (which I happen to stop at) but it is also the last chance for someone to become Cake Crusader European cafe of the year 2014. Big George was to be my guest for the trip although I was worried that he had not done enough training for the punishing schedule, both in terms of miles and amount of coffee to be drunk.

So yesterday evening myself and Big George rode down to Norwich station and loaded our bikes onto the guards van before settling into our seats.

We spent the journey down to London studying my route map guide book and estimating how long the various legs would take (which we now appear to have vastly underestimated).

On arrival we alighted the train and marched up the platform to collect our bikes. The first stop was the London eye where the route officially starts. Big George wanted to know why we were not going straight to the hotel but I explained that that was not the way the official London to Paris (avenue verte) route went and we would be following it meticulously. He has much to learn.

At London Eye ready to start ride
The 10 mile ride across London to our hotel took 90 mins which was twice as long as expected but we were well rested before the start of ride proper today.

We set off this morning at 9:00 sharp with the only issue being we had both brought the same kit.
Me and Big George in clashing kit
I soon realised my 15mph planning assumption was a bit out as we averaged only 10 mph through Greater London on a series of stop start cycle paths. I also discovered my weight saving idea of only having one pannier was causing the back wheel to slide from beneath me on sharp corners and I soon fell off (note to self to take two panniers on any future such trips). After a while I got the hang of it and had few further steering related problems.

To make matters worse after a few more miles Big George got a puncture in the so called puncture proof tyres I had lent him. 

This delayed us further so I thought I would check the route map guide book to see how we were doing. I couldn't find it in its special pannier pocket and to my horror I realised I had left it in the hotel. Fortunately we were mainly navigating off my Garmin Sat Nav but with no route map guide book I no longer had any back up in case of gps failure. I decided I would try and buy a new one on route although I don't recommend this as an approach.

After we had got a bit further it was time for the first cafe review of the day as we came across Poppy's cafe in Coulson Park.
Outside Poppys cafe
To date I have never found a good cafe in a park so expectations were low. However the outside seating area had a lovely view of the park and it was also well shielded from the road. To my surprise the cake selection was very good and I gave a high effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
Cake selection disappointingly pre cut and clingfilm wrapped but surprisingly good.
I choose the cheese scone with my hot chocolate and Big George fruit cake with a cappuccino.
My cheese scone had been lightly grilled and was excellent. I was pleased they had remembered the old rhyme "cheese scone hot, fruit scone not". Big George said his fruit cake was very good too. Our drinks were also both nice and we agreed Poppy's had set the London to Paris cafe bar high.
Cakes and drinks ready for testing
It was then on towards Gatwick airport, over the North Downs, with the average speed still not improving.

Today's ride was meant to be 94 miles but when we stopped for lunch we had taken 5 hours to do only 34 of those miles and would need a big post lunch spurt. Lunch was at Charlie's deli. 
Outside Charlie's Deli and Coffee house
It was on a main road which was all you could see or hear from the outside wooden bench seating area. However Big George claimed he loved the urban feel and persuaded me to up the poor ambiance and atmosphere rating I had planned. The cake selection was also a bit light so I didn't award a very high ECS rating.
Cake selection
I had Hot chocolate and red velvet cake but Big George refused to have another coffee and cake so scores for Charlie's deli are incomplete. However the hot chocolate and red velvet cake were both nice but overall not as good as Poppy's.
Cake and drink
It was at this point Big George announced he was having a recurrence of the knee injury he had had on our last ride together when I had abandoned him on the side of the road. As there were another 260 miles between here and Paris this didn't bode well. He took some pain killers and as he was still moaning a few miles later I agreed to sacrifice my knee brace, from my almost better knee, in order to give us any chance of making it to the ferry port let alone Paris.
Big George putting on my knee support as he had hurts his knee
We set off again and his knee seemed to settle down but my Sat Nav said we won't get to the hotel until well after dark so we needed to speed up rather than be nursing injuries.

Shortly after this we arrived at East Grinstead which had a number of shops that looked like they could sell a replacement route map guide book. I tried in several, at first explaining I had left my copy in the hotel. This story seemed a little too embarrassing so I quickly changed the story to that it had fallen out of my pannier. I realised this still made me look at fault so by the last shop I said it had been stolen. Despite this none of the shops had a copy so I still don't have map back up and the search will continue at the ferry port tomorrow.

We had managed to speed up a bit across a number of bumpy off road cycle paths and I was now confident of reaching Seaford before night fall. However I had not factored in the hills of the South Downs that we needed to cross. Unfortunately Big George's bad knee and poor pre trip training regime (he had tried to cram all his training into the few days before we went, a tactic that works well before an exam but not for endurance sporting events) meant I got a long way ahead and even managed some shopping while I waited for him at one point. Our average speed had again dropped and I wasn't sure we would now safely make it at all.

I realised we needed an emergency cafe stop for him to refuel for the final 35 mile push as it was already 5:00pm. We came across Forgewood camp site cafe bar which looked a good possibility. Unfortunately it had only scones and croissants but no cake so got a poor ECS rating. 
Outside Forge Wood campsite bar for our emergency stop
However croissants and jam are top energy food so we filled up on them plus hot chocolate and coffee. Again it was a very pleasant stop but still left Poppy's as the best cafe anywhere between London and Paris (which I happened to stop at) on the English side.  

With Big George refuelled we were off again and we picked up the pace further down the fantastic all tarmac off road cuckoo trail. The trouble now was that it was getting dark and our lights were more for being seen rather than seeing by so we had to slow down for the last few miles.

We finally arrived at our hotel at 9:00pm after 97 miles and 12 hours riding. Big George was so tired he only managed 2 pints in the bar! Overall a dramatic and successful day of cafe cycle reviewing.

Tomorrow we catch the ferry to France where we will then have 3 hours to cycle 45 miles if we are going to get to the hotel in time for an evening meal. Is there no end to this excitement? Before that we need to try and buy better lights, another knee brace and a route map guide book to replace the one I had stolen by the mafia at gun point.

To find out what happened next go to London to Paris by bike day 2.

Scores for cafés between London and Paris after day 1
Poppy Café, London
Forge wood campsite bar, Sussex
Charlies deli and coffee shop, Gatwick

Route from London to Seaford

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

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