IN the meantime I was squinting at maps trying to make out which way to go, without being able to travel on the N10.
I actually took all the panniers off my bicycle to get down a long flight of steps to reach a road squashed between the N10 and where I was (besides a railway line - I couldn’t see any other way to get to it). A young guy saw me struggling and brought the last of my bags down while I brought the bicycle – people are really very kind.
I continued along this road for several km before reaching a place called ‘Trappes’ – yes, I thought “Trapped”, especially as there was a sign of a bicycle with a slash through it. I exited the road I’d been following, found a Boulangerie and bought a filled baguette for later and then noticed a road I’d written down on my instructions earlier – Lo! There was a sign by the Rue de Pont Royal pointing in the right direction and the D36. Fortune smiled and I’m on my way to Paris.
There was even a designated cycle path alongside the D36, though it was a bumpy ride as there were tree roots running along under the tarmac, which reminded me of the lumpy, bulging veins of the old men’s arms on which we got to practise cannulation in my previous life as a midwife. At least I managed to stop one of the front panniers from flying off at every jolt, like it did yesterday.
There was a heavy, thundery shower later that day, and I took shelter in the awning of an apartment block to put waterproof trews on. I continued sweeping around Paris in a wide arc to the South – taking a longer, but supposedly flatter route in. I still found a few hills to climb, but I guess the down hills zoom past so quickly they aren’t so noticeable, though enjoyable at the time. I never saw a left turn to Massey that was supposed to get me on the spoke turning into the centre of the wheel which is Paris, so ended up cycling through the town of Palaiseau. It was interesting and not too hard to escape. From there I headed to Antony, which was a large town and horrible to get out of. The compass on my smart phone came in handy as I was initially heading East and wanted to go North, so I backtracked and saw a sign for Sceaux and glad I did. I went that way, and got a peek through Park gates where I could see tall fountains in the distance, and the Chateau is enormous – there’s a lot of history around here!
From Sceaux it was relatively easy to get onto the D920 which took me all the way to Montrouge and beyond. As well as the written insructions, maps at bus stops became very helpful in navigating. Cycling through the suburbs and into Paris is much easier than one might credit as, since 1995 (so I’ve read) the local government have invested huge sums in creating a city-wide system of cycle paths, and I reaped the benefit. I also noticed lots of people using the equivalent of ‘Boris Bikes”, called ‘velib’ , which can be unplugged and ridden to another part of the city and reparked.
Getting into Paris was very exciting – there were huge sky-scraper apartment blocks and office blocks. I wish I’d taken a picture of one which appeared to be covered in squares of green foil shining in the sun – the same colour as the green foil that covers the triangle chocolates in a tin of Coronation Street.
With a few hiccups, I finally arrived at Sophie’s address in Rue de Charenton at 7.30pmish. At which point I realised I had no way of attracting her attention. There is no doorbell. (I didn’t realise at the time that pushing what appeared to be a call button on a key pad to the right of the communal entrance was actually a switch to open the door, at least up until 8pm – would have saved a lot of stress on my part).
How I wish I was more organised! I was sure I’d written down her phone number but couldn’t find it – and this wouldn’t have helped as it transpired, as Sophie had changed her phone number from the one I had on record.
I tried to accost a woman I saw using the keypad to enter the building, but she looked at me like I was a madwoman and shrugged me off. (Well- wouldn’t you? -some sweaty, wild haired Madam Mim type who can’t even speak the lingo?).
So I decided to try the internet and found a cyber café up the road: not only could I not get my laptop to connect but I couldn’t get to grips with the strange layout of the computers there – eg, one had to use the shift to reach the numbers. WTF? This played havoc with entering passwords and I soon gave up in disgust. (Well I WAS tired). I threw all my small change at the guy behind the desk for the little time I’d used (90 cents I think) and stomped back to Sophie’s determined to camp outside until something occurred to me. About one hour after I’d arrived a woman emerged who was much more helpful and let me in to press the doorbell. I was VERY pleased to see Sophie! I had finally arrived! Woohoo! 4 days rest and recuperation.