Crooked Spire to Eiffel Tower Charity Cycle Ride

London to Paris Bike Ride - Tour de France
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My wrist quickly started to seize, and both pole and paddle soon chafed a blister in the crook of thumb and forefinger.

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Two marabou storks came wheeling overhead, wings like black sails; my eyes followed them until they became dots in the landscape. Mankind began here. The human race picked a pretty special place to start out. This was not the Kenya of high-end savannah lodges and lion sightings, nor was it the Kenya of beach resorts and dhow boats. The bushland was punctuated by corrugated iron churches and mud-and-thatch villages. Tucking into a breakfast while overlooking the valley from the eastern escarpment.

The idea behind the initiative is a simple one: the walking trail passes from one side of the Great Rift Valley to the other. It makes use of local hiking guides, local food and local campsites. He had a wide grin that made him instantly likeable. They all came here. It was October, and somewhere in the region of , flamingos were resident on Lake Bogoria.

Vast twig-thin flocks of flamingos were clustered in dense numbers around the shoreline, feeding on the blue-green algae that, illogically, gives the birds their rosy tint. As I watched, several hundred of them took flight — ungainly on take-off, then hard and fast when airborne — to a more distant part of the lake. Hot springs and geysers frothed and bubbled along the waterside.

Pelicans looked on from high branches. The whole scene had a grand, cinematic quality; I was left marvelling, not for the last time, that there was no one else around — no white jeeps, no frantically snapping tour groups -to savour the view. Chamois are crazy. In driving storms, snow and wind these creatures climb high into the Alps, teetering on precarious ledges and tightrope-walking on knife-edge ridges, all in search of food.

In the Tirolean Alps — and in particular here in the Lechtaler range — mountain huts are spaced regularly along the trails, offering dorm beds and hot food. This means that you can stay high among the mountains, connecting walking paths to form a hut-to-hut adventure, without the need to carry heavy camping gear or return to villages for supplies. Some huts are even open in winter for emergency un-staffed use.

In fact it was mid-July — a time free from the hedonistic crowds that descend on St Anton in ski season, leaving the granite peaks to walkers. My plan had been to explore this winter wonderland snow-free, bathed in summer sunshine, spending my days strolling from hut to hut. St Anton, it seemed, had other ideas. The day before, I had arrived in town to find the sky overcast; the threat of thunder brewed in the air, and the clouds churned as though being stirred in a cauldron. I had taken a bus into the nearby Verwall Valley and meandered among grey cows and rows of purple and pink orchis to find Konstanzer Hutte, my first introduction to a mountain shelter.

Spits of rain fell sporadically as I walked, clouds swarming around the peaks, but by the time I left the hut to return to St Anton, the sky was blue, the sun burning through intensely, forcing me to remove layers. That night I was buzzing at the thought of my forthcoming trek. The scenery of the deep-blue water surrounded by the Alps covered in snow is forever unforgettable. Shelter from the storm — Then next morning I met Naggi and almost on cue the rain started. Trying to ignore the worsening weather we headed for the ski lifts. Walking in the mountains of a ski town offers two main perks.

The second is that the ski lift infrastructure makes it easier to get up into the high places to start a walk, saving your legs hundreds of metres of ascent. We jumped in a cable car to Valluga, the highest peak in the mountain range at 2,m. As we passed the 2,m mark, the views of green meadows and wildflowers disappeared, swallowed by thick fog. I looked over to Naggi, who was busy humming to himself, avoiding my gaze.

When we finally reached the top, I stepped out into winter. Snow lay banked up the stairs to the walking path; I half wondered if we would need skis to get down. We began plunging our legs into the knee-deep snow, using walking poles for balance. The incredible scenery of Hue is filled with sightseeing objectives representing the traditional Asian culture. Deep inside Hung Ton Cave, a wooden ladder dropped iom down into darkness.

As I stood alone at the bottom waiting for my fellow trekkers to descend, only the faint sound of muffled voices drifted from above. I scanned with my headtorch: the slate-grey of the cave wall was punctuated with bright dots, shining like diamonds; closer inspection revealed them to be the reflective eyes of huntsman spiders, each with leg spans as large as my outstretched hand. As I trained my beam on a particularly large specimen, the quiet of the cave was abruptly broken.

We had been promised an Indiana Jones-style adventure and, just 30 minutes into the first of the treks many caves, that promise was being delivered in spades. The area is riddled with hundreds of deep caves, including one of the largest in the world — Hang Son Doong -which contains a cavern so tall that a skyscraper could fit inside it. A jungle also thrives in its vast interior, providing a habitat for monkeys and flying foxes.

They were part of the team that first explored Son Doong, having been led to its mouth by local man, Mr Ho Khanh. Howard is a former biomedical scientist who speaks in a soft, measured Yorkshire lilt; that is, until he gets onto his favourite subject: the caves. Sitting around a campfire with these guys, singing and enjoying some rice wine in the evening, adds an extra layer to an expedition. You should try it. Not long ago, the road in front of his house was a rutted track peppered with old arms and ammo rusting in the scorching sun.

Today it is smoothly paved, and his homestay business is growing. The money that the caves have brought to the town is evident. We turned onto a side road bordered by glowing paddy fields as gaggles of school kids wearing bright-white cottons and carrying red plastic stools weaved their way around us. Groups of farmers worked the land, their conical hats bobbing: the women hacked the crops with scythes while the men carried the bundles away.

Once we were geared up with waterproof bags, lifejackets, headtorches and other supplies, we headed toward the caves. As we walked along a muddy farm track, our guide, Bamboo, pointed out the height of the last major flood in Looking around at the flat expanse between the hills, what Bamboo described was unfathomable. As a result, safe houses have now been built on higher ground and, in the nearby villages, numerous small huts perch on buoyant barrels, ready to be loaded with valuables should the waters rage again.

At the tail end of the dry season under a cerulean sky, the river still flowed strongly, meandering through buffalo-filled fields in the shadow of the vibrant-green hills. After a brief stop under the beating sun to photograph this Eden-like scene, we waded across the river and reached a rocky path that pitched skyward over a pass before descending into a hidden valley.

Going down — Before long we arrived at the mouth of the first cave: Hang Ton. Safety instructions were issued, then we cautiously stepped into the darkness. Grouped together at the bottom of a 6m-long ladder, a hush descended. In the daylight, conversation had flowed, but in the eerie darkness we stood quietly, training our torch beams on the glistening rock formations around us.

The two-day route from Tambomachay to Lamay follows parts of Inca pathways that once connected Cusco to Pisac. After a night camping out in the mountains, a squeeze through the narrow Leon Punku ravine leads to the one-time administrative centre of Huchuy Gosqo, its hall, houses and recently restored granary sitting atop a 3,m-high plateau, far from the madding crowds. It can be shortened to a day-walk by starting from the village of Patabamba instead of Tambomachay. There are plenty of tourists, too, but you can escape many of them by making a long loop walk, and staying overnight — most see Sol as a day-trip destination.

