Flanders by bike and boat Part 3 Antwerp to Brussels

The harbour in Antwerp was a bustle of activity in the morning and our boat was underway early to take advantage of a bridge opening, necessary for us to get back to the river. Despite the boat heading to leave the city, the cycling party headed back to the city centre. A group of 20+ bikes is not easy to negotiate a busy city in the rush hour and we had some very hard stares from, pedestrians that clearly thought they had priority and that we should get off and walk. But we had to follow our leader.

Our first stop was Groenplaats Square

with a statue of the artist Rubens and a great backdrop of the Cathedral. Onwards, bothering more pedestrians, we stopped off at a superb shopping mall called Stadsfeestzaal. My picture does not really do justice to the grandeur of this place; if interested please take a look at the website http://stadsfeestzaal.com. Next we cycled through the old diamond quarter of Antwerp, though in truth there was not much to see there. Finally, in Antwerp we visited the Central Station and what a wonderful edifice that was; marble everywhere and great sweeping staircases with vast ornate roofs.

Inside Antwerp Central Station built in 1905

We left Antwerp by the side of the railway line, then travelled through countryside until we found another railway line which we followed into Lier. While in the countryside we found an unusual self-service fresh milk outlet. We could not resist stopping to sample a cup.

Lier was a very pleasant surprise; an attractive town with plenty to see, at least plenty for the hour or two we had there while we had some lunch. The Beguinage is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Beguinage in Lier. A beguinage, from the French term béguinage, is an architectural complex which was created to house beguines: lay religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world.

There is also a complex multifunctional clock in the Zimmer Tower. One notable feature of the clock is no doubt the slowest moving dial in the world; one revolution takes 25,600 years.

There were also some quite impressive artworks seemingly randomly placed like this one

Sheep sculpture

We took a ride around the town before we left and passed the market square and town hall and belfry (or belfort).

After leaving Lier we rode almost all the way to Willebroek along dykes. We stopped for a coffee break in Duffel and by this time we were more or less on our own, though we spied other members of our party now and again. By this time the cloud was gathering and thunder and lightning starting up. We had a short sharp shower but then it dried up again. Just before we reached the boat we caught a ferry, though many of the others missed it and cycled further on to cross the river by a road bridge. Later we had to use another bridge to get to our boat. This was a lifting bridge (I guess there is probably a technical term for it) and the entire road is raised to allow boats to travel beneath it.

We arrived at the boat around 4pm for coffee and biscuits. By 5pm it started raining very heavily and continued into the evening. Good timing by us.

There was a tradition that some of the guests helped with serving dinner and clearing away. Throughout our trip various ladies had volunteered. This seemed rather sexist to J (an Amercian) and me so for this night us two men did the serving, attracting quite a few ribald comments in so doing. That evening we served tuna starter, chicken ratatouille and home-made ice cream. Dinner was followed by beer tasting and a sing song interspersed with German jokes.

Our final day of cycling was to be one of the shortest, about 37kms, but we still started at just about the normal time 9am. It was a day of high drama with a cycle malfunction causing us to lose contact with our guide for several hours. We set off by taking a detour by the side of a lake set out for rowing races. Somewhere, along these tracks a puncture happened and the guide decided to walk with the bike to our stopping place, a town called Mechelen. There was a repair shop there and we cycled ahead having arranged a rendezvous in Mechelen town square. Mechelen was a real surprise and very attractive with oodles of old buildings. The Cathedral is particularly impressive.

St Rombold’s Cathedral

The tower was unfortunately not open when we were there. On the other side of the Market Square is the City Hall, where I nearly got included in wedding photos!

There were a couple of more quirky things like the street signs

and a statue of young Beethoven

While we waited for our guide to rejoin the party we took a coffee in the City Square. Once we were all back together with a complete set of functioning bikes we set off to rejoin the boat. We were due there at 2pm so we could cruise into our berth in Brussels and still have time to do a bit of sightseeing there. The cycle route was mostly along canals but the troop became a little spread out. My partner and I and the party back-marker were last back, and we felt that the everyone was waiting for us, almost with engines running.

