Just Popping Out for Pizza… the statistics

So the usual final roundup….

What’s the verdict?

Am still trying to digest this one, (hehe)… it has had some great highs, but incredible lows… mostly I think the bike I chose to take ultimately spoiled the tour, which is a shame.   However, I do acknowledge that I am extremely lucky to be able to ‘live the dream’.

and here is the usual breakdown:

Countries Visited

Spain

Sardinia

Italy x 2

San Marino

Croatia

Slovenia x 2

Austria x 2

Czech Republic

Germany

Netherlands

Belgium

France

UK x 2

Total distance travelled – 4271 miles

Costs:

Ferries – £ 552.87 (including cabin upgrade to Santander and cancellation Bari to Durres, Albania)

Other travel – Eurotunnel – £74

Bike Insurance – My standard Bike Insurance covered me for all the countries I visited, I was planning to add insurance IF I did go to the Stans.  I took out special holiday insurance which covered me for motorcycling and off-roading in all the countries I might visit this cost £176.51 for single trip cover

Accommodation – Total cost €915  average €28.60 per night

Food – Don’t know, didn’t keep track of it

Fuel – mostly paid cash… a full tank was around €10 so roughly €15 per day

Toll Roads – Only one.. €10.50

Shopping – myob still

Best ride

Plökenpaß, Italy to Austria closely followed by Sardinia.. almost everywhere, but especially the west coast road.

Worst ride

Every day was a trial… just dealing with the bike issues, but the riding itself was fantastic, can’t fault the bike on that.  I can’t say there was any particular road or place that stands out as awful on this trip…. leaving the port in Sardinia was certainly the worst road surface.

Best Stay

I must mention more than one… definitely all of these are highly recommended

Casa Vera – Allué, Spain – https://www.pescavera.com/en-au/home

Guest House Le Gemelle – Luras, Sardinia – http://www.legemelleluras.it/en/

B&B Venice – Venice, Italy – http://www.bedandbreakfastvenice.it

Haus Blatthofer, Sankt Lorenzen im Lesachtal, Austria – http://www.blatthofer.com

Worst Stay

Studio Apartment Ivona – Karlovac, Croatia – horrible area, 11 flights of stairs!

and a special mention for Hotel Silvana – San Marino.. only because of Mr Grumps

Favourite Place Visited

Again have to mention a few places…

Sardinia

San Marino

KRKA National Park, Croatia

Sea Organ – Zadar, Croatia

Slovenia, especially Lake Bled

Venice especially Burano

Tyrol, Austria

 

Least Favourite Place Visited

Again, finding it hard to decide… not that there were many, just nothing really stands out as awful.  I would say probably Czechia, but I really wasn’t there long and didn’t go to Prague or any other key places so feels a bit unfair.

 

What I Would Do Again

Definitely visit Sardinia, Slovenia and the Tyrol

 

What I Wouldn’t Do Again

Go on the Himalayan!

 

What to Remember for the Next Trip

DON’T bloody overpack!!!!

Check the bike fully laden at least a day BEFORE leaving and make any adjustments.

 

 

 

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Wibble, Wobble….

Day 34 – 2nd August 2020 – Lovendegem Belgium to London via Calais

I’m up and at em this morning… even though it is less than 2 hours to Calais I really don’t want to be late.  I have checked out my booking for the tunnel and see that I must complete a form before I will be allowed to enter the UK.  This is a covid tracking form that must be completed by everyone before entering the UK.  It is very long; it asks questions about any previous names I might have had, dates of entry and exit for each country visited in the last 2 weeks, how long will I stay in the UK and where… maybe it’s just me, but it feels like more than just health tracking.

I parked Minnie at the front of the main building last night so as I am going that way into the breakfast area I take all my bags and load up the bike first.  In for brekkie and am all alone.  It seems I’m the only guest, although I did hear other people last evening.  I help myself to breakfast; Kurt doesn’t make an appearance so I just tidy up and get the last of my belongings before leaving my keys in reception.

I totally recommend this place, it is really great and Kurt was very nice.

De Liedjestoren Bed and Breakfast

I decide to take the fast roads, but no tolls, to Calais… I do still manage to capture a couple of interesting things on the way…

and… how now brown cow….

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staring at me…. I told you.. scary.

Eventually, however, I am on the motorway… and in France.

At one point it starts to rain, not too bad and I already have my waterproof trousers on so don’t bother stopping to put the liner in my jacket.

I am riding along in the middle lane and suddenly there is a black tar line right in the middle that catches my front wheel…. ooooo wobble, wobble… no don’t like that!  My heart is in my mouth and then I do it a-bloody-gain….. stop it!  That was blooming scary I can tell you, I mean wobbling on a motorcycle at 75mph in the rain is no joke.  I manage to avoid the tar snake for the next few miles and then it disappears.. good.

A few miles further on and there is a rut in the road… it looks like a vehicle has dragged something along that has cut a groove into the road… guess what.. yep in to it I go.. wobble wobble again….. but am ok, it is only very brief thank goodness.

Very soon I arrive at Calais and the Eurotunnel terminal.  I check in and go through passport control.  I am told to wait in lane 9, which is a bit odd as all the other bikes and cars are in lanes 1, 2 and 3… I am here on my own.  I see a young chap start to make his way over to me.. ok so I’m in the wrong place I think.. yes, he asks me if I can turn around.. well, not really there isn’t enough room so he talks on his squawk box and tells me I can stay there, they have made a mistake telling me lane 9… oh good it wasn’t me then.

The other lanes are called forward and then it is my turn…. I manage to catch up with the other bikes as we are held waiting to board the train while they let the cars on first

Once on board I spend the whole journey chatting to the guy parked next to me… he is riding a Harley Softail Slim… nice bike… I am moaning about Minnie…. ah Minnie and Moaning Minnie, we make a great pair don’t you think… hahaha.  We also talk about Harleys and touring, he seems like a nice chap, apart from being a member of Chelsea and Fulham Harley Owners Group.. they are seriously posh!!

