Je suis rentree de Paris

Did I really go to Paris? I can't believe it is all over, seven months of preparation over in three days, good job I'm not an Olympic athlete that would be years of training gone in seconds.
Standing around at Tower Bridge waiting to start was the worst as I didn't know how hard it would be nor how fast everyone else would cycle.
The organisers warned it would be a long first day and their car looked pretty impressive as it led us out through the city traffic
but the Sussex countryside was beautiful with towering oak trees and jig-saw puzzle cottages around village greens with duck ponds and wind mills. At Newhaven the wait for the late ferry was cheered by the unexpected pleasure of seeing friends walk into the departure lounge to wave us off. We crossed in the dark so didn't see much of the channel nor Dieppe until we woke to familiar looking Cornish mist.
We were led by the ever cheerful Brian from Expedition Wise with his Jolly Good back-up van and Ben and Paul who took it in turns to go in front or at the back of our convoy.
They looked after us and set up drink and banana stops which divided the days into bite sized distances.
The French countryside was lovely, I can't tell you the pleasure of bowling along for mile after mile without having to face switch back hills at every turn in the road, Paul Hill had paid off and the riding was, as a friend said, "a piece of cake".
Everything in France looked different, even the garden sheds and garages.

Just outside Paris we collected together beside a little park and water fall so that we could all cycle in together
French traffic is incredibly bike-friendly and it felt fine to whizz along the streets, we turned right at the Arc de Triomphe
and up to the Eiffel Tower for a fantastic reception with tears and hugs and champagne. It felt unreal and exciting and a fantastic achievement and sad and wonderful all in equal measures.

Paris is a city of grandiose buildings which seem designed to overwhelm mere mortals but there are lovely details, shop signs
bicycles at every street corner and lamp post

an official meter with brass bosses set into a stone wall
fun exhibits in the Jardin DesTuileries
the old and the new

and petit dejeuner in pavement cafes.
There will be a final post when I have collected all the money but I have exceeded my final target of £4000. Merci a vous tous.

Now .... for my next challenge ......