Wednesday, 30 June 2010


Today was our big shopping day- a trip to Decathlon, one of those huge, general sports stores that feels a lot like a warehouse. Whilst being no substitute for a proper specialist shop, Decathlon is good for cheap essentials, like the bright yellow cycling jerseys, £7.99, which Mum picked out for 'visibility'. 3 of us, matching yellow jerseys... We'll be visible for miles around. Quelle horreur.
We didn't buy that much, really, as we've got bits of our own kit already, from years of casual and commuter cycling, and many friends have been very generous in lending things out to us. We've steered clear of going above the necessary basics, to minimize weight and avoid the 'all gear, no idea' look. Most exciting buy of the day was a pair of proper cycling shoes, reduced from £35 to £1.19. Only smaller sizes left, so Anna is now going to have to counter having the best gear by carrying the heaviest panniers. Until now, we've not gone anywhere near clipless pedals, but decided to go for it, and get the bargain pair of shoes and the pedals to match. Bit of a risky last minute transition, but we'll keep you posted...

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Bettie the bicycle

So far, the real workhorses of the trip have gone unmentioned. Here, we present you with the first of our bike profiles.

Name: Bettie
Age: Bettie is a refined lady, whose age is thus undisclosed. However, she is known to have spent the last two years under Treloar care.

Bettie is by far the most sophisticated member of the cohort. Her reliable, sturdy British character is coupled with a smooth, chic, navy finish, accessorized by a yellow logo design and this season’s must-have, red electrical tape, to add that extra special something, and hold on the break cable...

Bettie has been looking forward to the trip for many months, though confesses a fear of heights- “I’m a road bike really; all this mountaineering isn’t my natural environment. However, I’m going to put my best wheel forward, and am sure that in the capable hands of Gregory, there’s a climber in this old woman yet!”

Words from the rider: “Bettie is a beautiful machine, and deserves to see a world outside of the dusty streets of Sidcup, and a destination more profound than Blackfen. Every rider takes something from their bike; usually, it’s just chain oil, but I’d like to learn from Bettie the art of coping under pressure... 60 PSI, to be precise.”

Ss Peter and Paul

Today, Catholics celebrate the feast of St Peter and St Paul. We reckon they would be good patron saints for our journey- St Peter, the first Pope, is buried at the Vatican, our destination, and St Paul spent many years on the road, travelling between the early Christian communities.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Photo shoot

This time next week, we'll be gone. We had a little photo session today, wearing our lovely matching t-shirts Mary's Meals sent us, and thought you'd all love to see them...

Above (left to right) is Joseph, Anna and Gregory. And yes, Joseph and Gregory look very similar.

The outtakes...

Sunday, 27 June 2010


We're currently trying to spread the word about the trip as far and wide as possible, in order to promote the work of the charities we're fundraising for, and hopefully push up the total we raise. If you're reading this, and have access to any means of publicity, please get in touch.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Helping hands

We've now got 8 days left before departure. We have been very fortunate to receive generous offers of help from many quarters- a journalist writing a press release, a sport scientist preparing a training and physio programme, and various people sharing their bike expertise.

Then there's the indomitable Blackfen parish UCM (Union of Catholic Mothers), who are raising money to pay for our tent through strawberries and cream teas.

Then there's Mum and Dad, whose anxieties mount the closer we get to departure, and who will doubtless be on duty till we return, picking up the pieces... Wouldn't get far without them.

Hymn for the bicycle

This is hysterical. It's going to be our motivational mission-to-the-finish song.

My favourite line is, "Bless them with lots of hills." The singer's either sadistic, or not a cyclist.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

All roads lead to Rome...

...but some take longer than others, so we're taking maps.

Our 1:100,000 scale maps of France arrived today. We'll be posting the maps we finish with back home as we go along, and buying the maps for the next leg of the journey through Switzerland and Italy as we move south.

Who's head map-reader? Bit of a point of contention, that one.

What is the Via Romea?

The Via Romea is an ancient pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome. It is more commonly referred to as the Via Francigena, which technically describes the reverse of the route we are taking, passing from Rome to Canterbury.
The route was most popular as a pilgrimage path in medieval times, but is undergoing something of a modern-day revival. It's very different to the Camino de Santiago, the popular pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, Spain; the Camino is well-marked, busy, and with an developed infrastructure around the pilgrimage route. The Via Romea/Francegina is much less developed, and fairly unmarked outside of Italy. Overall, it's a much quieter route... perfect for Gregory, we thought.
The medieval pilgrim would travel across Europe as a penitential pilgrimage, seeking three holy places- Rome, Santiago de Compostela (the tomb of St James), and Jerusalem. The pilgrim carried three objects: keys for St Peter's in Rome, a shell, for Santiago, and a cross for Jerusalem.
We decided to just stick to Rome this time round :-) No keys, either, except for bike locks.

Our charities

We're using the trip to raise money for two charities very close to our hearts; Mary's Meals and the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative.
Mary’s Meals provides a staple, daily meal in schools for children in some of the poorest countries in the world, fighting poverty through tackling malnutrition and encouraging education.
The Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative provides non-judgemental practical, spiritual and emotional support for mothers in the UK, struggling with crisis pregnancy and the prospect of bringing up a child alone. There's links to the charities' pages at the bottom of the blog.

We've set ourselves a fundraising target of £1200, which conveniently works out to £1 per mile! Any amount you could spare, however small, would be gratefully received and put to good use by the two charities, both of which operate on minimal overheads, maximising the help that reaches the people who need it most. Just to clarify, the trip is totally self-funded; all money raised goes to the charities.

Monday, 21 June 2010


Hello everyone, thanks for visiting the blog.

As you've probably already found out, we're spending July cycling from our home in Sidcup (near London) to Rome. The route is a total distance of 1300 miles, passing through France, Switzerland, and Italy before we finally arrive in Rome. The trip is a holiday and a pilgrimage, but we're also taking the opportunity to raise money for two fantastic charities; see more at

We're using this blog to keep an account of our journey as we go and to keep in touch with people back home.

We've wanted to make the journey for over a year and a half, and are finally just biting the bullet and going for it. It's definitely an ambitious undertaking; none of us have ever done bike touring for more than two days in a row. Between us, we have about enough French to forge conversation, enough Italian to say hello, and no idea what they speak in Switzerland.
But, what can I say? We have a thirst for adventure, and enthusiasm for the unknown, and an unquenchable desire to be in St Peter's Square, intact, in a month's time.

...and we've all done Duke of Edinburgh. No worries then.