Day 40, 13th August 2003

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Updated by Nina. Written up until Lydd, UK.

Crepes in an outdoor cafe in Beaumont
Photo 108. Crepes in an outdoor cafe in Beaumont

As cool as cucumbers we departed Paris, where our biggest hazard on our journey was the mirobelle fruit falling from a tree which we stopped beneath. It was hot and arid, and Simon complained of feeling dizzy. My Florence Nightingale instincts left me, and I became angry that he had left it so long before letting me know. But I bought five litres of liquid refreshment and we continued on, stopping for a light lunch in a village cafe in Beaumont, taking us til teatime to see Beauvais and its bijou cathedral. As the shadows drew long, far earlier than five weeks previously, we saw the evening light on many hay bales.

Water break by the roadside
Photo 109. Water break by the roadside

It was that evening that I heard that Doug, my sister's father-in-law had passed away at home that morning. Initially I felt no surprise- he had been ill with pancreatic cancer for six months, and although putting on a brave face for most of the time, he had been in pain. It was a clear evening, and the clouds made many delicate patterns in the sky. What a year of anniversaries this was to be- twenty years ago my father had died, and it was now ten years since my mother had passed away too. I remembered his voice and laugh and hoped they would never disappear from my head; but what were his wife and sons feeling, and how about his young grandchildren?

Beauvais cathedral- is this scaffolding is following us?
Photo 110. Beauvais cathedral- is this scaffolding is following us?

I wished for an easy and flat cycling journey for the first time ever that day. Passing dusty door and window with patterned shutters, I suddenly had a deja- vu that I must surely have visited France with my family as a child. Our legs stayed in motion for hours as we cycled into the darkness, hungry again like the night before. I spotted a small group of trees by the roadside, with the added camouflage of tall corn plants. Our last night in France we spent scoffing six corn-on-the-cobs, sorry Monsieur farmer. I promise to buy French produce every day at home from now on!

Photo 113. Crops

0530 the alarm woke us up, a most unnatural sound when the moon is shining brightly down on ones face. It was damp and cold as there were no clouds above, and a low-level mist hanging over the valleys. We soon got on our way, and quietly rode past enjoying the cornflower and yellow rising sun on our right, and the deep blue and black outlines of trees on our left. The air itself smelt of soil, and out of the mist occasionally would come the illuminated 'faces' of speeding trucks. In turn cockerels, dogs, cows, and then humans would wake. Stopping only for three patisseries from the boulongerie, we had cycled most of journey; 80k (50 miles), by 10.00 am.

We stopped in the two towns of Montreuil and Etaples, although they looked so similar they could have been the same! Having not showered for two days now, I swam in the muddy tidal water there. We went to an Internet cafe, and I had two paragraphs lost as the computer overheated- so we joked along the lines of 'I'm going to take the next flight out of this god damn place'. Le Torquet airport here we come.

This sign remains much as it did in 1953 I bet!
Photo 115. This sign remains much as it did in 1953 I bet!

We were using the same route as my dad did, which in 1953 rather than wait hours at the dockside, allowed cars to be driven on to cross-channel aeroplanes. The Trilander planes used these days I suspect were not as advanced as the ones in their day; and now they carried just 16 passengers sat side by side.

Even planes have shrunk in fifty years
Photo 117. Even planes have shrunk in fifty years

The pilot strapped the bikes in to the tail of the plane behind the seats, and the wheels went into the nose. They spaced the passengers (Simon and I plus a family of seven) out in the plane by calculating our weights from a chart. As well as finding out that my bags weighed one stone (7kg) heavier than Simon's, a women's weight is calculated at a modest 68 kg- and although some pounds had disappeared from my hips on this trip, certainly not that many!

Squeezing our bike frames behind our seats
Photo 116. Squeezing our bike frames behind our seats

The sign for take off was given by the pilot as a thumbs up, and that made it feel all the more like a school bus. The engines roared and the smell of fuel wafted up into the cabin. We watched through the front windscreen down the runway as the tiny plane wobbled along the white line and took off.

The entire cabin- no air steward service here!
Photo 120. The entire cabin- no air steward service here!

I could see the coastline of England immediately. It was interesting to fly at such a low altitude, and we saw a few tankers in the shipping lanes of the English Channel down below. It was sunny and ever so slightly hazy, and I thought of my dad for the whole of the 17-minute flight. Taking that plane was an amazing experience for us; but for him with his scientific and engineering head it must have been the icing on the cake to a perfect boys adventure.

Up and Away! The view over Le Torquet
Photo 124. Up and Away! The view over Le Torquet