Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cycling in Holland, Belgium and France

This was on the way to Keukenhof to the Tulip Festival...Look at those greenhouses and fields of tulips, beautiful!

This was across the street from the train station in Amsterdam and where I played chicken with a speeding Dutch woman

Damme, Belgium

Bayeux, France with our cruisers for the two day trip

Shoot, my pictures are out of order...I had to put a photo of the Isle of St. Louis in Paris under one of the bridges where locals were picnicking and drinking their wine...beautiful!

That's Martin overlooking the beaches of Normandy

This was the rampart we rode by from Brugge to Damme

American Cemetery and Memorial, Normandy

This was the map that showed the US, British and German forces on the days before and after D Day

The cemetery has 9,387 marble crosses in the cemetery.  This monument has a statue representing the spirit of American Youth.  We also went into the visitor's center and watched a 15 minute film about the American service men killed on D Day on the beaches of Normandy.  One of which was an ASU basketball player from Jonesboro who was a parachuter that never got out of his gear.  It was a very moving experience at this cemetery.

We were surprised to see this our Rick Steves' book it told us that he died of a heart attack a month after D Day and the family knew he would want to be buried along side the men with whom he fought.

Ok...this is Mapman just outside of Bayeux on day 2 of our cycling experience in France.  We were looking at the chateaux across northwest France.  This is just before lunch as he points out where we thought we would eat...later we realized it was a holiday in France and everything was closed...hmmm....

Thank the lord above that we stumbled upon this bakery outside of Caan...that quiche was fabulous as was the break...Kara needed to use it and the son of the owner got in trouble for letting her in the back....Kara said she might as well had used it out back, the facilities were much to be desired....
The Louvre in Paris...notice the lack of bicycles around..

This was a bunker on the beaches of Normandy that was used by the Germans to fight the Americans on D Day
Sunday, May 22, 2011

I thought our fellow cyclists would enjoy seeing and hearing about Jackie's cycling trip.  For my 40th birthday, Jackie planned an 11 day trip to Holland, Belgium and France.  He planned 4 days cycling while touring the countryside.  The first cycling day was in Amsterdam where we rented cruiser bikes and toured Amsterdam to Keukenhof, where the annual Tulip Festival was in operation.  Our bikes had three gears and a large seat but by the end of the day, I was wanting my padded shorts.  Martin was our mapman and toured us to the festival from Amsterdam about 30 miles round trip.  The festival was beautiful and getting there was even more beautiful as we passed by hundreds of acres of tulips.  By the end of the day to Keukenhof, we were spent and Jackie hit the wall but quickly recovered with my snickers bar I pulled out of my backpack.  We got a little lost in Haarlem and voted to catch the train back to Amsterdam about 5 miles.  It cost a few euros to take a bike onto the train, about the same as a person.  It was a beautiful day to ride around the city of Amsterdam too.  There were a ton of cyclists on their cruisers riding home from work etc.  There were a lot of cruisers chained up on bridges that were obviously abandoned.  There were lots of those.  Cruising the streets was easy and crossing intersections made me a little nervous when locals would just yield instead of stop completely.  On the last day in Amsterdam we did see a collision that ended up with the two guys cussing each other. 

But I do have to describe the two very close encounters that Kara witnessed involving me.  The first near miss was getting off that train with our bikes where it was super congested near the train station.  There was a little loop under a bridge, Kara was behind me, the boys way up in front of us, and a local woman came around that blind corner at 20 mph head on like playing chicken.  I started screaming "oh......" and she turned just out of my way within seconds of our front tires colliding.  Holy cow...Kara and I just laughed and laughed all the way back to to the rental store.

The second close call came the next day on our way to the Van Gogh Museum.  We'd crossed some streets near the museum and were going around to where we thought we could stash our bikes.  Martin and Kara were in front of Jackie and I and this beautiful blond Dutch woman with a scarf on and all dressed up comes at me head on and I start saying, "oh......." and as our front tires were looking at each other head on and she and I trying to pick which side we were going to ditch our bikes, she says, "cheecha...learn how to ride a bike American....cheecha...!!" Meanwhile back at the ranch, Jackie's behind me taking it all in and agreeing that that was a close call.  Too close...Kara had a near miss like that after the museum.  Great stories and we're lucky we didn't have any collisions with the Dutch.

Day 2 of our cycling tour was in Brugge, Belgium.  We rented cruisers and with Martin as mapman, he toured us north of Brugge to Damme.  The bicycle path was on a beautiful rampart with horses in rolling pastures.  We had lunch in Damme at a wonderful French cafe on the square.  The ride was about 12 miles round trip which was plenty long since one in our group was still recovering from a mild stomach thing.  I'll leave it at that.  We did see several cyclists in their gear on the ride.  The weather was beautiful.

Day 3 and 4 cycling were in France.  We rented cruisers, this time with 7 speeds, and cycled from Bayeux to Omaha Beach and the US cemetery.  Mapman said it was about 30 miles round trip.  And much to Kara and I's delight, Mapman found a cafe open near the beaches that was run by a father and daughter that enjoyed watching me try to speak french with my french translation book.  Kara and I found that attempting to speak french made a difference everywhere we went.  The cafe served ham and cheese baguettes that were perfect with our Heineken's.  I made a remark about the mayo on the baguette but it was actually butter.  I found these type sandwiches all over France and I loved them and that fresh French bread.  We spent at least an hour at the cemetery, it was beautiful and very moving.  In its museum, Jackie found a portal that allowed him to punch in the number of JH's battalion and it gave us a paragraph about his battalion that Jackie couldn't find on the Internet.  It mentioned the day JH was wounded on August 10, 1945.  The cemetery also had giant maps where it noted the Army, Air Force and Navy's movement into France during the war.  On our way home, it sprinkled on us but we were happy to be heading back.

Day 4 was our last cycling day in Bayeux.  We toured west to Caan, about 40 miles round trip.  Mapman wanted us to see the chateaux along the way.  I was suffering from "burn, baby burn" buns and Mapman happily adjusted the seat on my bike and it made all the difference.  The chateaux were absolutely beautiful.  Some of them had historical markers about the British or United States military using them as bases during World War 2.  Each one had a different story about the war.  We didn't realize that Day 4 was a holiday in France until we wanted to stop for lunch in Fountain Bleu.  A local Frenchman directed us to Caan where everything was closed but one cafe on the edge of town.  Kara and I nearly busted into tears when we realized that it was actually opened.  We had already been knocking on doors in Fountain Bleu and they kept saying they were all closed much to our dismay.   That lunch was great at the bakery where we had Heineken's, quiches and a chocolate pastry.  Delish and exactly what we needed.  The ride back seemed long that day, we even had to use a field as a restroom because everything was closed.  But we all made it in fine shape.  I should also mention that Jackie had a kit with him for flats including bike tool, patch, air pump and first aid kit.  No wonder we didn't have a flat, we were prepared.
If I were to total the miles we spent on bikes, I'd say about 110 miles for the 4 days.  The weather was nearly perfect, we were sprinkled on at the US cemetery and rained on going to Caan.  Jackie had me pack water-resistant pants and jacket, Kara had a water resistant jacket but her pants got soaked.   We enjoyed the miles on bikes, no helmets and lots of countryside.  I'd say the 4 days cycling were our favorites of the trip.

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