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Hiking the coast path from Yumani, in the south, to Challapampa, in the north, then returning via the upper path, will take you via terraced fields and pre-Columbian ruins, with views over the ethereal lake to the snow-capped Andes. The walk, though not long, is literally breathtaking — the island sits at around 3,m — so acclimatise first before making your traverse. Permits are required to visit the different sections of the island; carry change to buy them from local toll booths and beware scammers.

Theres so much to see; dont try to do it all. Who cares if you see 35 museums or 13? Take time to sip an espresso or a glass of red wine at an outdoor cafe under the Parisian sky, and allow yourself to get lost down some ancient street where youll find the ghost of Balzac, the flash of Yves St-Laurent, and cuisine of Alain Ducasse sharing the same sidewalk view. Paris seduces. Her charm is effusive, yet she wields her power with an iron determination. From the place de la Concorde to the Opera Garnier to the basilica of Sacr-Coeur, she is a living work of art and, like all artists, can be decidedly temperamental.

But you wont mindyoull even understandwhen you sip from her cup, break bread, and fall in love all over again. Touristy, but it doesnt matter. The monuments that are impressive by day are floodlit at night, and Paris becomes glittering and romantically shadowy by turns. Gliding down the river under softly glowing bridges, with. Word of advice: Save the displays for sporting events. For more information, see chapter 6. Spending a Day at the Muse dOrsay.

It holds the worlds most comprehensive collection of Impressionist art, in addition to PreImpressionists, Post-Impressionists, and Neo-Impressionists. See the sculptures on the ground floor, and then head upstairs for a look at the spectacular collection of van Goghs, some little-known Gauguins, and a roomful of Toulouse-Lautrec pastels. Youll leave refreshed and energized. See chapter 6.

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Enjoy the sun on your face while you lean back in an iron chair and watch neatly dressed, perfectly mannered Parisians of all ages sail toy boats, play tennis, ride ponies, and take beekeeping classes. Dont miss the working orchards, where fruit is carefully cultivated for the table of the French Senate and for local charities. Walking Through the Marais. Sprawling manors built by 17thcentury nobles and narrow streets of fairy-tale quaintness coexist with artists and artisans who bring unique and sometimes whimsical style to the historic district. Stroll down rue des Rosiers in the heart of the old Jewish quarter, browse the antiques shops at Village StPaul, and take a break in the tranquil place des Vosges.

The bars and cafes on the main streets are. Tomb-Hopping in Pre-Lachaise. From Chopin to Jim Morrison to Maria Callas, this lush necropolis is a Who Used to Be Who of famous Parisians or famous people who happened to die in Paris , and theres no wrong season or weather to visit. The bare trees of winter lend it a haunting quality; on rainy days, the cemetery is brooding and melancholy; on a summer day, its the ideal place for a contemplative stroll. Best time to visit?

November 1, All Saints Day, when flowers decorate the tombs. Food Shopping, Parisian Style. In an outdoor neighborhood market, you can observe the French indulging their passion for meat, dairy, fruit, fish, fowl, pt, cheese, sausage, rabbit, and unusual animal parts: brains, kidneys, veals head, tongue, and tripe.

The merchants know their products and are happy to offer advice and even cooking tips. The markets on rue Mouffetard and rue de Buci are the best known; the ones on rue Montorgueil and rue Cler have an equally tempting array of produce and are less touristy. Touring the Arcades.

Youll feel that shopping has been elevated to high art when you wander the iron- and glass-covered passages that weave through the 2e arrondissement. Designed to shelter 19th-century shoppers from nasty weather, they now hold shops that sell stamps, old books, and discount clothing; designer boutiques; tea salons; homey brasseries; and even a wax museum.

Exploring these picturesque passages is a delightful way to while away a rainy afternoon. Watching the Sunset from the Pont des Arts. Behind you are the spires of Notre-Dame; ahead is the river, with its bridges stretching toward the setting sun. On the bridge with you just might be a mime or someone dressed as a Louvre statue. Arriving in August. Its a month when the city is shunned by tourists, abandoned by its residents. Even parking meters are free. The air begins to smell like air again, nightlife takes it down a notch, and parks and gardens are in full bloom. Although many restaurants close, enough remain open to give you a good choice of the local cuisine.

And there are the museums, the banks of the Seine, and the old neighborhoods. Without the bustle, whats left is beauty, art, and nature. Although summers in Paris rarely reach the temperatures of more southern climes, proved to be the exception with an unprecedented heat wave. While the city government responded by creating an artificial beach, the high temperatures led to a number of heat-related fatalities. Airconditioning is not a given in even. Immortalized in the Marcel Carn film Htel du Nord, the canal runs through eastern Paris, a part of the city tourists rarely visit, which is a pity.

The area closes to vehicle traffic on Sunday, and you can bike, faire le roller skate , or scooter past footbridges connecting the tree-lined promenades on either side of the water. Youll see elderly men dozing in the sun as mothers watch their toddlers play. You might even take in a spectacle such as costumed actors evoking a Venetian scene on a line of boats floating past the quartier.

The whole area relives the low-key tranquillity of prewar, workingclass Paris. Dancing in the Streets. On June 21, the day of the summer solstice, everyone pours into the streets to celebrate the Fte de la Musique, and musicians are everywhere. Although the quality varies from dont-give-up-your-day-job to top-rung, its exhilarating to join the parties in progress in every park, garden, and square.

See Paris Calendar of Events, in chapter 2. Its good address will impress your French business associates and show them that youre malin shrewd. See p. Flowing curtains, fabric-covered headboards, throw pillows, and cushioned high-backed seats make each room ideal for a lazy breakfast in bed. With its 18th-century ceiling murals and wedding cake plasterwork, Htel St-Jacques, The clean, well-maintained rooms are soundproofed and come with new airconditioning units; rooms on the fifth floor have balconies with views of the Eiffel Tower.

From here, you are only a 10minute walk from the Louvre, the. Opra, the Concorde, and the Left Bank. Best Rooms with a View: Would you like to gaze over the citys rooftops while you have your morning croissants and coffee? From its top-floor rooms, you have a view that stretches from the Eiffel Tower to Sacr-Coeur.

Impressions Paris is a real ocean. Wander through it, describe it as you may, there will always remain an undiscovered place, an unknown retreat, flowers, pearls, monsters, something unheard of. Honor de Balzac. Its popular with the French when they come to the capital to enjoy a dose of metropolitan life.

Crooked Spire to Eiffel Tower Cycle Ride

Reserve well in advance. Air-conditioning and double-glazed windows allow you to sleep late, and the bold color scheme will give you a jolt of energy in the morning. If youd like to live in gilded surroundings, even on a budget, you might enjoy the hotels traditional French charm. Across the street is the Passage des Panoramas; Galeries Lafayette, Au Printemps, and other department stores are only a short walk away. Here youll find boutique after boutique packed with the latest fashions. Best Family-Run Hotels: The very friendly and hard-working Eric and Sylvie Gaucheron own and run two hotels side by side, both highly recommended.

