Bank Holiday cycling in Wales

I’ve not been riding my bike much lately, and I’ve missed it. There’s something delightful about zipping through the countryside on a sunny day. It’s the perfect balance of travelling far/fast enough that the scenery changes, but slow enough that you can take it in. I knew it was exactly what I needed, as it’s been a rough few weeks. Work has been incredibly busy and I’ve been getting increasingly stressed, and I still feel the residues of failure after the marathon DNF.

I thought about going to France for the bank holiday but the prospect of ferry timetables and cycling in crappy ports made me more stressed, so I asked around and someone suggested Wales. I’d never been (I know!) and a friend offered to lend me his copy of Lost Lanes Wales, so the decision was made. Not before spraining my ankle AGAIN though.

Bank holiday weekend rolled around and I worked until 1am on Friday night, before spending Saturday in the park and watching the football. However I was up bright and early on Sunday morning to begin my adventure.

Sunday

I always panic about trains so left myself nearly 1.5 hours to cycle 10km to Paddington. I was worried about my carradice rubbing on my rear wheel, which it did the last time I used it, but it must have been packed wrong as it was nowhere near my wheel all weekend, and by the time I got to Paddington I had almost fought the urge to check it at every red light. Paddington itself didn’t relax me, the ticket machine wouldn’t recognise my card and there were no members of staff around to tell me where the bike carriage was, but these problems were almost immediately overcome and before I knew it I was on the 08:07 heading towards Gloucester, eating a homemade flapjack.

It was a little cloudy on the way across the country, but by the time I arrived in Gloucester at about 10 the sun had come out. I set off through a deserted town centre and onto a cycle route by the river, through a nature reserve. The path was a little gravelly in places and there was definitely a bit of boardwalk missing at one point but it was a pleasant route out of town. I saw a couple of runners but otherwise I had the place to myself.
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I passed an equine college and spotted a few nice looking horses, then came to Hartpury Church, which I’d read about as having a bee shelter. I went to check it out, feeling a bit silly clomping through the churchyard in my cycling shoes. At the back of the churchyard was the shelter, a carved sculpture where bees were encouraged to live so that they could pollinate the nearby fields. There were no bees here today, hopefully not because of colony collapse disorder or anything apocalyptic like that.
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I thought I might stop for lunch in Newent but my route went right on by, and so I carried on heading north-west. I was pretty hungry and ran out of energy, getting off my bike a couple of times. It was definitely more of a mental thing as at every hill my mind was defeated well before my legs. I stopped to have a snack on a bench outside a church near Kempley and felt a lot better.
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I crossed over a surprisingly scenic main road, and past what I thought might be a pottery.
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My route went west for a little before turning south at How Caple and along a lovely lane heading towards the River Wye. I stopped to take a picture of the valley and didn’t realise I had three cars behind me – oops.
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There were families out by the river, enjoying the sunshine, and I was tempted to go for a swim, but thought it would probably be extremely cold and not much fun.
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From here it was just a short distance to Ross-on-Wye, where I (finally!) stopped for lunch – a sourdough cheese salad roll and a chocolate crispy cake. In the sunshine. Ah. That felt better!
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Ross-on-Wye had an annoying one way system which meant I did about 50 laps of the town before managing to escape south towards Monmouth. Since Kempley I’d been following a route I’d made up, rather than one recommended anywhere, and was pleasantly surprised at how it wasn’t totally awful. South of Ross-on-Wye wasn’t amazing, but it was still quietish roads. And then… the A40. I don’t mind a dual carriageway, but it wasn’t exactly fun, so when I saw a sign at the next junction to a “hedge maze” I immediately decided that I couldn’t live without seeing the hedge maze and turned off.

The hedge maze was at a butterfly farm, of course, which is something I actually find quite disturbing (I went to one as a child and found the sensation of butterflies landing on me a bit weird) so I had an icecream in the sun instead of looking at the maze or the butterflies. There were loads of kids running around, including one little boy who was being chased by his parent, desperately trying to put a nappy on him. I decided to leave before someone did a poo on the grass.

It was back on the A40 for about 5km, which no one was happy about – I didn’t like it and the drivers didn’t like it either. I passed a sign “Croeso i Gymru” and carried on pedalling down the A40. Not exactly the bucolic welcome to Wales I was hoping for.

