Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Swiss Roll - Day 3, Soissons to Ste Menehould, 90 miles

Manage to get up earlier for breakfast today and set off by 8.30. It's due to be a longer - 87 mile - and hillier day today.

Leave Soissons and take the route east along the Aisne river. It's a beautiful morning, sunny and not too hot, and the countryside is lovely, despite the Rough Guide rather un-gallantly describing it as 'uninspiring'.

This is a region with one real claim to fame, as might be guessed from it's name: Champagne - it produces the world's favourite (and most expensive) sparkling wine. But we go the whole day without seeing a grape growing, in fact most of the agriculture is wheat and vegetables growing in vast open fields.

There are suddenly fields of sunflowers, though...


Leaving Soissons, we head east towards the historic centre of the region, Reims. The first thing to say is that pronouncing the city's name is, perhaps appropriately, a minefield. Brits would probably say "Reams", but the locals would call the town something more like "Ranse" (pronounced with a rolled 'R', and while holding your nose). Click here for the real thing...

The morning goes well and we arrive in Reims after 40 miles to buy lunch and have a look (though no time, sadly to go round) the cathedral.

Swiss Roll - Day 3, Reims Cathedral

To follow our route we have no choice but to join a huge dual-carriageway for 5 miles. It's really not much fun having lorries shooting past you elbow at 110 kph!

But then we're back out onto a country road and lunch.

However it's got much hotter and the sun is getting really intense. We have another 40 miles to go and the wind is blowing in our face. It's really tiring and dispiriting...

But we manage to buy more water - and ice lollies, which makes a big difference!

The last 20 miles are tough, it's hilly and hot - 33 degrees in the shade and hot enough to start melting the tarmac. Here's the road down to Valmy, with a beautiful old windmill in the background.

Swiss Roll - Windmill

But we arrive at our hotel at 6.30 in time for a welcome shower. And dinner is escargots and pied du cochon (pigs' trotters, a local speciality). Delicious, if a little on the bony side...

Here's a video of today's ride :