London to Paris Cycle for Action Medical Research Route 3
- n/a days
About the challenge
Cycling from London to Paris is one of the great cycle experiences in Europe. Passing through the picturesque countryside of Surrey and Hampshire to Portsmouth, we cross the Channel and continue through the small villages and medieval market towns of Brittany and Northern France. With long days in the saddle and some strenuous hill-climbs, the sight of the Eiffel Tower, our finishing point, will evoke a real sense of achievement. Our challenge is designed so that our last day in Paris gives us the wonderful opportunity of witnessing the exciting final stage of the Tour de France, as it ends with its customary laps of the Champs-Elysées. There’s also time to explore some of the sights of this majestic city, before we head home on Eurostar.
Day 1: London – Portsmouth – St Malo
Cycle approx 120km (75 miles)
An early start from Chessington allows us to avoid the morning traffic, and it’s not long before we’re pedalling through the Surrey countryside and onto the North Downs near Guildford. Continuing through small towns and villages, our route undulates relatively steadily, though there are some steeper climbs to test our legs. Heading predominantly southwest, we enter Hampshire and pass through Alton. Look out for steam trains, as this old market is also the terminus of the famed Watercress Line. We pass Jane Austen’s house in the lovely village of Chawton soon afterwards, where we stop for lunch. We then continue our ride south across the sweeping South Downs, where more hills await us. Finally reaching the outskirts of Portsmouth, we make our way to the harbour for our overnight ferry to St Malo. (Dinner on ferry not included)
Day 2: St Malo – Mayenne
Cycle approx 132km (82 miles)
After a hearty breakfast on board the ferry, we disembark and head south through the beautiful countryside of Brittany. Our route takes us through the small villages and woodland of this historic region as we head predominantly southwest along quiet roads. We pass the ancient Menhir of Champ-Dolent, an enormous megalithic granite standing-stone which reaches almost 10m high, and then continue to the medieval city of Fougères, whose fortified chateau dominates the town. Still on small roads, our afternoon’s ride takes us through farmland and villages, our route getting hillier through the afternoon until we reach the riverside town of Mayenne. Night hotel.
Day 3: Mayenne – Chartres
Cycle approx 183 km (114 miles)
After a couple of tough days in the saddle our legs may feel a little tired, but they’ll be getting used to the demands now! Today’s route is long and very hilly – enjoy the descents, as they usually lead straight uphill again! We head east through villages and along quiet French roads to Mamers and Bellême, a hill-top town with the usual scattering of old buildings overlooking a large area of forest. This area forms a national park, with quiet roads leading over numerous hills and through areas of woodland. We pedal on, finally reaching the beautiful cathedral city of Chartres on the banks of the River Eure; we’re likely to see the distinctive spires of the cathedral long before we reach our destination – a welcome sight after a very long day in the saddle. Night hotel.
Day 4: Chartres – Paris
Cycle approx 87km (54 miles)
Our final day’s cycling takes us predominantly northeast towards Paris. Initially we ride through fields and small villages, until we reach Rambouillet, site of an extensive forest; its beautiful chateau dates back to the 14th century and is a summer presidential residence. From here we ride through lovely forest and break for lunch near Versailles and its famous Palace. Entering the outskirts of Paris, we look out for the distinctive landmarks of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré Coeur standing out on the skyline. Crossing the River Seine, we reach the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt and continue through the Paris streets to our finish beneath the lofty arches of the Eiffel Tower. We check into our hotel and enjoy a great celebration to mark our achievements. Night hotel.
Day 5: Paris – London
After breakfast you are free to explore the city; popular attractions include the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Louvre. The Tour de France finishes on the 71m-wide Champs-Elysées, by far the best place to watch the sprinters in action as they circuit inner Paris for about an hour before the final lap. The atmosphere in Paris will be electric as spectators gather early to watch the world’s most famous cycling event arrive home, and if you want to get a good view you are advised to get there many hours before the peloton! You are responsible for getting yourself and your bags to the Gare du Nord in good time for our Eurostar train back to St Pancras, where we meet the bikes. Those who prefer will be transferred back to the start point to pick up transport. (Lunch & dinner not included)
Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.
The tour cost includes all accommodation, as well as transport (by ferry and Eurostar) and all meals except 3 as specified in the itinerary. It also includes full trip support of experienced Discover Adventure leaders, medical staff, drivers and mechanics.
It does not include personal travel insurance, three meals as specified, transport around Paris on Day 5, drinks, extra food, personal items or entry to any optional tourist sites you may wish to visit. Remember to allow extra for drinks, snacks, souvenirs and other personal expenses. Please note that costs may fluctuate and we have no control over any changes. We strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.
Accommodation is in 2-3* hotels, picked for their proximity to our route. The hotels are comfortable and well-situated with en suite facilities, but not luxurious; standards may vary between the hotels.
