The Bicycle Diaries (Day 10) – 10th October 2014 – Brussels to Shirehampton!

I’m a lottle bit behind writing this (today is the 13 November!) and not much to say really. Got the Eurostar back to London from Brussels, cycling back in London was scary compared to the cycling heaven that was the Netherlands. This was especially highlighted when I tried to find somewhere to lock my bike in Paddington Station while I waited for the train back to Bristol. The girl in the First Class lounge was downright rude and unhelpful when I asked for any information…

So what did I learn from this trip? Belgium and the Netherlands are great! I will definitely be back for more bike tours again. In the future I will try to allow myself at least 2 nights in each place though as I saw none of the Hague and Antwerp due to arriving late and being too tired to venture out. I will also bring my camping stuff in future it my option to wild camp will be available.

Being on the road again has made me want to travel again, the spontaneity of being on the road is something I relish So until next time, adieu!!

Alan

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The Bicycle Diaries (Day 9) – 9th October 2014 – Antwerp to Brussels

The riding was not too bad today as I followed the main road almost all the way from Antwerp to Brussels. It was still rainy though so I didn’t stop till I got to Brussels and then checked in the HI hostel.

Was back out by 1500 and explored more of Brussels. I followed a walking tour route on a free map and saw the EU Commission and the EU Parliament buildings.

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Stopped at the Place de Jourdan to have reputably the best frites in Brussels, they were still just chips though!

Had some drinks at the Place de Luxembourg and talked to a few Eurocrats on the table next to me which I was pretty excited about (lame I know!). The night I had a few drinks at the hostel but that was it. There were loads of French junior school kids staying and they were screeching away at the karaoke machine, definitely a unforgettable experience…

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The Bicycle Diaries (Day 8) – 8th October 2014 – Rotterdam to Antwerp

Today was a hard day!! Rain, wind, thunder and even hailstones!! The rain at times was so strong it was almost as painful as the hailstones as it pelted me as I rode along. Even putting on my helmet made little difference, I eventually gave up a sought shelter behind a parked transit van.

The wind was also really strong, reducing me to a crawl at times so really slowing me down. But I finally got to the hostel at 1830 after 8.5 in the saddle. It was funny arriving back into Belgium as I wasn’t entirely sure when it happened as there were no signs, it just happened! This is one of the great things about being part of Europe with it’s fluid borders, so different to my border experiences in the US, Nepal and the Argentina/Chile border!

The hostel was a bit annoying as I had to pay for 2 nights accommodation but the hostel was really nice (even had a beer vending machine!) and there were very friendly people staying. I chatted to a group of young New Zealanders (I knew they were from NZ as one of them was called ‘Tissa’), a pretty Australian and a French guy. Bought some beers and stayed in as I was tired a it was dark and wet, it was a bit of a shame I didn’t really get to see Antwerp at all…

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The Bicycle Diaries (Day 7) – 6th October 2014 – Rotterdam

Decided to stay in Rotterdam another day as I was enjoying it at the hostel. Today Tanti, Dablah (not the correct spelling but her name is a weird Irish spelling) got the boat to Kinderdijk to see lots of windmills (it’s pronounced Kinder’dyke’ but I had fun calling it Kinder’dick’!).

Got back and got a bit drunk. I talked to the 2 pretty Hungarian girls and helped out one with her cover letter applying for courses in English.IMG_7607 IMG_7608 IMG_7616

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The Bicycle Diaries (Day 6) – 5th Oct 2014 – Rotterdam

I’m staying in Rotterdam to explore some more, it’s the first time I’ve stayed anywhere this tour more than one night. It’s great to give myself the opportunity to get to more than a glancing look around. I just wandered around and got some food and beer from the Fenix Food Factory, a great space with quality, local vendors. It was well worth the walk there!

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Got back to the hostel and chatting to the people there for a while. About 11ish we went out, first to a park with a trampoline and then to Witte de Withstraat (a street with popular bars and restaurants) for a few drinks. The table next to us gave us their leftover wine, awful but free! On the way home we got some kapsalon, a Rotterdam speciality which is basically chips, kebab meat garlic sauce and salad (just to make it just a bit less artery clogging!).

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The Bicycle Diaries (Day 5) – 4th Oct 2014 – The Hague to Rotterdam

I had planned to go to Amsterdam today but realising I would be arriving at the weekend I couldn’t get any accommodation so I made the decision to go instead to Rotterdam. The old couple I met yesterday had sold it to me and my legs were extremely happy about my decision! It took only just over 2 hours cycling via Delft, a pretty little city, to get to Rotterdam. IMG_7576 I explored and ate lots of Rotterdam street food including broodje haring (freshly filleted herring and bread), mussels, bitterballen (a bit like Spanish croquettes) and some Indonesian saté sticks. IMG_7581 IMG_7591 I went to the new food market (Markthal) that had just opened that week, nice but it was so busy and expensive I left pronto. Architecturally interesting though. IMG_7598 IMG_7580 Rotterdam has some very interesting architecture, most famously the cube houses and the building that looks like a pencil. IMG_7583 IMG_7584 IMG_7595 I bought some beers and had a night in the hostel. Talked to the other guests, we tried to watch How to Train Your Dragon 2, we were streaming over a slow connection so it took forever, I gave up after 50 minutes into the movie. Shame as it had taken us about 4 hours to get that far! It’s alright though, we had beer to entertain us!

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The Bicycles Diaries (Day 4) – 3rd October 2014 – Bruges to The Hague

Blimey, today was long! Google Maps showed it as a 98 mile direct route but I ended up doing about 110-120 miles as I took the scenic route of the North Sea cycle route. I didn’t help that when I started at 0900 I went in the wrong direction… I headed west to the Belgian coastline as I wanted to see the sea and I finally got my first glimpse at around 1030, I planned the North Sea Route to be the major part of my tour.

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I then followed the North Sea Route and passed some great countryside and beautiful quiet beaches. I never knew that Belgium and the Netherlands both had such great beaches.

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From Belgium I got a quick ferry to the Netherlands and crossed across a series of islands connected by some cool bridges.

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Because I was following the North Sea Route it took me ages I kept taking diversions along the coasts and through woods rather than along the main road which was more direct and faster. I had stopped at around 1400 for some lunch and met some nice Germans. Apparently there was a lot of holidaying Germans arriving today and it was a national holiday to commemorate German Reunification. For lunch I had fish and chips which I thought was quite ironic for my first Dutch meal!

When I checked my progress at around 1600 I was horrified to see I was only just over halfway, this was after 7 hours! I then decided to abandon the North Sea Route and take the direct route. I still did’t get to the hostel until 2330, super knackered and with a painful left knee. After it got dark I kept getting hopelessly lost as I kept missing the road signs…

However it did have it’s advantages as I saw some beautiful things including an amazing sunset.

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Also as I was awaiting a ferry to Maassluis at 2000 I met an elderly couple that told me about firework display that would happen that night to celebrate the town’s 400th anniversary. I hung about when I got to Maassluis to watch the fireworks and there was an amazing atmosphere as the whole town was out, drinking and having fun. After the fireworks all the boats honked their horns for ages and everyone cheered.

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I wish I could’ve stayed there that night but I had to continue to the Hague as I had already booked my accommodation. It really was a shame as the town was so beautiful lit up and with such a happy, party atmosphere.

I made it to my hostel just the owner was shutting up reception, he was a bit angry t me for being so late but very understanding. I met some fun guys at the hostel who very generously gave me some beers, they were definitely needed! We got to bed at around 0200, had a great shower before nodding off straight to sleep!

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