Of the train and straight on to the M20 towards London.  I don’t really want to ride all the way home on the motorway so turn off towards Chatham.. then I remember I really hate riding in Chatham so try to avoid it by going into Rochester… a very historic place it is too

but, alas I am still routed via Chatham so have to put up with the terrible traffic trying to cross the river Medway.. there are roadworks actually on the bridge.

Once out of Chatham I take the A20 all the way to the M25 and through the Dartford tunnel and am soon riding into London and home.

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I am very glad to be here I must say.. it has been an unusual tour and I think I will need time to fully reflect on everything that has happened, but especially what I am going to do with Minnie… wait and see.

 

 

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Oooo I Do Love a Windmill

Day 33 – 1st August 2020 – Herpen, NL to Lovendegem, Belgium

Ok penultimate day today… and off into another lovely sunny morning.

I am not in any rush so can enjoy a little be more of Netherlands before crossing over into Belgium.

One of the first things of interest I see are these…. solar panels, but not just square slabs, but creative designs… so cool

and of course the usual collection of churches

but also… windmills, especially as I am now nearing the sea.  I am heading for the islands of Zeeland, which, as the name implies, is on the coast.. lots of water, bridges and windmills to see here I hope.

My first windmill and tower of the day….. mmm must be time for….

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and very nice it is too.. in the cute small town of Klundert

as you can see, the sun is disappearing and it is becoming quite overcast… hope no rain today.

Am starting to see more water and shipping, with wind turbines making much more of an appearance as I enter Zeeland.

The weather is starting to brighten up and then I see this in the distance… wow a working windmill, must go and see that.

It seems to be quite the attraction and there are loads of people both on and off bicycles so I presume this is a very popular holiday area…

Next to the windmill is a field with cart horses, well you don’t see many of those around, and here are mummy and baby… sooo cute

There are other ‘attractions’ here.. not sure why there is what appears to be a Japanese Zero aircraft, (my plane recognition might be a bit off.. it could be a Messcherscmit or Fokker Wolf I guess), on a stick… odd!

 

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I just like this

Another couple of windmills..

and then it is serious wind farms… I enjoy the idea of the old and new, still using natural resources

 

and I think this looks like mummy and baby too…. OMG they’re breeding

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I traverse some fantastic roads over bridges between the islands, one can see the mechanics of how the Dutch keep the North Sea at bay, via a system of gates and sluices.

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I am passing more villages and soon am through the last crossing via a long tunnel to Terneuzen.  Before long I will be over the border into Belgium so I think one last koekje bij de koffie is in order don’t you

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I check out ever faithful booking.com and look for somewhere to stay… I think maybe I will stay in Belgium, but I forgot how blooming expensive it is… over £100 a night in some places.  There are a few cheaper options in Bruges, but I don’t want to go there.  There is nothing within the distance I want to travel over in France so am a bit stuck as to what to do.  I check out AirBnB too, same problem… then I come across a place in Eeklo, Belgium that is actually pretty reasonable given the average rate here; a bit off route as it’s just west of Ghent, but seems to be the best I can find so book that.

Back on the road.  A couple of final photos…

then I am on a fast road heading into Belgium…

Suddenly the road surface changes into concrete slabs, extremely bumpy, they are laid end to end with a ridge between so not very comfortable… ahh I’m pretty sure I have now crossed over and am in Belgium; I remember the bumpy roads from previous visits.

The concrete doesn’t last for very long and am soon back on black top.

More, but Belgian, churches

I enter the town of Eeklo to find my B&B… spot this tower

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and a very odd aircraft, that has its wing stuck into a building…

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Looks like the accommodation tonight will be in the heart of the town, oh great a nice wander around and somewhere I can walk to for dinner.. am looking forward to that.

I pull up outside the B&B, it’s obvious that I can’t park here so I hope they have parking somewhere nearby.  I think it will be ok to leave the bike here a minute while I check in and unload.  I immediately notice that everyone here is in masks, I think it must be pretty strict.. good.

Anyway, I press the doorbell… and again… no answer.  However, the front door has been wedged open with a piece of cardboard, oh maybe that is for me to get in, so I push the door open and shout hello, but no reply… all a wee bit strange methinks… I tentatively go inside, shouting hello as I go.  Ahead of me is a steep staircase, joy, and a couple of doors towards the back of the building.  The first door on the right seems to be a waiting room, like a dentists! How odd.. the next door leads into a small ante-room and then what appears to be a lounge area, there is a very large and handsome cat, who looks at me like Who TF are you??  There is another doorway into a small kitchen area and some french doors out into a small garden.  But, no one is around.. I am worried I have entered the owners private quarters so am feeling a little bit awkward.  I ask the cat where is Mummy, not much of an answer there, probably doesn’t speak English I guess.

Next, back outside and make sure I am in the right place… yep there is a sign above the door… I also see there is a brass plate on the wall, which appears to be for a dentist or some other health practitioner, hence the waiting room.  I check on booking.com and find a phone number… it’s an answer machine, the announcement is in Dutch of course, but I leave a message after the beep to say I am here and waiting to check in.

I decide that I should off load the bike while I am waiting, this takes about 5 minutes.. still nothing so decide to have a look upstairs.  Nothing to report just a couple of doors with women’s names, which I assume are the bedrooms.

Ok so I’ve been here at least 20 minutes and have had enough now… I check on booking.com and miraculously find another place even cheaper than this one.. it’s in Lovendegem, just a few kilometres away.  Ok booked and cancel this one explaining that I cannot check in and unable to contact the host.  Pack the bike back up, praying the owner of the B&B doesn’t make an appearance.. awkward!!! Phew, all done and still no-one is here…

I arrive at the place in Lovendegem… immediately I am met by Kurt the owner, he keeps well away and explains I am in the ‘cabin’ around the back, it’s called Lisa… I laugh and tell him it’s my daughters name… he says ‘what a coincidence’ and laughs too.  ‘The key is in the door and please come to reception after you park up to get a form’.  ‘OK no problem and thank you’.  He says ‘Please wear a mask at all times outside of your cabin except at the breakfast table’, ‘Of course.. will do’.  Suddenly he says… ‘beer or coca cola’?  Oh…. he is offering me a can, which is very nice of him, but a little bit incongruous given the social distancing already displayed, but I feel churlish refusing so take the beer… he then reminds me to leave my key in the basket in reception in the morning.  I ask if he can recommend somewhere to eat, he says there is a list of nearby places on the wall in my room.. cool, thanks.

