The first foreign leg of Annie's epic ride was from Paris to Marseille in the winter of 1894-95. We're not quite so brave so we'll replicate her ride in late June and early July 2008. We'll stick to Annie's route as best we can, and share insights and details about Annie and her journey when we gather for dinners. We'll try to imagine how she might have experienced France in those early years of bicycle touring.
Day 1: Welcome to Paris!
Highlights: Paris, Fit bicyclesMeet this afternoon in Lieusaint on the outskirts of Paris. We fit bicycles this afternoon and go out for a warm up ride. We'll have group introductions and Peter will give us a brief history on Annie Londonderry and her journey. Dinner is together tonight. Distance: optional warm up ride.
What Annie did - On the morning of December 30, 1894, Annie rode out of Paris in the rain to Lieusaint, accompanied by some Parisian cyclists. It was a tough slog, as the roads were quite muddy. After a short break in Lieusaint it was off to Melun and through the oak forests of Fontainebleau.
Day 2: Lieusaint to Barbizon
Highlights: Melun, Vaux-le-Vicomte castleWe'll pedal today, just as Annie did, from Lieusaint, south towards Melun and then east to our final destination, Barbizon, a charming village nestled in the Fontainebleau forest. Our route takes us by the famous castle Vaux-le-Vicomte built for Louis XIV's finance minister Fouquet who after becoming too powerful was wrongly imprisoned for treason and embezzlement. If you like, stop in for a tour of this luxurious castle in the classical style and its magnificent gardens. Dinner is together this evening. Distance: 53 km (33 miles) or more if desired.
What Annie did - Annie arrived in Nemours where she spent the night. It was a well-deserved rest according to a local newspaper, and she arrived "spattered with mud and soaked to the bone". Annie likely pedaled 45 km this day.
Day 3: Barbizon to Montargis
Highlights: Guided visit of FontainebleauNew Years' eve 1894, Annie pedaled from Nemours to Montargis by way of Souppes-sur-Loing. The route she would have followed is likely a major highway now so we'll follow her presumed route, or at least approximate it, on parallel roads. We'll start the day for those who wish visiting the illustrious Renaissance châteaux of Fontainebleau. Napoléon (of course!) slept here, and may have even resided here for a while. The château of Fontainebleau rivals the palace in Versailles and the châteaux of the Loire Valley in its magnificence. It sits in the middle of a 40,000 acre forest and gardens. We'll simulate a New Years' Eve dinner together. Distance: 74 km (46 miles).
What Annie did - Joined by two employees of a local bike shop in Nemours, Annie rode a few miles to Souppes-sur-Loing. The weather was bitterly cold and snow was falling. She didn't travel far that day, making it only to Montargis, where she spent New Year's Eve. Annie may have pedaled about 33 km this day.
Day 4: Montargis to Pouilly-sur-Loire
Highlights: Pont-Canal in BriareAnnie rang in the New Year with a long ride on her single speed bike. She pedaled, as will we, from Montargis to Cosne-sur-Loire. Annie would have picked up the Loire River valley today and followed it for the next several days, avoiding the adjacent short but steep climbs. She spent the night in a private home in Cosne-sur-Loire. We'll pedal across the famous Briare canal bridge this afternoon, Europe's longest junciton canal. Dinner is together. Distance: 110 km (68 miles).
What Annie did - Montargis to Cosne. Again, Annie contended with wet weather and arrived in Cosne "in a very good state, but covered in mud." She enjoyed the hospitality of the Hourd family, including a gift of a box of chocolates. Annie pedaled about 68 km this day.
Day 5: Ride up the Loire Valley to Nevers
Highlights: Loire River ValleyWe continue up the Loire River Valley today to Charité-sur-Loire and on to Nevers. Annie would have followed the river most of the way today, so we'll do the same with a beautiful forested foothills of the Morvan. Annie rode only to Charité today (about 28 km from Cosne) so you might want to stop for photos and then plan on time to take a walk in Nevers this evening. We'll enjoy dinner together this evening. Distance: 70 km (43 miles).
What Annie did - Cosne to Charité. Annie pedaled about 28 km this day.
Day 6: Nevers to Lyon
Highlights: Lyon, Bouchon Lyonnais, Vieux LyonIt is 230 km from Nevers to Lyon, Annie's next stop. In 1895, the local head of the Union Vélocipédique du France, Mr. Nicart, persuaded Annie to take the train to Lyon "because of the deplorable state of the routes." She heeded his advice and spent two days resting in Lyon. Stage 6 of the 2003 Tour de France™ pedaled from Nevers to Lyon. While we're not going to try and pedal the entire distance, we will take a ride this morning then catch the train into Lyon like Annie did. We'll regroup this evening for dinner together at one of Lyon's many delicious restaurants. Distance: 58 km (36 miles).
What Annie did - Annie took the train to Lyon and enjoyed a few rest days there. American newspapers often commented on what an attractive young woman Annie was, but the French had a different take. One Lyon columnist, finding her appearance masculine, wrote that she was neither a woman nor a man, but belonged to "a third sex." Annie rarely responded to press reports; she loved the attention. Leaving Lyon in snow and temperatures well below freezing, she and an escort of local cyclists pedaled to Vienne, where the local cycling club provided a luncheon in her honor. That afternoon, the group cycled to Saint Rambert.
