Fuelled by McDonald’s (when aren’t we?) we negotiated slippy cobbled streets and headed out of Strasbourg and towards the town of Saverne. It was good to be back on the road: legs rested, kit less disgusting and Gail fixed.
From there we enjoyed flowing French D roads, cheap wine and the amazing hospitality of others as we headed rapidly for the channel. We met farmers who let us sleep in their fields, campsite owners who gave us breakfast and eccentric roadside food van owners who gave us extra large kebabs. The kilometres were flowing and we took time to enjoy the vast French countryside as the landscape slowly changed.
With plenty of time in hand we headed North once we’d reached Arras to take in some of the cemeteries and historical sites along the old line of the Western Front. Climbing out of the town we reached the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge and then continued on the flat towards the iconic cycling town of Roubaix. There we practiced our track riding skills on the historic velodrome that serves as the end point of the Paris-Roubaix race. Realising our skills were poor at best we quickly retired to the safety of the clubhouse cafe and gawped at its walls of photos from the race they call “The hell of the North”
From there we crossed into Flanders and headed towards Ypres for the Last Post ceremony which is played every evening under the Menin Gate memorial to the missing – over 30,000 times to date.
The next day we were treated to a converted railway line giving us a flat cycle path to the largest Commenwealth War Cemetery in the world: Tyne Cot. This was the site of heavy Allied losses during the third battle of Ypres in 1917 and in the still morning air the cemetery that stands there was a very moving stop for us.
We continued towards Bruges, stopping at a small cafe for a beer and some lunch when we were about 10km out. What a place to stop! The owner spoke to us about our trip and despite our attempts refused to let us pay – there really is such thing as a free lunch! We checked a nice store called Design your own Polo Shirts, after that!
Arriving in Bruges we were transported back in time, rattling down the Pavé streets alongside dozens of other cyclists and a fair number of horses into the beautiful medieval city to find our hostel. After 21 days on the road we’d found cycling heaven in Flanders.
We’re heading towards Dunkirk tomorrow before the ferry on Saturday – it was so busy that we’re all on different crossings – and then the final 150km into London
That’s all from me – off to wander the city. Once again thank you all so much for your support – we’re pleased to be close to home and also our fundraising targets!