I ride around the back.  The surface is gravel, dirt and what appears to be bark.. I manage it no problem and park the bike opposite the ‘cabin’ which is actually a cinder block building with a row of rooms each having their own patio.  Entrance to the rooms is via a patio door.  They are really quirky and I get a very good vibe here.  The room itself is great with a huge double bed and a small single plus the bathroom is enormous.. yes very good, much better than that other place I think.  I quickly unpack the bike and then walk over to the reception.  Kurt has left me a note with the wifi details etc.  It says see you in the morning for breakfast.. oh ok, he is keeping well away, which certainly suits me as I don’t want to be taking anything home!

Back to the cabin and a quick change before riding the bike into Lovendegem.  Having checked out the list on the wall, I see there is a Pizzeria… it’s my last night, gotta be done hasn’t it.  Outside I realise I am going to have to haul Minnie backwards to get her out from where I have parked… bloody hell Pogs, what a plonker!!  It is hard work in the dirt and bark, but eventually I get her turned around… am not parking here when I get back.

In Lovendegem itself there is a huge canal with lots of working craft… must be time for a few photos I guess

 

The Italian restaurant is just by the canal so in for the last pizza of the tour. I ask for a menu, it’s order online only because of COVID… I get the WiFi code and choose my pizza. I must say the service is quite slow and I have to ask to actually place my order.  However, the pizza arrives quite quickly and is delicious… happy bunny!

On the way back to the ‘cabin’ I take a couple of photos in Lovendegem

 

 

Tomorrow is just a short hop over to Calais and through the tunnel to Folkestone and onwards to London and home… I must say I am looking forward to it.

 

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Dykeing in Dykeland

Day 32 – 31st July 2020 – Around Nijmegen

Despite the huge thunderstorm last night today is again glorious and is expected to be very hot.

As we are not able to have lunch here at the Brasserie we agree to meet at a place Annemarie recommends:

Herberg Restaurant ‘t Zwaantje

It’s about 25km from me so I am going to go the long way round and explore the area.

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I am riding along the top of a dyke

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Yes… this Dyke

and the first thing I come across is this… ooo must stop for a look

It always impresses me how the Dutch maintain a very real remembrance of those who were lost on their soil… it is also great how the recollections of the local people are preserved.  The whole country is a network of cycle routes littered with points of interest such as this one, just cycle nirvana really.

My next stop is in Reek, I am looking for the war cemetery, but for some reason I can’t find it, however I spot these instead…

I continue along the back roads towards our lunch venue….

I arrive at the restaurant, Annemarie is already there… the parking is all gravel so I ride past , turn around and then park up almost next to her.  It is 1pm and the sun is blazing down, just humungous heat.

It is so fantastic to be able to meet up with her… we have a great time catching up and eating a very nice lunch indeed, I certainly enjoy both.  We remain in the restaurant for a good couple of hours, just relaxing.  Next I plan to visit the Mook War Cemetery that I passed on the way in; Annemarie says she will join me and then start her cycle back to her parents home.

I also see a ‘relative’… yes somehow we are related, even though he is from Canada the Irish diaspora is global so my family is everywhere.

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I put a stone on top of his marker as a sign of remembrance.

We realise we haven’t had a photo together so record the moment…

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Looking good there Stolkie… so wonderful to see you… safe travels back to Mexico and hope to come over for a visit and a ride very soon.

Annemarie recommends a route back to my accommodation that will take me through some pretty villages and nice roads… so we say our farewells and head off in different directions.

I do indeed ride through some really lovely villages and the roads are, as always here in Netherlands, just perfect… not a pothole in sight.  Netherlands is just such a beautiful country, everything is sooooo neat and tidy, well ordered, clean and pretty, a delight to ride or cycle in.

and…. there are windmills; of course I do loooove a windmill.. I’m just a tourist at heart really.

I then cross over, briefly, back into Germany

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and come across what I think is the best church, the architecture is fantastic… so much so that I actually get off the bike to take some snaps.  Of course Germany is the home of Gothic architecture and this is an excellent example.

gotta love a gargoyle or two, three, four…..

I turn the corner away from the church and see this….

Just two random sculptures sitting in a green area behind the old town…. no explanation or anything… it is a litttttle bit weird I have to say.

I am soon back at the accommodation for a bit of a rest until I go out for dinner.  I did see a couple of possibles on the way back so head out to

Nieuw Schaijk Restaurant

I park up and there seems to be some kind of party going on just over the hedge… I can see a large tent and hear what sounds like an ‘Oompah’ band… must be some kind of celebration.

I enjoy a very nice meal in here, they have a senior menu… just great for me, as of course I am a senior, but it also means smaller portions, which I always prefer.  A delicious soup followed by steak, (small additional charge), and dessert for just €20.. I also have another lovely Bitter Lemon, yum.  The steak comes and is actually tiny, but is accompanied by chips, roast potatoes, cabbage, mushrooms.. etc etc… the side dishes are enormous… I struggle… I need a break before dessert so time for another Bitter Lemon hehe… I order the Oubliehoorn and Slagroom after texting Annemarie for a translation, (my app refused to translate it), which is a cone with cream.  It arrives and is a medium sized dish full of ice cream with whip cream and a cone sitting on top… exhausting… I manage half though!

I make my way to the til to pay my bill, the woman there asks if I enjoyed my food… oh yes thank you.  She gives me my bill and, as I want to pay in cash, I give her the paper and then start looking at my coins, I take out a few coins and have to look at each one as I still don’t recognise the denominations by sight.. the woman sighs, says ‘give to me’ takes a coin from the change and then gives me more, smaller coins back.. I mean seriously…!

