I got up and slipped out of my dorm silently having said my goodbyes the previous night. I left Paris with a heavy heart, as I rode through the chilly morning air on the way to Gare de Nord.
The train was a squeeze to get on with 7 bikes trying to fit in a space for 4. I spend the journey sad I'd miss the Tour de France and with the odd feeling that I'd never see the people I'd just met ever again. To have such a fleeting but meaningful connection with people was an alien sensation to me and dealing with the ensuing emptiness was hard.
The next train was crowded and smelly but when I finally arrived in Calais the sun was shining and I had a strong tailwind. The air was far cooler here though. Nevertheless - after getting completely lost I booked onto the ferry and hours later I found myself in Dover.
My first experience back in England and I was surrounded by chavs on the promenade and bad drivers on the roads - just how I remembered it.
After getting lost some more I was on the A2 pedalling back through the familiarly disappointing British roads. I dived into a hedge to change into cycling kit and then sailed to Canterbury with little effort, aided by the passing lorries from the ferry.
Canterbury was a nice place, I grabbed something to eat and weighed up my options. I could ride to Rochester 20 miles away, or just get the train. It was 5pm. I got the train. I didn't tell the waiter in the restaurant that though.
Late in the afternoon I rolled into London Victoria and looked around for a hostel. I first picked one close to Victoria and checked in. But after seeing the small social area and the smelly, cramped, dirty room I asked for a refund and left immediately.
In a bad mood I rode to the other side of London down the Embankment to another hostel. This place was far better, I immediately liked the vibe, the large clean rooms and big open social space downstairs were a refreshing change too.
I spent the night washing, talking to Australians, Canadians and for the first time, English.
Today doesn't have much of a story to tell. I spent a lot of time travelling or just chatting in throwaway conversations of different cultures, places or political agendas. It was a good end to a poignant and sad beginning of the day.
Day 9: London - Welwyn Garden City (50km)
Not worthy of its own blog post - the final (half) days entry will be stuck on the end of here!
Today is another day without much story to tell. I woke up, checked out and perused the streets of London. With pitta bread and humous stuffer in my frame pack I rode to Hyde Park in the cool morning sun. A traffic jam in the form of a parade of royal horses held me up, which was interesting to watch down the Mall.
After changing back 100 kuna, I grabbed a coffee and sat in Hyde Park. I did this nearly all day, just lying on the floor in the sun.
Eventually I met a couple from Devon and we walked around Borough market and somehow managed to spend the remainder doing nothing. I eventually put on my lycra and rode through Hackney on the way to Aaron's. Sunset crept up on me 20 minutes short of Welwyn Garden City and I spent the last portion of the journey nervously riding with only a weak back light on.
Eventually I made it and went back to Aaron's for some food and another good nights sleep.
The next morning I rolled to the train station holding onto the back of Aaron's car and caught the train home before riding the final 6 miles to my doorstep.
It was odd to be home. It was far quicker than I'd ever planned. Quicker than anyone had anticipated. But I'd had a good time, got a good tan and met some great people.