Eventually I got to turn off the main road and headed into Monmouth. I rode around for a while and decided it was too early (and sunny) to go to my B&B, so investigated the loud booming voice I could hear all over town. Turns out it was the Monmouth Regatta, and I got down to the river just in time to see the final race.
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Rowers and cyclists appear to wear pretty similar clothes (ie. lycra and garish sunglasses) so I fitted in well, and hung out by the river, watching the rowers be replaced by swans.
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After checking into my B&B, where I was assigned Oliver Cromwell’s old bedroom, I showered and got changed into the dress I’d brought with me (everyone takes dresses cycle touring, right?) while listening to terrible pop music. I went out to explore the town, and wandered through a meadow listening to Fuck Buttons on my ipod.monmouth.png

The owner of the B&B had told me about places to eat in the town, and recommended a Mexican restaurant as serving huge portions. It looked nice and laid back, too, and I had a relaxed evening reading and stuffing myself with chilli and cheese. Then it was back to the B&B, where there was a blues night going on downstairs. I opted for lounging on my bed and was asleep by 11pm.

Monday

I’d said I wanted an early breakfast, saying I’d be down at 7.30 – but didn’t wake up until 7.30! I chucked some clothes on and went downstairs, where I chatted to the lovely owner while eating a (veggie) full english. It’s not what I’d normally eat but I thought it would help fuel me for the day ahead.

I got myself together and got on the road. It was forecast to get warmer so I’d rolled my shorts up so that the tan line would be the same as the day before. Priorities! I had a full change of clothes, which I could have done without but it was nice to not have to put on smelly kit.

Immediately out of Monmouth there were a few hills, but my legs felt a lot happier than the day before. I felt generally in much better spirits than I had the day before, clearly eating proper food is a good thing!

I was cycling parallel to the A40 but a distance from it, but eventually I crossed over and decided that this must be South Wales. There was one very big hill on the agenda for the day and this was immediately after the A40, but I felt a lot more positive and rode up almost all of it, stopping for a quick photo near the top as the views were just so lovely.
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Then I hurtled through some lanes, freaking myself out a bit on the descents. I really hate descending, I have an irrational terror that I can usually keep semi-under control but it will occasionally bubble up into a physical refusal to go on. I went through a farm and round a corner, and faced a 15% descent. And stopped. It was actually kind of difficult to get off my bike as it was so steep but I managed it, sweating coldly and trying/failing to have words with myself.

I could hear voices close by but couldn’t work out where they were coming from. Eventually I managed to get back on my bike and around the corner I saw a car and small sheep transporter in the road. The farmer and his three dogs were rounding up the sheep into the transporter. He was a young guy and we had a brief chat before he had to leg it after one errant sheep who didn’t want to go in the transporter. I was pretty transfixed by the working dogs and the way one corralled the sheep into a field.
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Once the farmer had gone I had a 15% slog up the other side of the little valley, but this turned out be to the final steep hill as after this there were a few km to go before hitting a bigger road into Usk, a further few km on from there.

Usk is pretty small, so small I managed to accidentally cycle through the whole town and miss the high street, and had to do a u-turn outside what I thought was a picturesque castle (but was actually a young offender’s institution). I had lunch in a Sprokwobble’s cafe, enjoying a cup of tea in the sunshine.

Beyond Usk, it got warmer and I headed south, keeping the river to my right before crossing a steep bridge at Newbridge. I stopped to make friends with some cows near the golf course.
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Heading into Caerleon, a village outside Newport, I went past a cemetery and along a lane almost entirely encircled by flowers, before taking a wrong bloody turn and going down an access road for the railway. I turned back and got back onto the right track, a designated cycle way to Newport (how did I miss the signs?!). This was a really lovely route, the path ran alongside the railway and next to the river on a wooden boardwalk. I wish I’d stopped to take pictures as it was so beautiful!

Lots of people were out on bikes and families out walking. A family had left their baby in a pram in the middle of the path but were super polite and apologised to me for getting in their way. Don’t worry about me, I thought! Two young boys cycled past and one wobbled off and into some stinging nettles. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!” the other asked, in the most Welsh accent imaginable.

