French Cycling Saunter – July 2022

Day 9

Frankly cycling in Belgium or Holland is not much fun; I view passage through these countries as a way of getting home and not really a holiday. Why? Mainly because it’s ‘cycling friendly’. So to explain. The laws are that you should use cycle paths. The paths are copious but indirect, full of junctions, sometimes brick rather than smooth asphalt and a constant drain of my patience trying to use them. Even the paths beside the Belgian and Dutch canals, as they start to open up and become wider, are dreary with nothing to see.

Shortly after leaving Visé I was back along the river but now in Holland and in Maastricht. (There are no border signs denoting countries.) For a short while I got lost. I have to say my Garmin navigating device has been dreadful to use on this trip and has a software problem not allowing me to search specific addresses. Anyway as I’m trying to fathom out a route I come to a mini roundabout and stray off the designated cycle path onto the road. Immediately a bloke in a small car is on the horn. I explode and go mental, gesticulating. The said motoring hero winds down his window for a probable frank discussion and I shout (!) at him ‘I’m a tourist, I made a mistake!’ In fairness he quickly apologises (twice) and even I chuck in a ‘sorry’.

British bomber crash memorial
Probably little more than kids in age. ‘Lest We Forget’

I rode beside the canals all day. Here there are working barges and industrial units on the banks.

I listen to the radio intermittently, it’s all about the women’s semi final Euro win. It becomes repetitive on every channel and typically the coverage degenerates into exploring the FA’s banning of women back in the day. Not a piece of history to be proud of, obviously, but if an ‘angle’ of blame or misery can be found it’ll be used.

I’ve got all their LP’s

The first campsite I found was large and more like a holiday park. Reception was shut but a kindly passing resident tried to help me by ringing up the management. (Understanding signage is hard as understandably it’s all in Dutch but ironically everyone speaks English.) For no apparent reason, on this massive site, he told her ‘no’. So I rode on to near Breda and in a small town/suburb called Ulvenhout I found a great campsite with a bench, yippee!

The fee to stay was €10 but I needed an extra €0.50 coin to get hot water in the shower. Here I met a French lady, similar vintage to me, who’d started riding from Calais and was planning to get to Prague over three months. She did 50 kilometres a day, heaven knows how she spends her time. To add to the Gallic ambience there was a French couple next to me who had a tent but took it down to sleep in bivouacs, at 9pm, to go to sleep! Crazee!

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