The restaurant is in the Palais-Royal, so youll overlook its beautiful, peaceful gardens while dining on fine dishes like grilled sole with a garnish of carrots, parsley, red pepper, and baby squid. Peis glass pyramid at the Louvre and has ultracushy chairs for sitting back and contemplating architecture, art and life. Best Places for a Celebration: If you want a glamorous night on the town, try the infinitely elegant La Butte Chaillot, bis av. This creation of the Costes Brothers of Hotel Costes is one of the hottest spots in Paris, with a degree view to killand its prices are surprisingly reasonable.

Its a small place in an out-of-the-way location, but the food is excellent and the Art Nouveau setting is gloriously, eternally Parisian. Its worth the trip to this treasure close to the Gare du Nord, where youll find traditional French cuisine with a twist in an animated setting. Its one of the prettiest restaurants in Paris, with a gorgeous domed stainedglass ceiling over the main dining room. It became part of the Brasserie Flo chain in , and the food has never been better. Far from the polished restaurants that masquerade as true brasseries, this one has as its heart old Paris.

Best Place for a Late-Night Meal: You can always wander into one of the all-night brasseries along rue Coquillire on the northern edge of Les Halles without a reservation. For a Parisian experience with a splash of American literary history, head to Closerie des Lilas, bd. Youll need reservations. Its known for huge cuts of excellent meat and good house wines. Reservations are always required. Best for Mingling with the Locals: Parisians are avid bargainhunters, which explains the huge popularity of moderately priced eateries.

On the Right Bank, near the Concorde and the U. Le Relais Plaza, 25 av. This Belle Epoque palace with gold-trimmed mirrors serves delectable buttery pastries and hot chocolate youll never forget. Take your pick from almost teas in the attractive colonial-style salon at the back of the shop. To accompany the freshly baked bread, you can choose from an assortment of specialties, including arugula, mozzarella, Parmesan, Italian ham, roast tomatoes, and tapenade.

Best Picnic Fare: Two excellent places for one-stop shopping are La. The quiche from the Grande Epicerie Alsatian deli counter is a special treat. This historic landmark dates back to the s and shimmers with polished brass, old lamps, and frescoes. Its boisterous and lively, and children get to be a bit loud without upsetting the convivial atmosphere. Cloche means bell, and the name refers to the bell that tolled the opening and closing of the citys main market when it was nearby. Some old-market atmosphere survives here, including an interesting mix of people and a high level of conviviality.

Its a great place for a light, very French lunch. The offbeat decorpark benches and a ceiling painted black and white to resemble the markings on a cow attracts a young crowd that delights in the big, fresh salads and thick tartes. Among the better dishes are chicken yassa with lemons and onions, and requin fum smoked shark , if youre feeling adventurous. This lively place also serves potent, mostly rum-based cocktails and plays African music. At Al Diwan, 30 av.

Best Student Hangout: Parisian students have a keen eye for bargains, skimping on food so they can spend their parents money in salsa bars. Well answer the questions you probably have concerning the what, when, where, and how of travelfrom what documents you need, to how to get to Paris easily and economically. Well tell you what you can expect to pay for rooms, a meal, a theater ticket. We provide tips for travelers with special needs and interests students, families, travelers with disabilities, gay and lesbian travelers , as well as a calendar of special events.

As already mentioned, tourism is down in Paris in general, so if you know where to look, you can still find a lot of good deals. Generally, you can count on Paris to be as expensive as two of the most costly American cities: New York and San Francisco. The raison dtre for this book is to help you get the best vacation for your money. Affordable doesnt mean shabby accommodations, bad food, and the feeling that youre being cheated out of the experience of Paris. Rather, it means seeking out the best values and refusing to overpay for mediocrity. Visiting Paris on a budget means youll be living more like Parisians, who like to enjoy high standards without emptying their wallets.

First, lets deal with your expectations: Expect simple comforts in your hotel. The room will likely be small but cozy, the towels thinner than youre used to, and the decor basicbut usually charming. You will probably have a TV that gets a few French channels, a telephone, and a tiny bathroom with shower or antique tub and toilet. Just because youll be dining in a city famous for its food, dont expect to pay a fortune for it. While it is true you would be guaranteed the very best of haute French cuisine at one of the premier restaurants, if you do your homework, you can also eat some incredible French meals at restaurants that you can more readily afford.

Peruse chapter 5, Great Deals on Dining, and remember that a picnic is one of the best and cheapest ways to celebrate excellent French cuisine. You can put a meal together from the pts, cheeses, meats, wine, and fruit available at grocery stores, street markets, boulangeries, and piceries throughout the city. Youll never be at a loss for a picnic location in Paris!

As for sightseeing, sometimes wandering down the ancient Parisian streets can be the greatest pleasure. The monuments commemorating the events that created Paris are free. The many museums offer reduced entrance fees at certain times and are free the first Sunday of every month. The parks, filled with sculptures and.

In the evening, Paris opens up, and you can linger in a cafe over a glass of wine cheaper than a soda or coffee and people-watch, walk to your hearts content among the floodlit monuments, or stroll the bridges over the Seine. That amount is. This amount gives you morethan-adequate accommodations, a continental breakfast, picnic or lowcost lunch, and a fine evening meal. To save more and eat better, you can take advantage of the reasonable prixfixe lunches offered throughout Paris and save your light meal for dinner.

And you can modify the budget by opting to do it for less or more. Knowledge is power. So read as much as you can about Paris before you go, ask friends who have been there, and get as much free information as possible from the Internet and tourist office. Plan well in advance. Airlines and even car-rental firms and hotels need to sell their inventory of seats, cars, and rooms, and will reward the advance purchaser with a discount. A day advance-purchase airfare is cheaper than a regular economy seat.

If planning far ahead isnt an option, check for special offers on major airlines websites, or on travel websites like www. The most expensive part of any trip often is the airfare, so scour newspapers and the Net for the latest information. Airlines want to fill every flight, so they adjust their pricing frequently. Look for airlines that have just begun flying to Paristhey often launch the route with low fares.

Fly during the week rather than on weekends; its cheaper. Also, youll save on airfare and dining if. Consolidators, also known as bucket shops, are great sources for international tickets. Start by looking in Sunday newspaper travel sections; U. Several reliable consolidators are worldwide and available on the Net.

It also offers good fares for travelers of all ages. Consider going as a courier if you have plenty of time and are not traveling with a companion. Companies that hire couriers use your luggage allowance for their. Pack light. You wont need a luggage cart, and youll be less likely to succumb to the desire for a taxi. Take the cheapest way into the city from the airport. Plus, you can doze on your trip into the city. Enjoy the price tag of a package tour. Sometimes the price of airfare, transfers, and a week or more in a hotel is little more than the cost of traditional airfare.

You dont have to sign up for the tours features or join the group activities unless you want to. Book early. The best budget choices fill up fast. What do you really need in your hotel room? Nearly all rooms in Paris have a sink with hot and cold water. If you dont mind sharing the facilities, you can stay in a lower-priced room with a bathroom down the hall. Negotiate the room price, especially in the low season.

Ask for a discount if youre a student or over 60; ask for a discount if you stay a certain number of days, say, 5 or more. Make sure you arent being charged for it. Consider staying at a youth hostel or similar lodging. A home swap or short-term apartment rental in Paris is a good option if you dont need the services of a hotel. One company that facilitates home swapping is Trading Homes International www.