The path continued into Newport, kicking me out onto a main road, which was a bit grim but I managed to get back on the cycle path by the new footbridge. There were some signs up detailing the history of Newport and I had a good old read, before heading along the cycle path hugging the water’s edge..
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I have to admit to being a sucker for bridges and other engineering marvels (eg. my longstanding love for the Falkirk Wheel) so I was very excited to see the transporter bridge. There are only two in the UK! From afar it didn’t look that great, but as I got closer I saw the gondola making the crossing, and when I got closer still I heard that the visitor centre was banging out tunes like Gangnam Style and the Macarena. I stripped down to my vest and shorts and sat by the bridge, watching the bridge in action and eating some quasi-healthy sweets.
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From here I got back on the bike, through an industrial estate and onto a long, flat road to Cardiff. It seemed like the kind of road that might be busy mid-week but on a bank holiday it was fairly deserted. There were a lot of horses by the side of the road and I was a little wary of them. I went down Lamby Way, and past the Lamby Industrial Estate, but there were no signs so no photos, alas.

Once in Cardiff I headed for the centre, then saw a sign to Cardiff Bay and followed that. There were so many people out enjoying the sunshine and there was a great vibe. The Welsh Assembly building is very impressive.
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I begrudgingly headed to the station and got some snacks before getting the train back to London, my phone full of snaps ready for instagramming and my soul salved by two days outside in the sunshine.

Planning the #hatsradtour

I was asked how I went about planning the route for my tour, so I thought I’d write up on what I did.

Firstly, I did a lot of staring at google maps while I decided roughly where I wanted to go.

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I toyed with the idea of visiting a friend in Darmstadt, but that made the route quite long.

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Eventually I opened ridewithgps.com and plotted an extremely rough route.

Next I had a think about where I would be staying. Initially I thought I’d do no more than 100km a day but it was often hard to find places to stay in suitable locations! Other than a hostel in Berlin, I stayed at Airbnb places, so I opened up the Airbnb site and had a look at where I should stay.

I had to ride a bit further on the 1st day as I wanted to stay to the right of this map, but could only stay at the place on the left.

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Once I’d booked my accommodation I marked all these on my ridewithgps route and made the necessary adjustments to the route. I then had a think about where I might like to go through on the way, and fiddled about with the route until I had a rough plan for the whole thing, which looked like this:

ridewithgps

I then kind of forgot about things for a while as I had quite a bit on with work!

In the week before I set off, I broke the route down into individual days and tweaked them to include points of interest along the way, and diverting away from main roads wherever possible. This is one day:

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Of course, when it came to it, there was quite a lot of freestyling, especially towards the end of each day as I headed into a town. Every day before I set off I would look at the route and if I knew that a particular place was really nice then I’d head there instead of following my route precisely.  I also took recommendations from people along the way, or followed signs (in the Netherlands in particular). This cycle route through the woods was recommended to me on the way out of Amersfoort and was lovely!

In hindsight, I wish I had spent more time on the route. Most of the time I was on quiet roads or cycle paths but there was the occasional busy road and a few muddy off road bits that I could have done without. With a Garmin (Garmin Edge 800) and OSM maps it’s easy to change route, and the battery life on the Garmin is excellent. I had it on from 9am until 6pm, with a lot of looking at the screen and navigating, and it only started to run low on one day (I had a battery pack with me anyway just in case).

Now if only I could stop looking at maps and thinking where I want to go next!

#hatsradtour: my winter summer holiday

#hatsradtour

I don’t know what gave me the idea, or what possessed me to do it in late autumn, but for my holiday this year I cycled from Berlin to the Hague, timing it so that I began my trip the weekend the clocks changed.

A few people I know have cycled from Berlin to Amsterdam before; I enjoyed cycle touring in the Netherlands last year; I wanted a big adventure… This year I turned 30 and I wanted to do something momentous to mark the occasion – originally I wanted to take the Trans-Siberian railway, but the ongoing conflict in Russia required a rethink.

So I cycled over 500 miles, on my own. And it was brilliant.

High points: the scenery, sweet little towns and interesting cities, endless snacking opportunities, seeing an owl, sunrises, sunsets and the sense of accomplishment.

Low points: the cold, the mist and my garmin misbehaving. And all forms of transport other than my bike.

Days 1 and 2: A day each in Paris and Berlin, with an unexpected fuck up by Deutsche Bahn.

Days 3, 4 and 5: Berlin to Hanover, the mistiest and coldest days. Included a fair bit of cyclocross, some at sunset (do not recommend).

Days 6 and 7: Hanover to the Netherlands. Getting in a fight and disappearing off the map.

