cycle in farm next to roll, france

Touring on a cycle: 2 guys cycle 500km across France

The Netherlands is flat, cycle friendly, and has a dozen places to explore if one has the time and the interest. So why would anyone want to cycle through the countryside of France, with its ups and downs and the non existence of cycling paths which all combine to make cycling not such a good idea. Why would anyone who is so used to cycling on flat roads do such a trip? Because that is what an adventure is made of. Cycling in the Netherlands in mainstream. Cycling to France from Netherlands is not!

So, it was that, in August 2014, I and a friend found ourselves on the long road to Omaha beach, Normandy, France via the countryside of the Netherlands, Belgium and France. We were broke, and we were looking for an adventure. This was the best thing to do. As to why we chose Normandy, we were quite interested in historical events, and Normandy is the place where D-day occurred during the second World War. Hence, the decision.

So it was, we found ourselves on the road, on two speedbikes, our gear limited to 5kg each, cycling 100km a day to get to Normandy, cycling through the towns of Vlissingen, Brugges, Dunkirk, Etaples, Dieppe, Le Harve and finally, Normandy. It was the month of August, and the days were long, warm and sunny. It was the perfect weather to attempt something like this.

I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as the effort we put in cycling through the French countryside. Cheers!

1: Leaving Delft, the Netherlands. We did not have much gear with us.

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2: Typical scenery in Holland. It was the perfect weather to cycle

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3: We were hoping someone would invite us to sail with them…

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4: Cycling along the coast meant there were no bicycle routes and the winds were nasty at times…

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6: Para-sailing is a very enjoyable outdoor activity in the Netherlands

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7: More wind turbines and empty roads next to the sea.

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8: Camping in Vlissingen for the night. Distance covered 100km. It was 10.30pm when we got to the town.

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9: Crossing the southern province of Holland. Belgium is not so far now… The Dutch spoken in the south of Holland is smoother than the Dutch spoken in the north.

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10: Crossing into Belgium… The roads continued to be flat.

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11: The first place we stopped was Brugges, Belgium. This is a very nice, and beautiful city, with medieval buildings, cobbled streets and canals.

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12: Compared to Netherlands, pastries and cakes here were much, much tastier. The Belgians definitely like their sweets!

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13: The Church of Our Lady tower…

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14: The Provinciaal Hof. The NeoGothical architecture is quite striking.

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15: A fresh chocolate factory stopped us in our tracks…

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16:The south of Belgium is very different from the north. The southern part looks rough, and less richer than the  northern part of the country.

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17: We crossed into France as dusk was falling. Dunkirk, on the border of France was the place we stopped in. The ‘Siege of Dunkik‘ is a popular event from world war history. Day 2 completed, and 200km cycled.

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18: The countryside of France consisted of rolling farms…

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19: and roads that wound their way through small villages…

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20: We would occasionally be threatened by a highway, and had to find smaller, inside roads…

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21: Taking a breather… Let’s click a photo…

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22: The legs had gotten used to all that cycling…

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23:This house looked lovely…

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24: A local family gave us lunch and water when we went to buy tomatoes. Vivian Bailey, the girl was very curious and interested in our tale. And the dog wanted to play fetch. People like these make you happy when you are travelling.

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25: It was a pleasant evening in the midst of the rolling farms…

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26: Toilet breaks usually had views like these…

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27: We were nearing the town of Etaples, our destination for the day. We found a camping site next to a railway bridge for the night. Distance completed: 300km

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28: A little village where we stopped for buying food at the local bakery. These ‘boulangeries‘ offer an assorted collection of bread, pastries, cakes, chocolates and croissants.

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29: Hmm… which way shall we go…

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30: We need a lunch break after this road…

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31: Our favorite roads were back!!

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32: More farms and wind turbines along the way. The scenery was quite beautiful

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33: Taking a break before approaching the city of Dieppe. The day’s ride was fast and we reached Dieppe early in the evening.

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34: We made our way towards the harbor to get some beer and relax. Distance completed: 400km.

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35: We spent a little too much time relaxing. Unable to find a place to stay in the hostels due to some festival, we cycled towards the outskirts of the city to find a place to camp and it started raining. One of our first choices was to camp in the courtyard of this church.

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36: Eventually, the rain stopped and we decided to head out of town to find a place to camp. This uphill road destroyed our hopes and we lost our motivation. We camped in a parking lot for the night in between the parked cars.

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37: It was a very spirited ride towards Le Havre. We reached Le Havre early in the evening. And found a hostel to stay. We sent some postcards to the family that had given us lunch the other day. Distance completed: 500km.

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38: We had a good dinner at one of the many restaurants by the beach. Fish and sauce and something nice!

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39: An early morning jaunt to the beach. We had decided not to go to Normandy’s Omaha beach due to lack of time and head towards Paris instead.

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40: Bye bye Le Havre, see you soon!

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41: Hello Paris! We took the train from Le Havre to Paris, the journey taking a little over 3 hours due to unexpected problems with the train.

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42: Le Moulin Rouge aka The Red Windmill. One of the most famous plays of France.

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43: Sex and the City.

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44: This was quite a sight…

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45: One of the first buildings of Paris: The ‘Notre Dame de Paris‘ aka ‘Our Lady of Paris’ Cathedral. One of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and well known church buildings in the world.

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46: Cycling along the Seine river…

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47: Love is in the locks… The Pont des Arts bridge across the Seine.

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48: The Louvre museum, Paris. Free entry if you are under 25! Home of the Mona Lisa and countless other pieces of art and sculpture. A magnificent place of history

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49: The Louvre Pyramid is a landmark of Paris and serves as the entrance to the museum.

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The train ride back to the Netherlands was a short three hour stint. From Rotterdam central station, another 30 minutes to cycle to Delft to complete the adventure!

 

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