About a week after leaving the Alps, I finally arrive in Beauvais after passing through Nanteuil which is famous for the Taxi de la Marne (2016 Day 23 Mary sur Marne to Bresles)

Today’s photo shows a memorial plaque at a roundabout in Nanteuil le Haudouin commemorating the Taxi de la Marne and the role they played during the First Battle of the Marne. This battle  in September 1914 was one of the biggest and bloodiest battles in World War 1 and resulted in almost half a million casualties. Over a million German soldiers fought against a million French and British soldiers along a front-line between here and Provins over 100 km to the south. Some of the French soldiers were transported to the front-line in a convoy of taxis, which had set out from the center of Paris a few days previously. While the taxi’s only played a small minor part in the battle, the incident has been known ever since as Taxi de la Marne by the French.


Day 23 Saturday July 9th. Total distance cycled today from Mary sur Marne to Bresles –  95 km. Total distance cycled so far on the 2016 Tour de Travoy – 1390 km.

Mostly light traffic today except for one section of road between Senlis and Creil. That section of the D1330 is less than 10 km long but it is was mobbed by traffic. You would think a road called the D1330 wouldn’t be busy especially on a Saturday afternoon.But it was like cycling along a motorway without a hard shoulder as cars whizzed by at over 100 kmph. Just like with the D606 at Sens on Thursday, you can’t always tell from the road number in France as to how busy a road will be.

Travoy leaving Camping des 2 Iles.

The sun was shining as I left Camping des 2 Iles so I strapped the solar panel to Travoy to charge my phone. The phone was reading 20% when I left here and 8 hours later had increased to 60% or about 5% per hour. The 15W solar panel in direct sunlight can charge as fast as a plug or at about 25% per hour. So trying to charge a phone with a solar panel flat on Travoy is 5 times slower than if the panel was say hanging from a tree directly facing the sun. Next year, I might attach the panel further back on Travoy to see if the panel charges any  quicker by being at an angle and facing the sun better.

Entering the Picardy region of France.

Since the 1st January 2016, the Picardy depatement along with the Nord Pas de Calais is now part of a new region in France called the Hauts de France. This translates as the Heights of France which is a strange name for a region which does not have any mountains. The region to the east of here is now known as the Grand Est and comprises of the departements of Champagne-Ardennes, Alsace and Lorraine. A much better name for this region would have been Grand Nord but for some reason, that name wasn’t considered.

Route barree or road blocked in Rosoy en Multien.

The road through the small town of Rosoy was closed for roadworks but I just ignored the signs and carried on through. With it being Saturday morning, no-one was actually working and I made it through no bother.

Old church near Bouillancy.

This church was unusual not just for its size but also its location. Most old churches in France are located in town centres but this church was located in the French countryside. You could understand if it was a modern church but this church was at least 500 years old.

Taxi de la Marne memorial in Nanteuil-le-Hadouin.

The Taxi de la Marne is the name given to a convoy of 500 taxis which set out from Paris on the 7th September 1914 to transport troops to the frontline in WW1. In all, 500 taxi’s were requisitioned by the French army and they spent the next 2 days transporting troops from Dammartin, 10 km away to the frontline here at Nanteuil.

Close up of the memorial at Nanteuil-le-Hadoin. 

The writing on the plaque translates as “Here, on the 7th September 1914, the taxis of Paris were requisitioned by General Galliani, miliary commander of Paris. These reinforcements enabled the French army to win the Battle of the Marne. This decisive manoeuvre has ever since been known as Taxi de la Marne.”

Train station in Nanteuil-le Hadouin.

During September 1914, the station here at Nanteuil was destroyed by German artillery and the train tracks were inoperable. The French Army could use trains to get their troops to the next nearest station at Dammartin, 10 km away, but had no way of getting their troops from there to the frontline. That’s when the French commander in Paris, General Joseph Galliani, ordered that taxi’s be requisitioned and sent to the frontline.

Renault AG1, also known as Taxi de la Marne.

In 1914, 85% of the taxis in Paris were made by Renault and their AG1 model was by far the most common taxi in Paris. It was the first taxi anywhere in the world to be fitted with a taxi meter and thousands were built by Renault between 1905 – 1910.  Out of about 3,000 operational taxi’s in Paris in 1914, 500 were rounded up and requisitioned by the French police. In some cases, the taxis were stopped by police in the middle of the road and their passengers ordered to get out. All the taxis were  ordered to assemble at the Hotel des Invalides in the centre of Paris and to await further instructions..