Dont call home from a hotel phone unless you know that you can dial your home direct number to reach your own operator. If you have to make a call, use a public phone booth to avoid hotel surcharges. Another way to save money is to call home and ask the person to call you back; U. Look for tlcartes that give you more for your money.

Youll be hard-pressed to find a pay phone in France that accepts coins; public phones require that you insert a prepaid tlcarte that has a microchip to measure the connection time. Calls to the United States between 8am and 7pm use a unit every 14 seconds; at other times its every 17 seconds. You can buy tlcartes at any post office or tabac tobacco shop and some newsstands. Cashiers will almost always try to sell you a card from France Tlcom, the French phone company, for 7.

What tourists dont know is that many tabacs and newsstands sell tlcartes issued by companies that. Look for tabacs that have advertisements for Delta Multimedia or Kertel, or ask for a tlcarte avec un code. The post office sells only France Tlcom tlcartes. If youre not opposed to picnicking, patisseries, boulangeries, and street markets are your best bets for quick, cheap dining. Dont forget a corkscrew tirebouchon! Boulangeries sell sandwiches, cold slices of pizza, and individual quiches for about 3. Make lunch your main meal.

Many restaurants offer great deals on a fixed-price prix fixe lunch. After two or three courses at midday, youll be happy to eat light at dinner. Seek out crperies, where you can enjoy meat- or vegetable-filled galettes and dessert crpes in Brittany-inspired surroundings. There are many off the boulevard du Montparnasse around the Square Delambre. Try ethnic neighborhoods for tasty, inexpensive cuisine. You can get terrific Chinese food in the 13e arrondissement between the place dItalie and the Porte de Choisy; try the 10e, 18e, and 20e for North African, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Thai.

Chain restaurants Hippopotamus, Lon de Bruxelles, and lEcluse offer good values. Pommes des Pains and Linas are popular chains for sandwiches. The plat du jour will usually be the cheapest main dish at a budget restaurant. If thats not enough food, order the formule or prix fixe menus, which usually provide an appetizer and main dish or a main dish and dessert. Three-course menus include a starter, main dish, and dessert. Wine is usually. Coffee is almost always extra.

Pay attention to the details of the menu. On most menus the cheaper dishes are made of cheaper cuts of meat or organ meats, like brains, tripe, and so on. Andouillette is one such dish. Its not the little sausage you might expect, but a delicacy made of hog intestines. Wine is cheaper than soda. Also, some mineral waters are less expensive than others. Unless you can really taste the difference, ask for tap water une carafe deau.

Grab a croissant or pain au chocolat from a boulangerie and drink your coffee standing up at a cafe counter for about 1. Know the tipping rules. Most waiters and waitresses do this as a lifelong career; its nice to show your appreciation. Have drinks or coffee at the bar. You pay twice as much when youre seated at a table.

Use the Mtro or walk. Take advantage of passes that lower the cost of a single ticketfrom. It offers unlimited travel in the city center. If you know youll be in Paris for up to 5 consecutive days, a Paris Visite pass may be a good idea. Heavily promoted by the RATP,. Theres also a pass that covers unlimited subway and bus travel in zones 1 to 8 Paris and suburbs, including the airports, Versailles, and Disneyland Paris , but unless youre going to Disneyland, Versailles, or Fontainebleau, you wont need to go outside zone 3.

Not all Mtro stations sell the passes. Fares range from 8. Check the calendar of events below. Many festivals and fairs are free and offer an opportunity to participate in a uniquely Parisian event. Instead of paying to look out over the rooftops of Paris, go to places that are free, such as the top floor of the department store La Samaritaine. Go to the parks. Theyre lush, beautiful, and civilized. Tour the historic monuments and enjoy public art in the streets and parks. History endures at sights like the place des Vosges and place de la Concorde.

Statues can also give you a quick history course in the great figures and personalities that have shaped Paris, or maybe just afford you a chance to appreciate the male and female nude, such as the Maillol sculptures in the Tuileries. Hang out in the open-air food markets. Theres one in each arrondissement; they open at 8am.

Some of our favorites are: rue Montorgeuil, rue Mouffetard,. Go early, and remember that most markets are closed on Monday. Churches are free. Take the opportunity to sit and contemplate, or attend a service. Many churches have dramatic interiors and famous artworkpaintings by Delacroix at St-Sulpice, sculptures by Coysevox at St-Roch, and etchings by Rouault at St-Sverin, to name only a few.

Consider buying the Carte Muses et Monuments Museum and Monuments Pass , but only if youll be visiting two or three museums a day. Admission to the Louvre is 7. The card gives you access to 65 museums and monuments, allowing you to go directly inside without waiting in linea distinct benefit at the Louvre, for example. Visit the cemeteries. Apart from their beauty, theyre peaceful havens, and you may learn a little about Frenchand American history.

Worth exploring are PreLachaise p. Take advantage of the reduced admission fee at museums, which usually applies 2 hours before closing and all day Sunday. If youre age 60 or over, carry identification proving it and ask for discounts at theaters, museums, attractions, and the Mtro.

If youre an auction buff, pick up a copy of the Gazette de lHtel Drouot, which comes out every Friday, and check for auctions that interest you. Paris is expensive, but there are many bargains. Take your time browsing through the little boutiques and flea markets and youll be sure to find that perfect gift. Things like film and toiletries, including contact lens solution, are much more expensive in Paris than in the U.

Bring enough to get you through your trip. The major department stores have dtaxe desks and will help you fill out the paperwork. At the airport, you present the paperwork to a French Customs officer who stamps the papers and returns them to you. You then mail the papers from the airportthe stamped envelope is included and look for the refund, in euros, in about 3 months.

If jewelry is a pet purchase, explore the boutiques on the rue Tiquetonne and in the Passage du Grand Cerf. Also visit Tati Or and, for costume jewelry that looks like the real thing, try Bijoux Burma. Perfume made in France really is different from French perfume made elsewhere. In France, perfume is made with potato alcohol, which increases the scent and lengthens its endurance, making French-made perfume the best there is. Though the U. If you have time, visit Catherine, 7 rue de Castiglione, 1er, the favorite perfume discounter of Frommers Born to Shop guru Suzy Gershman.

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The store will give you a discount and youll get your value-added tax rebate at the time of purchase. Look for stylish, inexpensive clothes at the stores best described as upscale versions of the U. For discounts on fashion, try the rue St-Placide. For discounts on china and other table goods, check out the stores on the rue Paradis.

Soldes means sales. The French government allows merchants to put their wares on sale below cost twice a year, in January and July.

To sample the contemporary art scene, stroll through the 11e arrondissement around the Bastille or along rue Quincampoix near the Centre Pompidou. Go to outdoor markets. Even if you dont buy anything, the experience is fun. There are flea markets at Porte de Vanves, Porte de Montreuil, and Porte de Clignancourt, a flower market and a bird market on Ile de la Cit, a stamp market at Rond Point Clemenceau, and fresh produce markets everywhere.

