Like yesterday the morning was very different from the afternoon. The forecast was for rotten weather and when we woke it was raining heavily. So we had breakfast and then just hung around until nearly 10:00. Then the rain stopped but there were still ominous clouds above and of course a strong wind blowing in the wrong direction.
We left Epernay on a busy hilly road but in a few km found ourselves riding on a posted bike path along the Marne. Being by the river felt very natural after the Danube but this time the river was going the same way as us. Down by the river we were nicely shaded by from the wind.
The surface was great except for the long stretches where a new surface was being laid. They had put down the gravel undersurface but not yet rolled it and it was too soft to ride on. Then a longer stretch still where they had put a temporary topping over the gravel. This was uncomfortable but rideable. But then we got onto the wonderful smoother new surface.By noon we had covered 30 km and the road turned away from the river.
At first the road led away from the river steeply up through a village then even more steeply up through the vineyards. From the top we rode through trees with the satnAV strongly suggesting we rake every left hand turn. Unfortunately most of them were unpaved tracks. We eventually turned left and followed a nice surfaced road up then down for 2 km before it changed first into a rough track then into a steep field of long grass. Like intrepid explores we pushed our bikes up the slope composing the letter to Google Maps telling them how good their bike routes were.
But it was stressful and tiring. We eventually arrived at a farm in the middle of nowhere but within 3 km we were eating our lunch on a bridge over a motorway. 5 km further and we were back on roads that had signs to places we wanted to go.
35 km in the afternoon and they were misarable. Mostly slightly uphill, strong wind in our faces, too much traffic and tired from the fracas before lunch. We were delighted eventually to drop down the hill into Soissons.
The Ibis hotel was in one of the huge retail/industrial parks the French use. As we rounded the corner to reception, we found there were over a hundred British cyclists on An organised ride from London to Paris. Needless to say reception was chaos. We finally decided it was best for the bikes to sleep in the room with us.