A crack in our plans

We docked at Harwich at 6:15 and if our plans were going as they should we’d probably be riding through Colchester by now. Unfortunately, Mike discovered a small crack in his titanium bicycle frame a few days ago and so we’ve changed track and caught the train into London so that we can take his bike back to Condor Cycles in Gray’s Inns Road. Hopefully, they’ll sort it, although it will probably be eye-wateringly expensive and take some time – so another train later back to Bristol beckons.

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On a more positive note, our unexpected detour means we can go and see Mike’s mum Gwen in Potters Bar, she’s not to well at the moment so it will be good to see her. We also get a second breakfast in Look Mum No Hands – a fab cyclists’ café in the east end. They have a lot of Tour de France themed things going on right now, including TDF themed mugs and macaroons. If I can persuade Mike (who thinks that we have far too much stuff), the mugs could be coming to a kitchen cupboard near us soon, (but as you can see from this video he may take some persuasion!)

The Sonneveld House

After visiting the Netherlands Institute of Architecture yesterday we visited the Sonneveld House Museum.

If you like modern architecture and are in Rotterdam, then you should definitely pay this place a visit. When built in 1933 for Albertus Sonneveld and his family it was the height of modernity, every room had a telephone and integrated music system that played music from one room across the house. Here are a few photos to give you a taste.

Goodbye is always the hardest part

So there we have it; our cycling holiday is nearly over. Fourteen glorious days in the saddle through England, Netherlands, Belgium and France -more amazingly, (everyone in Britain may want to turn away now), only one rain storm! Our final day is in Rotterdam before we catch the overnight ferry from Hook of Holland tonight. We’re visiting the Netherlands Institute of Architecture, there are some fab exhibitions and architects models (for those of us who like buildings), and the café isn’t bad either! I particularly liked the display about Olympic cities, as I have a very particular OCD for these. Across the road is the Sonneveld House Museum, a renovated 1930s gem, Then it’s one last visit to the Tour Café to watch today’s stage finish and it’s farewell Rotterdam, it’s been fun.

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Dikes to watch out for

When the North Sea floods your country, killing 1836 people, destroying 9% of farm land and damaging over 47,000 properties – as it did in 1953 in the Netherlands – then you’re going to do whatever you can to stop it happening again. The response of the Dutch government to the 1953 flood was to begin the Delta Works Programme; building dams, sluices, locks, dikes, levees, and storm surge barriers to cut off the North Sea from the large Dutch water inlets. The constructions are huge and mighty impressive and as this is the Netherlands, they also form part of a fantastic cycle route that goes right across the top of them. Fortunately, the sun shone and the wind blew us along most of the way (I wouldn’t be so keen cycling on then in a headwind or rain) so we got to Rotterdam in good time to be greeted by our Warm Showers hosts Emmy and Robert.

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Hup Hup Holland!

After our travels through Belgium, it is good to be finally back on Dutch soil. To be fair, the last Belgian stretch of the journey from Brugge was quite picturesque and not bad for cycling, (by Belgian standards). However, almost as soon as we crossed the border into the Netherlands, just before the town of Sluis, the cycle infrastructure and attitude of drivers to cyclists improved markedly. The next part of today’s route takes us to Breskens, where we’ll board a ferry over to Vlissingen, from there we follow the North Sea coast all the way to Rotterdam via three pretty impressive dikes and dams – expect a special ‘dyke blog update’ later!

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A taste of Britain (weather)

After ten days of no rain, (except a couple of spots in Newbury on day one) our summer holiday weather turned decidedly British yesterday. Our day wandering around Ghent had been sunny and increasingly humid so it wasn’t much of a surprise that as we departed and headed towards Brugge the sky was beginning to become darker and darker. About ten miles into our thirty mile journey, (the shortest one of the trip) the heavens opened. Riding in the rain is one thing, but riding in the midst of a ferocious thunder and lightening storm is quite another. It was at times quite scary, I found myself considering the odds of a cyclist being hit by lightening and (on a more positive thought) that if one was to be hit by lightening, being on a bike with rubber tyres was probably as good a place to be as any. By about 15 miles the sky were well and truly ‘raining on our parade’ with us having to dodge or ride through the vast puddles that were forming. Any semblance of waterproofing in my jacket was well and truly fading – but to be honest everything else was wet so having a dry top seemed a bit futile. As we arrived in Brugge the storm passed. Johan our Warm Showers host was waiting for us and soon warmed us up with coffee and a nice shower. After throwing our damp gear into the washing machine we headed into Brugge town for dinner, with Johan giving us a quick tour of some of the locations used in the film ‘In Brugge’. After dinner and a sample of the local beer (for me and Johan, Mike stuck with orange juice), we headed back to Johan’s house – alas in the rain again, but at least not so heavy this time. We’re cycling to Rotterdam today via the coast over some impressive dykes – so fingers crossed for a favourable tail wind!

Chop chop

It’s another warm day and the heat combined with long hair (well long for me) has finally got on top of me. We walked past a barber shop and I went in for a tidy up. I know it’s hard to tell from looking, but believe me it feels much cooler.

Art moving in mysterious ways

As if having a shrine to a painting of a sheep wasn’t enough of a homage to Damien Hirst the cathedral in Ghent is attempting to be uber cool and ‘get down with the kids’ by hosting a contemporary art show. I’m not sure that the video installation of the pigs in muck in the crypt or the mirror clad coffin were in particularly good taste, but I guess everyone has their own take on modern art.

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Things ewe have to see in Ghent

No trip to Ghent would be complete without a visit to see ‘The adoration of the mystic lamb’ in St Bavo’s cathedral (€4 each – a baa-gain). Painted by the van Eyck brothers it is considered ‘the absolute masterpiece of medieval painting’. Admittedly, it is very good. However, the hype surrounding the Mystic Lamb could be equally put down to a good campaign by the Flemish Lamb Marketing Board, (if indeed there is one). Anyway the Mystic Lamb is now ticked off the tourist to-do list, so we can go hunting for other farmyard animal and other tourist sights.

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