Tandem Tour 2014 – Dover to Brugges

Tandem_Tour2014_Day2Our ferry was scheduled for 12 noon from the East Dock. Bicycles areDSCF0578  treated as vehicles and riders have to queue rather illogically with cars, trucks and motorcycles (below right). It is hazardous getting to the queue.

The crossing is 90 mins. The ferries are essentially floating motorway service areas. Functional. Dunkerque is an extremely cycle-unfriendly port. The disembarking trucks are driven with some abandon. There is no separation for cycles and no signs on how to avoid joining a motorway!

Essentially, we had to guess how to get to Dunkerque (such contrast with Rotterdam with its dedicated tracks and countless direction signs). Our advice, turn left off the first roundabout and go the wrong way up a one way road for DSCF0581about 50 metres. Follow the now two-way road (Route des Dunes) along the canal (on the left) and turn right on to Route de Mardyck along which a cycle track crosses at the junction of the D601). Dunkerque is signposted and eventually comes (right).

We then rode north towards the coast. The beaches are sandy and vast. The promenades all along the coastline are busy and not particularly easy to navigate in the summer season. There are plenty of potential campsites. We again picked the wrong one (at Zuydcoote – I have written a separate post about the places we stayed here). We left wiser than on arrival. We had breakfast in a bar in the nearby small DSCF0587town of Brays Dunes before crossing the border at De Panne and rapidly made it to Oostende. It is a port masquerading as a seaside town. The railway station is architecturally notable (left).

The Belgians share with the Dutch the ‘Knotten Punkten’ navigation method. Cycling by numbers, in a nutshell. Follow the arrow to the Punkt, and then follow the arrow to the next Punkt that forms the route that is to be taken. Fool proof. Largely. So, we ignored the direct route to Brugges and followed the route given in our guide, the Bikeline Flandern-Route. That took us back to the coastline through Blankenberge. DSCF0593We finally stopped at an extremely picturesque small town called Lissewege (with an enormous church) where we found a hotel and an eatery (right).

Next morning, I discovered that we had a broken spoke on the rear. In Brugges, then, it was necessary to find a bicycle repair shop. From Lissewege we passed through Dudzele and Damme (where a bakery and bar provided breakfast and coffee) before entering Brugges from the north east. We kept a keen eye out for cycle shops. in the rain.

Cycle shop owners know each other. “I cannot do it, but I know who will do it for you”. OK, but then being unable to find said workshop and stumbling across another shop, albeit without a workshop, and finding out that the original DSCF0597recommendation was not recommended…we finally found Bike World (on the N50 heading south out of the city). They are brilliant. Whilst they could not do it immediately, it was ready by 11 the following morning. They fixed the out-of-synch gears as well. All for 20 Euros. Down the road was a youth hostel. That is where we stayed. And spent the afternoon/evening in Brugge.

I’m not going to write too much about Brugge. It is picturesque, historic and full of tourists. DSCF0598And fast-moving horses and carriages. The main square boasts fine examples of classic DSCF0600Flemmish architecture and civic grandeur. But we had decided to crack on and immerse ourselves in the nearby historically competitor city, Ghent.

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