19 April 2012

France and Belgium Tour, Day 3

On the morning of Day 3 of our France and Belgium tour we got up at a liesurely 9am--we knew we could have a relaxed morning as we were getting ready to go see Paris-Roubaix only 10 or 15 km away from our campsite. We ate our breakfast, showered, wrote in our journal, and let our tent dry out after it had again rained overnight. Soon it was time to leave to make sure we made it to the race before any of the pros did!

Campsite in St Amand Les Eaux

Alberto writing in the journal in the warmth of the tent

Alberto has already posted about the great fun we had watching Paris-Roubaix. Once it was over, at about 2:30pm, we pressed on as we knew we still had a good amount of ground to cover. We were still in Paris-Roubaix country, which we could tell by the massive tent in a field that was showing the race to maybe 200 people or more.

The first portion of our route continued through the natural park. We happened upon an open restaurant serving the park users and decided to stop, considering that it was Easter Sunday and we weren't sure how many opportunities we'd have to get food!

After some croque monsieurs we were on the road again towards Lens. The route on this day wasn't ideal - the area around Lens is fairly built-up and busy - but we hadn't been able to find any other suitable stopping point for our third night that would leave us with a short enough day on our last day to be able to catch the ferry. After passing through Auby, we decided to follow a D road directly into the center of Lens rather than taking the GPS route we had plotted, which diverted to the south to avoid the built-up area. There was a cycle lane, and we figured we'd get to Lens faster that way.

Well, the cycle lane disappeared a few kms later so we were on the road, back to urban riding. Fortunately the drivers in France are much more respectful than they are in London. One benefit of this route was that it took us past an open boulangerie, so we stopped quickly for some cakes and then headed on to Lens.

This was the only night where we hadn't found a campsite ahead of time - we just figured we'd be able to ask around and find a campsite or a cheap hotel once we got there. Well, long story short, this didn't happen, and as the skies darkened and a heavy cell of rain began to fall, we checked into an three star hotel on the outskirts of Lens for far more than we wanted to pay!

This is where our hotel was

The hotel was in an industrial wasteland which also featured a Flunch, a fast food restaurant that Alberto remembered from his childhood - so we ate dinner there and then enjoyed our night of relative luxury.

The stats for day 3: 76 km, 16.1 kph moving average (this has a lot to do with the urban riding and wandering around Lens looking for a place to sleep!)

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