Otherwise, explore the streets in the 6e arrondissementespecially rue Jacob, rue des St-Pres, and the rues de Bac and Beaune, which contain beautiful stores and galleries. The second floor of the Bon Marchs food store is also an air-conditioned antiques hall. Nightlife is expensive. Well share some tricks, but dont expect to save much. Allot some of your budget to go out on the town. For half-price theater and other performance tickets, go to one of the kiosks by the Madeleine, on the lower level of ChteletLes-Halles Mtro interchange or at the Gare.

The weekly Pariscope magazine contains complete concert listings and can be found at every newsstand. Parts of Pariscope are in English. At clubs you can save money by sitting at the bar instead of at a table. Some clubs are cheaper than others, and some are cheaper during the week. Avoid weekends if you want to save moneyyoull also meet more Parisians this way. Michigan Ave. Telephone access costs. Bonjour Paris www.

Youll find reviews of new restaurants, articles on bicycle fever, the French love affair, and inline skating on place des Vosges coexisting happily with guides to French cheese and wine and reviews of recent French films. Hotel recommendations and travel tips abound. Message boards debate cultural differences and offer readers restaurant, food, and wine picks.

In the chat sessions you can learn to speak French better, get recipes, or talk about French literature, among other subjects. Suzy Gershman, author of Frommers Born to Shop series, relates the latest trends in fashion and travel and her favorite finds. In some American expat journalists in Paris decided to start an online guide to the city that had captured their hearts by writing articles on topics that concerned or amused them; they launched Bonjour Paris on America Online and drew an excellent response. Two years later, Karen Fawcett, one of the journalists, bought it.

Bonjour Paris launched on the Web in January Fawcett is now the sites president, monitoring it and managing to answer almost all the hundreds of reader e-mails she receives each day. Shes slowly broadening Bonjour Paris with more reportage from outside the capital. You can also subscribe to their e-mail newsletter. The calendar of events includes music, movies, and performance-art listings. There are also restaurant reviews and guides like Where to Kiss in Paris. Paris Pages www. The lodging reviews are organized by area and the monuments that stand.

The city guide includes an event calendar, shop listings, a map of attractions with details about each, and photo tours. Paris Tourist Office www. Rent a scooter through their list of transportation services. Tour parks and gardens and discover Pariss trendy arrondissements. Smartweb: Paris www.

Navigate the shopping and gallery listings organized by district and preview. Click on maps to get weather and subway information. You can even see photos of the graffiti dedicated to Princess Diana on the torch and wall surrounding place de lAlma, above the underpass where Diana was killed in a car accident on August 31, RATP www. Also helpful is the information on the lines, timetables, and journeys of Noctambus, which runs when the Mtro is closed, between 1 and am.

For an up-todate country-by-country listing of passport requirements around the world, go the Foreign Entry Requirements Web page of the U. What can you bring back? Coffee beans, roasted nuts, canned sauces, and canned fruits and vegetables; canned meats have to be shelf-stable without refrigeration, but determining that could get tricky if you get stopped. Truffles, however, are allowed. Returning U. Be sure to have your receipts handy. With some exceptions, you cannot bring fresh fruits and vegetables into the United States. For specifics on what you can bring back, download the invaluable free pamphlet Know Before You Go online at www.

Or contact the U. Customs Service, Pennsylvania Ave. Customs restrictions differ for citizens of the European Union and for citizens of non-E. You can also bring in 2 liters of wine and 1 liter of alcohol over In addition, you can bring in 50 grams of perfume,. Travelers 15 and over can also bring in in other goods; for those 14 and under, the limit is Those luscious persimmons you saw at the open-air market? Well, forget taking them or any other fresh fruit,.

Getting Your Passports For Residents of the United States: Whether youre applying in person or by mail, you can download passport applications from the U. To find your regional passport office, either check the U. For Residents of the U. Those under age 18 and over 65 must apply for a 12 3-year passport. For Residents of Australia: You can pick up an application from your local post office or any branch of Passports Australia, but you must schedule an interview at the passport office to present your application materials.

All valuables should be declared on the Y form before departure from Canada, including serial numbers of valuables you already own, such as foreign cameras. Citizens of the U. In essence, there is no limit on what you can bring back from an E. However, Customs law sets out guidance levels. If you bring in more. Guidance levels on goods bought in the E. Citizens can bring in cigarettes or grams of loose tobacco, and 1, milliliters of alcohol. If youre returning with valuables you already own, such as foreign-made cameras, you should file form B Most people of that age would probably have had their confidence knocked and wanted to call it a day, but it only seemed to make Mum more determined: I guess it shows the mettle of her character.

There are three tunnels along the trail, which were only re-opened earlier this year after the former Midland Railway line closed in Cycling through the tunnels is a chilly experience after the warmth of the July sunshine and a little gloomy until your eyes adjust to the illumination provided by the strip-lighting on the tunnel ceilings. Mum was concerned about cycling off of the tunnel track and onto the rough stone gravel edges, due to all the other cyclists and walkers, but we managed to get through without incident.

At Millers Dale Station there is a picnic area and we were lucky enough to get a table. It will be interesting to see if anyone exploits the potential of such an establishment now that the tunnels are open. We had a great lunch and devoured almost all of our supplies. If we had brought ginger beer to drink and caught a few smugglers we could have been mistaken for the Famous Five.

After a visit to the Lime Kilns, a little further up the trail, we returned to our picnic table for an ice-cream before packing up and heading back down the trail. We cleaned the wound as best we could and dressed it, all from the First Aid kit I had bought for the ride in September note to self: Replace items. He was a little shaken and concerned about how we would get back so we pushed him to get going and then I rode one-handed and pushed him all the way back to the car park.

Distracted by the bookshop there, Fraser left his drink and wandered, hobbling between the shelves as I sat outside and enjoyed a pot of tea. Why do ALL teapots for one person hold enough tea for exactly two and a half cups? Why not two cups or three cups? Why two and a half? Who wants half a cup of tea?

She had last ridden a bike when she was my age and all these years later had bravely pushed herself to attempt the ride, overcome a fall and valiantly completed just over 12 miles. It was a relaxing pleasure to enjoy such great family time. I was glad that my Mother could experience again the joy of cycling, of a day out and picnic with her son, grand-son and daughter-in-law in a green and pleasant Derbyshire Summer. I was, above all though, very proud of her for never giving up. She already wants to go again and I am neatly reminded of how this lady has inspired me throughout my life and still continues so to do.

You will see from previous posts that my training has hit a bit of a low point, but this is temporary: The need to make a difference is more important and I will get there — your support is very much appreciated and I am very much encouraged by all of your kind thoughts and words. Thank you for your continued support and I trust that these updates are both interesting and informative. There was the option of a Km long ride and a Km short ride: I was feeling optimistic and asked at the registration desk whether I had to make a choice now or whether I could choose when I reached the point at which the course diverged.

I was told that this was okay and left the course selection paperwork blank for entrant After fixing my entrant number with electronic timing chip to my handlebars I stood astride my bike in the next batch of cyclists to cross the start-line. An official with some cutters neatly clipped the excess off of the tie-wraps on the number card and I told him I was grateful for the reduction in weight.

