Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Avenue Verte - Day 4 (Il pleut à verse)

Day 4 - St. Germer-de-Fly to Boisemont (May 5th, 2015)
58 miles +/-, 2668' of Elev. Gain (Click for map info)

The morning began with sunlight streaming through into our shared bedroom, Colorado blue skies, but a fair old breeze blowing. Breakfast was included within our B&B price, which is not always the case these days. It was another lavish spread though, including cheeses, meats, cakes, homemade jams and yogurts - enough to keep us pedaling all day long.

The lavish breakfast at L'Abbaye

By the time we had devoured the breakfast, paid our dues, and got our gear together, the blue skies had disappeared and clouds and a threat of rain had moved in (showers were forecast in the morning). Our route for the day would start off with a climb out of St. Germer up above the Epte valley, which with the breeze and threat of rain we were not looking forward to. Well the rain arrived after only 6.5 miles into the days journey, and boy did it rain!. We had to take cover under a metal bus shelter that we had spotted 0.25 mile back, we were already soaked at this point. The wind and rain was battering the tin roof of the shelter, sounded like someone was playing a drum kit on top of us. After about 10 mins of the drum symphony, the rain eased and we were ready to brave the elements once again. It was time to climb the first hill of the day, a 1.5 mile slog, but once crested, that would be the last of the hills for another 20 miles.

Some kind of farm ruins on the top of the first hills of the day

Great signage for "most" of the route

After leaving the hills, the route descended on quiet roads until we reached the town of Gisors at mileage 20. The town sits on the border of Normandy and the French Vexin area, and was a focus of struggles in medieval times. An opposing castle sits at the edge of the town center, and provides a stunning view over the town and countryside.

Castle at Gisors

Gisors seemed like a perfect spot for some refreshments and lunch, especially since we would not be passing through many other towns or villages for the next 38 miles. We found the main town centre, the sun was shining, so a nice cold local beer had to be our first priority. We found a bar next to the river "L'Epte", and with the backdrop of the cathedral too, what better way to enjoy an Abbey beer. Of course being beer loving cyclists, we ordered the largest sized glass they had; it wasn't until we stepped outside we realized the beer was a mighty strong brew. We opted to push our bikes across the square and found a patisserie serving up hot food, and sandwiches, that helped soak up the beer a little.

Mighty fine Abbey beer in Gisors

Having replenished ourselves with beer and food, we departed Gisors and promptly joined the Epte Valley Greenway. This greenway was the first "off-road" route we had seen since the morning of Day 3, and was a welcome surprise. The greenway follows the Epte river valley for about 12 miles, through small villages, and past hill top castles. We generally had the trail to ourselves, until it's terminus at Bray-et-Lu.

Epte Valley Greenway, along a crossing of the Epte River

Fabulous scenery and colour along the greenway

At Bray-et-Lu the Avenue Verte route starts to head Southeast through the Parc Naturel du Vexin region, an optional out and back heads south west to Giverny (Monet's house and garden). Unfortunately we did not have enough spare time to make the detour, so we opted to stay on the main route. The route through the Vexin area once again joins quiet roads, passing through quaint villages. We had an amusing conversation with a local at the pretty village of Chaussy, a few miles southeast of Bray-et-Lu. In the middle of town is a water trough and fountain, that we had gathered around to snap some photos. The water in the trough was very much non-potable, but a couple of locals seemed to think we were going to use it to fill up our water bottles; after some sign language that probably could of been used as a comedy sketch on Monty Python, we eventually convinced them we were not going to drink the water.

Village of Chaussy

At around mileage 38 for the day, we came across a magnificent sight, the Domaine de Villarceaux. The Park consists of a Chateau, water garden, and other structures, dating from the 17th-18th Centuries. The site is located on the site of a 11th century castle built to defend the region from the British; with free entry though, and bathrooms and water, it couldn't keep us British out on this particular day.

The stunning park at Villarceaux

Villarceaux water gardens

The Chateau at Villarceaux

From Villarceau we had just under 20 miles to cover to reach our overnight stop in Boisemont. The route became much more rolling than it had been for most of the day, and followed some wonderful farm tracks (some definitely not suitable for road bikes, or if muddy out).

Wonderful quiet roads & farm tracks through The Vexin region

The published Avenue Verte guidebook takes you into Paris from the northwest side, and mainly follows the route of the Seine. We decided when we planned our trip that we would follow an alternative route into Paris designed by Donald Hirsch. So at mileage 54 we split from the official trail and headed south to Menucourt, making an all important stop for beer and wine. We had to back track slightly from the supermarket to re-join the route to reach the B&B, which of course involved another 2 mile long hill through town.

We were stopping for the night at the wonderful Ferme Rose, a 15th Century old Farm house. On arrival the host had left a sticky note on the door to say let ourselves in, she had to pop out and would be back at 9pm. We locked our bikes up in the old stables, and made our way to our accommodation for the night. This B&B is more of a Gite, so we had a large bedroom with 3 beds, and shared a large kitchen area with other guests (except we were the only guests on this particular night). We had also opted to pay extra at this B&B and have a cold buffet provided on arrival, it was another fine spread of home made food, along with wine.

The host, Claire, is a British expat originally from Cambridge. She has been in France many years, and uses the old farm to breed French horses. The B&B is in a beautiful location, and hard to believe only a stones throw from Paris. The final push into the big city awaited us the next morning.

La Ferme Rose Gite
Link to DAY 5

No comments: