Sunday 21 November 2021

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

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:

(Continued from the previous post)

As my route would not be straying from the river I didn't venture that way, and in fact it was a treat to have woodland emerge before me, and this landscape was quite attractive. 

From here on, the route continued further into the countryside where there people doing associated activities like trail running, horse riding, and fishing. 

Lac de Vaires - Watersports venue for Paris 2024 Olympics

In fact, near Noisiel at Vaires sur Marne, was a large watersports area which I believe will be hosting rowing and canoeing events at the Paris Olympics, and there were a few rowing clubs practicing along this stretch of water, and also on the River Marne at Lagny.

By this time I had crossed the river again and cycled briefly through Lagny to get back on the riverside. A lot of people were out walking, or were in the cafés. There was nothing special about this suburb, but I guess if tourist en route to or coming from nearby Disneyland Paris wanted to sample a French town, why not stop at Lagny, which is what some people may have done. Or maybe they were hoping to spot Manchester United footballer Paul Pogba, who is from there.

What was noteworthy for me was how the river path up-to-now had been a mixture of tarmac and compacted gravel, but then became a twisty stretch of single-track with tree roots bumps, pot-holes. Maybe I had missed a sign to get me back onto the road, but here I was on a proper off-road trail like in Surrey. 

It should have been fun, especially as I was on a cyclocross bike, but the cumbersome pannier made it difficult to get between the trees at times and on a couple of occasions my tripod, which was on my back got caught in the branches and yanked me backwards!

My overriding (pun intended) worry was that I would see the bridge I'd been hoping to go over, above me and I would have no way of reaching it due to being a long way from the road leading to it. Furthermore, I didn't know if bikes were allowed on this trail and I was worried about the path just leading to a mass of undergrowth that it would be impossible to get through. 

Chessy-Dampmart footbridge set in a sculpture park and among cyclocross/MTB trails

My fears were soon assuaged when I crossed paths with a guy out walking his dog, and he bid me a friendly "Bonjour" like seeing a cyclist was an everyday thing. 

Shortly after, I noticed a guy riding up behind me on Canyon cyclocross bike. As I gave way to him he greeted me and zoomed along. Yay, a kindred spirit. Another guy rode along the trail on a cross bike. So it's fair to say this is cyclocross country. 

This area, known as Chessy, is also within spitting distance of Disneyland Paris. All I needed was to head onto the roads to my right, and four miles later I would reach Alice's Curious Labyrinth. Well, I had already been through one maze in the woods; I didn't need to go through another one. So I continued my planned route to cross the River Marne via the bridge which turned out to be a wooden footbridge, to Dampmart and eventually Claye-Souilly.

Eventually the path took me to the Jardin de Sculptures where the pedestrian bridge was located. As well as cyclocrossers, there were a number of mountain bikers too. 

It's worth making a mental note that this area of Marne la Vallée is a place to do off-road training.  After a short break for my lunchtime snack, I crossed the river to get onto the road to the Ourq Canal.

My route took me along some undulating roads to reach a village called Claye-Souilly. This was no longer the nearby suburb. In fact, Meaux, a stage town for the upcoming Women's Tour de France was just 10 miles from this point, and on these country roads Paris seemed a world away.

On my arrival at Claye-Souilly it was easy to find the Ourcq Canal. It was a case of look at the road from where lots of cyclists were emerging (just near the town hall), and that was the place to go.

It was good to be on the homeward trek, as it had seemed quite a long day. This area was not far from Charles de Gaulle Airport, and knowing how long it can take to get to Central Paris told me it would be a while before I reached my entry point into Paris, at La Villette. 

The straight towpath back to Paris, along the Ourcq Canal

My ride was straightforward, with the emphasis on straight! Ourcq is a very straight canal. There only seemed to be about three turns on the whole ride back. Granted, I was kept on my toes when  the signposted route took me onto the opposite side of the canal, and a section between Villeparisis and Aulnay sous Bois had a few steep rises and falls. But overall, it was just a case of following your nose for 15 miles along this straight, mainly tarmacked towpath that ran parallel with the RER B suburban line.

In the early part of the canal the area looked pretty as the route ran through parkland and woodland. However, after Aulnay sous Bois there was definitely a "banlieue" kind of ambience, with rough-looking flats and wasteland nearby with graffiti on the walls. There were lots of young lads on scooters, skateboards, or doing tricks on their bikes, as well as well as teenage girls hanging out with their mates on this late Saturday afternoon.

Yeah, it was Saturday - what was I doing still on my bike ride when I could have been hanging out with some young people?! Or more like enjoying a glass of wine with some middle-aged folks in Vincennes! 

Even though there was a route that would take me straight down from Bobigny, where I was to my suburban base, it only seemed right to complete the route properly by going right up to the Bassin de La Villette, and continuing through Paris to reach Vincennes. So, on I plodded.

Bassin de La Villette - A popular hangout with boules and beer

Once in the vibrant area of La Villette, I felt quite motivated. Apparently the cool thing to do these days is boules. It's not just the preserve of old "Marcel" blokes, but loads of groups of young people were doing it on the many pitches that had been set up, while having a beer. That's another thing to do next time I'm there. 

From La Villette I headed to the Stalingrad junction to pick up the segregated cycle path along the Grand Boulevard to reach Porte de Vincennes and back to base. 

When I entered my hotel the receptionist asked me if I'd enjoyed my little bike ride, to which I replied, it was super. If only she knew it was just 80km little! 

Nevertheless, it was a fun day out.

Related posts

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

Cycling in Paris - La vie est belle!

Cycle route: South London to Central London (mainly traffic-free)

Cyclists of Paris


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