Outside and the tempo of the shindig next door has changed to what sounds like a live band playing middle of the road Dutch music… I imagine all the oldies are having a ball, while the younger ones are probably smoking dope round the back of the tent.

I have really enjoyed today… wonderful to be able to see Annemarie, the weather is just fantastic and the riding… well I think the photos say it all.  However, I have decided to go home… I have already booked my return train via the Euro Tunnel and will ride towards Calais tomorrow, stopping overnight somewhere on route before arriving there for my train at 11.50am.

I am absolutely exhausted and although I like the idea of riding through Luxembourg and into France; and would love to visit Julia in Cherbourg, I just have had enough now.  The last week has included a lot of autobahn, but it isn’t the riding it is more the loading and unloading, stopping at a different place night after night and of course I don’t give myself any real breaks… so enough, is enough, time to go home.

 

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Ya Just Gotta Lose Something…

Day 31 – 30th July 2020 – Lelystad to Herpen, NL

Still can’t get the coffee machine to work, so give up.  As I am packing up the bike, the owner, Adrie, comes out and asks if all is ok… I say yes, but I can’t get the coffee machine to work.  I do also say I think it is probably me, I’m sure I am doing something wrong… she proceeds to explain the procedure, which is exactly what I have done, but to no avail.  She then asks if I would like a filter coffee when I’m ready, oh yes please says I.

I finish packing up and make my way in to the lounge to have my coffee… she tells me a little about Lelystad.. it has only been in existence for 50 years and it is actually below sea level.  This is where they have reclaimed the land from the sea and built the two great dams to keep the North Sea at bay, very clever, you just wouldn’t know it was once all water here.  I ask where she was before this?  ‘Utrecht, but I have been here 30 years… I didn’t like it here at first, too quiet, but I am used to it now and when I can no longer manage the stairs or to get around on my bicycle I will move back to the city’.  ‘Ahh yes, I know what you mean, it will be hard for you without a bicycle here’ ‘Yes, everything here is quite far, but now we have the electric cycles… everyone is getting them, even the young people so I will get one of those’.  ‘Cycling is so easy here, the country is made for it’ ‘Yes indeed, here we learn as babies to sit up, walk and then cycle, it is our way’.

I finish my coffee and make my goodbyes, back on the road now towards Nijmegen, this is where I will meet up with Annemarie for lunch tomorrow.

The weather is glorious, really warm and sunny, much better than the last few days.  I toy with the idea of riding across the Dams up to Zurich and then down to Nijmegen, I definitely have the time, but in the end I decide to leave them for another time… I will be back of course.

I forgot to start the Relive recording until I am already on route, so I pull over to start it and find I forgot to stop it yesterday so it is still recording… bugger… ok so the Relive today will be from Oldenburg to Nijmegen via Lelystad…

I really enjoy the ride…

and stop for my first koekjie bij de koffie of the day, fab.

I also avail myself of the facilities… TMI I hear you shout, but I just wanted to show you this.. so classy

No Dyson hand blade or paper towels here… individual little terry cotton towels no less…

I am riding some of the back roads as I have plenty of time today… I stop to fiddle about with something next to a field and suddenly a deer buck runs past… I mean with a full head of horns… oh wow!!  I jump off the bike to try and get a photo of him, but he is gone… damn.. I then notice there is actually a group of them over by a clump of trees.. ok better than nothing

 

 

Soon I am nearing Arnhem and of course am immediately thinking of WW2 and the infamous ‘Operation Market Garden’.  I have been here many times before and indeed was stationed just over the border in RAF Rhinedahlen near Moenchengladbach back in the late 70’s.

I pass by the airborne museum and memorial

and decide to stop at the cemetery in Oosterbeek

Many of the young men here were glider pilots, lost when their flimsy aircraft crash landed.  The most poignant stones for me are the ones with no name… known only to god… but especially where they have partial information such as

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‘believed to be’, that says volumes to me about what was found of him… unrecognisable apart from his uniform probably… makes me shudder.

Back on the road towards Nijmegen..

In Huissen I pass this, what I think is, or was, a convent, judging by the small figurine

I enter Nijmegen and make my way towards the famous ‘bridge too far’.. except this was not the bridge in question, that is in Arnhem and it’s not even the bridge in the film of the same name, that is elsewhere.

There are actually 3 bridges here, the single span arch is THE one.

I am parked next to this artwork… I think it is interesting that it is horizontal rather than vertical…

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I look up into the town and see a church, of course, I like the look of so try to make my way up to take a photo… and end up not only getting lost, but getting stuck and having to turn around twice because I find myself in a dead end, one of which I think was someones back yard and the other was extremely steep…. but of course Pogs!

I give up attempting to photograph the church, but the centre of the old town is very quirky, I would like to come back here at some point for an explore.

Leaving Nijmegen, I try to avoid the main roads as much as possible so am riding through many small villages

 

I have booked accommodation at a place called Herpen, it is a Brasserie/hotel so I am hoping to be able to have some down time to sit in the garden and drink coffee while catching up my blog.  I also need to book a table for lunch tomorrow, we decide that Annemarie will cycle over to meet me.

Well… that was the plan.. I arrive and the place is closed due to Covid… what!  I message the link on booking.com and await a reply.  Just then a very elderly man appears from the rear of the property and is waving at me… ok… I walk over and he starts to speak to me in Dutch, but I recognise him saying booking.com so I say Yes, that’s me.  He doesn’t speak any English at all so everything is done via gesture.  He lets me into a side door and takes me up to my room, just one flight of stairs yay, shows me in and gives me the keys… one key will open the outside door and my room so easy peasy.

Back outside and he indicates that I can park my bike around the back of the building, so that’s good, but I need to unload first.  I try and ask about the restaurant, but he shakes his head and just says Covid.  Ok so we will need to change our plans for tomorrow… no problem.  He then gets in his car and disappears.

