Over the border……..

Well, I guess being flexible/vague just took a new turn.

We awoke in Lille with the plan to go to Ypres. A short conversation ensued, along the lines of ‘is this the right direction?’. So, we decided to head for Kortrijk in Belgium in the hope that this will help us move on.

I had stuck the key towns in the Garmin, which performed pretty well. Before we travelled, we spent some time trying to decide on the right GPS to take. We looked at a number of models, including the Garmin 800 and a new tourist version, which is a cut down version of the 800. We needed WiFi download capability and route planning, which drove us to the Garmin 1000. To be fair, it works pretty well, particularly when trying to pick your way out of a large town, like this morning.

Anyway, after a coffee and a bagel in the centre of Lille, we were off.

Leaving a rainy Lille
Leaving a rainy Lille

I was very impressed with the cycle routes and the fact that the Garmin recognised them as part of it’s route planning. Today we travelled c. 35k and I reckon about 2k of that was not on a well marked and well surfaced cycle path. This is half a world away from what we are used to.

We stopped at a MacDonalds on the way (toilets and free WiFi) and later in a bar (toilet stop), which was very busy and Claud caused some interest with the locals.

Outside the busy French bar
Outside the busy French bar

We weren’t sure when we would cross the border into Belgium, but this soon became clear. In the space of 1k, we moved from a street that was closed and deserted (that will be France) to a street where all the shops were open, people were milling about and, really, bands were playing! Also all the road signs had become unintelligible.

Crossed into Belgium!
Crossed into Belgium!

We had a picnic on the riverside and then made our way along the river cycle path into Kortrijk.

Picnic!
Picnic!

As we closed into this town, Louise started to get fatigued and kept asking to stop for a stretch and, 1k before the town, because she did not feel very well. Having only cycled c35k in the most benign of conditions and with many stops, this was more that a worry. There is a long way to go and Louise is certainly fitter than today has indicated.

We arrived at Kortrijk in the middle of some kind of beer festival and managed to find the tourist office. Although the town looked a nice place, we thought we would check the trains to Ghent before making our decision about next steps.

So, we jumped on a train to Ghent. I say ‘jump’, I mean, push, pull and struggle to get Claud on the train. Belgium is massively cycle friendly, but had the worst bike storage facilities on a train we have seen. Mick had to stay with Claud for the half hour journey, just to keep him upright.

Happy to be looking after Claud.
Happy to be looking after Claud.

We arrived in Ghent in the pouring rain. We left the station and I have never seen so many bikes in one place as those parked in this area.

We find a bar with WiFi and search for somewhere to stay. We agree it is time to try a hostel and that we should have a full day here in Ghent, so we book two nights.

When we arrive, despite the good cycle parking, free WiFi and cheap room, I can tell Louise is under impressed with the place, in particular the bunk beds and no en suite facilities.

I volunteer for the top bunk and we go and grab some food in and excellent meat restaurant called ‘Amadeus ‘. We come back to the Hostel, attempt to mingle with the clientele and go to bed in defeat.

This evening we discussed our continued lack of planning. Despite the random nature of our current approach, to some extent it is quite refreshing. We have a full day here tomorrow, after which we need to decide whether to cycle from here or get the train to Antwerp and begin our quest to Amsterdam from there.

Who knows?

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