Celebrating our 30th anniversary – part 1

I think it was the end of February that we decided on a small tour to celebrate our 30th anniversary. So we booked an Airbnb in Duinen on the Belgian coast and invited a few family members to join us.
It turned out to be a great idea as the weather was great (for the most part), and we just needed to get back on our bikes. It had been far too long since our last ride.

Day 1 – Maastricht to Neerlinter camping – 69kms

Slow start this morning, we’re both tired  and not firing on all cyclinders. We leave at 10:00 cycle a few kilometers before finding out we forgot all the plastic at home so back again for a restart 45 minutes later. About 15kms later we found out I had forgotten the tablet. Well nothing to do about that we still have two smart phones so at first chance on a wifi we down load the appropriate maps on maps.me. to Bruges and call our daughter to bring along the tablet.
On top of all that later in the evening I find out my inflatable pillow leaks wtf. We no problem there either I contact our daughter again and tell her to bring my spare inflatable pillow.
Anyway the ride today was great, warm weather with a slight tail wind. We rode on the N79 to just before Tongeren where we got on the Belgian cycling network for the rest of the ride. Other cyclists here but only chatted with this one girl cycling alone to Paris. Diner tonight was our usual past with a cheese sauce with Greek yogurt and fruit for dessert. Camping here is ok if a bit expensive.

On the road again

The Albert canal

One of two bridges over the Albert canal from Maastricht into Belgium

Smiles all around

The N79

Finally having lunch once we got off the N79

On the Jiker stream

Right after Tongeren

We had our second lunch in an area where the Romans had built several Chateau’s

Sint-Truiden

Day – 2 Neerlinter camping to Grimberger – 62kms

On the road by 09:45 on a sunny morning with the wind getting stronger by the hour. Being sunday and us a bit tired we decided to follow the N3 than the N2 going around Tienen and right through Leuven. All went nice but after Leuven there were a couple of steep hills that would have been awful to cycle on a busier weekday.
Camping is good with excellent facilities.

On the N3

Leuven seemed deserted. We were glad we chose this day to ride through it.

Leuven town hall

WWI cemetary on the N2 near Beisem

Nice place to live right under Brussels International airport. This house was just meters from the runway.

On the N211

Crossing the Brussels – Charleroi canal

Having a breather after setting up the tent

Went out for a nice steak and several beers, right behind one my favorite Brewery’s, Grimbergen.

Grimbergen church

When we got back we had a chat with our neighbur Bodo. He flew to Gilbralter and is cycling to Northcape.

Day 3 – Grimbergen to Camping Reamerik (south of Aalst) – 43kms

On the road by 10:15 we were chatting with our neighbur Bodo. Rained last night a bit and this morning was gray with a cold headwind.
We somehow menaged to get on the Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx cycling route which we did a part. It’s a steep and challenging route on mostly cobblestones which we did on fully loaded bikes. I’m sure at a slower pace than Eddy 🙂
Camping here is real basic. Just a working camping with about twenty different nationalities.
Only good things about this place was the friendly manager and the ice cold Jupiler beer.

The Atomium in Brussels

With the expo in the foreground

Love my zoom lens

Rain was always threatening

After several kilometers of this our hands and buts were numb. Also Moniques bike broke two spokes.

We just follow the cycling path junction numbers, no maps needed

Even thought the camping was basic, our pitch was real nice and we slept like babies.

Day 4 – Camping Reamerik to Warmshower hosts (near Kortrijk) – 71kms

Last night was very cold. We wore everything so we could sleep. When we finally got on the road we headed south for about 5kms (on the camping managers advice) to the nearest bicycle shop to replace the broken spokes. Cost us €10.
We took advantage of the May 1st holiday to take the N roads. Still a bit noisy but we made good time. Later in the afternoon it began to drizzle. Lightly at first and in progressively got worst that by the time we reached our Warmshower hosts we were soaked.
Our hosts were great, warm diner and the special Belgian beers kept coming till about 22:30 when we called it a night. We were lucky to be inside tonight as outside was cold and raining all night. They only had one spare bed so I got the floor.

Second breakfast outside some village church

Just a view from the days ride. (click to view larger)

On the N8 after Brakel

Having lunch behind the Sint-Blasius-Boekel Kern on the N454

Old military bunkers

Nice to see they preserved them. After this it started to rain so no more pictures.

Day 5 – Warmshower hosts to Camping Lombarde (near Newpoort) – 72kms

For some reason we could only manage about 2 hours of sleep and around 06:00 we got up and started to get our things together. Looking outside we found out that it was still raining.
Our hosts were both working and needed to be out of the house at 08:15. We had a glass of orange juice and a cheese sandwitch. Not good for a couple dedicated coffee drinkers.
So on a rainy morning we set out for the North sea. We got on the busy and wet N36 and heads down we cycled for about 10kms before we found a cup of coffee and a sweet roll to wake us up. We cycled on the N36 (on/off) to Diksmuide were we found a cycling path that took us in a streight line all the way to Newpoort.
It rained for most of the day finally letting up after Diksmuide
At Newpoort we looked for a camping but the nearest camping to town was not really for cyclists and even though the place had about 30% ocupency they pointed us to the edge of the camping. So we just asked for our money back and found the lovely camping Lombarde. Cheap and quiet. Just what we needed after a long wet day. Needless to say we slept good that night.

Our Warmshower hosts, Klaas, Hanne and beautiful Maud

Taking refuge from the rain

The Yser peace monument in Diksmuide

We took the shortest route

Which proved to be a Gem, even in this weather

With many renforced bunkers from the great war

Nearing Newpoort

Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk Newpoort

Monument for King Albert I

Shopped for some supplies and found this wonderful (Award winning Belgian beer).
But 2 of these after a day like this and we were out.

Our home for the night

Day 6 – Camping Lombarde to Airbnb by Camping Duinenlac – 37kms

Great nights sleep. It rained last night and it was windy and gray in the morning. The camping gardeners woke us up with their hedge cutters but that didn’t spoil our mood.
Well what a day, we had strong head winds all of the 37km ride. It was really hard and slow cycling but great to see the North Sea again. We stopped for coffee, sweetrolls and many more times for taking pictures. The sun eventually came out but that head wind was not letting up.
We made it to the Airbnb about 2 minutes before the rest of the gang which had traveled by car.
The apartment was great and now we chill for a few days before we had back home.

Our first view of the North Sea

A strainge sculpture to say the least. It’s supposed to be splashing sea foam

A proper view of the North Sea coastline. Notice the wind on Moniques hair. (click to view larger)

Monument to Agent 212 from a Belgian children’s cartoon. There were many more along the way

More reminders of a darker time. Which by the way modern-day politicians seem to be forgetting

There were several of these also

Monument to Leopold II in Ostende

Dansing waves, Patrick Steen 1961

Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Ostende

And some 60,s soft porn from Bredene aan Zee

We mostly followed the Kust Fietsroute

The artistic pedestrian bridge leading to the beach. Our Airpbnb apprtment was a few meters past

After all the greatings we settled down to a good dinner. Moniques sister Liselotte our Daughter Femke and her boyfried Joey

After dinner we went to check out the sunset over the North Sea

As the sun went down it also got quite cold

Femke made this wonderful heart shape with 30 writen in the sand. ***How sweet***

 

Part II