Friday, 23 May 2014

Blobbing in Bruges

So, in a slightly surreal twist, I'm listening to some Southern girl twanging away on a Flemish language station blaring from across the street. I'm in the very spacious attic room, on a king bed, in a tiny b&b I seem to be sharing with a group of Parisians. Today was day two of my three day ride from London to Brussels. 83 miles of hills, rain, headwind and traffic yesterday, 68 miles of flatland, one 9 mile dead end and hiding out from monsoon rain today. I think I got here just as my resolve crapped out. Yesterday was just relentless. It really is gorgeous cycling to Dover, but it is insanely hilly and full of annoying southeast England drivers on tiny roads. I sat out one thunderstorm only to be utterly and completely drenched as I reached Dover with the setting sun. It did make for an impressive arrival at the waterfront, but it would have been a little more impressive were I not shivering. The hotel was right on the water. Nice enough, with, well, a ferry crowd. There were a lot of people at breakfast at 630 this morning. The ferry, that's always an adventure. Weaving through the labrynthine loading area, playing dodgem with Polish truck drivers. The bikes all get on first, ahead of the mass of cars and trucks. It's kind of a bizarre experience pedalling into the cavernous and empty car deck, this time with two packs of cyclists visiting war sites across Belgium. One of them I kept seeing all day today. They were faster than me, but I had a Garmin. The ferry ride itself is quite relaxing, 2 hours. The crowd is an odd mix off Eastern European truckers, families with small children and the sort of people that would take Greyhound. Little chance of drowning in that gene pool. It's a bit of a Kodak moment as the ferry pulls out of Dover, white cliffs bright in the morning sun. It's not quite as glamorous when the ferry pulls into Mordor, I mean, France. For one, it's dead flat, with scrubby dunes and 10 miles of flame belching refineries, brick plants, shipyards and general industrial horror before the marginal improvement that is Dunkirk. It really is the ass end of France. Still though, the roads are smooth, which is more than one could say of England. Thinking I was being clever, I took the coast road up the dunes, only to discover a very stubborn automatic drawbridge that wasn't going to respond to my bike. Given that I hadn't seen another car for about half an hour, there wasn't much choice but to schlep back 4.5 miles against the wind and head inland. Anyway, heading northeast again, I think I was cruised in the dunes by a dogwalker when I stopped to pee, but he was French, so you never know. Then on to Belgium, past a bunch of burly looking French customs agents waiting to pick off brown people at the border. I'm not sure, but that area seems to be like Belgium's Florida, with an endless line of atrociously ugly condos fronting the sea, backed by farmland dotted with small towns and churches. Quite the contrast to France. I had to sit out two thunderstorms. Nothing quite says suck like cycling across a flat plain in a heavy thunderstorm. Eventually, I turned inland from the coast, finally making it onto a small, sensible road. It is always nice cycling out of the UK, where they actually put in sensible infrastructure. I got to Bruges just as I was about to get delirious and possibly even crabby. Lots of money and excessive cuteness here. And a very expensive and seriously delicious dinner, made possible by a sudden downpour. Funny how that works. Walked around Bruges some after and resolved to come back. It is very hard to imagine the pleasant farmland around here as the final resting place for millions. Suppose that's why it's important. Anyway, must go to bed before brain falls out. More tomorrow!

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