The European summer is almost at an end. Most of the tourists will be leaving for home, the crowds are thinning out, the temperature has begun to dip a little — and hopefully, so will prices. All good signs for free and independent cycle-tourers like me embarking on a Tour of Europe.
The plan, as always, is simple 🙂
5 countries, 26 days (4-30 Sep), 1,500km; give or take a couple of hundred kms.
The starting point will be Frankfurt, Germany. From there, I’ll flow with the River Rhine all the way to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, about 500kms to the north.
From Amsterdam, I head south-west to Belgium, crossing into France and then into Paris.
From Paris, it’s a north-westerly ride to Dieppe on the French coast; then a ferry ride across the Channel to Newhaven, England.
The last leg will see me heading north towards London, and then home on an AirAsia flight out of Stansted, 60km to the north.
The first part of the journey will be fully along the cycle paths of the River Rhine. It would be pretty hard to get lost following the river so that’s less one worry. At the end of this leg, Amsterdam should be good for a few days of rest and sightseeing — and of course, blending in with the 700,000 or bicycles that rule the roads of this canal city.
Campsites, or campingplatz as they call it in Germany, are easily found throughout the length of the river so camping is how I intend to overcome the expensive issue of accommodation . Even in big cities like Amsterdam and Paris, there are campsites to be found, right in the heart of it all, and all costing less than 10 Euros.
However, once I reach Belgium, I intend to retrace part of the route that Robert Louis Stevenson (he of Treasure Island fame) took when he sailed from Belgium to France in a sailing canoe. RSL is one of my favourite authors and, without a doubt, one of the finest travel writers of the 19th century.
In his first real book, An Inland Voyage, Stevenson chronicles his travels in a canoe with his good friend, Sir Walter Simpson, along the many canals that define this part of the world. The language may be a bit archaic but if one perseveres, one will be rewarded with the beauty and colour of the land that fairly leap out of the pages.
One of the reasons I’m following in the wake of his inland sailing adventure is that part of the route happens to coincide with that of the other famous French bike race — the Paris-Roubaix Classic — a one-day, 250km race across the countryside. In dozens of stretches along the way, the peloton goes bumpity-bump on some of the most vicious cobblestones that trace back to Roman times (they don’t nick-name this race ‘The Hell of the North‘ for nothing).
At Roubaix, and if allowed, I’m going to ride on the oval timber track of the town’s hallowed velodrome that always plays host to the traditional final km of the race.
Paris will probably be the longest stop of the trip — doing the tourist stuff, eating the best baguettes in the world, drinking coffee by the Parisian sidewalks and, the icing on the cake — riding the traditional Parisian loop of the Tour de France‘ s final stage along the boulevards of Champs Elysees, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe.
From France, it’s merely a 2-day ride to the coast and, after a short ferry ride across the English Channel, I shall be in the land of fish-and-chips, steak and kidney pies, stiff upper lips and all …
A simple plan, no?
I can’t wait 🙂
The map below is an approximate route of the area that I will be traversing.