Stage 1 – Paris to Worms – French Champagne
An Overview of Stage 1
We meet for the first stage of our Napoleonic odyssey in the City of Love and Light – Paris! Our warm up ride takes us around the Longchamp hippodrome with the locals then and down the Champs Elysees before a welcome aperitif in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe. A stunning ride through the working innards of one of Europes premier cities, along oak-lined canals, is arguably one of the most beautiful city exits we have discovered; and so fabulously French! From here we head east into the beguiling Champagne Ardenne and Lorraine regions before crossing the border into Germany. With increased European integration the border is not marked but the cultural and scenic differences are immediately apparent as we traverse the famous Rhineland towards the university town of Worms; which provides a pleasant end, with many a toast of the region’s famous wines, to our first stage.
Day by Day
Day 1 Paris Warm up
Our warm ride gives us chance to interact with the locals from the word go. The focus for the bike fit and our first ride is the park around the Longchamp hippodrome. This is a popular circuit for the Parisian riding community to stretch their legs and so you can either ride with your guides or join a bunch that best suits the speed to want to ride at. After a few laps we will then meander our way back to the hotel as a group and ride around the Arc de Triomphe that serves as the symbolic start for our Napoleon expedition.
Day 2 Paris to Chateau Thierry
In recent years Paris has gained a reputation for being a bike friendly city. Today we will put that reputation to the test as we meander our way from the center of the city to its suburbs on predominantly purpose built bike paths. The ride won’t be a fast one as there will be a fair bit of stopping and starting and you’ll need to keep a close eye on the Garmin to watch out for the turns. To be able to ride a bike out of one of Europe’s largest cities is testament though to the progress that Paris has made in accommodating cyclists. Our destination is the picturesque town of Chateau Thierry.
Day 3 Chateau Thierry to Chalons en Champagne
Our ride today takes us into the heart of Champagne country and as such much of the riding we do rolls through vines of this most treasured of beverages. Our lunch spot in Ay gives us the ideal opportunity to toast the start of our tour with a glass of the local tipple. Our destination is one of those towns that is the perfect size for bike touring – large enough to provide all the amenities you require but also small enough for the traffic not to make it tough to get into in the first place. The cathedral in Chalons makes for an imposing entrance and the main square where our hotel is situated is the ideal place to enjoy an evening aperitif before dinner.
Day 4 Chalons en Champagne – Verdun
Leaving Chalons our ride today is rural in nature as we ride through the fields of agriculture that bear testament to the fertility of the heavy soils in this area. Our destination – Verdun- holds an inauspicious place in history as a site of some of WW1’s bloodiest battles. In the context of our Napoleon ride and the huge numbers who lost their lives in that campaign this somehow just adds to the poignancy. After a relatively short day in the saddle you’ll have the chance to explore some of the major battle sites on a bus tour that gives you a chance to appreciate the scale of the carnage that occurred in the fields around the town.
Day 5 Verdun – Mettlach
We leave Verdun and our ride once more takes us through fields of produce and wind turbines. Today we leave France cross the border into Germany. Whilst the border is not marked the increasingly Germanic sounding village names prepare us for the shift from Gallic to Teutonic culture. Our destination is the quaint town of Mettlach that exemplifies the cultural shift that we will experience in just one day of riding.
Day 6 – Mettlach to Meisenheim
Welcome to Germany! Today we ride on east to the picturesque town of Mesienheim. Our ride takes us through spectacular pine forests and through a number of the perfectly manicured villages that seem to come straight from a postcard. For much of the day we stay in the valley but the final section takes us up on to a ridge which will warm the legs up. Getting off the main road and riding through this rural idyll makes it all worth it though.
Day 7 –Meisenheim to Worms
Distance wise a shorter day but we will experience more undulations than we have in previous days so it is not a ride to be taken too lightly. Our coffee stop is planned for Alzey which actually lays claim to hosting Napoleon. From here we continue to roll through the Rhineland on our way to the town of Worms and lunch on the banks of the Rhine.
“Napoleon Bonaparte, born 15 August 1769 in Corsica. Educated at military school, he quickly rose through the ranks. At the age of 27 he was made commander of the French army in Italy, where he forced Austria and its allies to make peace. In 1798, Napoleon conquered Ottoman-ruled Egypt in an attempt to strike at British trade routes with India. He was stranded when his fleet was destroyed by the British at the Battle of the Nile.
Austria, Russia and Britain allied themselves against France. Napoleon returned to Paris where the government was in crisis. In a coup d’etat in November 1799, Napoleon became first consul. In 1802, he was made consul for life and two years later, emperor. He oversaw the centralisation of government, the creation of the Bank of France, the reinstatement of Roman Catholicism as the state religion and law reform with the Code Napoleon.
In 1800, he defeated the Austrians at Marengo. He then negotiated a general European peace which established French power on the continent. In 1803, Britain resumed war with France, later joined by Russia and Austria. In 1805 Britain inflicted a naval defeat on the French at Trafalgar causing Napoleon to abandon his plans to invade England. Napoleon turned on the Austro-Russian forces, defeating them at Austerlitz. He gained new territory, including Prussian controlled lands which ostensibly gave him control of Europe. The Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, Holland and Westphalia created, and over the next five years, Napoleon’s relatives and loyalists were installed as leaders in Holland, Westphalia, Italy, Naples, Spain and Sweden.
In 1810, he had his childless marriage to Josephine de Beauharnais annulled and married the daughter of the Austrian emperor in the hope of having an heir. A son, Napoleon, was born a year later.
The Peninsular War began in 1808. Costly French defeats over the next five years drained French military resources. Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 with the biggest army yet ever assembled resulted in a disastrous retreat.
The tide started to turn in favour of the allies and in March 1814, Paris fell. Napoleon went into exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba. In March 1815 he escaped and marched on the French capital. The Battle of Waterloo ended his brief second reign. The British imprisoned him on the remote Atlantic island of St Helena, where he died on 5 May 1821.”
What do we eat and drink?
We start our journey in the culinary capital of Paris, whose bistros in particular, are both as unique as they are characteristically French. From Paris, we ride into the Champagne Ardenne region, which is known as one of the cradles of French gastronomy; with the eponymous fizzy stuff and the delicious produce that comes from the forests of the region, it is easy to appreciate why this is the case. We then head for the luscious region of Lorraine, perhaps best known for its quiche. Interestingly though – and testament to it bordering Germany – the Quiche Lorraine actually has German origins. Stage one finishes well into Germany’s interior, as we ride through the Rhineland on our way to Worms. Anyone for Rheinischer Sauerbraten (a marinated beef dish) and Wheat beer on the banks of the Rhine?
For more information on this stage and all the others check out http://www.rideandseek.com/epic/napoleon