Days 8 and 9: Crossing the Netherlands, powered by cheese, stroopwafels and Indonesian food. In the sunshine!

Days 10 and 11: The Hague, where I ran a bit, chilled out and fell down the stairs.

I tweeted the trip and really loved all the responses I got – thanks to everyone who kept me company on my #hatsradtour

#hatsradtour, day 10 and 11: Hague, Hook and home

Monday, Day 10

My navigational skills had been surprisingly good all trip, so of course I went completely the wrong way when I went for a run around the Hague, something I only realised a mile into the run.

I spent the day relaxing at Lola’s Bikes, where I read an entire book in Dutch and became suddenly aware that I had my top on back-to-front, then wandering about quite aimlessly but happily. I didn’t go to any museums in the end, but went to De Paas beerhall and also ate a pancake, before going home for another great evening with my hosts, Menno and Elze. They really made me feel at home and we could have stayed up even later than we did, just chatting.

 

Tuesday, Day 11

I was sad to be leaving the Netherlands and my subconscious made a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to get me to stay by throwing me down a flight of stairs. I was on my way out for a run and despite the blood dripping from my hand and elbow, and quite a sore back and bum, decided to still go out running. Make the most of the adrenaline, I thought. It wasn’t a great idea as I had to detour into a café to get a napkin for my hand.

I packed up and rode the final miles to the Hook of Holland, stopping off at the beach.

I really wanted to go to the Maeslantkering but my back was getting quite sore so I bailed, but got this shot from the ferry.

View from the ferry

Arriving in Harwich, many many hours later, I was struck by what an almighty dump it is, the train station in particular.

So sad to be home. What a rad tour.

 

#hatsradtour, day 8 and 9: Crossing the Netherlands

Saturday, Day 8

I confided in a friend that I felt a bit alone. “Darling,” she said. “You’ve been on your own for days!” Good point. I decided to cut myself some slack.

With every mile that passed I felt better, and even found the endless level crossings (I wish I’d kept count!) amusing, or at least a good excuse to snack on German Christmas treats. I headed for Deventer, which my LP guide assured me was “the Delft of the east”. I loved Delft when I went and had high hopes, all of which were realised. There was a man playing ‘Gangnam Style’ on the hurdy-gurdy and a sprawling food market in the town square.

My LP guide had also said that Apeldoorn was dull (I later found out it’s where old people go to live), other than the palace, so I followed signs to the palace and ate a sumptuous picnic lunch in the grounds – clearly a popular choice as there were other cyclists and motorcyclists doing the same.

I was mainly ignoring my garmin and following the signs from one place to another, and the most direct route to Amersfoort was a really pleasant cycle path near to, but separate from, the main road. There were a few roadies out and they all overtook me, but then they didn’t have 25kg of panniers to contend with!

I dropped my bike taking a photo of an alpaca, getting this chainring tattoo – the shame!

My hosts in Amersfoort were such a lovely couple – cyclists too, and we discussed cycling and travelling around Europe. They recommended an Indonesian restaurant in town, and I headed off there for dinner, where several older Indonesian ladies fussed about me like mother hens. Walking home I saw a woman on a swing in her living room – people don’t seem to go in for curtains in the Netherlands (a good thing, I think).

Strava: 77  miles

 

Sunday, Day 9

Geertje, my host, had made breakfast, and after I’d eaten I fed the chickens in the garden. They ate from my hand! Geertje and I chatted some more and I really had to tear myself away from her house.

The queen stage! Geertje gave me directions to Utrecht on a really nice route that I wouldn’t have found on my own, through the woods with the smell of pines in my nose.

Can you spot me?

Utrecht had lots of students doing sporty activities and was a really pleasant city until I got near Central Station and I got caught up in the enormous diversions as a result of the epic redevelopment of the area. I finally got out of the city and onto a small road that looked exactly like the fens, unsurprisingly I guess. It was extremely windy, so windy that I felt like I might be blown into a dyke. I had to stop for an emergency stroopwafel for energy.

In Gouda I sat by the water and watched a man row his dog down the canal, contemplating the imminent end to my journey.

The run in to the Hague was alternately alongside a motorway (though still on a much nicer cycle path than you’d find in the UK) and through parkland. I took a wrong turn as I got close to the city centre and had to do a circuit of the only slightly dodgy housing estate I’d seen in the entire Netherlands.

