Prologue Day 1 – Friday 14th June – Northampton to Portsmouth
I felt very organised in the morning. My Dawes Galaxy touring bike was prepared with four panniers (two front and two rear) and a rack pack. I knew where every item was and everything was waterproof. The bike had been very recently serviced and was as sweet as a nut. Pedalling to Northampton station was easy.
The 1250 train to Euston was very crowded but I got the bike into a good space and found a seat opposite. London was busy (busier than I’m used to – because I’m normally pedalling in London on Saturdays and Sundays) but the journey from Euston to Victoria was straightforward.
Once in Victoria station I quickly met Gordon and Lonica. Gordon had been on the recce trip and he and his wife were staying at the same gîte as me. We got our bikes onto the Portsmouth-bound train and travelled comfortably to Portsmouth & Southsea station. The three of us were staying at the Travelodge hotel opposite the ferry terminal and, after a short walk through the pedestrianized city centre and then pedalling along some quiet back streets, we were soon there.
We met Pam (Anything But Vanilla) and Dan at the hotel and the five of us went out for an evening meal, pedalling over to the new harbour developments at Gunwharf Quays and a branch of Café Rouge. Scampi, lamb, and treacle pudding – accompanied by Hoegarten and Merlot.
We returned to our hotel and I was waiting for my room-mate Charlie. The pub next door – The Sovereigns – had last orders just before eleven o’clock on a Friday evening, which struck me as very old-fashioned. But Charlie soon arrived and, as I knew he would be, he was good company as a room-mate throughout the entire tour.
Mileage for the day = 16.
Prologue Day 2 – Saturday 15th June – (a) Tour de Portsmouth (b) A high-speed ferry crossing (c) Cherbourg to Brix
(a) After breakfast in The Sovereigns, six of us pedalled to StuAff’s house in Portsmouth for a guided tour. We went out of the city to an elevated vantage point at Portsdown Hill where we had a view of the whole city. Stuart pointed out that, properly speaking, Portsmouth is an island.
We then swept down to the historical dockyard where HMS Warrior, one of the first “Ironclads” is moored – accompanied today by a statue commemorating the “mudlarks” – before moving on to elevenses at Southsea Castle.
We went then back near StuAff’s house to meet up with Claudine, Sonia and the others at The Star & Garter for lunch.
Portsmouth route here.
(b) And so to the ferry terminal for the high-speed catamaran crossing to Cherbourg. I sat next to (mmm)Martin – who is always good value; met Andy and Jo who had arranged the gîte and managed to get to sleep while almost all the others were seasick.
(c) With that organisation for which he is famed, Simon (DZ) had arranged for luggage to be carried from Cherbourg to Brix and so my bike was relieved of its panniers for the eleven miles or so to the château. Energetic cooks had already been working and, amongst other, Jim, Steve and Rachel had prepared a meal of pasta, cider and wine – what’s not to like? And the gîtists were quickly onto our final destination.
Route from ferry terminal to château here.
Mileage for the day = 33. Cumulative mileage = 49.