Abroad, part 2

At the Etap we signed in and our bikes were stowed away under the stairs. Mine was first in so that was the end of any more cycling on the first day. So after spotting a brochure, a few of us popped by the Post Office to a lovely 1928 Modernist building called Villa Perrotte to take in some Art. The art wasn't that interesting - apart from the giant insects in the garden - but it had a lovely red window. Then it was a quick whizz around the cathedral-like Eglise St Jacques and a coffee ('tres tres chaud', said Angela) at a cafe opposite. Back to the hotel to meet the others, we then trekked to the Bar O Metre at the far end of the beach to meet Peter Avis again, and off to Le New Haven, by the harbour, for supper. I had fish soup, mussels and chips, followed by a chocolate pancake, all washed down with a bottle of Pelforth Brune. It was Jenny's birthday and Tessa had organised her pudding to appear with two candles. The whole restaurant sang Happy Birthday, first in English and then in French! Then it was back to the hotel to await Nick, who'd spent the day in Brighton. Amanda went off to fetch him and after a few wrong turns he arrived about 4am.

Down for breakfast on Saturday and it was coffee and three kinds of cake. After a quick visit to the wonderful market to get provisions (I bought warm potatoes, radishes and an onion quiche) we set off for Arques-la-Bataille and the start of the Avenue Verte. [There is very little online about the Avenue Verte, what there is includes this mystifying site with a map, if you can find it! - tip: head north east until you see a red line!] This begins by going around lots of lakes with ducklings then follows an old railway line towards Paris. It is very smooth and wide and a joy to cycle on. We stopped at a Nature Eco Educational garden place (Parc Guy Weber) briefly and on through Saint-Vaast-d'Equiqueville to (I think) Maintru. We passed some French cyclists spreading a white tablecloth over a picnic table so thought that we'd stop at the next one. Mick went ahead to find one but couldn't so we sat on the grass and shared round the picnic. Afterwards we went off-piste and followed the river back over undulating roads with big yapping dogs at every house, rejoining the Avenue Verte at Dampierre-Saint-Nicolas. After a welcome can of ice-cold Perrier at the eco place it was on to the Bar de la Gare (some kind of gambling den) at Arques-la-Bataille for a beer. Then it was back to Dieppe on the main roads. I made it approx 30 miles.

Saturday night we all dined at the Sarajevo. I had red pepper fritters followed by scallops in a whisky sauce (Coquilles St Jacques) followed by creme brulee, with red wine. Amanda's mussels were even better than those at Le New Haven. I then staggered off to the hotel and bed, but Nick and some of the others went disco dancing at the Epsom bar.

Sunday morning the idea was to cycle the Littoral to Pourville, but I figured it involved hills, so wimped out. So did Angela - so after some of Joyce's exercises we waved them off and tootled down to the seafront cyclelane and the Bar O Metre for coffee. Then it was a short cycle ride along the front (we did contemplate a round of crazy golf) past the empty swimming pool and the lawns where the kite festival take place, to the jetty and along the harbour front, where the ferry used to come in to meet the trains. We explored the area near the inland station and ended up back at the quayside for a coffee at the Cactus cafe. We'd arranged to meet the others at the swanky Au Grand Duquesne near the church, to show support for their innovative vegetarian menu (on special offer), but only Joyce was there - she'd doubled back to vanguard the lunch. Joined by Peter we sat down and ordered, but soon were joined by the others fresh from their hill climb. I had goat's cheese and walnut raviole, followed by a huge portion of shredded leeks in a very creamy sauce with a tiny bit of pastry perched on top. I nearly couldn't finish it, but managed a dryish (pineapple?) tart for afters - accompanied by silver-medal winning cider. Then it was back to the hotel for our things, a brief dash to the ferry and a long wait in the sun to get on. We arrived back in Blighty about 8pm and said our goodbyes to the car drivers. We left Nick and Amanda at Lewes and Jim and I got off at London Road, leaving Joyce giving useful info to various bewildered French vistors, whose unfortunate first impression of England was the desolate port of Newhaven! Three cheers to Joyce for organising a weekend of glorious weather, fantastic cycling, fabulous food and cordial fellowship.

Abroad, part 1

This time last week I was wondering why anyone would want to go abroad, what with all this volcanic ash floating about causing havoc. After all, foreigners seem incapable of boiling water (and sourcing proper milk) to make a decent cup of tea, their bars serve just one kind of industrial lager - in halves - and there's all the stress of people speaking in a language other than English. The main reason people go abroad is to get some warmth, but I'd booked a weekend just across the channel in Dieppe with the Clarion cycling club, so I checked our hotel on TripAdvisor (not good - 11th out of 11 in Dieppe), packed some teabags, set the alarm clock (and I do so hate getting up early) and went to bed.

I was also worried about the rush-hour train ban in non-folding bikes, but as my folder couldn't handle panniers I thought what the hell and set off. After picking up the cheap internet tickets I'd booked in advance, we got on the Seaford train no bother and picked up a few more of our group at Lewes. At Newhaven it wasn't at all clear what we cyclists were supposed to do, but eventually joined the cars and after showing our passports to a person in a hut, were on board the good ship Seven Sisters attaching our bikes to Deck 3 with rope. That was it - no tickets, metal detectors, frisking or confiscations - though Amanda did get a grilling for her New Zealand passport!

But where was Nick? It was 20 minutes before the departure time of 9.30 and no sign, after frantic texting it appears he missed his train and was at the terminal - and they wouldn't let him on! The next ferry was at 10.30 that night. Meanwhile the 4-hour sailing was calm and uneventful. I bought a cup of tea (ie given a teabag at the cafe till and a token for the coffee machine!) and a croissant. All the cafes had a Sussex theme - the cafe was called The Lanes; the bar was the Beachy head - but all the staff were French! At Dieppe, we stood around in a cloud of fumes as the huge lorries left the ship, then it was our turn to mount the gangplank onto French soil. After being checked out by a Douane chap with gun at the roadside (we were still inside the barbed wire enclosure), we met Peter Avis and cycled over the two bridges into town and the Etap.

To be continued...


Partnership and packaging

LARAC - Home: an illustration job I did for INCPEN on packaging for local authorities.