In Brussels we decided to visit the Atomium, quite near our berthing place. We took a bus there and back.

That evening was the Captains dinner and Franco excelled himself. Prosciutto with crab and fish followed by salmon with cod and broccoli, then pork fillet and potato and profiterole base with  custard – delicious.

Next day after breakfast we said goodbyes to all our new-found friends and walked through the City via the Grand Place to the train station to catch the Eurostar. A brilliant holiday enjoyable in many different ways.

 

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Flanders by boat and bike Part 2 Ghent to Antwerp

Our mooring in Ghent was functional rather than picturesque but the day dawned brightly and after breakfast we were quickly on our bikes and retracing our route towards the centre of Ghent. We decided to go solo for this day and our friends from the USA decided to join us. We rode alongside a busy road to start with then went under a motorway. We were soon in the suburbs and left the city behind. We rode alongside the River Scheldt. Our route finding was pretty good although we did start off on the wrong side of the river, going past a large wildlife reserve with several lakes. Our first stop was at Laarne with an impressive castle.

Laarne Castle origins go back to the 12th century

There is a wide boulevard heading from the Castle into the village. When we arrived there we caught up with the main party enjoying a drink and a rest in the sun outside a cafe. e joined them for a short time before they set off again.

The next section was mostly farmland but with many plant nurseries, preparing to harden off plants on massive hardstandings. We also passed a herd of alpacas and another herd of deer and also a zoo with caged monkeys. Our lunchtime destination was a collection of lakes known as Donkmeer where we were able to sit around in the sun, have a beer and eat the packed lunch we had prepared at breakfast time on the boat. This was a very pleasant location

The restaurant gardens at Donkmeer

Once again most of our party were there before us and after they left we were able to watch them ride, in single file, around the edge of the lake. We followed on after finishing our lunch and caught up with them at another stop – the best waffles south of Iceland – according to our guide. I must admit, with ice cream and on a hot day, they were pretty amazing.

Waffles all round

After that we took a ferry across the Schelde (in Dutch and Scheldt in English) river, which we achieved en masse.

The ferry station on the far side of the river Scheldt with the ferry

The final ride into Dendermonde was mostly along the towpath cycle route, being passed repeatedly by Lycra-clad groups of Tour de France types whooshing by. Finally we crossed the water at a large dam and entered Dendermonde where we rejoined our boat.

Once all were on board we set off for a couple of hours of cruising along the picturesque Scheldt river to Sint Amands, about 15-20 kms away. The trip gave everyone a chance to sit in the sun whilst having  drink and. if wanted, take a look at the wheelhouse  We berthed before a great dinner featuring chicken with cheese and herbs, salmon with artichoke and strawberry birthday cake, my partner’s’s birthday cake with a firework.

That evening there was a short walking trip into the town and to Sahara Stones (there is a big clue in the name). It was an artist’s studio housed in a self-built unique house reminiscent of the architect Hundertwasser. The owners displayed a novel parking arrangement, designed to be a criticism of local officials, I think. The artist majored on collecting and cutting, polishing and mounting stones collected from the Sahara. They were amazingly impressive.

Breakfast next day was followed by a “Lucky dip” organised by Franco the cook. The prizes were a variety of chocolate bars to supplement our do-it-yourself packed lunches. The guide promised some “short cuts” on the route to provide more time to look around Antwerp, our destination for the day. With this promise we decided to join in with the group and not guide ourselves. It was cool to start off but rapidly warmed up and turned into a warm, sunny, spring day. The guiding arrangements went swimmingly to start with, cycling along then over the river into Temse.

Temse church in the town square

We waited around here for about 20 minutes. The toilet break was slightly confusing with different entrances and signage but nonetheless, welcome. But, I think we could have had less of a wait. Temse was previously a major port and shipyard and there was evidence of this in sculptures and remains that we rode past.

