The Sketch

Day 4 promised to be slightly more special than the other days, and so it proved to be, in some ways which were expected and some others which most definitely were not expected. We were planning to cache around Hérouville, but we had an early morning appointment in Paris before that.

Driving to the City

The first special activity involved what we pretty much always do on a Saturday morning – Saturday is parkrun day. The nearest one to us was at Bois de Boulogne – a mere 25 km away on the outskirts of Paris. The drive there involves a brief flirtation with everyone’s favourite road, the Boulevard Périphérique, which is somewhere in between a massive car park and the world’s largest dodgem attraction. Even at a shade before 8am on a Saturday at Easter it was a bit frantic. At least I’d pre-planned the route and knew what signs to look for and which lanes I’d need. I had Ami operating Google maps on my phone, just in case I made a wrong turn at any point.

Anyway, Google reckoned it would take much longer than it actually did. We were there sat in the car park at just after 8am. We sat there for quite a long time wondering when the run director would actually turn up. I hadn’t checked average statistics for this parkrun to see how many people normally turn up. If I had done so I would have been less worried about the apparent lack of competitors and marshalls at 8:45. A few people did eventually appear, and so a parkrun was duly constituted and deemed to be quorate.

Wot, no French People?

The French apparently abandon their capital city at the first sniff of a public holiday. So we were entirely unsurprised to find most people speaking in unaccented English, or at least, in accents belonging to native English speakers. There was a family from Poland, a handful of French, and probably half of the field were British. The field was 48 strong by the way, including the tail runner, who had a North American English accent. One of the British groups was a family from Leicestershire who normally run our “adopted second home” parkrun at Conkers. How weird is that ?

The run itself was good – the course is quite wide and has no significant gradients, so despite having spent three full days on our feet we managed to finish in a very creditable 29:30 with 32nd and 33rd places. We set off quite fast but Ami soon realised that her head was making promises that her legs couldn’t deliver. The post-run cafe was a small roadside affair on the other side of the Bois de Boulogne. It’s fair to say that the place would struggle to cope with demand if any more people went.

Wot, no khasi?

When we got back to the car it was approaching 11am and we had some caching to get on with. So we drove back to the hotel for a quick change of clothes and to pick up the caching gear. While we were there we encountered one of the unexpected surprises for the day. The toilet in our room wasn’t refilling properly or flushing. That, unfortunately, required a visit to reception to sort out. Unfortunate in the sense of it taking some time, but not in terms of the outcome.

The guy on duty came upstairs for a look, and poked and prodded a couple of things before deciding to offer us a different room. I said fine so long as they had a similarly sized one on the same floor. He went to sort it out. Ami and me stuffed everything into our suitcases and got ourselves out of the one room. When the receptionist did return he placed us into the room right next door. All we had to do was to wheel in all the bags and then jump straight in the car to start the caching. Result !

Shall we go caching then?

For caching we parked up in Hérouville to attack the difficult looking southern loop. Part of the reason why it looked difficult was that it involved a long stretch at the end that we’d already walked along on Thursday. There was no way to avoid walking that section again. I’d checked the bus timetable and there weren’t any on a Saturday. We’d just have to live with it.

As an interesting, and slightly strange, anecdote, the place I parked my car for this walk, the Château d’Hérouville, was the primary location for the recording of David Bowie’s album Low in 1976. Elton John recorded three albums there, including Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and the Bee Gees recorded two of the three big-selling singles from Saturday Night Fever there too.

Our walk took us on a big clockwise route through woodland down to Auvers-sur-Oise and then back across slightly more open but still hilly countryside back through Ennery and Livilliers, where we ran out of caches. We’d also run out of energy, enthusiasm and drinks by that point, but had a mandatory walk of nearly 4 km to get back to the car. By the time we had finished that stretch we were both completely exhausted. We’d walked 20.25 km in just over 6 hours and had found 74 caches. Thankfully we now knew that the drive home was quick and easy, and we took the opportunity to stop at a garage on the way back and buy drinks for the following day.

Dinner was an in-hotel affair again, although I have no recollection of what we actually ate.

The Reckoning