I need to eat so I see there are a couple of towns really nearby, but first I investigate Herpen itself.  There only seems to be one restaurant and they are just setting up so I ride past and come to a small cafe/bar and stop there for a coffee, with cookie of course.  While I am there I have a look on google maps and decide to visit Ravenstein, it’s just 5km away.

It is indeed a lovely little town

Whilst I am exploring I find a windmill…. fabby

great isn’t it.  Directly opposite is a cemetery and I have a quick look in to discover 4 war graves at the back.. they are just everywhere here, very reminiscent of northern France and Flanders in particular; again immaculately looked after.

I find a place to eat and order…. no not pizza… schnitzel.  I have to say it isn’t actually very good, a bit on the greasy side.  However, what is good is that I notice people ordering Bitter Lemon… now I haven’t had one of those in years and so I order one and it is sooooo delicious I have to have another, extremely refreshing.

Back to the bike and I can’t find my gloves… they are a favourite summer pair and I remember now that I put them on the luggage and then decided to ride gloveless, but didn’t put them away…. bloody grrrrrrr!!!

I ride back the way I came checking all the while for the gloves.. nope nothing… I go back to the cafe/bar in Herpen, but no joy.  I ride the route again twice… nope they are gone, so pissed!

Anyway, I take this photo of the church in Herpen before I go back to the hotel.

 

Hard to believe looking at this photo that just a few hours later there will be a huge thunderstorm… yep honked it down for about 15-20 minutes, hope that doesn’t mean a crap day tomorrow.

Nite

 

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Bee, Pee and Coffee… not

Day 30 – 29th July 2020 – Oldenburg, Germany to Lelystad, Netherlands

Time to say bye bye to Dori and Janine… they have been wonderful, I have really enjoyed my stay with them.  I am now on my way to Netherlands to meet up with my other very good friend Annemarie who is visiting her homeland from Mexico where she now lives, so this is an opportunity to see her and catch up… just too good to miss.

I set about getting myself ready… the grrls help me to get Minnie out and pointing in the right direction before I start packing up the bike, talking to myself and the bike as usual not realising, at first, that I am being filmed….

All too soon it is done and time to say goodbye… thank you so much for looking after me these last couple of days, it’s been really good, I look forward to seeing you both very soon.

The weather is pretty grim, but not raining.. yet.  I start out on the smaller roads, but am planning to take the autobahn.  I would like to cross the IJsselmere Lake today and stay somewhere in northern Netherlands; I’ll be looking at my options later when I stop for coffee.

It is very windy again today and once on the autobahn am soon crossing over into Netherlands.  I stop for coffee virtually just over the border.  I am very cold and the wind is tiring.  It is almost lunchtime so I decide to treat myself to any early one, whilst checking out my route options and a place to stay tonight.  Accommodation in Noord Netherlands is either very expensive or fully booked.  Looking at the map I can cross the IJsselmere Lake on the Afsluitdijk, a 32km causeway between Zurich and Den Oever and then head south to Enkhuizen and cross the 27km Houtribdijk to Leylstad.  The two causeway’s or dijks are actually dams that enclose the IJsselmere and Markermere lakes.  I check out accommodation in Leylstad and find a B&B at a reasonable cost so book it.

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Did I mention it’s windy??

Anyway, time to push on.. I go out to the bike to find this little hitchhiker

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I am very careful not to hurt him.

I’m making my way out of the car park when I see a group of 3 young men standing pissing against a hedge… they have literally stopped their car on the exit road from the service area and are peeing in direct view of the restaurant!! Bloody disgusting… they obviously don’t want to pay the 0.70c to use the toilet facilities just 300m from where they are parked.  They are making absolutely no attempt to conceal themselves, I mean I don’t know the laws here in Netherlands, but this is illegal in the UK and is almost indecent exposure.

Back on the autobahn and it really is cold and windy… sorry moaning again, but it does make me review my plans.  If it’s still this windy when I get to Zurich then I’m not going to be crossing almost 60km of exposed open water, especially the Ijsselmere which is open to the North Sea.  Whilst I think this would be a wonderful ride in the right weather I don’t think it is worth chancing it today.  I umm and ahh for a good while then decide to turn off of the A7 and take the A6 southwest direct to Lelystad

I must admit I am pretty tired, it has been really full on the whole tour and I haven’t taken any breaks or had much just sitting around doing nothing time, so it is all catching up with me a bit.

As I near Lelystad the sun makes an appearance, but it is still windy and too late now to change plan again.  I arrive in Lelystad and find the B&B without too much problem.  I am greeted by a small elderly woman who seems very nice.  She shows me to my room, up another spiral staircase… seriously!  She shows me the facilities, there is a microwave, fridge, coffee machine and kettle.  She has also provided some information about places to eat nearby and a small map.  I see there are some shops and restaurants about 10 minutes away so get changed and decide to walk there.

Well, this place is like a mini Milton Keynes, everything looks pretty much the same and the road layout is a little difficult to navigate.  Every so often I pull out the ‘map’ but I can’t seem to find if I am in the right place.  I give up and start using google maps only to discover I have gone in the opposite direction.  There is another shopping centre not far away so I head there.

On the way I pass over a little bridge..

lots of ducks and a couple of swans bombing around.

I arrive at the shopping area and immediately am confronted with several ‘All You Can Eat’ buffet style restaurants.  I mean literally next door to one another is the Tasty Wok and the Asia Wok, across the precinct is the All You Can Eat Wok and next to that is the All You Can Eat Shushi.  For those who do not want asian food there is a Steak Pub.  Other food outlets are a Morrocan Bakery, that is closed and Mr Gyros, which seems to have closed down altogether.

I decide to go into the supermarket, Jumbos, and get a microwave meal.  One thing I have noticed is the difference between Netherlands and Germany with regards to Covid prevention measures.  In Germany everyone was wearing masks and in fact one cannot enter a shop without one on.  They also seem pretty good at social distancing and all public venues, shops, restaurants, etc. provide free hand gel and ask you to use it on entry.  Here however there’s none of that… I mean no-one is wearing a mask, or social distancing and there isn’t any gel.  I am very surprised that even in the supermarket no one seems to be worried about Covid transmission.  I have a quick look around Jumbos but can’t find any microwave meals… only pizza!!!  I pick up a tomoto soup, some bread and cheese and a small carton of milk to have with my coffee.

