Earlier today some of you must have been scratching your heads just a little upon seeing the Twitter post or the Facebook post or the Instagram post relating to my decision to ‘tweak’ the route of my upcoming cycle around the Baltic Sea. It is, admittedly, one hell of a tweak. So much of a tweak in fact that the only remaining part of that planned Baltic Sea Cycle that remains in the new planned cycle is the rather short journey from the ferry port in Rotterdam to the Hook of Holland. And yes, even that section is nowhere near the Baltic Sea. The new route will see me not turn left upon arrival in The Netherlands but turn right in the direction of Belgium, then France, then (after quite a while) through Switzerland, then Germany before finally returning to the Hook of Holland and my return journey across the North Sea to Hull. Mmm… Perhaps ‘tweak’ might not have been the most appropriate of words. So why the change?
At the heart of the change is that, two months before departure, I wasn’t feeling very excited about the cycle around the Baltic. An essential part of any journey should be a sense of anticipation and the Baltic wasn’t delivering. That’s not to say that the Baltic wouldn’t deliver if I ever went there – I’m sure it would! – but I just haven’t been feeling it in recent weeks and months. Some of you may think the change is related to the situation in Ukraine. I don’t think it is but I don’t deny that it could be a factor. I’d never really envisaged cycling through Kaliningrad – too administratively difficult – but visiting St. Petersburg would have been interesting with the help of the 72-hour visa that, apparently, is granted with the purchase of a ticket for the boat from Tallinn. A boat that, I imagine, is no longer running.
The new proposed route will, as mentioned, see me cycle through The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Germany. But it will also see me cycle some of the routes I’ve heard so much about over recent years; the Avenue Verte from Dieppe to Paris, the Canal de la Garonne and Canal du Midi linking the Atlantic and Mediterranean, the entirely of the EuroVelo 17 along the Rhone and, especially, the EuroVelo 15 – the Rhine Cycle Route – from its source at Andermatt to, rather conveniently, the Hook of Holland. One might almost think I’d planned this in advance. (I hadn’t.) Yet it will be a tale of not two of the EuroVelos but five of them:
The first part of the route will take me along a short portion of the North Sea Cycle Route – EuroVelo 12 – to Calais before linking up with the EuroVelo 4 for the first time to Dieppe. The EuroVelo 4 in France has been branded as La Vélomaritime and I will encounter it twice; at its western and eastern extremities. Between the two lies the Avenue Verte and, from Paris to Mont Saint Michel, the enticingly named Véloscénie or ‘Veloscenic’ in its English translation. There must be a reason for the name, no? Upon arrival in Roscoff, I encounter an old friend, the EuroVelo 1. I followed this route for much of my journey back in 2015 from Spain to Norway; through Spain from Seville to the border with France, along the French Atlantic coast as far as La Rochelle and then again in Norway from Trondheim to to Nordkapp. This 2022 cycle will see me fill in the section in northern France to La Rochelle before retracing my steps – but not for long – as far as the concrete jungle that is Royan. It is from here that I can cycle along the locally branded ‘Canal des Deux Mers’ but which most people know as the Canal de la Garonne to Toulouse and the Canal du Midi to Sète. Here, again, there will be a little retracing of my steps – this time from 2013 – as I cycle to Avignon but all will be new as I continue north beside the Rhone to Lyon, Geneva and Andermatt in the Alps. Andermatt is one of the great EuroVelo junctions – I was there in 2010 en route to Italy – but my arrival and departure 2022 will not be familiar as I will be coming from the west and leaving to the east cycling downhill as I follow the Rhine. in the direction of the Rotterdam to Hull ferry.
I estimate a journey of approaching 6,000 km. Over 60 days – more or less – that’s a challenging average. Factor in rest days and it becomes impossible but, as was my intention cycling around the Baltic, I don’t have an issue with taking the odd train if needs be. Perhaps the sections mentioned above where I will be retracing my steps from previous cycles might me the most appropriate. That will also include long stretches of the Rhine – between Basel and Strasbourg and between Cologne and Dusseldorf – that I cycled in 2010 and 2015 respectively. That might bring it down to 5,000 km over 50 days with a good number of rest days. But I’m not looking to break records. Perhaps more trains will be needed.
So there we have it. I can’t deny that one other factor is that I simply fancy spending a serious amount of time cycling through France again. After seven years of teaching many thinks from maths to geography to history to English to business studies, as from September 2022 I return to being a secondary school teacher of French. If nothing else, ‘Le Grand Tour’ will prepare me well…
And before you ask, yes, there will be a book: A Wanda Around Europe ?
More details of the routes and online resources below:
Rotterdam to Calais: EuroVelo 12 / North Sea Cycle Route (Netherlands / Belgium / France)
This stage: 260 km / Cumulative: 260 km
Official website: EuroVelo.com/ev12
Calais to Dieppe: EuroVelo 4 / La VeloMaritime (France)
This stage: 180 km / Cumulative: 440 km
Official website: LaVeloMaritime.com
Dieppe to Paris: L’Avenue Verte (France)
This stage: 240 km / Cumulative: 680 km
Official website: AvenueVerteLondonParis.com
Paris to Mont Saint Michel: La Véloscénie (France)
This stage: 450 km / Cumulative: 1130 km
Official website: Veloscenic.com
Mont Saint Michel to Roscoff: EuroVelo 4 / La Vélomaritime (France)
This stage: 430 km / Cumulative: 1560 km
Official website: LaVeloMaritime.com
Roscoff to Royan: EuroVelo 1 / La Vélodyssée (France)
This stage: 870 km / Cumulative: 2430 km
Official website: Cycling-LaVelodyssee.com
Royan to Sète: Le Canal des 2 Mers à Vélo / Les Canals de la Garonne Et du Midi (France)
This stage: 680 km / Cumulative: 3110 km
Official website: CanalDes2MersAVelo.com
Sète to Andermatt: EuroVelo 17 / Rhone Cycle Route (France / Switzerland)
This stage: 1250 km / Cumulative: 4360 km
Official website: ViaRhona.com
Andermatt to Rotterdam: EuroVelo 15 / Rhine Cycle Route (Switzerland / France / Germany / The Netherlands)
This stage: 1500 km / Cumulative: 5860 km
Official website: EuroVelo.com/ev15
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Visit the dedicated Grand Tour page of CyclingEurope.org to find out more about the planned 2022 cycle along some of western Europe’s most iconic cycle routes.
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Categories: Adventure, Cycling, Le Grand Tour, Travel
Looks like a good decision.