After driving up to Dover, and staying overnight, we took an early ferry to Calais only with our bikes, passports and panniers. Stopping every hour or 2 for a snack, coffee, lunch or beer, we made it to Bruges, Belgium. The excitement of cycling in a different country, and smooth Belgium roads, resulted in a quick pace across the two countries. After a night stay in a typical Bruges Hostel, we headed out to find breakfast in a quaint bakery beside the canal before jumping the boarder on a ferry. With the gentle tail wind we flew from island to island up the Netherlands coast, past windmills and kite surfing competitions into Rotterdam. A night in Rotterdam seeing the sights and the beers on offer, in a much nicer hotel, compared to the Bruges hostel, ended with fireworks celebrating an anniversary of their rave nights. We didn’t think attending the all night rave was a good idea with a 90 mile ride planned for the next day so we got some much needed sleep.
An early start began with a rainy breakfast on the outskirts of Rotterdam with other cyclists and their weekly shop. After riding through a few tunnels we got into rural Holland and over some impressive bridges with a Zoom (name of the city) and into Antwerp. Sore knees and 15 MPH head winds led to an early end to the day’s ride and onto a train to Ghent. We used the early finish to explore Castles and Canals spending the night with the nuns of a monastery, which was partly converted into a hotel (best hotel of the trip).
Overnight the weather forecast was looking even worse for the 4th, and final, day’s ride. We knew it was going to be close to 90miles, which some struggled to complete on the 3rd day, so an alternative route was quickly planned. Riding out of Ghent, towards the awaiting train, there was a light breeze and sunglasses. A 25 minute train ride saved 40 miles, though our hopes of catch an earlier ferry back to Dover were short lived when stepping off the train, at the coast, where rain coats were quickly put on. The rain passed after around 2 hours of riding however the wind began to increase, directly from the ferry’s direction. All we could think of was getting onto the ferry and removing the thought of the 25 MPH crosswinds. It became easier as we approach small villages as they provided shelter from the wind, coffee stops and gentle encouragement from one of the riders along the lines of “Suck it up princess” to see us through. We later had a chuckle over this sudden outburst and agreed it was the needed words to psych us up. Thinking that we made it to Calais in time to catch the intended ferry, we were unable to board after being told we were 5 minutes late for it. This gave us a chance to lay out bikes down amongst the cars lining up for the boat, and soak up the last of the French sun.
In summary 4 days, 3 countries, 300 miles and 0 punctures.
If anyone is keen on joining us on the next European adventure, another one is on the drawing board for the North West region of France this summer. Talk to someone from the club for more information.