We have completed the first stretch of the inaugural Orient Express Cycling Tour. I landed in Munich just over a week a go. I flew there to pick up my van, a VW California GTI. It’s a very modern version of an old Westfalia. I drove from there into France scouting some of our route and picking up supplies for the tour along the way.
Right now we are in Chaumont enjoying our first rest day. After three days of riding we have cycled almost 300km. We started our journey in Paris, the city of love. I was expecting to find a more romantic atmosphere but I think it has gained its reputation due to the tourists making out on every corner. But the streets are lined with many unique cafes, the hard part is trying to figure when they’re open. The city is a great place for cyclists with many dedicated pathways linking the major sites. The morning we departed, we took a sightseeing tour stopping at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. There are many other historical buildings such as the Assemblie Nationale and the Louvre whose amazing architecture we rode past on our city tour. If I had more time I would have really liked to get to see the Picasso Museum.
Since we left Paris we stayed in two other quaint villages Provins and Troyes. Both of which have beautiful cobbled pedestrian malls in the town centers. Some of the buildings in Troyes are over three hundred years old. Gravity has begun to catch up to them, neither the walls nor floors are square anymore but they are still standing. The countryside that we ride through has not been physically challenging. The wind has been favorable and the roads relatively flat. The weather has provided ideal temperatures for riding.
Our biggest challenge has been trying to find alternate routes less traveled by heavy vehicles. Most of these areas are agricultural, but scattered throughout these rolling croplands are these stone chalets and farmsteads. Most of them are still being used and each of them are surrounded by stone walls. What amazes me about this ancient architecture is not that it still stands but how they were able to build such structures with the technology at the time. They had limited tools and no machinery. Everything is built of stone with huge wooden beams and posts. Today homes and buildings are almost made to be disposable. Nothing is built to last anymore and yet we should be more capable with the modern technology available. In the next few days we will make our way towards Colmar and the German border. The terrain will become much more mountainous and we will actually retrace a section of the Tour de France.