Saturday 20 November 2021

Cycle route: Eastern suburbs of Paris by bike (part 1)

Route Summary

Vincennes - River Marne trail to Chessy (Disneyland Paris) - Dampart - Claye-Souilly - Ourcq Canal towpath - Bassin de La Villette (Paris) - Vincennes

Distance: 78km   Climbing: 250m

Route on Strava

Route in detail

Whenever I go to Paris I take my bike. I either cycle all the way there including a ferry crossing in Dieppe. Or, of late I get the train all the way there. If you do the Dover-Calais crossing you can get a regional train from Calais Ville station or a much faster (and more expensive) TGV from Calais Frethun station to Paris Gare du Nord. 

Arriving in Paris from Calais by TGV

Being in Crystal Palace I prefer to go to East Croydon, get to Newhaven, take the ferry to Dieppe, and a regional train to Paris Gare Saint Lazare from there (with a change at Rouen).

Once in Paris I use my bike to get around the city. I also use ot for longish bike rides into the outer suburbs and towns. 

In the past, I have been West to places like Versailles and Rambouillet. I have also been South, to Fontainebleau. 

Although I tend to stay on the East side of Paris when I visit, I haven't tended to go much further than Vincennes. 

So on my recent visit there, in October, I cycled out to the Val de Marne and Seine et Marne departments (counties), which are named after the River Marne, the main river in the area, and is a tributary of the River Seine. I headed out towards Chessy, close to Disneyland Paris.

The thing about this ride is that it was largely traffic-free as it involved cycling along a river (the Marne), and then later on, a canal (the Ourq).

Bois de Vincennes

My ride began from Vincennes, where I was staying. I headed through the woods along a gravel path behind the Parc Floral, passed the lovely Lac des Minimes and left the woods to go through the suburb of Nogent sur Marne, and joined the traffic. 

There were a couple of segregated cycle lanes, but they weren't on all the roads - and not on the roads I needed to get to. But I didn't feel unsafe, particularly as the traffic was very slow-moving due to road works (plus ├ža change!). 

The noteworthy thing was how the road climbed steeply - something I hadn't been expecting - and then it dropped down really fast to reach another suburb, Le Perreux sur Marne, which was right on the river. The area looked pretty upmarket (or BCBG, as the French would say). Folks often talk a out "La banlieue" (the suburbs) with negative connotations, evoking images of high-rise council flats and neighbourhoods awash with deprivation, crime and the odd riot. I have certainly seen suburbs like that, but I have also seen many suburbs that definitely showcase how the other half live.

River Marne at Le Perreux

Le Perreux, with its beautiful houses bordered by picket fences overlooking the River and with Mercedes SUVs parked outside was clearly in the latter category.

Crossing the river via the footbridge to Bry sur Marne was a good opportunity to make the most of the sunshine on this beautiful autumn day and take some photos. 

Given how peaceful this suburb was, I could even get some clean photos with few people around to photobomb the images.

A few joggers and walkers passed by, but that was not a problem. One couple were curious and asked if I was making a film. Funnily enough ough they washed me good luck in getting descent photos ad it was "really busy on this bridge, with so many people"! They obviously don't get out to Pont Neuf or Pont des Arts in the big smoke of Paris much at all.

Footbridge to Bry sur Marne

Onwards I pressed, along the left bank of the river, to reach Noisy Le Grand.

 This ride felt like a tribute to the RER A suburban train line as all the place names were stops I'd seen on the RATP transport map of Paris. Indeed, the train line criss-crossed my route at various points. 

By this time, the neat houses were behind me, and I got a glimpse of the slightly rough and ready landscape of an area that was distinctly downmarket. 

(Continued in the next post)

Related posts

Cycle route: Eastern suburbs of Paris by bike (part 2)

London Waterways ride - Thames path and Wey Navigation

London Waterways ride - River Cray and River Lee

Navigli of Milan and Suburban bike ride

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