After leaving Temse the group was badly strung out and the “sweeper” and back markers completely lost contact. The party was split in two. I think the main cause was a large statue of a naked woman, which caused a few people to linger longer…

We knew we  were going to stop for lunch at a Chateau somewhere and we had a map, so just carried on regardless, thinking we were following the guide and the rest of the party. After 30 minutes or so we arrived at an impressive house in grounds and stopped to look and take pictures

We gathered round to try and agree what we should do and tried to phone our guide, without success. Things were getting fraught when suddenly the guide and the rest of our party appeared behind us. By good fortune we had stopped at our lunch spot and the guide had taken the others down a detour, without telling us. All ended well and we took tables at an open restaurant for lunch. After that hiatus we stayed in a group as we rode through pretty villages mostly alongside roads until Antwerp was clearly visible across the river.

Much to my surprise we crossed the river by going underneath it in the Saint Anna tunnel: 31m deep and just over 500m long. We went up and down with our bikes in large lifts and rode through the tunnel. It was a novel experience and features in a youtube clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7Cz1y5yodI). The video probably provides more idea of what was involved than these pictures, but still…

Through the tunnel by bike

Crowded in the lift

We arrived in the centre of Antwerp at about 2pm and left bikes in the usual huddle looked after by our guide. The buildings around the Market Square were quite tremendous.

Antwerp City Hall, building started in 1561

The fountain in front of the building depicts Antigon a mythical Roman soldier killing Brabo a giant that guarded the river charging boats to pass by. If they did not pay he tore off one of their hands and threw it into the river. This reputedly provides the origin of the city name ‘handwerpen’; throwing the hand in Flemish.

Buildings on Grote Markt in Antwerp

We walked round the Cathedral, strolled around the old part of the city and visited the Medieval Castle on the bank of the river

Antwerp Castle (Het Steen) with the statue of the giant Lange Wapper

An old barge in Antwerp harbour

then took a beer in the sun. After the beer we collected our bikes and rode back to the river and along to the harbour area where we found our boat alongside many others.

After another excellent dinner there was an optional walk into town to a bar/restaurant called the 11th Commandment that offered a brewery and a menu with pages of different beers, most with quite high alcohol contents. On the way back our Captain and special guide for the evening took us down the oldest and narrowest street in Antwerp followed by a stroll through the red light district. As a final event we took a set of escalators to the open roof of the MAS building 10 storeys up,

MAS Museum aan de Strom opened in 2011

a new, impressive, curly-glazed building right on the harbour, for a night view over the City.

 

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Flanders by boat and bike Part 1 Bruges to Ghent

This was one of the most enjoyable holiday trips we have had. We bought the week long trip from Rad & Reisen and it involved travelling from Bruges to Brussels by bike and staying overnight on board the Quo Vadis (Latin for ‘where are you going’). We cycled around 220 kms in 6 days of cycling and took in the countryside and many picturesque Flanders towns and cities. The food on board was superb, the company friendly and relaxed, and the weather was mostly excellent for cycling and sightseeing.

We joined the boat in Belgium, after using trains from home to London, Eurostar to Brussels and another train to Bruges. It was an early start for us, up at just after 4, but all connections worked perfectly and we had time on arrival at the boat to drop our luggage and take a tour around Bruges before our on-board tour briefing. There were 24 guests: us two Brits, two from the USA and the rest from Germany. So all briefings were first in German followed by an English version. Our tour guide Gunter had excellent English, as did the boat crew: four Dutch people. This support party is pictured below.

Captain RJ in white shirt with guide Gunter on the far right

Our pre-dinner walk around Bruges took us to the market square, very busy on a lovely weekend afternoon

Bruges market square with the Provincial Court

Also in the Market square is the Belfry. Often mistaken for a church tower, it is actually a medieval bell tower.

Bruges Belfry (Belfort van Brugge in Dutch)

My father brought home from the second world war a painting of a canal with a tower, the dead spit of this Belfry in the background. I was really chuffed to find the spot where the painter must have been seated to paint my picture. Up until then I was never sure that the picture was of Bruges. Now, I am sure it is and I know precisely where it was painted.

Returning to the boat we had a welcome drink followed by a delicious dinner (salad, beef with veg and ice cream, melon and sponge) and a briefing, first in German then in English from our guide. The boat remained in Bruges overnight so an evening excursion around the city was possible but we had done ours that afternoon so we stayed on board.

Next day there was a substantial breakfast bar and the chef Franco was offering fried eggs to order. We were invited to make our own packed lunches from the food on the buffet.

Soon after breakfast we were away around the old Bruges City walls and out by the side of a canal to the small town of Damme, passing by a couple of windmills including this one

Windmill by the side of the Bruges-Damm canal

which was open and looked as though it could, at any time, start working. Shortly afterwards we crossed the canal and came to Damme town square. 

Most of us were very grateful that the Tourist Office had public toilets. We stayed in Damme just long enough to hear the musical church clock strike eleven then set off along the canal again.

Our next destination was Blankenberge. We travelled through farmland and our guide pointed out the speciality cows of the region the Bleublanc, known in English as the Belgian Blue. It is very distinctive in appearance with “short legs and a large arse” (a description courtesy of our guide). They are also a breed that routinely has to be calved using Caesarean section. We had a slight panic when we lost a member of the cycling team then lost our guide, but we managed to reconverge at Lisseweg where we encountered hundreds of walkers. On the way to Lisseweg we rode by the side of one of the largest canals we found all week and big canals demand big bridges and this is one of the largest I have seen. It seems to be for a duel carriageway motorway crossing the canal.

Subsequently, I discovered that all the walkers were part of an International 2-day walking festival. Certainly a major event with military support, refreshment tents and even musical accompaniment

Military Band at Lisseweg

At Lisseweg we had our only problem with signage. In general the cycle ways are extremely well signposted and the guidebook we were given was excellen. But in this one case someone had reversed the sign which caused a deal of puzzlement.

We decided to go solo, without the guide, from Lisseweg to Blankenberge. Faced with hundreds of hikers coming the other way we had quite a few indignant stares as we sounded our bells to avoid collision, since many of the walkers were staring at the ground or talking continuously with colleagues. The day had turned quite chilly and with a raw breeze coming off the sea Blankenberge was probably not at its best. When we arrived we rode along the prom looked at the empty beach huts and the pier

and quickly looked for a place to get in the warm and have a hot drink. Later, we met our guide and agreed to travel back to Bruges independently. Before we left Blankenberge we decided to ride along to the Marina, a vast new area where we found a shelter and had our lunch. On our way back to Bruges we, once again, met dozens of walkers going the other way, but soon we left them behind and eventually arrived at our boat in Bruges.

Back at the boat we had time for a hot drink and cake then just time to clean up before a steak dinner and an optional evening excursion into Bruges to see buildings floodlit and have a chance to try some ridiculously strong Belgian beers.

Lovely old building on the Burg in Bruges

Next day was overcast and during breakfast the boat travelled to Moerbrugge where we started our bike ride. We set off in fine rain that increased later but dried up in the afternoon. We stopped for a coffee in Aalter by which time we were all quite wet. The ground was wet and slippery and my partner had a fall as we stopped. We all crowded into the cafe and guide, Gunter, produced some cream good for bruises, while we had a coffee and cake.

There was no stop for lunch as we aimed to get to Ghent in time for a look round. We did stop for a strange bike museum though, where we had an opportunity to try out some very unusual bicycle creations like a side by side tandem, a tandem with no pedals that you propelled by bouncing up and down on the saddles (when one was up the other was down). It was a fun interlude.

A short while later our boat passed us while we were cycling alongside the Ghent- Bruges Canal. We encountered quite an unusual and airy toilet on our way into Ghent.

We arrived in Ghent about 2pm and congregated by St Baaf’s Cathedral where we were able to leave our bikes and look around on foot. We went round St Baaf’s and saw the Rubens paintings and the carved altar. It was quite chilly and we were pleased to find a cafe where we had a type of self made hot chocolate, hot milk in a cup and a bowl of chocolate chips to add to taste. There were masses of photogenic buildings but the only one I took was of the Ghent Belfry.

