Nevertheless I was excited about the prospect of the days ride ahead and spent the entire crossing going over my maps to plot a route. I'd decided to do this ride really only a few days earlier and had no time to research in detail. What I had done was look briefly at this route on Bikely which looked interesting.
Calais was wet and blustery when I pulled out of the boat and cycled out of port, I was soaked within a few minutes so set about looking for the route out of town, wanting to get peddling to warm up. After a few initial wrong turns I got my bearings and began the gentle climb into the countryside. The first thing I noticed was how courteous drivers were. When overtaking, they sat well back until it was safe to pass then performed a proper overtaking maneuver, giving a full cars width space between us - brilliant! I wish drivers in the UK would do the same! The roads were also superb and as I was sticking to "D" roads - traffic was very light.
And despite the awful weather..
I just loved cycling through the Parc Naturel régional des Caps et Marais d'Opale, it really is superb riding and very pretty if you like open spaces..anyone that tells you otherwise needs their head seen too! (On this point I've seen a few comments about featureless landscape in other trip reports - o.k its not the Alps, but what do you expect?!)
As I progressed towards Montruil, I started seeing Gendarmes on the side of the road...then a gradually increasing amount of people lining the street in every small village. At first, I thought this must be something to do with the national elections but then some of them started cheering when I cycled past. Bewildered, but amused I got into the spirit of things and started cheering back..my limited knowledge of French indicating that I appeared to be in first place in some kind of race!!
When I hit Montreuil and the steep climb into the beautiful walled town, there were bigger crowds and crash barriers lining the streets, complete with TV crews and a funfair....and erm...yes, it did appear to be quite a major cycling event:
In fact, this turned out to be the route of day 2 of 4 Jours de Dunkerque ! Which explains a lot...the locals must have been very amused by some chump tourist trucking by them on a pannier laden touring bike!
Anyway this seemed like a good place to stop for lunch, and I found a typically excellent bakery which sold these fine treats:
After stuffing my face it was time to move on. The weather had improved a little but somehow I ended up back on parts of the race route again, and would get convoys of cars honking past in places. So I then deviated off from the original plan and took a slightly more westerly route to get out the way. The roads remained brilliant:
And it was just a matter of plodding on and eating up the miles. There was one final hill section to go that I really struggled on, before a the descent downhill into the village of Poix de Picardie, the target for day 1. And what a relief it was too! 176km all told, and the section after lunch looked like this:
Day 2 promised to be slightly shorter, but with the challenge of entering Paris...