The Valley of Heaven and Hell - Cycling in the Shadow of Marie-Antoinette

Travelling is my passion, but one we are unable to enjoy very often due to our menagerie. While there is generally a neighbour willing to feed a cat for a couple of weeks, leaving boisterous dogs, caprine escapalogists, a parrot that occasionally bites the hand that feeds her and a couple of cats needing routine medication is an entirely different matter.

When a couple of animal-lovers volunteered for the job if we would like to get away for a few weeks, we jumped at the chance. We decided to take the opportunity to cycle through the Marne valley, an area of which little is written, which astonishes me because apart from linking Paris to the vineyards and producers of champagne, it is a haven of peace and a cyclist's paradise. (Not that I'm a cyclist, I hasten to add, as anybody reading the book will quickly realise.)

Starting from Versailles, we cycled through Paris (I write nonchalantly, as if it wasn't the most terrifying experience of my life), and followed the southern side of the Marne via canals and riverside paths, stopping at small towns like delightful Meaux, home of the world's best Brie. We drank champagne in its spiritual home of Epernay, and meandered back to Paris through hillsides and valleys, fields and forests, perpetual homes to the ghosts of war.

Mostly we camped and ate strange makeshift meals. Occasionally we stayed in hotels of slightly dubious repute, and once in a while enjoyed gourmet meals. It was through the Marne valley that Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI made their frantic escape attempt from the Revolution, and back through the valley they returned to face their deaths. Our journey neatly traced their story from their political mating at Versailles, to their forcible removal to Paris and their final days steps to the scaffold.

I hope that The Valley of Heaven and Hell will inspire people to visit this historic and beautiful part of France that has so far escaped the march of time to retain an unspoilt olde-worlde charm.

"As someone who enjoys reading about travel on foot or bicycle I can say its as good as any I've read and is a massively entertaining and satisfying read." 

"Blends historical, cultural and geographical fact with an hilarious account of a very modern expedition"

"History, humor and the best of travel writing all in one"

"When it's funny it's laugh-out-loud funny, and when it's sad it is heart-breaking."

"This is the fourth book I have read written by Susie Kelly. I have enjoyed them all but this one I consider the best."

"Thank you Susie - The Valley of Heaven and Hell had all the unique skill and humour I found in all your previous books and was well worth the wait!!!! You blend amazing and totally appropriate historical fact, brilliant human insights into the people you meet en route (and yourself and Terry!) and conjure up truly vivid images of the landscape through which you pass. An absolute JOY to read."

 "The book is a wonderful combination of travelogue, funny anecdotes with the added bonus of weaving throughout an easily digestible history lesson."

Kindle version available for immediate download from   and   

Paperback available from and

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. This sounds lovely. I always enjoy reading about these books about traveling. Specially if they are about historical France.

  2. Thank you! Travelling in France is my passion, and there is history in every tiny crack and crevice. You can't go very far without discovering some fascinating event from the past. :D

  3. Dear Susie I found your book Best Food Forward (in Dutch) in my e-reader and I'ld like to let you know that I enjoy reading it very much! thank you, I 'll try to find your other books too . X Marga de Wit Holland and partially living in Portugal.

  4. Hello Marga, so glad that you enjoyed Best Foot Forward. I hope you will enjoy my other books too.

    All best wishes