Once again Team Davies have dusted off the touring bikes and on the road again, a little older and wiser, well supposedly so, but this didn’t prevent the first hiccup of the trip. We had decided to spend three weeks of the summer holidays travelling from Dunkirk into Belgium and possibly heading down to Luxembourg. We planned to catch the ferry from Dover, unfortunately a short stop at the service station just before Dover turned into a mini disaster! The height restriction barrier went totally unnoticed as we looked for a space resulting in all the bikes, roof rack and roof bars being removed from the top of the car!! We couldn’t believe it! What a start to the trip, a pile of crumpled bikes in a service station with no way to attach them back on the car. But sometimes luck shows up in a funny way, ours was a taxi van driver. Having finished his shift he was just stopping for a coffee but kindly took our bikes to the ferry! We had missed our original ferry but luckily we were able to use our tickets for the next one!
Unbelievably on the ferry! Russ’ and my bikes luckily had only suffered a few dents but Grampy Malc’s was not looking so good, a broken handle bar and buckled back wheel.
Pondering what to do with the bike! In the end due to public holidays and closed bike shops we temporarily fixed the handle bar with a few hazel sticks and duck tape and the buckled wheel wobbled its way into Belgium! Unbelievable the bike stayed like this for the rest of the trip.
Impressed by the graffiti!
Belgium! At last on our way and on our first of many canal paths. The cycle paths in Belgium are brilliant, at first it felt like there was almost too many. We couldn’t work out which one we were meant to be on and the numbers were always changing, then we realised that the junctions are numbered not the routes. In fact it is a giant dot to dot across the whole country, you just cycle from one point to the next!
Taking over the town square of Veurne, which lived up to its reputation of being one of the prettiest towns and most persevered squares in Belgium.
What a difference a year makes, Mia was so much more confident on her bike, last year she took a bit of persuading to ride on her own this year she was constantly asking too.
The all important rewards, and a good chance for Pippi to burn off her energy!
Powerful Beach art, part of the Beaufort Sculpture park spanning the Belgium coast. This piece by Kader Attia, Holy Land, symbolise the struggle of refugees trying to reach a better place and the promise of a better life but sadly so many losing their lives at sea.
A windy coast but luckily a tail wind for us!
Beautiful Bruges, very touristy but you can see why, Ornate buildings…
We had a really good time, whizzing along the streets and cycle paths until..
we locked our bikes up and then discovered our lock was broken and couldn’t be unlocked! Luckily some friendly Policemen with a bolt cutters came to our rescue!
More sculptures. A huge whale highlighting the pollution of our oceans…
Made completely of plastic waste!
We took the canal paths all the way from Bruges to Ghent, perfect for family cycling through a mixture of lovely countryside and…
…also along the more industrial side.
Werregarenstraatje or Graffiti Alley!
Along with great cycle paths it’s easy to find a place to park your bike in Belgium especially in these underground bike parks. Free and with air to pump up your tyres!
Camplife. Although we had a few mishaps the weather was definitely on our side with only one day of rain!
and the biggest belgium waffle!
Back onto the canals this time the Albert canal, probably our least favourite one, impressive in its size but relatively boring to cycle along and we soon learnt the meaning of ‘fietsen omleiding’ – diversion for bikes! With lots of detours from the cycle path where the path was being dug up or bridges repaired. Making a long day even longer!
Picnic spot on the Albert canal.
and a bit of horse riding!
The reward to a long day on the canal beautiful lakeside camping by Laambeek lake near Bolderberg.
Last day on the Albert canal…
and into Holland! Peaceful camping just outside of Maastricht. Although there are no physical borders to cross it is funny how you know you are in a different country, even going to the supermarket is fun finding different things!
We weren’t in Holland for long before we crossed into Germany and onto Aachen the start of the Vennbahn. We had been told about this cycle track in a campsite, the Vennbahn an old railway first opened on the 30th of June 1885 to carry coal and it is now one of Europe’s longest converted bike trails. 125km starting in Germany through Belgium and into Luxembourg.
It is a perfect cycle route for families, easy riding and lovely scenery.
Perfect picnic spots
and the Ritz of bug hotels!
Monschau, hidden in the hills of the North Eifel, a definite highlight just off of the Vennbahn and well worth the 3km climb back up to the cycle track!
Picture postcard views of houses little changed in 300 years, with narrow streets leading away from the river and up to the castle which dates back to the 13th century.
Lovely hiker biker camping by Monschau.
Heading towards St. Vith the trail leaves the forest and rolls through farm land and little villages.
Luxembourg! Although we had left the peace and quiet of the Vennbahn the cycling in Luxembourg was great, smooth roads with lovely descents through the forests into little towns like…
Lovely roads through the hills and forests..
and alongside beautiful clear lakes.
Luxembourg city. We ended up taking a day off the bikes and caught the train into the city. It was well worth it, a beautiful capital city with its huge rock fortifications, churches, palaces and cathedral.
“do I have to walk any further?” !
We missed the sign on the way into Luxembourg but a chance for a picture on the way out!
Originally when we looked at cycling to Luxembourg I thought we would mainly follow the Euro Velo 5 route in fact this was the only time we were on it and here we were just crossing over it!
Not the most scenic of picnic spots the Belgium/Luxembourg border, but a rare picture of all of us! (photo credit Paul from New Zealand who we met with and his wife Jeanette along the Vennbahn )
Holidays are hard work!! With ours nearly over we caught the train back up to northern Belgium, to Ypers and spent a couple of days cycling back to the coast to catch the ferry.
The Menin gate. British war memorial, inscribed with 54,896 names of missing soldiers it is hard to understand the huge loss of life during the 1st World War and seeing this certainly reminded us how lucky we are. Every evening at 8pm the Last Post is played under this huge archway and it is definitely moving to listen to.
Sobering sights, one of so many cemeteries. Tyne Cot Cemetery 11,965 graves of which 8,369 are unnamed and a memorial wall engraved with a further 35 000 names of missing soldiers that could not fit on the Menin gate.
We left Ypres in pouring rain but luckily not everyones spirits were dampened!
The pirate has lost her ship!
And back to the coast and luckily the sunshine.
This little super star impressed us so much 532 miles, and when she wasn’t pedalling on her own she was helping to power me up the hills or chatting away and keeping me company! .
This one was brilliant as well, although this will probably be her last trip in the trailer she still napped and sang and kept us entertained from her back seat!
A bit of well deserved beach time…
Once again the superstars that made the trip…
and Pippi Willow.
Homeward bound! But we are already thinking of where next….