Thursday 3 November 2011

Frank's Five Ferry Fietstocht

Or a pilgrimage to Westvleteren via Harwich and Hoek van Holland.

A trappist beer is a beer brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery - there are only six in Belgium.  Frank, Stu and TinyMyNewt agreed that the 8° was delicious, so we tried a 12° also.  We followed lunch with a mazarinetaart, a speciality from nearby Poperinge.  Lovely!

We had a few comedy moments on the way, usually involving Stuart!  The best was after our first pub lunch stop in Tolleshunt Major. He shouted out: 'My glasses!'.  We slowed down while Stuart turned back to the pub, but within seconds he was in sight again.  'No one told me they were on my head!'.

We were a great team, although I say so myself.  It seems we just looked out for each other, making sure nobody was left too far behind, not too hungry, comfortable enough.  To make the round trip in three days, you do need to keep going, and with the headwind it can feel like hard work.  The ferries provided for regular breathers.  And Stuart provided for regular mileage updates.
How many miles?
I loved the stop in Goedereede.  Mark (DelftsePost), who joined us at the ferry, stopped for a coffee and appeltaart with us before making his way home again.  'Goedereede' means safe haven, and the place has history because of that.  Next time we should take note of the 'Hotel de Gouden Leeuw' from 1480, the former home of pope Adrianus VI.

The ferry at Mersea was great.  Frank had said 'they're expecting us at 3PM'.  How nice!  How nice to be expected. It was the smallest of the ferries.  We all fitted on and hung on to our bikes.  Stuart knew of the existence of a hose at the other end, so we'd be able to wash off the sand picked up during our beach walk.

We had a grammar lesson from TinyMyNewt.  It is 'different from' and not 'different to'.  Think if divergence or dichotomy.  If something is going to split (di means two) then it is going to split from something, not to something.  Thank you Jenny!

The section between Sluis and Brugge is wonderful. It was perfect timing with dusk and a lovely sunset between the trees. There are many restaurants along the canal, and a stop in Damme is a must.  We admired the lit historic buildings and continued along as we were keen to get to Brugge.  From Bruggge I took a train to my parent's place and then joined the group again the following day, in Westvleteren.

I have lost the touch of ordering in Belgium.  My mum had ordered and was served coffee within seconds.  After she left and it was my turn, it took me while to re-find the look and gestures required to grab the attention of the waitress.  It was very busy in the cafe.  There were lots of families, couples, walkers and at least four cyclists.

The last leg from Westvleteren to Dunkirk was fun as it was semi-off road.  Once in France we saw hunters in the fields.  One was sitting down on a block of concrete with his gun lying next to him.  I didn't ask if I could take a picture, I didn't take a picture, I carried on following Frank.

I had raced the short journey between Roeselare train station and my parent's place, but I didn't race as fast as I did to catch the fast London train from Dover Priory.  Once Frank said 'just go Els!', I was off, heart rate sky high.

I sat on the train reflecting on what a wonderful weekend we'd had.

Thank you to Frank especially for organising and providing shelter against the headwind (pleased you were on fixed though!), to Stu and to Jenny for excellent company and a great weekend.

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Frank' s Five Ferry Fietstocht

The CycleChat thread with viewpoints from the others at the end: October's ride for Beer


frank said...

Great write-up and wonderful pictures! The funny thing is that you are so good at observing and subtle at taking pictures that I hardly remember you taking any of them.

Anonymous said...

Zo leuk om het verslag van jullie geslaagde fietstocht te lezen. Het deed plezier je fietsvrienden te ontmoeten in westvleteren.
We genieten ook van de mooie foto's.
Zeker vatbaar voor herhaling, met een bezoek aan t oveke inbegrepen! Xxx

Kris said...

Cycling in Holland is different FROM cycling in Belgium...:) It's a bit more lively and roughly chaotic overhere but always opportunities for fun and adventure too!I am glad you left the gun to your left ( as we say in flemish) or that hunter could have shot an enormous bunny that day and we couldn't have read your reflections anymore... snif snif...see yoou soon again! xxx