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Epernay, France
Dist. cycled 1488km (930miles)
I crossed over into France on Sunday afternoon, and cycled into the Ardennes to be faced with mountain after mountain. It was very hard going, and covering much less distance than I expected to, I soon fell behind schedule. It started to get dark, and I cycled on, waiting for a campsite or hotel to appear, but none did. At dusk I found myself on top of a steep hill looking out into the face of an oncoming thunderstorm. The wind was almost knocking me off the bike, and people were outside in the village trying to tie things down. I stopped to ask if there was anywhere I could get a room or somewhere I could pitch my tent, but the nearest place was about 15km away. I started pedalling towards that town, but without warning the road merged into a motorway and I found myself cycling down it in the dark and the rain. I pulled off into a village and took shelter under a tree for 45mins while the rain got heavier and the lightning flashed around and I felt thoroughly exhausted. In all my years of travelling (and often pushing my luck) it was the first time I'd got stuck late at night without somewhere to stay. Finally the storm eased and I eventually made it into the town, only to find that the camping site was being redeveloped into a housing estate! It was midnight by this time and everything was closed, including the hotels, but after lots of banging on a door I eventually managed to get an old woman out of her bed and I checked into a room.

I cycled onto Epernay yesterday, and stopped for some champagne tasting on my way. It was definitely the way to cycle; lots of champagne houses scattered around the hillside for thirsty cyclists! This morning I went on a tour of Moet & Chandon, who are based in town, and saw a little of their 14km of wine cellars prior to doing some tasting. In fact, it was too much champagne to be drinking early in the morning, but I've recovered from it now.

From here I plan to cycle on to Paris to finish this trip, and fly back to Denmark for Nina`s birthday next week. Then I quite fancy cycling up to Finland, but that's another story...

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