The Train Has Left The Station & It’s Heading East
Samuel Roy is the Tour Leader Trainee on the 2022 Orient Express. He sends this report from Freiburg, Germany.
We set our compasses east as we headed out of Paris towards Istanbul on the route that gave the old Orient Express train its glamorous reputation. Symbolically setting off from the Gare de l’Est in the heart of Paris, where the original train began its journey, the riders of the 2022 edition of TDA’s second oldest tour took their first pedal strokes on this six week European cycling adventure.
Free from traffic on a quiet Sunday morning, we took the time to absorb Paris’s energy on a loop that brought us to multiple historical sights and landmarks, ones that anybody would have on their bucket list for the ‘City of Lights’. We ticked off the Notre-Dame-de-Paris cathedral, took the essential group photo with the Eiffel Tower in the background and circled around the Arc-de-Triomphe before cycling out of the city down the Champs-Élysées, daydreaming of the Tour the France that will come to a glorious finish on these very same cobblestones in two weeks time.
After a couple days of sharing croissants and pastries at roadside bakeries, we could feel our group of riders growing into a big family and embodying France’s motto “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité”. Indeed, we are united by our passion for the freedom of cycling and the solidarity of working together towards a common goal. We’ve slowly settled into the blissful flow of our tour routine, with each day bringing opportunities of places to explore and local delicacies to enjoy, such as the infamous Munster cheese – stinky but delicious.
We enjoyed our first rest day of the tour in Troyes, in the heart of the Champagne region, where the old buildings seem to defy the laws of gravity in true Tower of Pisa fashion, some of them leaning crazily out over the narrow streets.
The biggest challenge we are facing in this first part of the trip was the intense heat. This part of Europe is experiencing a strong heat wave with temperatures up in the mid thirties everyday and not a cloud in the sky. We adjusted our schedule to leave a bit earlier in the morning to try and beat the mid day heat. Needless to say, we cycled with the constant craving for a fresh shower and a cold beer at the end of each day.
Now on our second rest day in the lively student city of Freiburg, we must say goodbye to our sectional riders and get set to start following the beautiful cycle path along the Danube river. Stretching from the Danube’s source in Donaueschingen and continuing all the way to Budapest, it is a part of the Eurovelo #6 cycling network and promises to be a wonderful ride!
It was in 1889 that the original Orient Express train completed the Paris to Istanbul route for the first time. Our cycling version of the Orient...