Gent or Ghent Belfry right by hot chocolate stop

We were all back to our bikes in good time for our final ride to rejoin the boat for a warm shower and another excellent dinner. There was an optional night time ride into and around Ghent but we declined the offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A jaunt on the South West Coast Path

Recently we joined some friends at Exmouth for a couple of days walk along the South West Coast Path. They were doing the whole lot in short chunks, due to finish the whole path later this year. Leaving from Weymouth we exercised our  bus passes, firstly to Lyme Regis, then to Exeter and then to Lympstone and we walked the final bit into Exmouth. Our bus was about half an hour late leaving Weymouth but luckily made up the time by Lyme so we caught our bus for Exeter with a few minutes to spare, enough for a toilet visit, anyway. At Exeter bus station the bus for Exmouth was standing there waiting. We alighted at the Saddlers Arms (more work for the Apostrophe Protection Society here, perhaps though in researching this blog I find the pub is now marketing itself simply as Saddlers) and took a break in the pub so my partner could recover from a fall caused by sharp bus braking. After, we walked towards the Exe Estuary and joined the very pleasant and well appointed East Devon Way cycle and footpath. The East Devon Way footpath goes between Exmouth and Lyme Regis it follows an inland route for 38 miles and touches the South West Coast path at both ends.

On our way we saw a sign to the National Trust property A la Ronde a shortish distance off the path. We were not pressed for time and took the detour. The new tarmaced path passed close to the very impressive Lympstone Manor which I have now discovered is a “country house hotel”. It looks to be very smart and quite expensive, the cheapest rooms are over 10 times our overnight cost that night. A la Ronde was well worth the detour, even though the distance was rather more than the signpost on the Way path had advertised. It is a very unusual 18th century house built with 16 sides. There are 20 rooms inside, many of which are quite tiny. I was very taken by the unusual style, the clever use of space in its design and the unconventionally shaped windows. 

We rejoined the bridleway and walked into Exmouth where we had an overnight stop before joining our friends and starting the walk proper. We stayed that night at the Ash Hotel right on the waterfront.

Ash Hotel – quite adequate and reasonably priced for B&B

Our room was clean but I do wonder where it is possible to buy boxes of tissues that are just about empty; every B&B seems to have them. We walked around Exmouth that evening and found a pub for dinner that had rope with knot-tying instructions on each place setting; an excellent idea. I learnt how to tie a bowline. The sun was still out when we walked back to our hotel and we sat out for a while before retiring.

Next day after a good breakfast we met our friends on the SW Coast Path close by where the ferry lands after crossing the Exe. It was excellent walking weather – mostly sunny and dry – so dry, that for the later part of the day we watched as plumes of smoke arose inland from a very large heathland fire on Woodbury Common. We passed some quite gigantic caravan parks.

Devon Cliffs Holiday Park just outside Exmouth

Many of the hedges were crowded with what appeared to be spiders web type cocoons alive with caterpillars emerging and dispersing. The South West Coast Path goes along the front and by the side of the beach at Exmouth before climbing steeply and providing a great view back along the beach.

Exmouth beach looking westwards

We had a lunch stop in Budleigh Salterton then walked inland a bit to take a bridge over the River Otter. Shortly after there was a good view ahead and down to Coal Beach.

Coal Beach beneath eroding cliffs

The red cliffs continued into Ladram Bay with another large holiday park and intriguing rock outcrops in the sea. (The Holiday Park website has this aerial photo giving a good impression of the size of the Park https://www.ladrambay.co.uk/ )

Ladram Bay

After a short stop in Ladram it was about an hour into Sidmouth and the end of that day’s walk; just over 20km.

Approach to Sidmouth

We entered Sidmouth going down a path by the side of the road

Our Bed and Breakfast in Sidmouth

We had started walking around 09.30 and arrived at about 5 pm. After a less than satisfying shower, maybe due to low water pressure upstairs, we ventured back down into Sidmouth and ate at The Anchor; acceptable food and great Deuchars (pronounced Dewkers) IPA beer. Our B&B was, I thought, a tad expensive for what it offered. The fact that the landlord possibly attended the Basil Fawlty school of landlording provided a good deal of diverting banter but did not really compensate for the price.

