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Published: June 13th 2017
Installing pedals in front of the waiting taxi vans
Only 1 day in and I'm already behind - stretched my nominal 45km ride to the hotel out to 75km by repeatedly getting lost in Paris. Details to follow after I get some badly-needed sleep! Updated Wednesday June 14
(still without sufficient sleep, and after travelblog ate my changes again. At least I can now reliably get photos posted).
With the sun shining and the air comfortably cool I set off on what I would normally have considered to be at most a 2 hour trip; given the vagaries of my preparedness I figured it might take me 3 or even up to up to 4. That turned out to be somewhat optimistic.
The problem was that I had printed the text directions from Google but hadn't had time to prepare or even consult a useful-scale map that I could travel with. From previous experience navigating in France I expected to get lost. Frequently.
Things started promisingly enough, though - I quickly and easily found my way to the tourist office in Roussigny en France, where I knew I could get a map and directions to the cycle route to Paris. After a quick consultation and water bottle
The cycle path between the "dual carriageways"
refill I was on my way, and getting to Paris itself (covering about 3/4 of my projected journey) proved to be remarkably simple. Sure, there was a missing bit of direction for the final stage of the cycle route ("follow the canal" it said, without bothering to mention how to get to the latter), but navigating by intuition seemed to work better than trying to follow the Google directions (more on this soon), and after abandoning the latter and subsequently getting my 'gut feel' confirmed with a quick consultation with a local I soon found myself merrily zooming along the canal and making great time.When I got to the end of the canal, however, picking up the rest of my route to the hotel proved to be even more difficult than I had anticipated. Of course part of the problem was that I thought the road I needed to turn down ran off the end of the canal, when in fact I was supposed to turn onto it somewhat earlier -- something I didn't discover until after my journey had come to an end. After getting some confusing direction from a delivery driver (who gave a very much raised-eyebrow response
View from along the Canal de l'Ourcq
when I told him where my ultimate destination was) I stopped into a hotel where I was given a map and a clue as to how to at least get started on the route to my
hotel (said map having been intended for tourists interested in the Palace of Versailles, the area I needed was well beyond it's scope).The best way to sum up what happened next is that until I finally figured out what was going on, Google managed to unnecessarily complicate something that was really quite simple, and had I merely followed my intuition rather than try to adhere slavishly to directions I would've ended up much further ahead. As it was, my trajectory can best be described as a that of a typical low-pressure weather system: ever-spiraling as it slowly moves along.More on today's events later, for now (Thursday morning) I just want to get this much posted to see how the photos got handled. A bientot! Updated Thursday June 13
I ended up retracing my steps several times before realizing that
• Google really likes to avoid 'busy' streets (especially when a bike lane ends) and has a penchant for directing you off them only to return
"You are here" was not where I expected
to them later when a bike lane reappears.
• If the bike lanes (bi-directional) switch from one side of the street to the other (as occurs frequently here), Google makes it seem like you actually make a turn onto the cross street and then a short distance later (i.e. the width of the intersection!) make another turn; sometimes the street name(s) is included and sometimes not.
All this made navigating a challenge, especially when the directions merely said "turn right" or "turn left"; I often resorted to looking past that point to where a street name appeared and then tried to get myself there on my own. If you've ever been to France you'll know that
• Street signs like we have in North America are virtually non-existent. If you're lucky there will be a placard attached to a building on or near the corner indicating the name.
• In any case, street names change with amazing frequency; sometimes this is reflected in signage and sometimes not.
• Most people are familiar solely with their own neighbourhoods and don't pay attention to the names much in any case, so asking a passerby is usually futile. At one point a
At long last, Villeneuve->Saint-Georges starts to appear on the roadsigns!
guy I asked looked things up on his phone and discovered that the street we were on was actually the one Google had specified - I'm sure only Google knew that was the name of that street for that block or two.
Luckily I eventually discovered municipal 'panels' that featured maps (I had long since gone beyond the area covered by the one I had) that I could not only consult but also take a picture of so that I could keep it for reference or even just make it out by zooming, my eyes not being what they used to be. I could also, then, finally get an overview of what my directions were trying to achieve, which fundamentally went something like this: "follow this road south as it winds a bit, changing names each time".
And so eventually I found myself in V-S-G, where just to complicate matters I failed to see a small sign and overshot the hotel; I eventually rolled in at 6:30, just in time to join everyone else for supper. It had been a long day but finally it was over and sleep was welcome.
But there was still
Finally joining the others at the hotel
another wrinkle to be had:around 11:15 I was wakened by the sound of someone opening our hotel room door and then quickly closing it and scurrying away (I even thought he had a bicycle with him). Any doubts I had that this had actually occurred and was not a dream or sleep deprivation-induced hallucination were quelled when a few minutes later the night manager knocked on the door - it turned out that my roommate had somehow been checked into the wrong room when he had arrived, so when it's rightful owner appeared he was given the key and voila. We agreed to simply swap rooms and that was that. My roommate, bless him, slept through the entire event.
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