London to Paris in memory of Paul: Challenge Completed

Denise nears the end of her cycle

Earlier this year we published Denise’s touching story. After suffering a tragic loss Denise summoned all her strength and determination to undertake an epic cycle challenge in aid of Hospitality Action.

In Denise’s words: “After my husband Paul committed suicide a friend suggested that it may help to have a future focus and so as we often spent Sunday mornings cycling, then perhaps it should involve some sort of cycle challenge; and so the idea of cycling from London to Paris began to take shape.

It was just coincidence that an organised charity London to Paris cycle was to set off on September the 12th 2018, the anniversary of Paul’s death. Being aware that anniversaries can throw up all sorts of unexpected memories and emotions I decided that it may be helpful to have a focus and a slightly daunting physical challenge to preoccupy me on that day. There was never any doubt that for me the charity I chose would have to be pertinent to Paul and his life and so I contacted Hospitality Action and there was no going back.

Five in the morning, London, Wednesday the 12th of September was a dark, wet and gloomy awakening. Myself and two friends met with another seventy three damp but keen cyclists in a drenched London park. We set off enthusiastically through busy London traffic. Suburbia soon gave way to country lanes, however the rain never really went away and being used to quiet Scottish roads, with the occasional car, that gave cyclists a wide berth, the proximity of constant traffic forced me to concentrate. After approximately 95 miles we gathered in a pub in Dover, a swift half Guinness then we cycled en mass to the ferry. After a long and bittersweet day it was lights off and in bed for midnight in Calais.

Seven o’clock start and it was a promising one, patches of blue could be seen overhead. After an initial cold start the day kept on improving as did the scenery. The cycling proved to be undulating with a few technical hitches (my friend experienced two punctures). Lunch was spectacular and was reminiscent of a medieval banquet laid out in a historic monastery that looked like the grandest of chateaus. Our destination day two was Abbeville and as we reached it in good time we celebrated with a verre de vin blanc or two in a local bar named The Royal Bar which just happened to be the same name as a favourite bar in our old home town.

Seven thirty start and after cycling across an atmospheric Somme it was then head down for a series of gruelling climbs. Once again the scenery was idyllic although I became aware that it all must have looked very different once as we passed by many religious statues and war graves. We reached the busy city of Beauvais at what seemed like rush hour and with less than half a mile to go to the hotel I fell at a roundabout, a momentary lapse in concentration while looking down at the sat nav and CRASH down I went while still clipped in, a very kind French lady stopped to ask ‘ca va’ and so my school French kicked in and I replied ‘Ca va bien merci’ , got back on the bike and found the hotel.

Denise and her group celebrate at the Eiffel Tower

Next morning was touch and go as to whether I’d be fit to cycle but after many drugs (supplied by a bona fide GP) and taping of my shoulder I was good, if not fit, to go. Fifty five miles on a bike in pain was pretty tough, however I was buoyed along by a stop at one of Van Gogh’s many houses, lunch in a park in Paris with the most delicious cheese, then cycling around the Arc de Triomphe and the final destination of the Eiffel Tower. The Parisians were fantastically hospitable and then reaching the end despite my fall felt quietly but massively empowering after the year that had went before.

Throughout my travels I was constantly aware of the hospitality and provision of nourishment we received. More than most I am aware of the long hours, hard work and personal sacrifice that is often made by those who provide and serve the food we eat. I am eternally grateful to them for this service, Paul loved his industry and it was to honour him that I cycled these miles to raise money for Hospitality Action.”

We at HA remain indebted to Denise for the great lengths she undertook in our honour. The hours of training and personal sacrifice that the challenge demanded were met head on by this truly inspiring fundraiser and for this we are so very grateful. If you’d like to make a donation to Denise’s fundraising page you can do so here. And of course if you’d like to take part in your own challenge event, for any reason at all, please give me a ring on 020 3004 5504 to learn about the many options available.