Next day is described by the SW Coast Path website as “severe to strenuous”. So after a quick stop at Tesco for lunch material we were “on the path” by 09.30. Much of the day was best described as woodland rather than coast with masses of ramsons and bluebells. There were lots of ascents and descents with towering views down into combes. On leaving Sidmouth it was well worth stopping and looking back for views of yesterday’s walk.

Leaving Sidmouth

Leaving Sidmouth with view back to Ladram Bay

Weston and Branscombe

Weston Combe beach from the Sidmouth side

The major descent and climb at Weston Mouth went right down to beach level.

Weston Mouth at beach level in National Trust land

Then after a climb up and a reasonable level walk it was time to tackle Branscombe. At first the village was clearly visible in the valley as we maintained height in a woodland belvedere. Then the view across and down was quite spectacular with a brightly painted boat pulled up on the beach (scarcely visible in this picture).

From Branscombe Mouth to Beer Point there is a meandering undercliff walk with precious few views of either the sea or the cliffs. (To be fair there is an alternative footpath that goes across the top of the cliffs). Despite the lack of views I found this part quite appealing; the atmosphere was so distinct, the terrain varied and the occasional views were more precious because of their scarcity. The walk ends with a sharp and a little exposed climb just beyond Hookum Cliffs.

Hookum Cliffs from the undercliff footpath

From Beer point there is a pleasant, undemanding walk into Beer, where we rewarded ourselves with a drink and a piece of delicious orange and lemon sponge cake. From here there was a final up and down into Seaton.

Looking down into Seaton just before road closure detour

Unfortunately, a major cliff fall caused another detour. This time it was not simply a footpath but a road that had been affected and closed.

We met up with our walking buddies on the prom at Seaton, and soon found our hotel, the Eyre Court, under new management.

This hotel was very comfortable, quite spacious, served good and reasonable food with good beer. What is not to like? It had a big advantage that we had no need to wander after what the online guide describes as a “severe day” just over 16km. Needless to say we did not wander out at all that evening.

Next day, another great breakfast and another trip to Tesco for lunch stuff. This time we also took a look around the Victorian Electric tramway, which unfortunately did not start operation until 10am, too late for our walk schedule. The route took us along the coast and over the river Sid with pleasant views upstream and out to sea.

Looking inland from bridge over River Sid

The Sid estuary

After the bridge there is an inland climb and out into farmland where a sign announces that the next section is 3.5 to 4 hours long with no escape routes, no access to the coast and rough underfoot, or words to similar effect. This part of the route essentially went almost all the way to Lyme Regis, our destination for that day. It might sound rather dull, but once again I found it an interesting undercliff meander. The path was quite overgrown, with lots of twists and turns, and ups and downs and just a rare glimpse of sea or cliffs above. Nearer to Lyme, after about 4 hours, we joined a tarmaced section of path which became more open with views down into Lyme with glimpses of the Cobb (not very clear in this photo, but there – honest)

In Lyme Regis after a walk along the prom we found a coffee shop for our “rewards” one of which was entirely missing a short sharp shower that passed by while we were refreshing ourselves. The others were cake and some cream scones. Thence we walked up out of the town to locate our overnight B&B, the Nag’s Head (with a very correct apostrophe!). The Nag’s Head is a real pub with no pub grub in the evening, so we took a pleasant stroll down into town and along the front to the Cobb and dined in the bustling Cobb Arms. The food and beer were excellent and reasonably priced, which explained why it was so busy.

Breakfast at the Nag’s Head was excellent but this signalled a parting of the ways. Our friends stuck rigidly to their plans and took the Coast Path with its many diversions to West Bay, while we decided to take a walk around Lyme, miss out on the Path detours and catch a bus back to Weymouth. We could always come back and repeat the Path when more of it is open.

