Day 24 – (September 14th)
Zack and I woke up early the next day, as he had to catch the bus to Charles de Gaulle Airport for his mid-day flight back to Barcelona. Packed and ready, we wandered around Victor Hugo to grab breakfast. Being that is was a Sunday in France, we should have known that nothing would be open and his bus would be late… Thankfully he barely made it on his flight in time.
With Zack and Alex gone, and Angelique at an interview, I rode around the City of Lights one more time to pick up some souvenirs, postcards, and supplies for the next leg of my trip. Despite being the home to the Tour de France, I found that bike supplies were scarce and expensive across the country, so I decided to not buy anything unless it was absolutely necessary until I reached Belgium.
While Paris is not nearly as bike-friendly as one would expect, cycling is still the best way to see this beautiful and expansive Gem on La Seine. After a few hours of riding around, I said my goodbyes to Angelique, packed up Bertha, and hit the road around 3:30PM bound for Compiègne, 51 miles northeast of Paris:
Compiègne itself drips with history and I was excited to follow the Regal Route through the forest many past monarchs traversed via carriage from Paris to the ripe hunting grounds of this vacation destination. Further, since I have been listening to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer while riding, I was interested to see where the Armistice with France was signed in 1940.
Before all this, however, I had to navigate my way out of this modern metropolis. While the hearts of all European capitals are beautiful, I would find throughout this adventure that the outskirts remained the most perilous and rugged areas to ride through.
Once I passed Charles de Gaulle Airport, 18 miles north of the city, the traffic let up and landscape softened. The next 30+ miles were absolutely spectacular through the Compiègne Forest. With the trees blocking the wind and sun, I was able to just mash on the pedals and hit an average speed of 17 mph under a full load through the forest. On the outskirts of Compiègne, I picked up the canal system, which brought me to town just as the sun was setting. What a ride!
Once at my beautiful hotel on the river in the heart of Compiègne (thanks Booking.com) I took a quick shower and got ready for a feast. Being Sunday, the only place that was open was an obligatory doner kabab shop. Shops just like this one would soon become my most trusted calorie dispenser across Europe as you find them in every city and they are all a cheap and wonderful source of sustenance.
Stuffed, I stumbled back to my hotel to watch bits and pieces of the Chargers game as it streamed ineffectively to my computer on the spotty Wi-Fi. I fell asleep on a high note as they took down the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks in impressive fashion!