Day 7: Rest in Lyon
Highlights: Lyon's monuments, museums, architectureYou will have the entire day to relax and enjoy this wonderful city. The historic old town stretches out along a peninsula between the Rhône and Saône rivers, and is filled with beautiful monuments, museums, and buildings. Be sure to take the tramway to the top of the city heights where you'll have a magnificent view over the roof tops of the entire city. You are free to enjoy a "bouchon" restaurant on your own this evening.
What Annie did - Since Annie took a few days to relax in Lyon that is exactly what we'll do! She stayed at the Hotel I'Univers which has been converted to apartments and a restaurant. The facade, however, has remained in tact.
Day 8: Train to Montèlimar, ride to Orange
Highlights: Roman ruins in OrangeAnnie's ankle began to ache- she had a mishap on her bike as she left Lyon- and arrived in Valence at 11 a.m. completely fatigued. Nevertheless, one of her riding companions declared that she was "stunned by her valiant enthusiasm." At l'Hotel de la Tête d'Or in Valence a doctor was summoned to examine Annie's ankle and diagnosed an inflammation of the Achilles tendon. To avoid any "mishaps" we'll take a train out of Lyon this morning to Montélimar where we'll pedal south to Orange. This afternoon you'll want to visit the Roman theater and other Roman ruins in Orange. Dinner is together this evening. Distance: 60 km (37 miles).
What Annie did - Because her ankle was still bothering her and the weather had turned bitterly cold, Annie delayed her departure from Valence and her Sterling was put on display at a local bicycle shop to be admired by a curious public.
Day 9: Loop ride from Orange
Highlights: Wine villages, views of Mont VentouxWe're well into the Côte du Rhône vineyards now so we'll take a loop ride today to the wine villages of Rasteau, Séguret, Sablet and Gigondas. The legendary Mont Ventoux and the jagged limestone peaks of the Dentelles of Montmirail at its base provide a stunning backdrop. Enjoy a picnic lunch near Gigondas before we cross the plain back to Orange. Dinner is on your own this evening. Distance: 62 km (39 miles).
What Annie did - Valence to Orange (about 100 km.) Because of her injury, Annie left Valence on a tandem with a gentleman named Paul Seigneuret; another rider rode her Sterling. "She possesses an unheard of energy, laughs continuously and does not stop singing," Signeuret wrote later. Even though she was pedaling with only one foot, Annie and Signeuret kept up a pace of 20 km per hour up and over the hills near Montélimar. By evening the party had arrived in Orange.
Day 10: Ride to Salon-de-Provence
Highlights: Chateauneuf du Pape, Grotte de ThouzonThe Avignon that Annie pedaled through is now a bustling city. Rather than fight with the traffic, we'll head south to Chateauneuf du Pape, with views of Avignon and the expansive Rhône River Valley. Then we will contiune south to the Thouzon caves where you'll get a chance to see some amazing underground limestone formations. We are just outside the Salon-de-Provence this evening in the beautiful Provencal countryside. You can relax by the pool this afternoon before dinner together or take a hike through the hotel's 1200 acre park. Distance: 80 km (50 miles).
What Annie did - In the morning, the Cercle Musical performed for Annie as she departed with two cyclists from Orange and two cyclists from Avignon. Annie stopped briefly, for four hours, in Avignon and arrived in Salon de Provence later that day. Reception in Avignon. Annie pedaled about 45 km this day. She took a rest day in Salon.
Day 11: Ride to Marseille
Highlights: MarseilleToday we'll take on the last stage of Annie's journey all the way to her triumphant arrivl in Marseille. Although Annie took the most direct route into the city, we've planned for a much more scenic approach to the base of the Chaine de l'Etoile mountains that serve as a magnificent backdrop for Marseille set against the sea. Our ride ends with a delicous lunch prepared at the home one of our local friends from Marseille. After lunch we'll shuttle to our hotel in the heart of Marseille where you can spend the rest of the afternoon discovering the city. We'll have our final dinner together tonight in a great restaurant, a local favorite. Distance: 53 km (33 miles).
What Annie did - Salon to Marseille. Annie pedaled on into Marseille after passing through Lancon, just south of Salon. She recieved a hero's welcome: thousands lined the streets as she rode into town, one foot in bandages resting on her handlebars and an American flag flying from an improvised mount of her bike frame. One local paper said, Annie "captured the hearts of the people of Marseilles." Annie pedaled about 45 km this day.
Day 12: Tour ends in Marseille
Highlights: Marseille, Shuttle to the airportOur journey ends this morning after breakfast. For those of you who would like to spend more time visiting this unique city, we'll suggest some highlights. We'll also help facilitate your departure from the train station and airport. It was a pleasure having you join us on this ride into history. Come back again, sometime, as we pedal into the past!
HighlightsChâteau Vaux-le-Vicomte, Château de Fontainebleau, Loire River Valley, Lyon, Roman Ruins in Orange, Côte du Rhône Vineyards, Marseille
Includes"The Usual" plus... Use of a quality 27-30 speed bicycle; 12 days, 11 nights accommodation, 8 dinners with wine, 11 breakfasts, Fontainebleau
Total Distance620 km (385 miles)
Daily Distance50 - 110 km (31 - 62 miles)
What to ExpectSome long days and varied terrain as we cut across four quite different regions of France.
Click on the "pins" for details about each day's highlights.
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