Blake and Clarissa left us yesterday because they are flying to Italy for Blake to meet Clarissa's family. He has been learning a few words of Italian but I reckon he is in for a bit of a shock. They had two quite sturdy semi-foldable bike bags which have wheels on the bottom and internal struts. Much more secure than mine and easier to move about but heavier. So now we are left with 12 riders and 4 staff; cosy!
The ride out of Paris turned out to be really simple; we had feared narrow roads with lots of traffic lights and traffic. Instead there is a bike track alongside the canal de l'Ourse which was a couple of hundred metres from our hotel. This track was mostly of good quality asphalt but had some cobbled and some concrete sections. It led us for 25 km through suburbs and parks and an urban forest to the outskirts of Paris before we had to start riding on roads.
Once out on the open road we faced an ever strengthening Northerly wind which, although not too strong, was cold and made my nose run like a tap. We made god time and, for once, there was not a great deal of distance between the riders at the front and those at the back. It wasn't until we were 40 km from the city that we found an open bar where we had coffees, teas and hot chocolates. Only 15 km further on we came to a park surrounding the ruined Abbaye Royale de Challis where the lunch van had been established. Although it was a bit early for lunch I ate some anyway and then went to look at the ruins. Didn't pay to go in to the museum but found some of the others having coffee at the cafe.
Rolling ever Northwards we came across a ruined church, in much worse condition than the abbey and clearly not a tourist attraction. Some kilometres further on I spotted a site which I first thought were WW2 fortifications but which turned out to be Roman ruins. he Site Antique de Champlice comprised an overgrown temple a grass covered Roman theatre and an excavated bath house. After some photo taking and walking about I continued towards Compiegne. Soon after we rode up a surprisingly steep little rise and the entered the extensive Foret de Compiegne. The forest comprises mostly oak and beech trees with a sparse understorey so that it looks quite open. It is said that there are some 350 roads and tracks crisscrossing the forest which also contains lakes, streams plateaus, valleys and gorges. Emperors and Kings used to hunt for wild boar and deer in the 'good old days'.
Our track was pretty much a straight line for 10km or so through the forest until we reached the town of Compiegne.
Compiegne, situated on the Oise river, has a few claims to fame: There is an Imperial palace and gardens which occupies about a third of the town area. It is the town where Joan of Arc was captured while attempting to liberate the town from Burgundians who the jailed her before selling her to the English. It is also the nearest town to the place where the Armistice was signed at the end of WW1 and where the French surrender was signed by the Nazis in 1940. Our hotel, named the Hotel de Flandre, is a very comfortable old style establishment with some Art Deco touches and a bathroom almost as big as our bedroom in Paris. Lois, Ian, Paul and I ate out at a local cafe where we were by far the oldest patrons. Today we rode only 91 km and climbed a massive 549 metres.