He replied in a similar vein that it was purely for aero-dynamic reasons. Shortly afterwards we were told to go and I heard the distinctive beep of the timing system as my wheels rolled over the mat beneath the large inflatable Shimano archway and, pedals clipped in, my ride began. The white arrows on a blue background that had been posted along the entire routes led us first right and then straight into a descent from Lomas Hall and down Bankfield Lane.

As we passed Damflask Reservoir on our left we started to climb gently and, legs spinning freely, passed one of the photographers just before High Bradfield. His obviously expensive camera, replete with a lens the size of a drainpipe, made a rapid chattering sound as the no doubt close-up photographs of each rider were committed to memory card.

Just over seven miles into the race, on Mortimer Road, was a nasty, twisting descent through a swathe of woodland. At the first bend there was a brutal and stark reminder of how dangerous cycling can be: A silver car that had been going up the hill was now stationary and had a cyclist and his bike lying motionless beneath its front bumper. A group of fellow riders were assisting in the response to this dreadful scene and so the rest of us squeezed a little harder on the brakes, but carried on.

On Midhope Cliff Lane, riding across Langsett Reservoir, the grey skies above began to sieve a little of their contents down on us as we turned left onto the A There had been around a dozen people repairing punctures already and it seemed really odd that so many people were experiencing these. I had a feeling that I would get through the day without one, but a little farther on, after sixteen miles I had that sinking feeling and had to stop to fix a puncture and put in a new inner tube.

I laughed and relayed my knowledge of how flat Norfolk was from my recent excursion there. I was waiting in the rain for the patch on my old inner tube to dry when a car stopped and the driver asked if I was alright. He replied that it was the other side of Holmfirth, but arranged to meet me in the car park of the Bay Horse Inn in ten minutes with his track pump. I re-packed my saddle bag, stowed my pump and set out again. I overtook three senior riders on tricycles for the second time that day and pressed the pedals hard to try and get warm again in the August drizzle.

In the car park across the road from the Bay Horse was my road angel waiting with his track pump and a new inner tube for me. We exchanged names and I thanked Mike sincerely for taking his precious time to help me out. Mike asked if I had done Holme Moss before and wished me well when I replied in the negative. Pressing on, past groups of cyclists who had congregated on corners to await friends, I headed on up the road. The rain returned and what appeared to have been the climb of Holme Moss was revealed to be only the pre-amble as the road turned to reveal the view of the moor high above, and all that waited in the ascent into the clouds.

I stopped to take a picture of one of the distance markers that were used in the Milk Race,. As I stood there in the rain on the side of the road I was reminded of why I was there and was much encouraged by this support for my cause. I had to cycle downhill a little to get my foot clipped in again and, passing other cyclists who were walking and pushing their bikes, made for the summit at m above sea level.

A fast descent in the wind from the top down to Woodhead Reservoir and then past Torside Reservoir, where yet another cyclist was fixing a puncture, eventually lead towards Glossop. It had ceased just raining and was now hammering it down instead. I stopped briefly to don my rain jacket and then resumed my quest in dismay at the vista unfurling in the skies above. At the traffic lights where the Woodhead Road meets the A57, which were on red, I stood for what seemed an age before a green light permitted progress.

Over the junction there was a gaggle of cyclists sheltering beneath the canopy outside the Glossop Cafeteria. On impulse, probably one of self-preservation, I stopped and propped my bike against one of the empty bench tables outside. Inside was a sardine-tin of people seeking refuge from the weather: Cyclists, motor bikers and locals wanting a cooked breakfast to help address the excesses of the previous evening. In the queue for the toilet there was only one toilet I got chatting to a biker from Rotherham who expressed her guilt at having heating handlebars on her cc steed.

Two guys behind me, cyclists on the same ride, were discussing how they were now going to opt for the Km ride rather than spend another two hours in the rain to complete the longer ride. Returning to my table, my order of a mug of tea and a sausage and egg barm was waiting to be consumed. I felt bad at sitting on the upholstered seat in my wet clothing, but a quick glance around the room told me that I was not the first so to do and that I would not be the last in this place that efficiently administered to the needs of the hungry traveller.

Outside again, the rain had subsided a little and I chatted to another cyclist who remarked that our current location was probably the farthest away from the base and that there were no short-cuts or easy ways back. I bade him farewell, clipped in and started to climb up the A out of town. I used to drive this route many years ago and the climb seemed easier than I had anticipated: Perhaps hills grow in the mind over time? The first feed-station was at Hayfield, some I arrived there at around a quarter to one. There was a senior rider I estimate mids who was asking if there was any more fruit cake or any other food for his pals who, struggling, had urged him to race on and make the feed station before it closed.

The first five riders on the short route had all completed the ride by this time, but the vast majority of us were not able to perform at such a level and so needed a little more time.

Event dates

If the event is truly open to riders of all abilities then more time should be allowed to reach the support points and, arguably, there should be more feed stations at regular intervals. Climbing out of Hayfield the rain had given up for the day and I was getting increasingly hotter in my rain jacket, but did not want to break pace up the hill.

Prior to the descent into Chapel-en-le-frith I stuffed my jacket into my pocket and admired the blue sky and now white clouds as the downward trail increased my speed. On the way out of Chapel I had a phone call from Suzie to say that they too were cycling today, around Ladybower Reservoir. I had memories of the steep fall into Edale from my previous ride down there at the beginning of June and, coupled with the image of the rider who had fallen at the seven mile marker earlier today, cautiously descended the twisting route in the gusting winds whilst hoping that I did not suffer another puncture.

I was busy descending down this road into Edale when I was overtaken by a couple on a tandem that were traveling at such a speed that I decided they must have lost the will to live. I rounded the next bend and they were gone from sight! Either great and fearless cyclists or completely nuts! Heading into Hope I chatted with a senior rider who had remarked to his companion that this ride was much harder than anything they had completed previously.

We discussed the tandem duo and he concluded that they must be good descenders. He told me that his brother was great on downhill runs and had always had to wait for him. He solemnly added that his brother now also had to wait for him on the hill climbs as well. I tried to encourage him by stating that at least he was still out here cycling and should not consider the effects of time on our bodies.

In Hope village I approached the junction and looked at the signs ahead. Turning left off of the Hathersage Road towards Bamford I was reminded of my Father-in-law as I passed Sickleholme Golf Club where he had been a member for more years than I have been alive and where, sadly, we held his wake just over six months ago. The ride up and through Bamford was easy enough to my tired legs, who just wanted to be still at this point. Passing Ladybower, I wondered where Suzie and Fraser would be, but the end was in sight so I turned right at the lights and pressed on up the A After the slow ascent the ride was relatively flat and enjoyable until Hollow Meadows when it became twisting again.

The photographers re-appeared at this point and fired their cameras indiscriminately, freezing each of their victims in a moment in time. I cycled back through the archway, heard the confirmation beep to say that I was logged back in and then joined the queue to return my timing chip. The aide clipped the number from my handlebars, removed the timing chip and handed me back the number as a souvenir. I accepted his reprimand as to complete Looking on the CTC website later, I discovered that I had in fact beaten Phil Liggett himself by 13 minutes and 26 seconds and Phil is only 24 years older than me!!!

