This is the first post describing my five week cycling tour of Netherlands, Belgium and France in June 2019
My journey to Harwich (including the trials of cycling in London) is in this post:
I cycled 450 km in the Netherlands, here is my route to Antwerp.
The crossing from Harwich was exceptionally smooth and I slept well in the quiet and comfortable cabin.
I felt there was no need to rush to leave the ferry, so had a leisurely breakfast and packed my panniers. By the time I sauntered along and found my bike the other cyclists had left, making it easy to load up and ride off. I quickly passed through passport control – not rushing to leave the ferry also meant no queue.
A quick stop to reposition my handlebar mirror for riding on the right and I felt as though my tour had really begun.
Almost immediately, I was confronted with my first roundabout. Checking my road position and so on was irrelevant, though.
I was in the Netherlands and cycling on a cycle path round a roundabout where cars were giving me, a cyclist, right of way! This was such a new experience I felt like going round again just for the hell of it.
I was heading for my first campsite just south of Amsterdam (see ‘Recreatiecentrum Bots Holland’ –http://www.botsholland.nl/ – in the top image that shows my route). My route meandered through suburbia on quiet cycle paths …
… and then onto a path parallel with the North Sea (on the right in this photo) …
… and past huge expanses of greenhouses on the inland side of the path …
The signage on all the cycle paths in the Netherlands (and Belgium) was very good
Around 11 am the path started to get busy with walkers, families on bikes and e-bikes, all mingling with serious club cyclists out for a Sunday morning high-speed ride. I soon realised that cyclists don’t acknowledge each other – it would be a bit like a car driver waving at every car they see. There was a cameraderie of sorts amongst us tourers. Of course, there was always time for a coffee.
After my coffee stop, the route turned inland going past a Dutch icon that was built centuries before the housing estate that now surrounds it…
Eventually the cycle path merged onto the side of another Dutch icon…
It was brightening up all the time, too.
Sometimes it was necessary to cross a waterway – waiting for the canal traffic to pass was a hardship in the sun.
I arrived at the campsite mid-afternoon. The Whitsun public holiday meant it was very busy.
The owner asked if I wanted to pitch in a quiet area or on the main site. The sheltered corner and table in the quiet area (one other camper, also a cyclist) together with a convenient bike stand and shelter made it hard to decide…
.. however, the ongoing holiday partying at 3 am helped convince me I’d made the right decision.
Monday was a public holiday and I had to get some food, so headed off for the nearest Lidl – about 20 kilometres away.
I had printed a few maps of cycle routes around Amsterdam and decided to follow the one nearest to the Lidl.
This was a great idea in theory. But, without a suitable map case I could fit to my bar bag and the difficulty finding and reading Dutch street names on the map and on the streets meant I gave up after a few kilometres. Being a tourist in Amsterdam is probably best on foot.
A Dutch guy I met while camping later, near den Bosch, reckoned I had done quite well. He told me local cyclists in Amsterdam will give no quarter. Any eye contact indicates you are not one of them and so fair game.
Besides it had started to rain, so I took the sensible option and sought refuge in a convenient cafe.
After the rain passed, I returned on a canal-side path to a now quiet campsite, passing this statue of Rembrandt.
Tuesday afternoon, I visited Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, a picturesque town about 10 kilometres from the campsite.
The choice of cafes was almost overwhelming
I decided Amsterdam was too far away to be a tourist with only paper maps and headed for Arnhem on Wednesday.
This was to be my longest ride of the tour – 102 km – and the wettest.