WWI Paris Taxi
Convoy of Taxis leaving Paris. Source : Daily Mail

At 11 o’clock in the evening of the 6th September, the convoy of taxi’s set out for the frontline reaching Dammartin at 4 o’clock in the morning. The taxi’s were ordered not to use their front lights and each taxi followed a lantern hanging from the taxi in front. Later that day, the taxis picked up troops from the train station at Dammartin and ferried them to Nantueil.

View of the train line north of Nanteuil-le-Hadouin.

On the 5th September 1914, this view of the railway tracks and of some trees in the distance more or less was the frontline in World War 1. Between the 7th August and the 5th September, the German forces advanced almost 300 km defeating the French at Mons and Chareloi in Belgium and forcing the French Sixth Army army to retreat to the outskirts of Paris. But on the 5th September, the French commander,  General Joseph Joffre, ordered the French Sixth Army between here and Meaux to counter-attack towards Montmirail to try and encircle the German troops.

Map showing the frontline 5th September (dashed line) and 12th September (solid line). 

Joffre’s counter-attack caught the German army by surprise and led to panic amongst the German commanders fearing their army would be encircled and cut off from vital supplies. The German 1st and 2nd Armies were forced to suspend their attack on Paris and retreat and by the 12th September, had been pushed back about 90 km to the Aisne near Rheims. It was the bloodiest week of the war with each side suffering over a quarter of a million casualties each, roughly double the number of casualties during the first week of the Battle of the Somme.

Nanteuil-le-Hadouin is just 43 km from the centre of Paris.

This is how close German troops got to Paris during World War 1. The battle in this part of France between 5th and 12th September later became known as the First Battle of the Marne. Over 2 million men were involved with casualties of 250,000 on both the Allied and German sides. The 5,000 troops transported by the Taxis de la Marne played only a small part in the battle as most of the troops were in reserve.. The Germans had already started retreating by the time most of the troops arrived in Nantueil. But the success of the French in pushing back the Germans became known as “The Miracle on the Marne” and the part played by the taxi’s became part of French folklore.

Marian shrine near Senlis.

Unlike in Ireland, Marian shrine are not that common in France but on the road to Senlis, I came across this shrine alongside the road. It looks like it pre-dates World War 1 and probably commemorates the apparitions in Lourdes in 1858.

TGV line near Senlis.

This is part of the high speed railway line between Paris and Lille which is known as LGV (Ligne a Grande Vitesse) Nord. It was opened in 1993 and is also used by Eurostar trains between Paris and London. LGV Nord is 333 km long between Paris and Calais and was completed a year before the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994. The Channel Tunnel is 50 km in length and it is a further 109 km to London from Folkestone. The total distance from Paris to London by rail  is 492 km which takes Eurostar only 2 hours 15 mins to travel with a train leaving Saint Pancreas in London roughly every hour for Paris and every 2 hours for Brussels. Each Eurostar train can carry up to 900 passengers and in 2015, Eurostar transported 10 million passengers. What is incredible about high speed trains is how little electricity they use. A high speed train uses only 14 kWh per km on average so a Eurostar train travels from London to Paris using approx 7,000 kWh or about 8 units per passenger if the train is full. At a wholesale price of 10c per unit, that means each passenger uses less than a euro of electricity to travel almost 500 km from Paris to London.

Statue commemorating Moroccan troops during World War 1.

I first thought this statue commemorated some French king out hunting in this region many years ago. But it actually has a much more interesting story to tell. This statue has only been here since 1965 and before that was actually located in Casablanca in Morocco. It was sculpted by Paul Landowski in 1921 as a thank you gift to Morocco for helping the French Army during World War 1. When Morocco declared independence in 1965, this statue was returned to France and placed here, even though Senlis had very little to do with Moroccan troops that fought in WW1. The dates on the monument 1914 – 1918  and 1332-1337 confused me as  well as I thought it may have something to do with the Hundred Years war. But 1914 is actually 1332 in the Islamic calendar and 1918 was 1337 on the same calendar. The Islamic calendar started in 622 AD when Mohammed went from Mecca to Medina. But because each Arabic year is 12 lunar months or 355 days long, the Islamic year is actually 10 or 11 days shorter than the Christian year. So that is why 1914 is not 1292 in Arabic years but actually 1332. World War 1 ended on the 11th of November 1918 which was the sixth day of the 2nd month (Safar) of the 1337th Arabic year.

Moroccan troops in October 1914 in Flanders in Belgium. 

