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July 4-5, 2018

Stephanie, Andrew and Amanda left Vancouver on an afternoon flight headed for Europe. First stop Paris.


What happened…

Andrew writes: My plan was to get a normal night of sleep in Vancouver, and then hopefully we would be able to sleep some more on the plane which left in the afternoon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Thus armed with 0 hours of sleep we landed in Paris at 1030am. We had a “short” 35km ride from the airport into the downtown area of Paris, and I was really impressed with Stephanie’s determination. I forget that she is new to cycling, so to see her bravely charge down a lane of traffic, or to take a spill with grace, made me feel warm inside. It was still a shit-show and I vow not to cycle into Paris again. Everything is just so narrow here.

I was really happy to see Emmanuel at the train station in Rouen, and then Nawal and the kids when we reached their house at the top of the hill. While it’s been 7 years since we last rode together, somehow it all just clicked for us and it was as though we hadn’t parted. Well, except for the bit where the 4 and 6-year old kids were hanging off of us seeking attention. Oh well. We shared some fine wine and food and called it a night.


Stephanie writes:
The first day of riding was very eventful and pretty fun. When we landed, all of our luggage was easy to find and then we got the bikes ready to ride and packed on the bags. Once we were out and on the road it was really pretty and we stopped for lunch in a small town just outside of the airport. After lunch we kept riding and got to Paris. Paris was beautiful but it was also quite stressful to ride in. There was no shoulder for us to ride on and we’re not allowed to ride on the sidewalk so we had to ride with the run of traffic which is normally fine but the drivers are very aggressive here and you can always hear honking. Once we got through Paris and to the train station it was much less stressful.

When we went to buy tickets, we realized that bicyclette isn’t the used word for bike in French, it’s vélo which took a while to figure out. Once we got the tickets for the train we had to get the bikes into a small elevator and go up and then weave out bikes through all the people. We had some trouble figuring out what track our train was on because they only tell you when they train arrives. Once we got onto the train we had to disassemble our bikes and then we sat down and relaxed. The train had several stops on the way to Rouen and as we watched other people get off we realized that the train doesn’t stop for more than two minutes at each stop so when we had to get off, we had to be ready. We got all the bags and bikes ready so we could quickly unload everything without the train running off.
We successfully got everything off the train and then started reloading the bikes when we realized that since we were at the last stop that the train would sit there with the doors open for around 15 minutes. We laughed because we rushed so much so we wouldn’t lose anything but we had so much time that we really didn’t need to rush.

After getting off the train we met Emmanuel and started riding to his house. He lives on the top of a hill so we had to go up to get there. Just after we started going up the hill my chain fell off so we had to put it back on and we kept going. Right after, the chain fell off again and then we realized the derailer wasn’t working so I couldn’t switch gears for the rest of the hill. The hill wasn’t very big so it was okay and when we made it to the top if the hill at Emmanuels house we got to meet their rest of his family. Nawal and Emmanuel were super nice and their kids, Lise and Matthieu were really cute. We ate dinner after 10 which seemed super late but we were told it’s normal in France. Overall, as hectic as the first day was, staying up 29 hours straight, it was a pretty good start to the trip.


Amanda writes:
Exciting and exhausting. If I wanted to write you a blog post with two words, that would be it. The entire process from driving to the airport, arriving in Paris and then training to our friends place was emotionally exhausting. Today I was reminded why I never became a parent. I can’t handle the emotions surrounding watching your child suffer when there is nothing you can do for them. Stephanie, Andrew and I climbed into the family mini van with 3 bikes, all our belongings and my brother-in-law Glenn and headed to the airport. No one else could come because no one else would fit. As we started driving toward the airport, the magnitude of the upcoming adventure and the reality of it hit Stephanie. She was seated in the back of the van with Andrew. Anyone that knows Andrew is aware that his way of dealing with a situation is humour. Jokes, laughter and really, nothing serious to be said. Not sure if that was what Stephanie needed at that moment, but that’s what she got. By the time we got to the airport I think she was terrified … and brave. At 16 she was walking (cycling really) away from everything she has known her whole life. He home, her things, her family whom she has never been away from for more than a week; and hopping on a plane on another continent. I was struck by how incredibly brave and strong she was and just wanted to hug her as she got a little teary eyed and scared. I was also struck by the feeling of shit; she’s my responsibility now!

We entered the airport and the busy whirlwind of activity that comes with traveling with bikes began and fortunately that didn’t allow anymore time for emotional thoughts. The next two hours was filled with checkin, security, boarding the plane and then we settled in for the long flight. None of us really slept at all and then the whirlwind of activity at the other end began. We arrived without incident, put the bikes together and then started cycling toward the train station in downtown Paris.

This is where I learned that Stephanie is stronger than I imagined. If my first day ever of cycle touring was on the busy streets of Paris I would have never cycled another day in my life. Fortunately she is smart and athletically inclined and was able to handle the pressures of city traffic on very little sleep. After making it to the train station we got our tickets thanks to Stephanie’s ability to speak French (did I mention she’s fluent in French?). We boarded the train at a super busy train station and headed off for our two hour trip before arriving in Rouen. We were greeted by Emmanuel who is a friend we hosted in Canada 10 years ago. We cycled up the hill to his home where we were welcomed by his beautiful wife Nawal and two kids. After an exhausting day of travel it was wonderful to arrive without injury and with big hugs and high fives. Well done team.


The aerial view of our rides:


A few smartphone photos

Stephanie waiting in the customs line in Paris.

Our friends Son Matthieu fell in love with Stephanie instantly.

Today’s Flickr Photographs

No photos
Fast Forward 4 Months
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