Back at the B&B I heat up the soup and it is delicious… it has small meatballs in it, unlike the ones in Czechia these are not grey.  I really enjoy it with the bread and cheese… must be time for a coffee.  Except I can’t get the machine to work.  I think I must be doing something wrong so look up the instructions in google.  Nope am doing it right.  When I switch on the maching the light flashes to indicate the water is heating, but it just keeps on flashing so eventually I just give up… bought the milk for nothing then, well I’ll give it another go in the morning.

 

 

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Ship Ahoy!

Day 29 – 28th July 2020 – Oldenburg and Wilhelmshaven

Today I’m staying over with Dori and Janine in Oldenburg and the plan is to visit a couple of Dori’s friends, Nikki and Anji this morning.

Dori says it’s just 10 minutes away… now judging by the 2 hours that became 4 hours yesterday I’m not convinced this is going to be that short… and it’s not, more like 40 minutes!

I get the impression they have all been friends for many years.  Nikki and Anji have been together for quite some time and are tying the knot this weekend so Dori is going to be house sitting for them.  We also have a look at the house Dori is going to be moving into in a couple of months… it’s enormous.. I am so jealous of all the space and buildings one of which is destined to become the Dykes on Bikes Rhine-Weser Clubhouse… oh wouldn’t it be wonderful if DoB London could have something like this…  I wish someone would win the lottery!

The weather is pretty grey today with some sunny spells and Dori has planned a ride to Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea… I’m really looking forward to that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelmshaven

We have our photos taken in front of the main attraction, the Emperor Wilhelm Bridge, a swing bridge apparently that was built between 1905 and 1907.

I think you can tell it’s pretty cold… and bloody windy too… a joy to ride in of course!!

And above all there are… ships, oh yes… I love a ship, especially military ships… fab

Oh.. and aircraft of course too..

We decide to try and get warm by having some coffee and cake… unfortunately, this particular restaurant will only let you sit inside if you are having a meal… bah!  We brave the cold and I can see other people who have managed to snag a basket chair.. these look great and are reminiscent of victorian beach chairs one often sees in period films and dramas, such as Death in Venice…. I think.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of one, but this is something similar I found online.. fabulous

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We try and wait for the sun to come, it does eventually but we are already back on the road.  This morning I had mentioned to Dori that I need to purchase another external hard drive as mine is now full so we plan to visit an IT store at some point.

On the way back home we stop of for some Chinese food, it is very good, but way too much for me.  There is a supermarket here too and it looks like they may have an electronics department so I wander off for a look.

I find the right department, but can’t see any hard drives… they have mice and keyboards and usb hubs etc. etc. so I decide to try and ask the guy at the desk… of course he doesn’t speak English and my Germish doesn’t stretch to anything as specialised as this.. I try gesturing but to no avail.  I thank the man and he wanders off.. I try another look around and yep there they are in a locked glass case.  Now I can’t find the man so I have to wait for him to come back.  Eventually he returns and gets one out for me, but it seems I have to go to the information desk to pay for it and pick it up.

I make my way there, stopping to pick up a couple of bits on the way… just to give the guy time to get the hard drive over there!  I wait in the queue and then I have to ask the woman for the hard drive… I have looked it up and in German it is festplatte… so I try saying this… she looks blank… I try again… she says ‘passport???’ erm no… then Dori and Janine come to my rescue and explain that the tech guy has told me to come over to collect and pay for my item… so now all is clear, she has it under her counter… then she makes a phone call, I think she doesn’t know the price.. anyway eventually all is sorted out, phew!  Huge thanks to the grrrls for the help.

Off we go back to Dori’s house… we sit and chat for a while.. well I talk, they fall asleep.. no, but it is scary how much I am talking!!

About 9pm I am feeling peckish so ask if I can have a cheese roll… this causes some merriment, it seems to be not something Germans do of an evening, but they very kindly make me one….

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Oh… very funny…. and delicious.. yum!

 

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Billy

Day 28 – 27th July 2020 – Braunschweig to Oldenburg via Hannover

No dramas this morning for a change. I like it here, seems very quirky and I like quirky!!

So today I am going to visit my brother. He is buried in a military cemetery near Hannover. I hope there is a flower shop nearby, I don’t want to visit empty handed

The cemetery is only an hour away on the autobahn so I am there by 11am. I’m due to meet with Dori and Janine at Hannover Harley Davidson at around 1pm so have plenty of time…. well…

The nearest flower shop is shut, they have gone on holiday.  Ok I find a coffee shop nearby and sit for a while to try and find another one. There is one not too far away so I decide to go there. Buggered if I can find it, both google maps and apple maps route me to the same place, a quiet residential street, not a shop in sight for flowers or anything else. On my third attempt I pluck up the courage to ask someone. There is a guy weeding his driveway so I try in my bestest Germish to ask if there is a flower shop around here… ‘Haben sie Blumen Keller heir bitte’? While waving my arm around in a circular motion… he says ‘uh!’ Ok so I try the name of the shop ‘Monde de Fleur heir bitte’? ‘Nine, something something weg’ ok so I know he is telling me the name of the street, but I don’t understand it and he’s waving over there… ‘Danke schon’ I decide to give up as I am running out of time.

I ride back to the cemetery and go in.

It’s a reasonably small one and I know roughly where my brother is so it doesn’t take long to find him. I have always thought it a bit odd to talk to dead people at gravesides, but that is exactly what I do.  I bring him up to date with family things, suggesting he already knows mum and dad are gone, they are probably with him if that is what you believe.

I stay about half an hour, lying on the grass chatting away.  The war graves commission, who are responsible for looking after all the cemeteries around the world, do an excellent job and they are all exceedingly well kept, with shrubs and neat grass all well watered.  I think it is the least we can do as countries who sent these, mostly, young boys off to their deaths in conflicts not of their making.

