september 2001

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Monday October 1st

The daily news are on the October page !

Sunday September 30th (Plymouth)

It's raining, fortunately we are again inside for a day rest, by John and Penny this time. Bikes cleaning, chains oiling, Monopoly with Jane and Lucy, walking along the breaking sea (The Hoe) and the old streets of Plymouth where wind and rain rush in.

This will bring us much pleasure for the crossing to Roskoff in Brittain, by the ferry planned at 11:30 pm tonight…

See also birdwatching and gastronomy.

Saturday September 29th (Plymouth, km+62=6809)

Our hosts run very unusual businesses: Christine makes punch caps, and Lionel works with a non-profit organization which publish - amongst other books - bibles for Indian blind people, which implies two translations, to Indi and then toBraille. They are very enthusiastic in various activities, and following their advices we ride towards the Dartmoor heights, via the villages of North Bovey, Manaton, Haytor Vale, Widecombe in the Moor, etc.

The landscapes are absolutely marvelous, the heaths covered with ferns, heathers and genistas are traversed freely by sheeps, cows and poneys. The ups and downs are very sharp and we have to push our bicycles more than ten times, which is not easier than staying on the saddle, but allows for changing the tempo. We have picnic in a touristic village, while watching a group of gentlemen dressed as Sherlock Holmes.

This kind of fantaisy is only found in England, as well as an incredible sense of hospitality. Along the road going down to Plymouth, a car is waiting for us: "Have you been cycling all the way from the North Cape ?"

Our rear pannel had drawn the attention of John and Penny who suggest us to lodge at their home tonight. Their daugthers Jane, 7 and Lucy, 5 are lovely blond; Jane makes incredible play on words, which we have much difficulties to understand…

Friday September 28th (Mortonhampstead, km+67=6748)

The road is going up, so sharply that sometimes I am clenching my teeths to better advance, or that we have to push our bicycles; we are going down too, along paths so steeps that we cannot take advantage of the slope, clutched at our brakes to avoid gaining to high speeds through one-way, narrow roads without visibility. Therefore we have beaten our record for the slowest average speed: 11,2 km/h today.

Nothing is better than picnics in the churchs gardens: it has become one of our specialities: we enjoy the charm of the church itself, often excellent benches, the quiet graveyards, sometimes even toilets, but since Scandinavia this excellent tradition goes a bit down.

Exeter, according to the Lonely Planet, has been heavily destroyded by the bombings in the 1940 wartime, but we have appreciated this lively town, its extraordinary cathedral, the park and its surrouding houses.

Here we are at the entry of the Dartmoor National Park; on top of a high rise, Lionel was waiting for us with cold drinks, after overtaking us with his car and reading our very useful rear pannel (bearing our website address). Lionel and his wife have two daughters and thanks to their hospitality, we have planted our tent in their garden and I am typing our daily report on their PC, because here we cannot connect our Nokia to the Web.

Thursday September 27th (Axmouth, km+69=6680)

Tim has kissed us when we left this morning after riding a few yards with him. Thank you for the excellent time spent together.

We face a weather as propitious to depression as the international state, while putting our efforts on the long rises boarded by these omnipresent hedge-rows.
The landscapes are really fantastic, especially with these autumn colours which begin to show up.

At the top of Black Down, a high hill covered with sandy moors and ferns, a stone tower rises proudly at the skies. The ancients called it "Fall Lusgy Gantic Us", which diverted the Normans to a great extent.

I type these few reflexions from an attractive pub, in front of a Murphy's pint that I drink your's health.

Wednesday September 26th (Winterborne Monkton)

Today we have a rest, with a rainy weather. We have walked under the rain to Dorchester. Maiden Castle looks down upon Winterborne, it is a fortified hill since 3000 BC, with three rows of trenches built in the celto-roman times. While digging their kitchen-garden Jon and Tim have found pebble arrow-heads and terra-cotta small balls for swings, etc.