But I arrived, and my hosts and I had Indonesian takeaway and watched trashy films, and all was right with the world!

Strava: 62 miles

Next few days…

#hatsradtour, day 6 and 7: Hanover to the Netherlands

Thursday, Day 6

It took a while to get out of Hanover but once I did I was rewarded with quiet radwegs and a one-on-one encounter with an owl.

It began to get quite hilly and I dragged my overladen bike up the hills.

Let me see your hill face!

I had my only mechanical of the trip: changing gears, my drivechain suddenly stopped. My chain had got stuck underneath one of the bolts holding my pannier rack on! For a moment I thought I’d have to find a bike shop or a garage, but I was able to sort it out quickly and with a minimum of mess, and set off again – phew!

I’d been cycling on the cycle paths when they were there, but sometimes they weren’t convenient: they switched sides of the road with little warning; often the other cyclists were going slowly; the road surface was still superior; and in built up areas they were annoying as it was like riding on the pavement, with paving slabs and curbs. A woman honked her horn at me as she passed me on the road and pointed at the cycle path on the opposite pavement. I pointed at the road in front of me and waved her on. She stopped her car, got out and started shouting at me that I needed to use the cycle path. I told her I wasn’t a child and was perfectly able to cycle on the road. She wasn’t impressed, and I later found out that I was wrong and that you have to use the path where there’s a sign indicating a cycle path. Sorry, angry German lady!

It flattened out as I approached Porta Westfalica, and there was a nice route along the river (my garmin would have preferred me to take the motorway…).

My stop for the evening was a house on the outskirts of a village and I couldn’t for the life of me find the house, nestled at the bottom of a hill. When I eventually got there my host told me that a chap had visited recently on a “very funny recumbent” – the second time this trip I’d been told I was following a man on a recumbent. She had some photos, it looked like a loo roll on wheels.

Strava: 72 miles

 

Friday, Day 7

It was a beautiful morning, misty but sunny. There were horses in the fields and I was in high spirits.

I saw a few signs with what looked like speed limits for tanks, though thankfully no actual tanks. The first part of the day was a little hilly but the countryside became more Dutch, and the radwegs got better too.

Casual goat on a table

I’d decided I wasn’t eating enough fruit and bought some plums, and finished off the punnet. Big mistake! I immediately got a sharp stomach pain and almost convinced myself it was appendicitis. I had to stop to lie down on a bench to try to make it stop hurting. I felt terrible, but there wasn’t far to go, and then I could lie down, very still.

And then I ran out of map. I had 4 maps on my garmin:

  • Europe basemap (utterly pointless map that comes with the GPS)
  • Britain
  • German (recently downloaded and very high quality)
  • The Netherlands (downloaded last year for my tour then)

I was reaching the edge of the Germany map but the Netherlands map wasn’t showing. I was riding into a black void. Of course, it was getting dark and my planned route involved going down a farm track. No!! No more frickin’ farm tracks! I headed down the main road, crossed into the Netherlands (the border wasn’t marked at all) and eventually got the map to show, though the garmin kept bleeping that it was low on batteries.

Enschede on a Friday night made me feel a bit lonely. Everyone was, unsurprisingly, out with their friends. I went to a restaurant and ate cheese fondue, and the two very sweet (and not unattractive) waiters kept checking up on me. Oh god, I realised, this is what it’s like to be an old lady when everyone is nice to you but they’re thinking ‘aww, poor dear, she must be lonely’.

That night I didn’t get a huge amount of sleep as fireworks were being set off and Enschede is where the Netherland’s biggest firework disaster took place.

Strava: 84 miles

The next few days…

#hatsradtour, day 3, 4 and 5: Berlin, East Germany, Brunswick and Hanover

Monday, Day 3

I woke up to the screams of a girl in my dorm having a nightmare. It was a noisy hostel – by 7am there were people shouting and slamming doors. I wanted a coffee but the machine was broken, so I ate breakfast outside and had my foot run over by a teenager with a wheelie suitcase.

Leaving Berlin took forever and I needed a wee. My low mood hung around, finally lifting when I saw Wannsee. Potsdam had a genteel air and there were some fantastic cycle paths on the west of the city, which a friend had recommended to me.

