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Seven gallant members of CycleOut braved rough seas, gale-force head winds and torrential rain on the early May Bank Holiday to visit France – and that was just the first 6 hours! This was a bit of a shock to those of us expecting 'An easy introduction to Northern France', as had been billed. But fortunately the weather got better after that!
Under the excellent stewardship of Gerard Veglio we all had a great weekend. Yes the first 25 miles on Saturday fighting the wind and rain along the coast between Calais and Bolougne was somewhat challenging. At one stage we all huddled in the porch of a small hotel with the rain bouncing all around.
We managed to average just 9 miles per hour. Once we had checked into our hotel we showered to warm up and then rewarded ourselves with a great meal in a local restaurant nestled in the old town, beneath the mammoth dome of the ancient cathedral.
Sunday morning dawned bright. We had a traditional French breakfast of croissant, pastries and coffee sitting in the sunshine of a traffic free square in Boulogne. The trauma of the previous afternoon had already deserted us. Graeme who had some detailed local maps found this quiet route away from the main road. This was very pretty taking us through a forest. However, the road gave way to a hard core track which was less suited to those with road bikes. Indeed, Nasser was even seen carrying his prized bike. After 37 miles (av 12.5 mph) we arrived quite early in St Omer. We were too late for lunch but not too late to sample the local Leffe beer (or two) while admiring (but not sampling) the local boys sitting in the sunshine of the large square. Most of us popped into the cathedral at some stage and were entertained to a free organ recital. The evening was spent sampling more local delicacies in a cellar restaurant on the square. Two members had done some research of local gay venues and there was one close by in the next village, but common sense prevailed and an early night was had.
On Monday morning the weather was even better and much more as forecast. We repeated our previous morning's experience by buying pastries from a boulangerie and then finding a cafe to buy a coffee. Before leaving St Omer some of us popped into the Botanical Gardens and even availed ourselves of the multi gym. Today's rides was the longest at 47 miles, but the most straight forward and flat, following the canals back to Calais. We made good time so were able to have a final gastronomic lunch on the outskirts of Calais before arriving back for our late afternoon ferry.
Overall we managed 110 miles at an average of 11.5 mph. But the calories consumed in food, beer and wine vastly exceeded that expended in cycling. So maybe it was an easy introduction after all.
With thanks to all on the trip who made is such a great week end and especially to Gerard for organising it.
Trip Members: Gerard, Nasser, Phil, Robert, Toby, Nick and Graeme.

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