In Dorchester we have spent some time on the library's PC's (we love reading your messages and follow the progression of our cyclist friends). At the travel agency Bath we have booked our fares for the ferry between Plymouth and Roscoff. We paid a visit at the Ottakar's book shop and bought The Smallest Whale by E. Beresford and S. Field for Tim, The wind in my wheels by J. Dew for Jon and Liz who had spent their honeymoon cycling in Bavaria, and Notes for a small island by B. Bryson for ourselves.

Liz is a psychotherapist and works with difficult patients, Jon is an artist (very realistic pen drawings and aquarelles), and takes care of Tim, 6 years old.
The school is not mandatory in England, and Tim is part of these home educated children, sometimes up to the age of 18. At least once per week he meets friends who receive the same type of home education. Up to now this appears to be convenient for him.

Tuesday September 24th (Winterborne Monkton, km+76=6611)

We have spent a very good evening with Charlotte and James, sharing with them a major common interest for tintinologie (the science of Tintin's adventures by the famous Belgian Hergé). James is the founder of Ottakar's, the second English bookselling business with 85 points of sales, and a wink to the celebrated Syldavian king.

This morning was the anniversary of Xan (Alexander) who for his 6 years has received a complete panoply bearing the effigy of the famous reporter: school satchel, alarm-clock, calendar, coat-rack, and so on. The little brother of Elisa, Xan and Georgia, a lovely baby aged 6 monts, is called Harry Tintin, Harry for his mother, Tintin for his father !

Tonight we arrived just below Dorchester, by Jon, Liz and their son Tim, already welcomed by the smoke going out of the chimney, and inside, by a joyous coal fire. It is late, we shall tell you more tomorrow, because we will spend here an additional day.

Monday September 24th (Bowerchalke, km+72=6535)

This morning at 7:30 am Peter brought in the guest-room a tea-tray with two cups, then we had breakfast together. Goodbye Peter, Penny and Sally (the cocker), thank you for your nice hospitality.

the Round TableOur brother-in-law Webmaster Roland told us yesterday by phone (we had a call with him because our messages went out with difficulties these last days) that he loves Winchester, where he travels regularly for his business. We should'nt miss the King Arthur statue, the Round Table of the 24 Knights, and the hill at the end of the town, accessible by stairs, with a beautiful view. We did follow his advices and then left the town along a former roman road.

Above Salisbury is Old Sarum, an old fortress, castle, cathedral and village, deserted some time after a new cathedral was build in the 13th century 1 ¾ mile away, an impressive church that we have visited.

Today we have seen fields which are almost white, because of their chalky ground. Hence the names of some villages: we passed Broad Chalke, then arrived in Browerchalke by Charlotte and James (brother of Celia) who welcome us tonight.

Sunday September 23rd (Winchester, km+60=6463)

The nights become fresh, and this morning an exceptional cup of tea was welcome after our traditional yogurt-muesli. With caps and gloves we progress through foggy hills. It is Sunday and the country roads choosen on 1/250.000 maps are the more calm.

We came in the Winchester cathedral during the evensong, vespers singed by an outstanding choir. The priest concludes a sensible sermon on the N.Y. terrorists attacks, the last hymn resounds, and the organist starts a powerful final.

We lodge tonight by Paul's parents, and tomorrow by Celia's brother: their family hospitality extends from stage to stage; we have not yet tested our new tent…

Saturday September 22nd (Midhurst, km+83=6403)

This morning we left Celia, Paul and their boys after sharing with them two days of family life, although we did'nt know them before… Thank you ! Then we ride along the sea : Brigthon, Hove, Portslade, Worthing, but in Littlehampton things definitively get complicated because the cycling road illustrated on the map is not yet fitted up nor arrowed, and the bicycles are up to now often forbidden on the seaside roads, devoted to pedestrians even when they are 10 m broad.

