Monday, 26 May 2014

Rocketing westward

Guud morneeng, ladies and gentleman, I am Claude, your train managaire... And so ends my lightning tour (OK, very slow lightning tour) of Belgium by bike. What was particularly surprising to me was how difficult it was. I thought, eh, one kind of difficult day of hills then two easy peasy days of flat. 83 mi, 69 mi, 75 mi. Hah. I wasn't counting on having the wind against me or having a strong crosswind every day, especially the last day, nor had I properly remembered the soul destroying nature of Belgium's crappy concrete roads, cobbled roads or mandatory bumpy brick bike paths. Still though, with the exception of the cobbled roads, one of which I had to walk to avoid killing my skinny wheels, the trick is really just to slow down and accept that it is going to take a long time. That can be a hard proposition. Much as I bitch about the shitty nature of British roads (and drivers) there is actually a lot more freedom to ride like a bat out of hell. That said, in Belgium I was passed by a number of very fast groups of road cyclists and saw one road race. Where the the roads are good, they are very, very good, which is more than I could ever say of Britain and with the exception of Brussels, which seems to be a bit like cycling through Tijuana, the drivers are pretty universally courteous. It probably helps that a lot more people cycle... One of the things I love about cycling across Belgium is the complete hodgepodge of building styles. There seems to be a complete lack of any planning consistency. Sure, put your castle next to my supermodern house next to that barn next to a faux chalet attached to a brick Victorian house with a windmill in the front garden. Anyway, I was very glad to get to Brussels, quite late, as I was about to fall over by that point. Off course, I was a bit disappointed to not be cycling the next day. I did have a lovely relaxing day with Alex though. Went with him to vote (compulsory, automated and tied to his ID) then did the gym, had a very yummy lunch, coffee and chat while watching passersby. Spent a slightly surreal evening watching Flemish election results, which a little bit like watching very Dutch looking people speaking Glaswegian after suffering a stroke that affected my ability to comprehend language. So, a good time! And now I'm heading back west on a delayed Eurostar full of irritating Australian tourists that don't seem to comprehend the idea of an "indoor voice". Ah, back to Britain!

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