Tour de France here we come!

We’ve had a lovely couple of nights in Venlo with our fab hosts Wendy and Tim. It’s a bit sad we have to move on, but exciting to be heading for Maastrict today and then Liége this evening for the presentation of the Tour de France teams. I’ve had my gardening fun and it’s now Mike’s turn to have some cycling treats – lets hope Bradley and Cav don’t disappoint!

Floriade-tastic

Floriade certainly lived up to its name – a festival of flowers and horticulture. We got to the expo about lunchtime and stayed until the close at 8pm. We managed to see pretty much everything but were bushed by the end. Here are a few photos of my highlights. I’m off to bed now… to dream of flowers!

Bike bingo

To find our way to Floriade today we decided to follow the Dutch version (much better version) of the national cycle network. The knooppunt network (roughly translates as number point) consists of a whole series of numbered map points, each signed to the next nearest ones. So to get to a certain destination you simply work out which number knooppunts you need to pass through, follow those numbers and bingo, you’ll never get lost! To get from central venue (number 10) we followed (legs) number 11, (one click) number 6, 83 (I don’t think bingo numbers go that high, but if they did it could be ‘a fat knee – 83’) and finally number 1 (Kelly’s eye). As you’d expect in the Netherlands it was mainly segregated cycle route, beautifully signed and as you arrived at Floriade you’re greeted by beautiful wild flower verges and a secure staffed cycle park – a bit like the equivalent of winning a bingo line and a house all in one go!

The train to Venlo

The train to Venlo took about two hours – well it did when we finally managed to catch it. On our first attempt we discovered no bike are allowed between 4.30-6 peak time (it was 5.15), on our second attempt the train was too crowded, so we decided to wait for the next one; we finally caught the train at 6.48 arriving in Venlo just before 9pm. The numerous attempts meant we had extra time to enjoy the building work at Rotterdam Central. It’s going to be a beautiful station when it’s complete, we’ll have to pay a return visit to see it.

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We arrived at our Warm Showers host several hours later than we’d expected, but nevertheless Wendy, Tim and their daughter Hannah made us very welcome with a lovely vegan meal and good company. After a good night’s rest we’re going to spend today visiting Floriade – the once a decade Dutch horticultural expo.

Snow White and the, umm…

Now I know that the Dutch are pretty liberal. They’re well known for allowing cannabis to be smoked in cafés and certain areas of Amsterdam have a very explicit nature. However, even I was surprised to confronted by this sculpture of a 20 foot gnome carrying what appears to be a giant dildo. There must be a new Dutch version of Snow White as I don’t recall this one in the version I read!

Also a Rodin (no dildo)

The view from here

According to our carefully arranged plans we should be about half way to Venlo by now. Alas the ‘spoke gods’ had other plans, so instead we’re having a nice drink 112 meters up the Euromast. It’s a fab view, just not quite so fab if, like Mike, you’re a little bit queasy with heights. I should point out that it wasn’t even my idea to come up hear, it was his! A nice glass of orange juice seems to have calmed his nerves a bit, let’s just hope we get to the bottom in one piece.

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A video of the view from the ‘Euroscoop’ on top of the ‘Euromast’ Rotterdam http://t.co/lulrvR3

Tour Cafe

The silver lining to our mechanical malfunction is the discovery of Café Lungo, where they are having a ‘pop-up’ Tour Café – we could forget the rest of our holiday all together and just stay here!

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Spoke too soon #2

Well it turns out that the annoying squeak on my bike is being caused by three broken spokes on the rear wheel. This isn’t great news when you’re planning to cycle about 125 miles today! On a more positive note, at least we discovered this whilst in Rotterdam and not stranded in the middle of nowhere. The Tourist Office directed us to a nearby workshop, but unfortunately it won’t be fixed until 2pm, so cycling to Venlo has turned into a train journey. A quick trip to Rotterdam Central Station (currently being rebuilt – it looks like its going to be fab when it’s finished) and our tickets are purchased. Mike commented that he couldn’t imaging a Dutch person going to Bristol Temple Meads Station to ask for a ticket to somewhere like Leicester to be greeted by a member of staff fluent in Dutch. They would however be met with lots of cycle parking, a bit like this picture of the cycle park at Rotterdam Central – except this is just the overflow cycle park!

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Goede morgen Rotterdam

Or as we say in English, good morning Rotterdam. It looks like it’s going to be another nice cycling day as we head to our first destination – Venlo, which is on the Dutch/German border. We’re currently on the ferry but will be docking shortly, looking forward to cycling again in one of the most cycle-friendly countries in the world. If you haven’t tried it yet, I’d thoroughly recommend it.

Velo-come on board

There are quite a few cyclists on the overnight crossing today. Last time we travelled on this route there was us and a couple more, this time there must be over twenty. I think we win the prize for carrying the least luggage – one small pannier each. I like to take the idea of a Gok Wan compact capsule wardrobe to its limits – it’s amazing how many combinations you can get with a bit of clever accessorising.