Arundel's cathedralWe are happy to turn into the mainland, and pass near the impressive cathedral in Arundel. We ride through West Burton, Bignor, Sutton, Barlavington, very british villages with old houses so cosy that we would enjoy to stop and spend the autumn near the open fire…

No question about that, we must go on, up hill and down dale, with 17% or even 20% slopes, we love that, our legs had to be stretched. Near East Lavington we lost our way and find ourselves in the huge estate of an english college : "Seaford College, boarding and day school, boys-girls age 11-18". We ask our way to an elegant teenager, dressed with costume and tie. We go out through green meadows, where the horses themselves probably receive a five-stars education…

Thierry, uncle of Gaëtane who is Friar of the Foucault Community in London found several families amongst his friends to welcome us in the south of England: we are tonight by Tim and Marion; they are on holiday, but welcomed us with a letter and a bottle of Rioja, in a former stable converted in a chapel. We shall therefore sleep here as angels, after our dinner : pastes and good wine on the terrace table, equiped with our front lamps.

Friday September 21 (Brighton)

Tim, Aaron & friendsWe decided to stay here one full day, after the tiring stage of yesterday; as we had underestimated the distance and the rises since Rye, we came in Brighton much later than forecasted, just before Tim (10 years) and Aaron (6) went to bed. They had prepared an warm welcome, with a drawing on the door, and some words on the refrigerator…

We had breakfast with them before they rush to the school. We send a few pictures via the e-mail and go discovering Brighton. The pier is large, beautiful, noisy, both kitsh and classical. We had there a "chow-mein", a remembering of our wedding trip to the Nepal, where it has been our preferred meal during our trekking.

The other must has been of course the visit of the Royal Pavilion build by George IV at the beginning of the 19th century in an oriental, extravagant style, an indian maharadja palace decorated at the chinese style, with dragons and so on…

Thursday September 20th (Brighton, km+104=6320)

Iden: thank you Colette and Charles, see you !
Rye: lovely village, where Mary Haddock has lived; she was the widow of Captain Haddock, please refer to the photographic proof.
Broad Oak: we buy our picnic: sweets with black chocolade
Battle: pacific picnic near the church
Castfield: we pain in East Sussex, very undulating
Ninfield: beautiful may-bush hedges, and ripe mulberries
Cooden Beach: Coca-cola stop
Pevensey: pebble walls, flies invasion
Wilmington: "The Long Man", huge drawing on an hill
Seaford: last rays of sun on the chalk cliffs
Peacehaven: long and sorry city in the darkness
Brighton: 9:00 pm, finally we get in, warm welcom by Paul, Celia, Tim and Aaron.

Wednesday September 19th (Iden, km+50=6216)

When I paid the hotel bill this morning, I realized that the cheap prize mentioned yesterday is for one person, the room for two being more expensive... We had to wait in the room until the rain slowed, while keying on the Nokia an article for the former students of St André college where Gaëtane had studied.

We crossed Romney Marsh, a flat region in the Kent where former marshlands have been drained and are now browsed by the sheeps. Our road goes through nice villages and bring us to Iden near Rye, by Colette and Charles, who are cousins of Gaëtane parents; they live in a charming house, typical of this region, with little red tiles covering entirely the walls. We enjoy to meet again Sophie, cousin of the same age as Gaëtane, who has travelled by train from London to spend the evening with us…

Monday September 17th (Folkestone, km+59=6166)

Thank you, all our Belgian hosts who have welcomed us so nicely. This morning we have mounted our bicycles after these unusual rest days, and we have crossed the seaside towns to the north of Oostende: Knokke, Zeebrugge, Blankenberge, Wenduine and De Haan/Le Coq. The sun was with us, what a chance after these two last days of heavy rains, fortunately spent inside a villa.

When we arrive in Dover, we are told that the last weeks have been very dry, the farmers waiting for the rain. And so: the first rain comes when we get out the ferry, and we arrive in Folkestone completely wet. We find a shelter in a cheap hostel: the "Gran Canaria" is ok, and it's a pleasure to speak spanish with the bosses.

