28/7/10: We were a little bit concerned about getting the bike boxes ready in time for the flight and also needed our boarding passes so we left the campsite relatively early at 9am. We returned to the bike shop&this time were served by a different man who immediately went and found us 2 bike boxes. We spent a happy hour or so packing our boxes as carefully as possible so that the less than gentle baggage handlers wouldn't cause any damage! We then discovered how difficult it would be to carry our boxes across town as they weighed about 30kgs and were an awkward shape to carry. Nevertheless we dragged them accross town to an internet cafe to print off our boarding passes for the flight. We then hauled them to the bus stop. Although we may not have been cycling today we felt more tired than usual by 12pm as a result of carrying these things so far in the heat.
We got the bus to the airport and arrived at about 2pm. With all the stuff we had to do it was a good job we had spent the night in La Rochelle and got up early instead of doing any cycling on the last day. We 'caught some rays' for an hour or so before checking in (judging by the weather reports from home, there will be no sun for the next 2 months, so might as well enjoy it in France!)
We checked in and watched the baggage handlers drop Alex's bike whilst loading it onto the plane and then boarded. The plane arrived at Gatwick fine and the bikes came off the caroselle in one peice. We caught the train to Victoria station and then the tube to Kings cross.
We carried the bikes down the long escalators to the tube, I paused at the bottom to wait for Alex and immediatly a loud voice came over the tannoy, 'will the young man with the box please move immediatly, you WILL cause an accident!' This doomsome warning was a bit embarassing infront of everyone but quite amusing afterwards. We reunited and waited for the tube to Kings Cross. We stood on the platform with 2 big boxes wondering how we would get on. I squeezed into one carriage and Alex decided to wait for another tube which was less busy rather than cram in another carriage. I got to Kings cross and waited on the platform for Alex to arrive. 3 tubes came through and no Alex.....not good! Suddenly from nowhere a woman bumped into me who was on the ski instructors course with me earlier this year. We had a brief catch up and then she hopped on the next tube. I noticed my train was leaving in 15 minutes so decided I had maybe missed Alex and he was waiting for me at the platform for the big train to York. When I arrived it was due to depart in 2 minutes. I had an awqward decision to make-wait for Alex and both buy new tickets or do the bad, yet economical thing and leave him behind. I decided I'd rather leave him and go halves on his ticket than both buy new ones so hopped onboard, I was told to put my box in a doorway of a carriage by a guard and wait for further instruction. Another guard arrived and told me 'you can't stand there, mate.' I said 'thats fine, where can I put my box?' He then gave me a rather snotty order saying I should have put it in the next carriage and was blocking a fire exit. I had to firmly remind him I was only standing there because another guard had told me to. He left me alone and we pulled out of the station with a guilty feeling developing in my stomach.
I immediately phone Alex's dad to explain the situation as Alex hasn't got a phone with him on this trip. I was soon phoned back with the message that Alex had not been allowed on the tube as his box was too big, but told me to carry on. Later on I discovered if I had waited seconds longer on the tube platform I too would have been removed. Alex caught a later train back from London as he missed the main one, although they didn't charge him anything.
So here ends my trip, 1877 miles late. I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I didn't feel bored at any time during the evenings as a result of being able to write the blog using my phone. Many thanks for all the comments and feedback and also to Dad and Alex Nowakowski for joining me and stopping me from going insane by breaking up the time spent cycling alone. And many thanls to the people I met on the way who helped me. I will put up a few pictures soon for those who are interested. If anyone is inspired to cycle around France or wants any advice on routes etc please feel free to contact me as I have full records of the routes I took.
My favourite part of France has to be the southern alps, the few days around Mt.Ventoux time took me through the best valleys and over the best cols. The worst col award has to go to the Col du galibier-an absolute beast if you fancy a challenge.
I have put together some statistics from the trip for those interested:
Total mileage: 1877 miles
Total Time: 167 hours, 1 minute
Average speed: 11.24 mph
Total number of Kcal burnt: 176,580 (5045/day)
Total no. Of pedal revolutions: 801,600
Total number of wheel revolutions: 4,194,124
Number of Cols: 19
And amazingly, after all of that, I weighed myself when I got home, and I have put on 1kg! Clearly the patisseries contain more energy than I thought!