Monday, 19 July 2010

Swiss Roll - Day 2, Arras to Soissons, 80 miles

Wake up not feeling too bad and my sun burn/tan is looking a little less pink. Breakfast at the hotel and start at 9.00.

It's easier today to get out onto the country roads and we make good progress, managing 20 miles in a couple of hours (including drink/map reading breaks).

We leave Pas de Calais and enter Picardie amd the Somme, a name from The First World War which has become shorthand for pointless sacrifice. Revealingly, we pass a monument to an early conflict, the Franco-Prussian War, which shows how history repeats itself again, and again...

Swiss Roll - Day 2, Memorial in Picardie

We stop in Peronne to buy drinks and factor 50 sun cream - it's already hot and there's not a cloud in the sky. This is my 4th long tour (plus several shorter ones) and I've never experienced this much sun before. It's not as nice as it sounds - I would guess it takes 25% more effort to cycle in the sun and heat than when it's cooler and cloudier, and there's a danger of dehydration, salt loss and heat stroke.

We carry on, passing numerous military cemetaries - some large, others small - for French, British, Australian and German soldiers. It's pleasing that they are so well cared for and each nationality has it's own distinctive style - the British the familiar white tablets, the French white crosses and the Germans slightly sinister grey crosses which apparently each mark the grave of four men. Here's one of the British cemeteries.

British Cemetery in the Somme

It's a pleasant morning and we make good progress, stopping for lunch in Ham after 40 miles.

Lunch is baguette, water, sugary drinks and donuts. The more calories the better when you are burning through 6,000 a day - in fact it's almost impossible to eat enough, especially as the exercise seems to suppress your appetite...

The boulangerie is the only place open on a Monday lunchtime. I'm torn between admiration for the way the French don't let the modern world (serving customers, opening at sensible times) get in the way of doing what they like when they like, and bemusement...

The afternoon is tougher. It's still hot and sunny, road signs add 5 unnecessary miles to our journey skirting around Noyonne, and it starts to get hilly.

In fact we climb steeply up and drop down a 500-foot plateau several before we eventually arrive in Soissons, after 80 miles and 6 hours of pedalling, at 6.00 pm.

But it gives us more time than yesterday to clean up and go out for a meal - pasta - and a couple of well-earned drinks.

Here's today's video, don't forget to select 720p HD on the bottom right of the video:

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