 

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Two weeks in Chamonix valley

2016/17 has not been a typical winter for me nor, I think, for the Chamonix valley. The valley has had a pretty poor ski season and I have not been skiing as frequently as previously. Partly, the two reasons are related. I was there in January for just over a week and did not bother to venture out with skis because there was a grave lack of snow in the resorts. However, I was there for two weeks roundabout the middle of March and had some excellent skiing and some lovely walks. There had been a decent snowfall as we arrived and this was followed by a solid week of bright sunny weather; a little warm for the best skiing but it gave an overwhelming feeling of Spring’s arrival. Google created a couple of great panoramic photos, without me asking, and it is these I would like to share in this post.

The first is taken from the top of the Princess lift in the Megeve ski area. It was taken in the afternoon of the 13th March. In the foreground is some of the ski area in the St Gervais sector and the background is Mont Blanc, the very top hidden by cloud.

The next was taken a few days later from the end of Lac Passy on a lovely afternoon, warm enough to encourage young paddlers.

 

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A bike ride round Lake Constance 5 Rorschach and return to Konstanz

We were told breakfast at Hotel Mozart started at 07.00. We were there at about 7.30. This was our last day cycling and it was our shortest day, so we were in no hurry. There was the most limited buffet we had seen on our trip. In part this might have been because as we were leaving at about 8 o’clock a greater selection of food was just being brought out. Well, I guess we had had sufficient but still…

We were quite prepared to give Rorschach another chance as we cycled away. We looked for interesting things but it continued to disappoint. The two things that did attract me were the sand sculpture statue remaining after a sand sculpture festival

Sun worshippers sand sculpture

Sun worshippers sand sculpture

and the wooden bathing house built in 1924 and still in use.img_20160924_175030808_hdr

A real pleasant surprise of this day was finding and exploring the town or Arbon. As we approached the town we noticed the number and range of water birds, teal, mallards and loads of heron.

Coming into Arbon along cycle path

Coming into Arbon along cycle path

Arbon was very attractive both in terms of the well kept gardens, municipal and private, and in terms of the old streets and houses.img_20160925_093604832 img_20160925_092124294

After Arbon we once again cycled through orchards dripping with bright coloured apples. The scale of production was brought home to us when we passed a packing station near Egnach. img_20160925_100557812Our next stop was Romanshorn, a bustling industrial port. It has a railway museum in the large shunting yards and the port has ferry boats leaving frequently.

Romanshorn harbour

Romanshorn harbour

We stopped by the harbour and watched our co-cycling Icelanders cycle past and the other bustle of the port. It was Switzerland so I was not to surprised when we were charged 10 Euros for 2 coffees; we did not have any Swiss francs left.

At Utwil we were lucky to see a steam train waiting at the station.img_20160925_113219888_hdr

Just before we crossed the border into Germany at Konstanz we rode through the town of Kreuzlingen. It was a sunny Sunday so everyone was out in the air and the lakeside gardens were busy.img_20160925_134032707

We were now only a few hundred metres from the German border and Hotel Barbarossa, the same one we stayed in at the start of our tour. We arrived at the hotel about 14.00 and they kindly let us leave our things in our room and gave us a bottle of wine gift from our travel company. We travelled with only hand baggage so had to consume it before we left; big problem NOT and we drank it with our meal that night!

The rest of the afternoon and next morning we spent more time looking round Konstanz. But first we went to the Rosgarten Museum, we had an entrance ticket as part of our tour. It is an excellent place to get a view of the long history of the town and the way it was in times past. After that we went down to the gardens by the harbour, to have a celebratory beer and watch the wide variety of boats jostling around in the water, in and just outside the harbour. Noisy, fast, hooting ferries mixed with sedate elegant yachts of many different designs, tiny motorboats on hire and even pedalos all doing their own thing.