By Brandenburg I’d had enough for the day but had another 30 miles to go. I saw a woman in an owl tracksuit and a man walking a pig on a lead, which cheered me up a bit. I’d planned a pretty direct route for the final stretch, but this meant riding on a path 10cm wide, until the path disappeared. I wasn’t sure about the next 10 miles on a busy road at dusk and checked googlemaps, which told me that there was an alternative route. I set off, through a farm and onto a track.

Quickly I realised my mistake. The sun was setting fast, and this was pretty off road. The sky was incredible but I wanted to get onto a road as quickly as possible. I came to a minor road and went back onto the main road. It was now pitch black and I hoped the drivers would be alert enough to see me.

I made it to the next town, almost hysteric with relief. I bought some apples and ate two, then set out for the final 15 miles in the dark. On unlit roads. I ticked off the villages in my head, it was about 7 miles north-west, then across the river and another 7 miles south.

Suddenly a thought hit me: what if there’s only a daytime ferry to cross the river? Luckily the ferry ran until 8pm, although I crossed in complete darkness. This is fun, I thought. This is an adventure.

I arrived at my Airbnb, much to the relief of my host, who’d been worried. “Don’t you get scared?” she asked. I just wanted a shower.

Strava: 85 miles

 

Tuesday, Day 4

My host had prepared a breakfast-to-go, four rolls with a different type of jam in each. I ate one roll and we chatted about cats and my housemate’s omnipresent hair, then I set out.

I cursed the cobbled villages of East Germany and stopped by the Elbe, in the mist, for more breakfast.

It got foggier, and soon I could see less than 25 metres. There were lots of lorries on the road but I figured there was no point panicking. I went through a military training ground, with lots of signs warning of panzers and got some quizzical looks from men in uniform. It was 3 degrees.

At a junction my garmin inexplicably told me to go two different ways: a main road going the wrong way (but presumably leading to hot beverages!) and a track in the correct direction. I chose the track. It was sketchy in places but I kept going and eventually got to a village, where I saw a lorry doing laps of the green.

The cycle path reappeared, and the mist had almost entirely cleared up. I watched a woman use a leafblower on the gravel in her driveway.

I wasn’t hugely enjoying myself but I appreciated the feeling of finding it within myself.

The sun came out as I crossed into West Germany and finally found a café! I treated myself to a coffee and amazing piece of cake. Hell, I’d earned it.

I arrived in Brunswick and went to my Airbnb. There was a waterbed in my room! I’d always wondered what it would be like to sleep on one.

My host recommended a restaurant and I meandered off to the bus stop, where I lucked out and a bus came within minutes. A bus, a tram and a replacement bus (though only 20 minutes) later, I was in Brunswick city centre.

I liked the town, it was part old and part new. I walked to the restaurant and read my kindle while demolishing a mountain of Turkish food. Bliss!

I was worried that the bus times meant I’d miss the connection on the way home, but *of course* the timetable had been devised so that all the buses connected with each other.

Waterbed verdict: strange, kind of warm, not sure I’d want to share with anyone in case of waves.

Strava: 70 miles

 

Wednesday, Day 5

I was reluctant to get going, especially as I knew Hanover, my next stop, wasn’t that far. Aside from trying to take me across a railway track (I actually considered this for a minute) and a few miles along a gravel path, the route was pleasant.

Holiday wear

It was windy and grey, with not a huge number of photo opportunities, even if I could have been bothered to take my neoprene gloves off (too much hassle). A café stop in Lehrte was unremarkable except for the pigeon that flew in.

I managed to take the longest route possible into Hanover, which did mean I went through the city forest. It started misting gently as I rode along the canal, and rained in the forest, but the heavy rain started once I locked my bike up and was safely in the dry at the Rathaus, where I took a curved lift (very odd) to the top of the tower, where I’d been promised fantastic views.

Afterwards I went into the main shopping district, where inexplicably I bought some perfume, my second of the trip (the first was one called ‘Isis’). Doesn’t everyone do this when cycle touring?

In the drizzle, I rode to the north of the city, where I was staying. My Airbnb host was really friendly, and asked where I’d come from. “But you can’t have cycled all the way from Berlin?!” he said. He asked why I hadn’t done the trip in the summer. “Respect,” he said. “Big respect.”

I had dinner at an American diner (epic milkshake!) and read my Kindle until it was kicking out time and then I went back to the flat, accidentally ringing a neighbours doorbell instead of putting the hall light on. I slept happily, with warm hands and feet.

Strava: 47 miles

The next few days…