The Valley Of Heaven And Hell: Cycling In The Shadow Of Marie Antoinette
by SUSIE KELLY
A quirky, hilarious and endearing mix of personal travel and a cycling adventure through the most turbulent and dramatic period of French history following Marie Antonette's failed escape from the guillotine.
Travel with Susie as she wobbles on her bike through Paris and Versailles, the battlefields of World War 1, the Champagne region and more.
In this unique travel memoir the reader can follow the author’s journey online through links to the websites of hotels, campsites, gardens, restaurants, historical places of interest, and even songs, that Susie encounters along her way.
In 3 weeks Susie and Terry cycle 500 miles in the little-explored Champagne region of northern France, dining sometimes in luxury and often on weird makeshift meals in their tent. Along the way there are traumas, epiphanies, occasional matrimonial disagreements and the odd glass of champagne. Keeping up appearances amongst the petite, chic French at some of Susie’s more luxurious stops creates some serious fashion moments, tempered, as always, by Susie’s good humor and resilience.
Alongside her energetic and resourceful husband (when he’s not zooming on ahead), Susie follows the identical route taken by Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI when they tried to escape from the Revolution, and their journey back to their executions. After a hair-raising journey through Paris that nearly ends in her own execution by traffic, Susie finds an area of calm waterways and tranquil countryside bursting with history. Idyllic territory for cyclists. Her route takes her from Versailles to the vineyards and champagne cellars of Epernay and Reims then through the Marne valley, the scene of unimaginable horror and devastation during World War 1.
Susie has already walked across France 900km solo from La Rochelle to Geneva (Best Foot Forward) and driven the entire circumference of France (Travels With Tinkerbelle), but cyclist she is not. By suggesting an electric bicycle to get her through the worst of the uphill slogs, her husband persuades her that a cycling holiday travelling on 2 wheels is by far the best way to see the virtually undocumented part of France they plan to explore. And so their cycling holiday begins, and, with not a few mishaps and misgivings, it turns out.
- Blackbird Digital Books, February 2015
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