Walking to work this morning I noticed a small snail crossing my path on his long journey across the subway and felt a certain empathy. It is now one month to go before I set off from Chesterfield to Paris and I wanted to share a few reflections on things that I find surprising in relation to my preparations: 1.

I have only cycled 1, miles since I began training 2. I have not lost as much weight as I would have thought 4. There are a lot of people out there who are much, much fitter than I am 5. People can be extremely generous and supportive, with their time and their money 6. It is always possible to buy more cycle parts and clothing 7. There is no such thing as an easy ride. The fundraising target I set was reached very early on; many thanks to those of you who have helped achieve this incredible amount. It would be amazing to double the target, so if you feel able to make a donation then please visit my JustGiving page.

This group reflection was shattered when a little field mouse popped under the flysheet to get out of the heavy rain. Earlier, I had taken the train from Euston to Windermere and been met by Suzie, Fraser and Buddy, who, being a puppy, was about to experience his first camping trip.

We had made slow progress through Windermere and Ambleside due to traffic, but had eventually reached Hawkshead Hall Farm Campsite after a twisting climb up winding roads. Suzie and Fraser had pitched our tent in the rain on their arrival and all I had had to do was change my clothes. Hardknott is acknowledged to be the most difficult and I wanted to see if I could ride it. We walked into Hawkshead Village and purchased a booklet of local walks which we perused over a cup of tea outside a pub, opting to walk to Tarn Hows where I had done some conservation work with the Scouts on our Summer Camp to Coniston about thirty years ago.

We had a hearty meal sitting in the evening sunshine outside the Black Bull as we were all ravenous after our efforts. Returning to the car, Suzie suggested driving over Hardknott and Wrynose so that she and Fraser could see where the ride would take me.

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This proved a frightening experience in a car and we returned to the campsite well after nightfall, having taken much longer than anticipated to navigate the winding, sheer single-track roads. It was not raining as I ate a banana, cooked my baked beans on toast and sipped coffee in the early quiet of Sunday morning. I had showered and donned my cycling clothing and Fraser had mixed up my drink bottle the night before.

Suzie emerged from the tent prior to my departure and walked me to the road outside the camp, telling me that she thought I was mad as she waved me off. I had not even climbed the first hill up towards Coniston when I had to stop and put on my rain jacket. Not encouraging. Almost into Coniston and I heard my mobile ringing, I guessed it would be Paul Armstrong and, on arrival, I returned the call and we met in the car park. I had last seen Paul thirteen years ago when we both worked at Sellafield; he had noticed I was attending the Evans event on their Facebook page and made contact with me: The wonder of social networking!

We registered, collecting our timing chips, and then had a coffee and catch-up in the drizzle as other cyclists went to and fro. Paul had chosen the short 27 mile route, but had parked 10 miles away and had ridden in from Broughton. My choice of the long 62 mile route included the short route so we agreed to ride together. In actual fact, we rode together for the first fifteen miles then Paul began waiting for me at the top of the hills. I told him that I needed to lose some more weight to do better on the hills; he said that he had lost a stone since starting to cycle.

He must have borrowed it off of someone as Paul had never carried any weight in the first place and had nowhere to lose it from! It was good rolling along the undulating roads on the East side of Coniston water, chatting away and the rain eventually paused. After the first Feed Station there was a descent down to Esthwaite Water and I frightened myself by going too fast, taking one bend too wide in order to stay on the bike and was grateful that there was nothing coming the other way.

Back at the Event Centre, Paul returned his chip and we had another coffee. We shook hands and he cycled on as I hit the sheer climb up onto Broughton Moor. This was a real up-out-of-the-seat, push just to keep moving forwards, effort and only half way into the ride. The journey into Broughton Mills was down a narrow, hedge-lined road that had gravel washed across it from the recent rain, and there was a road crossing the route that needed to be stopped at in order to respect right of way. Heading back up onto the fell the climb was nearly feet in just over a mile and a half.

Near the top, past the cattle gate, I caught up with two young lads from our campsite that had stopped to take a breath and we exchanged words.

Over the top it was a fast ride down, over yet another cattle grid, to the Feed Station located just outside Hall Dunnerdale. This was the course divergence point for the medium and long routes and, talking to the Evans guy looking after it, learnt that he had to drive back to Brighton at the end of the day, so we, the assembled riders taking fruit cake, energy bars and carbohydrate drinks, were not alone in our long journeys that day. My pedals had been squeaking and, shortly after setting off, I returned to the Evans van to solicit some GT85 lubricant.

I bade farewell to the guys from the campsite, who were taking the medium route, and headed for Ulpha. I mused that this nomenclature related to the fact that you needed to be a berk to bike up here: The climb seemed almost vertical and I snaked all over the road to make the ascent whilst still on two wheels. On the plateau I was joined by a guy from Manchester whose opening conversational gambit was to ask why I had chosen the long route. I responded that I had had a moment of insanity and we rode on together, descending at speed, but with care, between the bare and rugged rocky outcrops into Eskdale Green.

Turning right at Eskdale Green the long approach to Hardknott Pass seemed like a walk to the gallows. I laughed and asked if he was aware that the hardest road in England lay ahead of him. He cycled on and I pressed the pedals, glancing upwards at the tarmac snake that disappeared up the pass ahead of me. It was five miles before I reached the signpost at the bottom of Hardknott, warning of the steep nature of the road ahead.

It was not without trepidation that I rolled over the cattle grid and looked up at the lofty heights above. Anyone who has tried walking in SPD-SL cycling shoes will know that it is not easy at the best of times, even on the flat. I am now happy to inform that this choice of footwear is even less appropriate to use when pushing a bike up a near-vertical steep hill — perhaps this is why they are not sold in mountaineering and outdoor pursuits shops? I tried to use the verge and, smiling back at the passing motorists, took some comfort from the hailed comments that I was not alone in my pedestrian pursuits, that most people were pushing.

I remounted for a while and was grateful not to be walking anymore. I was soon skating up the road on foot again, before getting back on for the last stretch up to the summit. There is a pile of stones there, beyond which lays the road to the equally high summit of Wrynose Pass on the horizon. After a drink and a glance around to take in the awesome views I set off. My brakes were firmly on all the way down. Not only is the descent frighteningly steep, it is narrow, violently twisting and it was hard to see what was around the next corner in this rugged terrain.

I had to navigate around three oncoming vehicles, only one of which was sympathetic in trying to give me some space. I know that we all have equal rights to use the road, but still, how hard can it be not to notice someone almost two metres tall clad in fluorescent orange? Cockley Beck lies on the River Duddon between the two infamous passes and is where the long and medium routes converged. As I released the tension in my arms, from holding the brakes on, other cyclists joined the road in various states of health. The immense scale of the landscape makes the ascent look little more than a gentle upwards slope.