All food is included except 3 meals where specified. Lunches are generous buffet-style with plenty of energy food to keep you going! Dinners are generally eaten in the hotels.
Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Bear in mind that being vegetarian is not generally well-understood in France, so meals may not be as varied as you are used to. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat you may wish to bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Please feel free to ask us for advice. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally when we are in towns or cities where you are free to explore and find something to suit your budget.
Discover Adventure Crew
Your trip will be led by experienced Discover Adventure leaders. Our leaders are selected for their experience in harsh wilderness environments, knowledge of travel in remote areas, friendliness and approachability, sense of humour and ability to safely and effectively deal with any situation that arises. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader.All our leaders are from the UK or other English-speaking countries. Most work for us on an ad-hoc basis and have ‘real’ jobs in-between trips! We never send our leaders to the same destination for months on end – we want them to be as enthusiastic about your trip as you are. Although our leaders are trained in expedition first-aid, they are accompanied by an expedition doctor or medic, who is there to look after the well-being of the whole group and deal with any incidents. They help the leaders to ensure the trip runs smoothly and encourage you when things get tough. The number of crew and support vehicles looking after you will depend on the final size of your group, but the team will be looking after every aspect of your trip whether that’s transporting your luggage, ensuring your route is well-marked, making you lunch and sorting out any mechanical problems. At Discover Adventure we pride ourselves on our high leader: cyclist ratio and believe it leads to greater trip enjoyment as well as excellent trip safety.
Support vehicles are with the group all of the time. All luggage and spares will be carried in them. Space is limited and hard-sided luggage is not suitable, so it is essential that your kit is packed in a soft sailing bag, rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. You should also bring a small daypack or large waist-pack to carry items needed during the day as you will not have access to your main luggage until the evening. Your bikes will return in our vehicles in time to meet you at St Pancras. They will be well-packed and protected during transit in our vehicles, but if you have an expensive or delicate frame, you may prefer to bring extra lagging to protect it more, or a soft bike bag. Hard case bike bags are not suitable as we do not have space to store them. We can offer a bike courier service for a limited amount of bikes – useful if you prefer not to collect your bike at the station. Further details and costs will be sent to you nearer the time; bookings for this service will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis.
Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and emergency mobile phones, first-aid kits and other safety apparatus where necessary. They always have access to our 24-hour emergency back-up in the UK. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate. Pre-trip administration – such as compulsory medical questionnaires and travel insurance – is all done with your safety in mind.
Preparing for the challenge
The cycling is mainly undulating. The first day is particularly strenuous with some tough climbs. We ride mainly on small country roads. Traffic is light on most of the roads but when we pass through busy areas we may go through as a group. French drivers are generally far more considerate to cyclists than here in the UK. Distances are fairly long, varying from 80 – 136km (50 – 85 miles) per day; you should make sure you are fit enough to manage these distances. In total we cycle approx 434km (271 miles), though these distances may vary slightly depending on hotel location and any deviations. Please be aware that all cycle computers and GPS devices vary slightly: please do not feel cheated if your mileage does not agree with ours!
We strongly recommend that you ride a road/racing bike (rather than a mountain bike) for this trip due to the long distances involved on well-surfaced roads. However Discover Adventure can provide hybrid or mountain bikes at an extra cost if you wish.
A range of spares will be carried as well as a full tool kit. However it is impossible for us to carry spares for every eventuality so it is vital that when bringing your own bike it is in good order before departure.
It is imperative that you supply your own helmet and wear it at all times while cycling, with the straps done up.
Clothing & Equipment
We could be exposed to bad weather at any time so be prepared for all weathers and temperatures and remember that weather conditions can change quickly. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice.
The climate of northern France is very similar to that of southern England. Temperatures can vary widely, rain is always a possibility and it may be windy in flatter areas.
Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. We expect all participants to train hard in advance to achieve this challenge, but we respect everyone’s limits. We design our challenges so that everyone can go at their own pace: this is not a race. We are always happy to talk through the trip in more detail with you if you are worried about your fitness at any stage. For logistical and safety reasons we sometimes need to re-group, so the front-runners will find themselves waiting for the slower ones. Please relax, and remember that this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and earn sponsorship.
Passport & Visa
A valid ten-year passport is essential; it must be valid for at least six months after entry into France. There is no visa requirement for UK citizens. Other nationalities should check entry requirements.
We insist that you have had a Tetanus injection in the last ten years, and highly recommend protection against Polio. You should always check with a GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.
Worldwide Sustainable Tourism
Long before ‘Responsible Tourism’ became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through.
Discover Adventure Projects
We are supporting a tree-planting project in Peru and a children’s home in Tanzania on a long-term basis. If you would like to ‘give something back’ please consider donating £5 to our projects when you sign up. Please see our website for more details.
We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them. Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with The Conservation Volunteers and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Volunteer today at www.tcv.org.uk or call 01302 388883.