We follow the national cycling path nb 2. The United Kingdom has considerably developped these last years the network of cycling routes, thanks to the non-profit organization "Sustrans".

It's now 7:00 pm here and 8:00 pm in Belgium; the time to press the "send" key and wish to you a good night.

Sunday September 16th (Knokke, km+33=6107)

What a pleasure to see again and meet so many people ! This step is a special one. On Saturday at 8:45 am we have been merged in a large crowd gathered at Louvain-la-Neuve in the market-place for the event "Beau Vélo de Ravel".

The weather was rainy, and the European ministers of transportation walked under umbrellas from the railway station to the great Aula auditorium. We found ourselves nearly at the end of a group of 2000 cyclists and with our fully loaded bicycles we never succeeded to overtake the head team during this 20 km cycling tour. After that we could talk with Adrien Joveneau about our cycling trip in a direct radio interview.

We have been very happy to share that morning with old cyclist friends: Thierry, Catherine, Benoît, Isabelle…, a group of "Ingenus" (Ingénieurs Commerciaux of my graduating 1988 year: Fox, Pierre, Loopy, Etienne, Paki…), a colleague and her family (Caty), the responsible of IAG Alumni with a present (Yvonne), other friends coming after the tour: Vincent, Anne, François, Fred and Windy of Singbybike, my sister Christine, my parents on duty at the stand, the responsibles of the sponsoring projects in Nicaragua and Belgium: Daniel, Michèle, Dominique.

We had lunch in the very well known Café des Halles, then we came back by car to our home for a short rest, before driving to Antwerp for the wedding dinner of our friends Hélène and Pierre.

This morning we are at the seaside after a too short night, for a family event: parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nephews and nieces, a tribe of 33 people are sharing this day with us.

Friday September 14th (Court-Saint-Etienne, km+32 =6076)

The farniente morning in Beauvechain nevertheless allowed us a quick birwatching session for the two Benoît. Catherine escorted us for the short way in the afternoon, through the smooth hills of our Walloon Brabant.

We arrived in Court-Saint-Etienne by our friends Jean-Luc and Astrid, and chatted about cyclism in Europe and the event of tomorrow…

Jean-Luc, big pot of Pro Velo: "…tomorrow, if everything goes well, I will be happy to pedal amongst thousands of cyclists, to help our ministers understanding that we want to promote the bicycle in our towns and villages".

Thursday September 13th (Beauvechain, km+66=6044)

We have slept without problems in our tent planted on the Ruppel banks, besides the cycling path, to the amazement of people passing there before dawn: cyclists, rollers or other exercizing their dog.

We came in Beauvechain with a great pleasure by our friends Bénédicte and Benoît and their baby Ysaline, 3 ½ months old: she was born just before our departure, but we had not yet seen she.

A message from their host Benoît: best friends, they are good-looking ! We feel like meeting Indiana Jones and his assistant in our middle-class home, what an anachronism, but what a pleasure to see them again amongst us. I hope you will be numerous rejoigning us in Louvain-la-Neuve to greet them and share their epic experience !

Wednesday September 12th (Niel, km+78=5978)

Today we have been deeply impressed by the terrible news from New York, that we have learned only this morning. We were so troubled that we lost three times our way by missing the road panels on the cycling path LF2.

We crossed however splendid landscapes for our return in Belgium: the heath-land in Kalmthout and beautiful rhododendrons to the north of Brasschaat.

In Antwerpen we watched the terrifying images of the N.Y. World Trade towers on the tourist office screens, and bought a few newspapers: what an horror ! We left the town along the Scheldt, then the Ruppel, towards Mechelen.

Tuesday September 11th (Huijbergen, km+70=5797)

Yesterday night we have sent a message to Luc, Starpole, to mention that our ground carpet gets very wet under our matrasses. This morning exceptionally we have inquired our Nokia Communicator for messages: 3 messages from Luc, very concerned, he probably has found the solution to our problem. Therefore the heading: "sympathetic sponsor".

