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North Sea to the Alps

RC

Spotted the advert (in the CTC members magazine) Liked it. Did it. Loved it. The end…

OK to elaborate a bit more thirty one of us cycled through six countries in 10 days, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg, France, Germany and Switzerland, as usual it was an organised camping trip with back up vehicle that transported your luggage, the route was pre-planned with detailed instructions as well as two mechanics who also rode with the group to help anyone with road side repairs.

‘Delft’ crossing
The holiday started with the high speed ferry crossing from Harwich to the Hook of Holland with a short afternoon ride to our first campsite at Delft. As with most of our stay in Holland we rode mainly on Cycle paths that are common place throughout the country, it is so refreshing to see that they are used by such a large portion of the community, much more so than we see here in the UK. We often noticed couples taking an afternoon ride around the country side as well as the children and many adults who used the paths for their daily commute… if only we were catered for like that here in the UK.

RC

We then spent another couple of days cycling down through Holland, where there is easy cycling alongside the vast network of canals before going through the deep forests and more hilly terrain of the Ardennes in Belgium, as usual many of the campsites were set in picturesque locations with showers as well as washing and drying facilities for our kit. Many of the riders were new to cycling and good facilities are always appreciated, although some ‘CTC’ regular riders are minimalistic ‘hardy’ types who revel in hand washing their kit every night and then putting the whole lot back on still damp every morning, many newcomers would be horrified at the thought and as such the well equipped camp sites came as a welcome relief; as far as I am concerned anything that contributes to attracting more people to cycle touring gets my vote.

black forest

Belgium borders
From the Ardennes we cycled through the rich vineyards of northern France and into Luxembourg. It never ceased to amaze me that although on many occasions we did not cross any indicated borders, it was often immediately evident that we had in fact ridden into a different country due to the difference in architecture and especially the difference in the quality of the roads, In Belgium for example they simply chuck a shovel of tarmac in the general direction of a hole from the back of a lorry and let the traffic squash it in; but in Luxembourg you could play snooker on the roads they were that good. After Luxembourg we headed back into France through the picturesque Vosges hills before crossing the mighty River Rhine into Southern Germany

vosges

The Black Forest
After a day following the Rhine we headed into the beautiful hills of the Black Forest; although at 1000m plus they are high enough. For anyone who has never been there they were well worth a visit with beautiful wooded climbs and ‘Alpine Style’ villages. The climbs themselves are very similar to those found in the lower slopes of the high Alps, the only real difference I felt was that you can not hear the roar of the mountain streams as you can at the bottom of most of the high Alpine passes (they are there though, but they make more of a cheeky tinkle than a mighty roar) and of course you do not go high enough to ride through the tree line.

black forest

I personally preferred these hills to the higher Cols, as you are not climbing for hours on end up and up forever and a day right through the snow line and into the colder altitudes. Once on the Col Du Galibier (one of the higher Alpine passes at 2646m) I was so cold on the descent I wore every item of clothing that I had in my panniers… my spare shorts on my head and everything… I looked drop dead gorgeous. My favourite part has always been the wooded sections and the climbs in the Black Forest were just that.

From the Black Forest we crossed the River Rhine again as we headed south to Frick in Switzerland for transfer to Zurich for the flight home as yet another tour was over. Apart from one slightly ticklelish day in Holland the weather was superb, I had a red nose that contrasted magnificently with all the normal cyclist white bits to prove it! I met some wonderful new people who really helped to make this holiday much more than just about the cycling, plus I felt much fitter after 611 miles of great cycling, would I do it all again? NOT ARF… and I can’t say more than that can I.

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