Morocco was a colony of France when war broke out in 1914. As France had a population only half that of Germany, recruits were enlisted from all French colonies worldwide including Indochina, Algeria and West Africa as well as Morocco. Altogether about 450,000 Colonial troops were recruited, including about 50,000 Moroccans. Some of these troops were already in the French army as part of the French Foreign Legion. The Foreign Legion is now known as the Marines of the French army but it was originally founded in 1831 so that foreign soldiers could join the French army. Foreign legion troops fought at many WW1 battles and the Moroccans were very prominent at Vimy Ridge in 1917 alongside Canadian troops. Indeed, there is a small memorial to the 1st Moroccan Infantry Division opposite the massive Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge. However, there was little fighting in Senlis during World War 1 apart from during the first week of September 1914, when the town was captured by Germans. But the German onslaught was halted during the First Battle of the Marne and the following week the German troops retreated from here 50 km to the north to a new frontline along the Somme. There is a WW1 cemetery not far from the memorial in Senlis and perhaps some Moroccans are buried in it and this might explain why the memorial was placed here.

Dual carriageway on the D1330 between Senlis and Creil.

When I got to Senlis, I had a choice of either going by Creil or Chantilly so as to get to Bresles. Going by Chantilly was 5 km longer than going by Creil and I wanted to get to the campsite in time to see the first big Tour de France mountain stage in the Pyrenees, so I chose the shorter option. Big big mistake. The traffic on the D1330 was horrendous and as you can see from the above photo, there was no verge at all. There was nowhere to turn off so I was stuck on this road for about 10 km and about half an hour. I think it was the longest half hour of my life.

Google map recommended route from Senlis to Bresles.

I had checked Google maps in the morning and it recommended I take this route. Last year, Google had sent me through corn fields and down rutted paths in the middle of nowhere and I gave up using their recommended routes after a day or 2. They also recommended last year that I go through the Tunnel du Chat eventhough cyclists and pedestrians are banned from using that tunnel. To be fair, some of their routes would have been fine if you had a mountain bike but today’s route would have been dangerous no matter what you cycled on.

Strava recommended route between Senlis and Bresles.

You can see that Strava recommends you cycle via Chantilly. Unfortunately, Strava is much slower than Google at generating a route so I didn’t check it that morning. Additionally, Strava doesn’t do offline map routing and as I only had a little data allowance on my phone, I couldn’t check their recommended route once I had set off. Maps.me does offer offline routing but in July 2016, they only did  car and pedestrian routing . In the last few months, they have introduced cycle routing , so next year, I will try out their routes and check them against Strava. As for Google, I am never using their recommended bike routes again.

First sign for Beauvais.

Exactly a week earlier, I had passed a sign saying 425 km to Paris or about 500 km to Beauvais. Now here, I was only 21 km from Beauvais and by the time I got to the campsite actually about 15 km from the airport at Beauvais.

Camping de la Trye in Bresles.

After over 400 km on one gear, it was great to finally make it to the nearest campsite to Beauvais airport. Unfortunately, I was too late arriving to see the end of the first mountain stage in the Pyrenees which just like last year was won by Chris Froome. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had arrived earlier as my computer wasn’t able to pick up any TV stations. The following day, I re-installed the TV software on my computer and hey presto, was able to tune in a load of stations including France 2, which broadcasts the Tour de France in France. In fact, I hadn’t seen any TV since Iceland had beaten England 2-1 when I had been in Bourg Saint Maurice and had missed all the quarter finals and semi finals of Euro 2016. I had also missed the first week of the Tour de France but was able to watch on Sunday as Tom Dumoulin climbed through the rain and hailstones to win the stage to Arcalis in Andorra.

2016 Tour de France.

The plan was to stay here at Camping de la Trye on Sunday and then meet up with family on Monday at Beauvais airport. We then planned to hire a car for 10 days and drive to the Alps catching the Tour de France on the way. I was hoping to see the finish of Stage 15 at Culoz and the start of Stage 16 at Moirans-en-Montagne in the Jura mountains before returning to Beauvais for a flight back to Dublin on Weds the 20th July. Of course, it would have been much easier for me to meet up with my sister at either Lyon or Geneva airports but flights from Ireland to the south of France are expensive in the summer and my sister saved about €500 by flying to Beauvais. The car hire was €10 a day cheaper too and the savings would easily cover the cost of the extra fuel to drive all the way to the Alps and back. The only disappointment was that I would miss the last week of the Tour in the Alps but as it turned out that week was very wet, so in hindsight, our plan worked out very well and we had a great holiday.

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