Konstanz has a long history and this is one of the old entrance gates

Schnetztor

Schnetztor

Probably the most striking building in Konstanz is the Munster. I took a trip up the tower all 300 steps or so. Magnificent views from the top and of the bells on the way up. I was just passing them at 11 o clock!img_20160925_171256487

But the real attraction of Konstanz, in my view is the lakeimg_20160925_173819179 and the bridge over the Rhine.img_20160925_173829431

In summary we cycled 232 km in the 5 days. It was easy terrain so this distance was no great exertion. We were lucky with the weather; dry throughout and mostly sunny and warm. The views were spectacular and it was a great mix of history, culture, nature, exercise and comfort in the hotels. I would recommend it highly as an unforgettable and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

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A bike ride round Lake Constance 4 Wasserburg to Rorschach

This was the fifth day of our tour and we started it with a full breakfast, as usual. And we set off around 08.30, also as usual. The day was misty to start with but it later cleared up and became pleasantly warm; warm enough for me to take a swim in the lake at Bregenz, off a wooden bathing pier. Being mid-September all of the special bathing areas, lidos, around the lake were closed for the season. This was probably the day with the widest variety of scenery and we cycled through 3 countries in one day.

Our first stop was in nearby Wasserburg with its church

Parish church of St George in Wasserburg

Parish church of St George in Wasserburg

and collection of strange metal sculptures.

One of many hand and body part sculptures

One of many hand and body part sculptures

We then travelled through more orchards heavy with fruit and soon came to Lindau island. We rode out over a bridge parallel to the railway. Once on the island we lost our path and ended up in a yard full of garden statues and other bric a brac with no through route. We doubled back, crossed the railway and reached the harbour with its much photographed harbour entrance and lighthouse.

Lindau Island harbour entrance

Lindau Island harbour entrance

This was a Saturday morning and the place was packed so we did not stay there long but headed for the main street Maximillian Strasse. There were plenty of delightful old houses along this street but the highlight was the old town hall.

Old Town hall in Lindau

Old Town hall in Lindau dating back to 1422

We meet the Icelandic cycling group at the market and exchanged ideas on how to get off the island, amongst other things. While we bought some apples, they cycled off. We followed later and crossed back to the mainland via the road bridge.

We soon found the ubiquitous bike route signssignand continued our journey. The path from Lindau to Bregenz is just about all along the edge of the lake on a fine tarmac path which we shared, this being Saturday morning, with every Karl, Klaus and Hans. It was very busy but also pleasantly warm. I could not resist taking a photo back towards Lindauimg_20160924_110756551

and ahead towards Bregenz and across the end of the lake. The dark smudge in the sky is the Alps but we did not get any clearer view later in the day.img_20160924_110825834

The water looks inviting even now and shortly after this I took a swim.

In Bregenz there is a cable car to a high viewing point but we decided it was not worth it because visibility was not good. Instead, we had a coffee nearby the Seebuhne, the festival floating stage, and watched people for a while.

Leaving Bregenz was a little confusing cycling through car parks, sports fields and nature reserves. Eventually we crossed river Bregenzerachimg_20160924_124245669_hdr

and rode around the town of Hard. After Hard we reached and rode alongside the Lustenauer Canal for a couple of kms,

Canal path

Canal path

looking down on houses and factories that must have been quite exposed to flood risks. Shortly after crossing that we crossed the river Rhine.

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Rhine flowing towards Lake Constance

We were still in Austria but, after crossing the wide flat Rhine delta land, we arrived in Switzerland. After the bridge we had two possible paths and we chose the one that was closest to the lake and took us through the flat rich agricultural land of the river delta. We must have passed almost every type of crop ranging from Christmas trees to strawberries. There was also a fair variety of wildlife. I saw a snake, deer, and storks as well as the usual suspects.

Just after we arrived in Switzerland our guide book drew our attention to a market hall in Altenrhein designed by Hundertwasser (full name  Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser), an Austrian architect renown for his distaste of straight lines.img_20160924_152418467

Our hotel was in Rorschach – the Hotel Mozart.

Hotel Mozart

Hotel Mozart

We were not very impressed by Rorschach or by our hotel. The hotel was comfortable enough but was right next to the railway track and the service was quite indifferent and the town had little to offer. After arrival we took a look around the town looking for a place to eat but found nowhere suitable at all. And apart from attractive lakeside parks there was little to see. So, we had a beer by the lake and ate in our hotel. The food was okay but pricey for what it was; but this is Switzerland.

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