After Toulouse, we took the train north and headed for the Ardennes with Belgium and the Netherlands to follow. Once we hit Paris again the temperature plummeted and we were once again battling rain and wind with intermittent very hot days of 30 degrees plus. I have been staggered how changeable the weather is from day to day. I really don’t remember it being like this …
Before we set of up the Muse river, we stopped in Reims in the Champagne region to celebrate my birthday … it was a big one and I figured that it was best to go to the source … that way there was no danger of running out of champagne! On the way to Reims we met a man who helped us with directions and we got chatting … as you do. It turned out that his birthday was a couple of days after mine AND he owned a champagne house – so he invited us back to his house to drink a few glasses of his own champagne accompanied by a few nibbles! It was a very lovely ‘life moment’ … if you know what I mean. Apparently, he leaves all the hard work to his sons nowadays and just drinks the stuff … now that’s a retirement you could get used to!
Then the Ardennes. It had great mountains and lots of little villages nestled along the river … it was very picturesque. As we got further in to Belgium, it flattened and the rain started. Apparently, it always rains in Belgium. And it just kept coming. We holed up at a camp site where the owner gave us a heated cabin for the price of a tent pitch as the camp ground was slowly being submerged. We dried out only to get drowned again the next day … and on it went.
HOWEVER, the cycling infrastructure just got better and better. The cycle paths are very wide and as smooth as a babies bottom here … quite often a two-way cycle path is the same width as the road! The very worst cycle path here is far superior to anything I have seen in Auckland and they are beautifully maintained … no broken glass, tree roots, badly placed sign posts and dead-ends on these puppies!
We went through Houten on the way to Utrecht. I blogged about this place on one of my very early posts on this website and I just couldn’t pass up the chance to see it in the flesh. It is a VERY cycle-friendly town and bicycles have priority over cars. It was absolutely surreal … when we saw a car, which was rare, it just gave way to us. It was such a buzz (you probably have to be an Antipodean cyclist to fully understand the joy of this). In Auckland motorists are more likely to speed up to scare the bejeebers out of you than they are to give way.
We are now in Utrecht and again the cycling is amazing here … everybody cycles. The street outside our apartment in Utrecht is a busy central city road, much like the road outside our apartment in Auckland. BUT … it is quiet and peaceful … with the windows open all you can here are peoples voices. Why? Because the heavy ‘traffic’ is people on bicycles not in cars. The number of people traveling along the road outside must far exceed the numbers on our road at home because our car traffic is usually jammed and stationary but here the cars are few and far between and bicycles are king.
Downsides? I’m not that keen on the bread in Belgium or the Netherlands as it is all quite heavy and I am pining for French bread and jam. The food is also quite salty/sweet, which isn’t really to my taste buds but this may also be because we have absolutely no idea what we are buying or ordering. For all I know, I could actually be ordering soup with extra sugar.
On the home front, the Husband has grown a beard and has had his ear pierced … Daughters No. 1 & 2 are of course horrified but I think it’s best he gets it out of his system on his OE. We can always tidy him up before we return … like the ‘big reveal’ on those American reality TV programmes. The beard also keeps him quietly amused for hours with a new research topic … should he be aiming for a Hollywoodian or a balbo? And should I be worried that my Husband is spending large amounts of time looking at bearded men on the internet and checking them out on the streets?
Due to the problems with my bike computer, we bought new bike computers in Reims. The Husband was adamant during trip preparation that he would use the mobile for navigation and that my idea of using maps, a compass and a bike computer was ridiculously outmoded. I had my doubts about the Husband’s plans based on ‘ridiculous’ ideas such as battery life, cell coverage, and mobile data cost limitations. Obviously (because I am always right), my concerns about ‘mobile’ navigation proved to be accurate and we have used the ‘outmoded’ equipment for navigation through pretty much all of the 2000 kms so far. The Husband has not actually acknowledged my correctness in this matter out loud (I have, of course) but when I went to buy a new wired computer, he also wanted one.
The Husband is an obsessive researcher and more into numbers than I, so instead of simply selecting the wheel size in the menu as I did on the original computer, he found the exact details for the tyre size on Sheldon Brown’s website and plugged that number into both of the new computers. We now had the original and the new computer running together and it seems that I must again make an adjustment to the ODO (the total number of kilometres) for the Trip as I have been under recording the kms by 7.5% (based on an average from 10 days readings, I’m told). Luckily the new computer has the ability to add in a number of kms as a starting point so that will make it very easy to make the change.
It also has the temperature displayed, which I am very excited about and a whole bunch of other stuff that keeps the Husband amused. I now know, for instance that a rainy day in Holland in the SUMMER is as miserable and cold as the same rainy day in WINTER in New Zealand. I can also tell you that a rainy day of 13 degrees in the Netherlands can be followed the next day by a scorcher of over 30 degrees!
New format for the stats … I’ve gone all shorthand so ‘D’ = distance & ’T’ = time
27th June – Toulouse to Paris – By train
31st June Paris to Bourg et Comin: D 38Km / T 2:42 mins
(Paris to Soissons by train then cycling to Borg et Comin)
1st July Bourg et Comin to Reims: D 46Km / T 3:36 mins
3rd July Reims to Charleville Meziers: By train
4th July Charleville Meziers to Fumay: D 61.5Km / T 4:10 mins
5th July Fumay to Profondeville: D 78Km / T 5:20 mins
6th July Profondeville to Tourinnes: D 63.5Km / T 4:03 mins
7th July Tourinnes to Hulshout: D 64Km / T 4:26 mins
9th July Hulshout to Chaam: D 74.5Km / T 5:41 mins
10th July Chaam to Andel: D 58.5Km / T 4:12 mins
11th July Andel to Utrecht: D 66Km / T 4:45 mins
Total ‘Trip’ distance so far: 2141km
Check out the map