Before the summit I joined their rank and found myself tapping the tarmac with my cleats once more. I rode the final section to the car park at the summit and stopped to take some photographs. Looking back to the summit of Hardknott. Accepted knowledge, or that which I had accepted from the Internet at any rate, was that the descent of Hardknott is usually taken very carefully as it is so fiercely twisting, but that the descent from Wrynose more often catches people out as it appears to offer a more direct, and so faster, route downhill.

I held this wisdom in the forefront of my mind as, two fingers on each brake lever, I watched the tarmac unravel before me and headed for the valley bottom. Passing a group I had spoken with earlier I saw that one of them had had a blow-out: This can happen with constant braking as the rims overheat. Around the next corner and I saw a helicopter sitting on the fell and knew it could only be an air ambulance.

One of the Evans vans was parked at the side of the road opposite and the driver was talking to a group of cyclists. I stopped and saw that the Evans person was the man from the Feed Station on the short loop. He explained to the gathered mass that a cyclist had not managed to scrub off enough speed for a particular corner and had lost control, left the road and hit a large rock.

He had been alerted and had driven up to collect the rider, the remains of his bike and a jacket that some kind soul had donated to keep the injured rider warm. He had had to drive the wounded guy down as the helicopter could not land any higher up the pass due to the brutal landscape. The remaining seven miles of the ride were without incident, if you discount the pauses for jams caused by Sunday afternoon motorists attempting to pass on the narrow lanes. My mobile rang as I was almost back so I ignored it and rode over the wooden bridge back into the event centre, over the finish line and handed my timing chip back to Dean.

He asked if I had completed the course I registered for and whether I had enjoyed it. I confirmed that I was back in Coniston, but asked her to make my apologies at not being able to visit with them. Inside the centre I bought another coffee and a bowl of pasta and bolognaise sauce and was just about to leave when the heavens opened again.

I waited for the downpour to ease up and then thanked the Evans crew for a well-managed event, adding my dismay at having had to get off and walk. The three and a half miles back to the campsite were undertaken on auto-pilot. The steep climb out of Coniston was just another piece of road to my legs that had graduated to the next level and could no longer be shocked. I padlocked my trusty bike to the fire point and walked back to our tent.

Suzie, Queen of Organisation, had left my toiletries, towel, clothes and food ready for use and I simply sat outside in the sunshine waiting for the kettle to boil, content to be alive and pleased with the day. Eventually I showered and was sitting in the warm, now dry, evening drinking another coffee as my family returned.

Suzie had told Ian of my ride up Hardknott and Wrynose and the still spritely 94 year old had recounted tales of when he used to trek up there in the snow, on skis, to attend to the needs of the sick who lived in those remote locations when he was a general practice doctor; often having to stay overnight with his patients due to the weather. Ian had sent some freshly-baked scones and shortbread back with Suzie and Fraser and I enjoyed one as I heard tales of the walk they had taken around Grizedale Forest with Buddy before their visit.

Washing up after our evening meal we met the two lads camping there who had also done the ride and I tried to encourage them by relating what the Evans team had said about the near impossibility of the route. They had been sleeping for the four hours since their return and seemed to be both pleased and disappointed in equal measure about their ride.

My own feelings were not dissimilar: I had wanted the challenge, I had completed the route, but not all of it on two wheels. Someone had told me that I should be pleased that I had attempted the long ride, but none of us likes to admit that we could not do something.

Suzie had worked so hard packing, preparing, shopping, driving and dealing with the logistics for the whole weekend, Fraser had wished me well and spent most of Sunday without me, and some part of me felt like I had not delivered my end of the deal. The rider times were published on the Evans website and it transpires that people started the ride, but only 98 finished.

Add on the seven miles to and from the campsite and it was a long day with almost 8, feet of climbing. Back in the warm days of May when I committed to this challenge [The Point of No Return], September seemed an age away; the end of the summer: Months lay ahead in which to get fit and prepare. Now there are just 11 days left before I clip in and glance back over my shoulder at The Crooked Spire, handlebars aimed at Paris.

My training has been less structured than I had mentally planned it to be, but family, work, fatigue and the British weather all made alterations and demands as time passed. It is 4. My time spent in the Peak District and the sheer climbs of the Lake District have paid dividends! Whilst I know that I could be faster, I am confident in my cycling ability. The only issue is endurance — doing the distance day after day. All this generosity is amazing, considering the pressing times in which we are living.

From the news, stories of riots across the UK show how desperate times are for many people; sure, there is lawlessness I do not deny, but there are social, cultural and financial issues affecting all of us living in 21st Century Britain and the Nation needs to take stock and address each. Thank you also for your continued support, encouragement and feedback. I trust that these updates are both interesting and informative, though please note that they may become shorter as I embark on the ride with only my smartphone to update you all. They are sending a photographer out on Saturday to get a picture to go into the printed newspaper, which will be out on Thursday 15th September.

Hopefully the additional publicity will result in more awareness of and fundraising for this worthwhile cause. I packed my rucksack, interrupted only in order to handle a visa application crisis between my sister in Luxor, Mother in Norfolk and the Egyptian Embassy, and it weighed in at My friend Carl Stenton called around with his daughter, Carrie, to collect my bag as he is taking it and meeting up with me tomorrow night at the hotel in Daventry, as well as providing mechanical support if something should happen that the contents of my saddle bag are unable to address.

Due to the rush I forgot to give Carl the assorted tools and spare wheel so he reappeared again later to collect them without complaint, what a good egg. As well as the generosity that, incredibly, seems to have increased as the week has gone one, I am also very grateful for all the telephone calls, text messages, Facebook posts, Tweets and emails of support and encouragement that have been sent. It is heart-warming and something I shall reflect on during the miles to London. Not raining, but a little wind… Probably the lasagne.

My uncle John had also turned out, but arriving at a quarter to nine and finding no one there had gone to the house and so missed us at both places. After talking for a while and taking a few photographs, the time came and so I clipped in, cycled up to the front door of the famous church, patted the wall with my gloved hand in passing and then, after six months of preparation, finally turned to face the road ahead.

I smiled and told him it was the other direction. I stopped at Morrisons supermarket cafe in Derby for a coffee and pecan plait and then got back on and sought out the A amidst all the roundabouts that seem to litter the city. The grey blanket of cloud should that be a grey duvet or continental quilt these days? Swarkestone Causeway is an ancient monument and is the longest stone bridge in the land. Thanks to Google Latitude, Suzie and Fraser were able to track me down and join me for lunch. I saw two police officers on bikes, trudging along in their hi-vis jackets.

Passing beneath the M69 I joined the A5. It tried to rain just three times, but my rain jacket and virgin over-shoes remained in my pocket and eventually the sun came out again. The tarmac of the A5 unfurls relentlessly and the road seems to go on forever. There was a break from the monotony at DIRFT where a roundabout and a couple of junctions took me past Kilsby, but it soon resumed as I continued South on the never-ending road. Towards Weedon Bec there was around a mile of bumper-to-bumper traffic waiting to get along the A45 to Junction 16 of the M1 and, out of all of these, only 5 cars managed to spot me in their mirrors and move away from the kerb.