As soon as it was announced that Euro 2016 was to be held in France, I knew that I’d be making my way over the Channel at some point during the tournament to watch some of the football and soak up the atmosphere. The question was, how? To my friends and I, cycling 164 miles to Paris seemed like the most challenging, fun and cost-effective way to get there, so we booked our ferry and our plan was set. A cycling holiday by ferry sounded just the ticket!
When the day came, I met Mike, Paul and Milo outside my flat in east London at 8.30 am on Wednesday 8th June, feeling both nervous and excited. We had to travel as light as possible, so we brought nothing with us apart from the essentials. The first leg of our trip saw us cycle 56 miles to Newhaven, in time to board the 17.30 DFDS ferry service to Dieppe. We arrived at the port and were warmly welcomed onto the ship with our bikes. If you feel a bit nervous about taking a cycling holiday by ferry, there really isn’t anything to worry about. We were given priority ahead of the cars and waved on by the staff who helped us park and secure our bikes. Once we were set we headed straight to the top deck to enjoy the early evening sun. Our group certainly made the most of our “downtime” on the boat, eating, drinking and chatting! When we arrived in Dieppe, thoroughly exhausted, we cycled the 10 minute journey to our hotel and were asleep within minutes.
On Thursday, we cycled 62 miles towards Beauvais along the ‘Avenue Verte’, a specially built cycling route linking Dieppe to Paris. While the route was mainly flat, the ride was more difficult after having been sitting on the bike for 5 hours the day before. Nevertheless, we made the most of it, taking in the countryside and stopping at various towns along the way. After 6 hours cycling, we stayed the night in Gournay-en-Bray and ate pizza to replace as many lost calories as possible!
The final leg of our trip was the shortest – only 46 miles! However, by this time, the novelty of cycling had well and truly worn off and we just wanted to get to Paris as quickly as possible to shower and put on some clean clothes. We rode, virtually in silence, through the last few quaint rural French towns before being greeted by the noise and traffic of suburban Paris. The excitement started to build though, as we caught glimpses of skyscrapers and then a big iron tower. Suddenly, the Arc de Triomphe was in sight, and our amazing journey was finally complete. The feeling of accomplishment was incredible! After the customary photo opposite the monument, we made way to our apartment which was to be our base in the city for the next two days.
That evening, Paris came alive. We watched the opening game of the tournament at the Fan Zone beneath the Eiffel Tower, which truly erupted when Dimitri Payet scored his late winner to secure victory for the French. We spent Saturday and Sunday in Paris, exploring the wonderful city and watching the tournament unfold.
Unfortunately, France didn’t end up winning Euro 2016. England were knocked out early by Iceland. Regardless, my 3 day cycling adventure by ferry made this football-inspired trip to France my most memorable yet. If you’re ever thinking about taking a cycling holiday by ferry, grab your bike and go for it, you’ll love it!