I do feel bad not bringing flowers, my mum would have liked and expected it, as do I, so instead I nick a single bloom from one of the shrubs, I don’t think they’ll mind do you?

In just 20 minutes I arrive at Hannover Harley Davidson to meet with Dori and Janine..

It is go great to see them again and they give me a warm welcome.  We take some time to have a coffee and do some shopping… of course… just a few minor items for me… erm!!

 

Next stop is to eat as it is past lunch time… Dori leads us to this burger bar, which looks fab

but sadly it is closed on Mondays…. but we bump into the owner who gives Dori some recommendations for other eateries nearby so off we go.

We pull in to the car park and get off our bikes, then this man comes along shouting something… Dori says we can’t park here it is for the restaurant next to the one we are going in and the man says only his customers can park here… so it seems this bloke spends all day in his car park shooing off people who are not eating in his restaurant… it’s not like it was even half full.. Dori is embarrassed that this has happened, but it’s ok as apparently he’s Bavarian, which I gather is like Basil Fawlty saying ‘he’s from Barcelona’.   So, we move the bikes and have burgers for lunch.. very good too.

Back on the road to Oldenburg and we stop for a break at a garage… suddenly a woman comes out of the shop in her bare feet with a childs bubble maker.. the big tube full of soapy liquid and a ring.. she is waving it about in the air making huge bubbles while dancing around saying, in English, these are for you.  We think she was a member of staff…. bonkers!

Not long after we arrive at Dori’s home and time for a rest… I realise I haven’t spoken to anyone for ages so am talking quite a lot… sorry!

 

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More Rugby, Whooshing

Day 27 – 26th July 2020 – Czechia to Braunschweig, Germany

I go down for breakfast at 9 and again there is no help yourself here. My table is already laid out with a collection of items that I won’t bore you with, but I just have my usual and avoid the sweet sickly cakes etc.

My guy comes and asks if I want coffee, silly question 🤣.

Whilst we are eating we are forced to listen to this…

As I am finishing he returns and says…. ‘you finish leave 9.30 me’ rugby whooshing… ‘What!.. I’m not ready’. He looks despondent and repeats ‘me go’ rugby whoosh and pats his watch… I say ‘ok I’ll try’. He disappears and moments later he comes back and brings the bill. I run upstairs and get my wallet, the bill is €35 very reasonable, I give him a €50 note and wait for the change, he gives me a €10 note and some Czech koruna coins.. he apologies he doesn’t have euro coins. I say but I am leaving now to Germany, he shrugs and says you get coffee… €5 is half a tank of petrol so it’s not small change in my opinion… I will have to find a way to spend it.

We then have another pantomime about it’s ok for me to take my time and where to leave the key, but he really has to rugby whoosh now.  I go upstairs to pack and it occurs to me to check the coins he has given me against the exchange rate and yep he has only given me €4.10 worth… I go downstairs to tell him, but he’s whooshed so I’ll have to swallow it!!

My first port of call this morning is a duty free shop… I want to get some fags for my mate Mark. I did have a look yesterday, but he is very particular about his brand and although they had some I wasn’t too sure they were right. However, overnight I think well they are cheaper than the UK and he can keep them for emergencies I guess. I wonder if they have these shops at every border crossing?

Krasna is practically on the border so I just make my way following the satnav… well you know what’s coming… I seem to be heading the wrong way, but then I see an enormous sign saying ‘Travel Free’ (this is the duty free shop), 2.5kms back the way I have just come… so the first turn around of the day.

I follow the signs, then there is a T junction, no sign… I pick left… yep wrong, turn around… just about 1km further on there is an enormous travel free and another one stop duty free shop and petrol etc. It is mega busy, I mean there are cars queuing to get into the car park! I go for some petrol, which is much cheaper here, ahh I can use up my Koruna coins yay.

I then park up outside the shop and the queue is enormous… I notice that must be 90% of the cars are German or Austrian plates, then I realise today is Sunday; obviously the get the fags and booze for the week day.

There doesn’t seem to be any restrictions and people are leaving with armfuls of duty free and no one is checking if they are actually crossing any borders; obviously the German and Austria cars are but the Czech cars seem to be heading into Czechia… oh well none of my business. The only thing of note I guess is how the customers from Czechia’s neighbouring extremely wealthy countries arrive in their Beemers, Audi’s and Merc’s compared to their Czech counterparts in less expensive or older cars to take advantage of the lower tax… I guess one could say it equates to Brits going over to Calais but the UK and France are both wealthy countries… anyway, it must benefit the Czech Republic or they wouldn’t do it I suppose.

I’m not waiting in this queue so get back on the bike and cross over the border into Germany…

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the satnav is trying to send me back into Czechia… grrr… then I realise this route is on to an autobahn… oh no no no… I turn around

Back into Czechia and am routed back the way I have just come… so… I turn around and make my way into As… yes it’s a town nearby…

and promptly get lost

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After another turn around I find myself on a quiet country road…. yay there’s a small ‘Travel Shop’ but I decide to keep going and pass through the border

 

Then believe it or not the satnav routes me back again… I decide to stop at the travel shop and get Mark’s fags… it’s got to be an omen… then I cross the border AGAIN and ignore the satnav until I am well and truly through!

Once through the border the architecture changes from quite old style, somewhat dilapidated buildings to quintessential German style. Obviously more affluent and cared for.  I am in Bad Elster, bad meaning a spa town, so there are lots of healing centres, but it’s also very stylish with this open air art exhibition just by the side of the road

At last I seem to have escaped the clutches of Czechia and am on my way to Hanover… until I take a wrong turn that is… I stop to view the map and it seems I can rejoin the route a wee bit further on so that’s ok.

I really like these Art Decoish street lights, very Bauhaus

I pass through several towns and villages on the way

 

It is very windy and there are storm clouds threatening again…

 

All at once I am in a storm, but luckily there is a turn off ahead and I can pull in under a bridge to wait for the storm to pass or put on my wet gear.

