The Avenue Verte is a cycle route that connects the British and French capitals. A mixture of cycle paths, bridleways and roads, the trail connects London and Paris via a short ferry ride, and takes you along winding routes of French farmhouses, gorgeous chateaux and picture-perfect rivers. You may have never through that you could get between the two other than plane or train, but it is possible! Here’s what to know if you decide to cycle through:
Where does it go?
The trail takes you from the London Eye south out of the city towards the South Coast, by way of the leafy riverside Wandle Trail (lovely), Gatwick airport (horrible) and Forest Way (nice again). From there you hop on a four-hour ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe, and on the other end hop off into scenic Normandy. After cycling to St-Germaine-de-Fly, cyclists can choose one of two routes to Conflans: either 58 miles via Gisors and Bray-et-Lu, or 98 miles via Beauvais and Chantilly. Either way, you should end up just 36 miles from Paris (via a dispiriting ride through the suburbs) and your final destination of Notre Dame – the perfect spot for some lycra-clad pictures if ever there was one.
How far is it?
The entire trail is roughly 250-290 miles, depending on what route you take. 100 miles of this is in England; the rest in France.
How long does it take?
Many people follow the itineraries laid out by Avenue Verte expert and amateur cyclist Donald Hirsh, while others follow the advice of this independent site. Either way, the general consensus seems to be that three or four days is enough, although a super speedy Gonzales can theoretically do it in one. Speaking personally, my friends and I tried to follow Hirsch’s three-day itinerary (admittedly without much any prior training) and struggled ended up getting trains for vast swathes of it in order to make our hotel bookings. So overall, I’d be inclined to recommend that you be generous with your time – even if you’re a better cyclist than I (you probably are), you still want to allow yourself time to stop and eat cheese explore things along the way!
What can you see?
As well as all the obvious sights London and Paris have to offer, there are a whole host of places worth stopping off at en route or taking slight detours for. These include:
- The Long Man of Wilmington (an ancient gargantuan chalk figure cut into the land)
- The Château de Chantilly
- The stronghold town of Gisors
- The Cathedral-cum-basilica of Saint-Denis
- Monet’s garden in Giverny
- The abbeys on the banks of the Oise
- The city of Beauvais
- Auvers-sur-Oise (a picturesque village that is both birthplace of Van Gogh and home to an absinthe museum)
- The Palace of Versailles
What’s it like?
It’s for the most part traffic-free, for the most part pretty flat, for the most part not too badly signposted, and for the most part pretty! Expect to see a lot of middle-aged British men and women in lycra, and large groups on sponsored charity rides.
Plan your route in advance – and bring a map.
Learn from my mistakes, and put in some training first.
Book accommodation and the ferry in advance during peak holiday season.
Have you cycled along the Avenue Verte? Share your tips and stories below.