The Dutch cycling paths are outstanding: they cross woods, fields, meadows, sometimes far from the roads for car; cycling there is a real pleasure.

We have been close to the Belgian boundary, but it's still in Holland that we have set up our camp, using the formula "Campeer bij the boer" (camping by the farmer). Our farmer host produces sheep cheese, and I click my daily report amongst a concert of bleating sheeps.

See also birdwatching and gastronomy.

Monday September 10th (Dordrecht, km+77=5727)

Along the track between two canals, the fight against the lateral wind is continuous. In spite of the poor weather, we enjoy the beautiful landscape of the polders.

In Gouda we have done food shopping, and in Kinderdijk we have stopped and admired the 19 windmills who starting in 1740 pumped the low polders waters up to the adjacent river. Today this is done by huge spiral conveyors, but the windmills still stand up proudly.

We advance slower, when the rain is too heavy, we try to protect ourselves under a tree to avoid getting fully wet.
After having lost the LF2 road and followed the signposts of young hostels and campings, we came back very close to Dordrecht that we had left one hour earlier.

Hold firmly, faithful little tent!

Sunday September 9th (Alphen a/d Rhijn, km+42=5650)

After a mass in latin with three collections (!) and against an hour or two in the huge Cyber Café Easy Everything (kind of market place with 650 PC's!), we have mounted our bicycles, smart after a complete maintenance by a professional and the replacement of the tires and brakes.

We follow presently the LF2 route opened in 1999, from Amsterdam to Brussels via pretty dutch and flemish towns. We ride along the Amstel river, and the exit of Amsterdam is already a nice little road.

Nobody at the Logeerboerderij (lodging farm) where we intended to plant our tent, we should continue until the following camping. Ah, while I was typing, the boss is back, it's not a camping ground, but we may sleep in an unoccupied caravan, a first for us!

Saturday September 8th (Amsterdam)

This morning we were happy to discover our interview in the Telegraaf. As in Belgium, we have appreciated the talent of the reporter.

When we walk in the Amsterdam streets, Gaëtane guides us between the flower-market, Rijksmuseum, post office, Singel and other canals, supermarkets, bicycle shops and cyber cafés.

Still to visit: the Red District and Coffee Shops, is'nt it ?

Friday September 7th (Amsterdam)

Today we take life easily, to such an extent that Benoît does'nt like to write the daily report and gives the Nokia to me. Fortunately I have only the time for a few lines: we leave soon to go and see the film "La Pianiste". We did'nt enter a cinema for more than three months, a challenge for us who go nearly every week at a cinema, by bicycle of course.

Thursday September 6th (Amsterdam)

Although we don't stay in the Red District, the night has been hot in our Leidseplein district: at 4:00 am the street was still showing great activity under our window. We could hear conversations, shouts, bursts of laughter, clicks of bicycles padlocks locked and unlocked, and at each upgrade of decibels, I told myself: "it's finished, they will go back home", but the hurly-burly continued worse than ever. Finally I could fall asleep after screwing again my earplugs.

Today we had lunch with Pierre Drescigh, a diplomat at the Belgian Embassy, and Stephan W. van der Ven, reporter at the Telegraaf. We were a bit abashed to be there without our bicycles, because there was also a photographer who had to shoot ourselves without our mounts. The reporter was very sympathetic, we have answered his questions with enthusiasm.

Then we had a chat with Pierre, civil engineer from Mons who became a probationer diplomat in La Haye, and outstandingly had set up this interview, thanks very much !

Wednesday September 5th (Amsterdam, km+104=5608)

Disappointing arrival in Amsterdam: we had dreamed about a little charming hostel where we could rest after nearly 3 weeks of uninterrupted pedaling, and care about future planning, laundry, bicycles maintenance and tent drying.
We arrived exhausted in front of the closed tourism office, without a town map, in a frantic chaos of cars, bicycles and pedestrians. The hotels are very expensive, here we are in a little room, at the 4th floor, where we have to climb with our 60 kg of luggage spread in 6 bags per person, impossible to transport in one move. The bicycles seem safe in a little rear terrace boarding a channel, and our tent lays on a balcony…

Tuesday September 4th (Nunspeet, km+102=5504)

Dear friends, heavy rains all the day !