After a while I decide to join the autobahn.  Eventually I have to stop and eat, so have a KFC, but realise I am really too tired to get to Hannover, which is still 1 hour away so out with booking.com and I find a room in Braunschweig, not far from here.

The hotel is ok… 6 flights of stairs again, I seem to be climbing lots of stairs this tour.  I realise I don’t have any cash so go out to find a cash machine, but no joy, which means I’ll have to get some in the morning.

There is a real juxtaposition of architectural styles here… very interesting.

 

 

 

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Little Grey Balls…

Day 26 – 25th July 2020 – Austria to Czechia via Germany

Well this morning was a trip! First of all I put my contact lens in and went to dispose of the packaging and found the bin full of rubbish, including fag butts, not best pleased… I suspect the room wasn’t cleaned after the last guest, I just hope the bed was changed.

Then in for breakfast… there was enough food to feed a blooming army for 3 days.. just total overkill… must have been 20 different jams and honey, several types of bread, meats, cheeses etc. etc. I mean in terms of choice it was fantastic, but with corona no one is staying so there must be tons of waste… anyway I have my usual small portion and then go and pack up the bike.

The young man comes out and asks me to settle the bill… ok no problem… €60… oh… that’s more than I was expecting, the room was €28 so that means I have paid €32 for schnitzel and chips, a small beer, 1 bread roll, butter, jam and a coffee… expensive I think. I tell the young man about the fag butts, he seems surprised, but he doesn’t really say anything… well, he’s got my money now.

Off to Passau to get my washing done…

 

not much to say really except the drier seemed expensive at first, wash €3.50 not too bad, drier also €3.50 ouch… there are two levels both the same price… 1 hour hot or 40 minutes less hot. I opt for the less hot as have some delicates that might perish in the hot cycle… normally one takes things out as they dry leaving the thicker stuff like jeans in longer but these machines are fixed… it says don’t open the door during the cycle otherwise you will have to pay another €3.50 so I think it’s better to finish drying my jeans on the back of the bike than melt my enduro tops.

All done and the jeans are actually almost dry, but I tie them and a few other dampish items to the top box to finish off in the sun, so worth the money.

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I put Klatovy in Czechia into the sat nav as a place to head for but I seem to be in Germany a long time…

the bloody sat nav goes doolally when there’s no wifi signal and so before long I’m lost and having to turn around… a lot… I almost end up back in Austria!  As I stop to faff around with the directions… again… I see across the road a McDonalds.. yep time for lunch

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the food is crap but the coffee is excellent.  I look at booking some accommodation and find a place in Krasna, an alleged 3 and a half hours away… well we’ll see.

I eventually cross the border into Czechia or Czech Republic at Vseruby and the first thing I see is a duty free shop… hang on, isn’t Czechia part of the EU??  Oh well, I stop for a look.  I pick up a couple of tins of travel sweets and take them to the counter.  The woman serving couldn’t be more austere… doesn’t bode well for me I think given I do not have even one word of Czech!!  I give her some Euros, she gives me the change… not a word, she never even looks at me really.

Back on the road and I pass through several small towns and villages

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This is the first large town, Domazlice

Lots of green stuff

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More towns

This is Bor

and then Plana

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Trstenice

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and the major town of Cheb

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I also spot a couple of these on the way…

Eventually I arrive at my overnight stop over in Krasna…. it is up a steep slope… but of course.

I am met by a young guy who doesn’t speak very much English and of course I have zero Czech so we sort of get by with gestures and my Germish! He asks if I want to eat and I say ‘Ja bitte’.  My room is in the loft, I mean could this day get any better??  I have to drag my bags up 4 flights of stairs and then up a wooden spiral staircase to my room.  The room itself is very nice, no problem.  I immediately jump into the shower before dinner.  As I am drying off I hear heavy footsteps coming up the spiral staircase and then there is a knock at the door, I say yes.. the man says, hello and tries the door handle… so I am standing there in the nude and this man is trying my door handle… WTF!  I shout, ‘NO I am in the shower’, in English so of course that was a waste of time, he tries the door again and says ‘You must come’ ‘No I am not dressed’ again in English, another waste of time, he says ‘You eat now’ I say ‘Funf minuten bitte’ he says ‘Ok’ and goes away… thank fuck I always lock my door.

I make my way down to the dining room.. I think there’s no point in trying to speak to him about the above incident, the communication isn’t good enough, but it does make me wonder if this is deemed appropriate behaviour here.  I look for a table, they are all empty so I gesture to the man where??  He points to outside and sort of waves his hands at me to say sit outside… Normally I don’t like to eat outside in the evening.. too many bugs.. but he seems very insistent so I comply.

He then comes out and plonks a bowl of soup and some bread in front of me… ‘Gut’ he says… so looks like I’m not getting a menu then, I mean this tour has just been weird food wise.  The soup has noodles and what look to be bits of veg and 3 grey balls of some sort of meat.. I try the broth, it’s ok, but I’m not touching the meat…

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It’s a really poor quality photo, but I wanted to capture the grey balls…

The man comes and asks what I want to drink, I say ‘klein pils bitte’ he brings a huge litre bucket… I say ‘oh too big’ he just smiles and shrugs.  He takes the soup away and comes back with a plate of meat in a thick brown gravy with thin slices of white bread on the side… ok so I’m all for trying the local food.. this is ok, there is too much of course, but better than nothing.  He then plonks a plate with a small cream filled pastry on it.. oh there’s dessert too!

He says ‘fruhstuck’ (breakfast) and gestures 9… so that’s quite late, but I’m ok with it.

At this point he tells me he is going.. he gestures with both hands like throwing a rugby ball and makes a whooshing sound.. he then walks over to the window cill and gestures for me to eat and leave my plates on here when I’m finished.. this is accompanied by more rugby and whooshing, then off he goes.

I finish what I can and leave my dishes as directed.

It does look quite grey and damp so not boding well for the morning…

 

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