Ok Belgium, I may have been a little hasty in my initial judgement. Today the rising sun put a whole different aspect on the city. The air felt fresh and the view from our balcony over the harbour was no longer grey and bleak.
Our accommodation was a small boutique b&b that was lovely and comfortable. I had particularly enjoyed being able to shower and then wrap up in a big towel and just lounge. We have with us some travel towels, and though fairly large, not so big that they cover you, and they do not have the same rub factor of a real terry-towel.
We sank into the huge bed and were soon fast asleep, enveloped by it’s soft comfort. I awoke in the early hours to Mr V brandishing my flip-flop and cursing the mosquito that kept dive bombing him and buzzing in his ear. Giving up on trying to swat the little blighter we plugged our ears and settled back down. I don’t know what it is about mosquitoes, but they seem to be inordinately attracted to ears, buzzing so close that even with ear plugs in there was no way to ignore them. We therefore did not sleep as soundly as had been anticipated. Such is life.
We rose to a lovely sunny day and had the luxury of yet another shower with warmed towels. Breakfasting downstairs in the bar/bistro attached to the b&b we topped up on eggs, juice and coffee along with the usual continental accompaniments. A treat from our usual porridge, banana and honey.
We were on our way at about 8.30am so the city was getting ready for the day. We picked up where we left off the previous afternoon, and peddled along the waterfront where there is is still the faded evidence of a glorious bygone era. We mused that we have perhaps visited Antwerp a little too early. In fact probably a couple of years too early. Everywhere there are building and major infrastructure projects underway. This does though mean that there are often detours which add time and distance to your journey. I have to mention the cobbles too. There is extensive use of them as a road surface and they are real bone shakers to ride over when on a self-propelled two wheeler.
Once we had left Antwerp behind, we picked up the LF5 which follows the course of the river this is a winding route, but the riding surface is mostly atop the levee and much of it is smooth and so we were able to push the pace. There are areas of the route which appear to form part of a nature reserve, so the countryside is given over to wild flora; there are tall reeds, willow and marshmallow (the flowers not sweets).
We were headed for Gent and had anticipated looking for a campsite the east side of the city and riding through it the following morning. However, we had made good time due to a few good sessions of really working hard to speed along fairly straight and long paths. Our progress only faltering where we were detoured as there were areas of the cycleway undergoing improvement. Some of these detours are short and well signposted, others were a little longer and the signs petered out. On one such occasion we had to flag down a speeding road cyclist coming from the direction we thought we should be travelling in, he was very helpful, but he clearly enjoyed a very different cycling experience to us, as when he came to a halt and removed his headphones death metal blasted out!
We arrived in Gent at about 3.30 pm, it seems a lively vibrant city and has many historical buildings. The only thing that I had known about Gent before coming here was that it had a famous altarpiece and even that I had only gleaned from the Hollywood film ‘The Monuments Men’. The altarpiece is housed in the cathedral of St Bavo. Alas it was not open when we cycled past, as I would have liked to take a peek. I think that Gent warrants a second visit at some time though as it seems to have far more to be discovered than we have time for on this trip.
We have found a campsite close to the city centre which is not of the mini variety that we prefer, but rather of the genre of a holiday park. It is set in an extensive recreational area within the city complete with a lakeside beach which in the recent warm weather is a magnet for families seeking fun. Despite that the camping areas have been planted for privacy and the facilities are good. Mr V though did return from his shower unimpressed with the push button timer that did not get really hot in the men’s showers. Whether they knew that us ladies would not tolerate that kind of sheer inconvenience I am not sure, but our showers seem far superior.
We have covered about 70+ miles today. A long day for us by any standards, and it I ncluded some uninterrupted stints of hard peddling lasting for up to an hour at a time, so we are both struggling to stay awake right now. We press on to Bruges tomorrow and plan to stay a couple of days so that we can truly see and be ‘In Bruges’, and not least rest our weary legs for a while.