The cycling experience today has been the time when the youngs leave school, at about 3:30 pm. First we have been encircled by about fifty schoolboys on the ferry between Zwartsluis and Genemuiden: when embarking, the ticket-collector was so busy with these younsters that he never came to us to collect the toll. Farther, on a narrow cycling path, we have crossed another fifty or so scholars with watchers who shouted "fietsen !" (bicycles !). Whatever the weather, by rain or by wind, they go to school on bicycles - often of good quality - , their foots protected in plastic bags if needed.

Some amusing observations: yesterday on the red roof of a large barn, black tiles displayed: "TUSSEN HEMEL EN AARDE" (Between heaven and land); farther, other tiles sketched a cow and her calf; on another roof "MELK IS ONS DAGELIJKS BROOD" (milk is our daily bread).

See also birdwatching.

Monday September 3rd (Lemmer, km+74=5402)

For the first time, a tire puncture ! After 5327 km without a flat tire, we lived in hopes of arriving in Gibraltar without such an incident. A little glass chip was stuck in the rear tire - which was rather worn indeed.

Yesterday we have crossed very nice villages boarding the Ijsselmeer like Makkum, Piaam, Workum and Hindeloopen. In this latter town we have visited the museum of ice-skating and of the "Elfstedentocht", the famous ice-skating competition with 15 occurences since 1909, according to the thickness of the ice, the last one in 1997.

See also birdwatching.

Sunday September 2th (Harlingen, km+103=5327)

We had to fight all the day against the wind on our faces, and at mid-day we have got drenched with an heavy rain; when we finally came into a big village, tired and wet, all coffee-shops were closed ! We came tonight in a camping, again under the rain.

Fortunately our friends the sheeps amuse us, especially those who kneel down to graze, or the one who looked at us calmly, a Magpie perched on his back.

We have loved a track running along 15 km, west of Oudebiltzij, on a little dike; on the left a channel edged with reeds, on the right, traditional houses. We rode at the same height as the windows, and many people were in their living-rooms by this poor weather. At some time I sneeze loudily, and a woman in her kitchen gives a jump and turns over, bewildered.

Saturday September 1st (Molenrij, km+68=5224)

After having passed through dozens or hundreds sheep gates, ridden alongside dikes which meander without coming to an end, fighten this morning against a strong face wind, we have left with relief the coast to follow he cycling path LF10 (Waddenzee).

This track leads us to the main land and goes through very nice villages that we could'nt see if we follow the seaside.

See also birdwatching.

Friday August 31 (Termunten, km+71=5156)

It's a big change and a pleasure to be able, as soon as we are in the Netherlands, to speak to the people using their language, as we had to use english since our departure. We wondered to find out that the Germans in the north speak very few english, but we could manage to be understood, using a mix of english-german-dutch.

Today we went up slaloming between the sheeps droppings, a bit short-winded after the long ride of yesterday, and under a less favourable wind. We have embarked on the most charming ferry in the world, to cross the Ems between Emden and Ditzum, before the dutch boundary. It was a little pretty ship, only for pedestrians and cyclists: we were 5 passengers, two on a tandem, one on a scooter, we on our bicycles.

By the way, has someone a hint for a lodging in Amsterdam ? Friends, nice youth hostel, little inn ? We plan to arrive there on Wednesday night and stay 3 of 4 days, before riding to Louvain-la-Neuve for the meeting of September 15th, the event "Faites rayonner l'Europe" ("make Europe shining", difficult to translate because the french word "rayon" means a ray of light, and also a spoke of a wheel). See you there, before continuing further…