So, with The Way of the Roses trip over, the podcast published and the film released, and the Platinum Jubilee events nearly finished, my mind is turning to this summer’s trip to the continent; a ferry to The Netherlands, turn right at the Hook of Holland, along the coast of The Netherlands and Belgium, around France, into Switzerland and back to Rotterdam via the Rhine. Here’s the simplified map if you are not familiar with my plans:
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.
If you follow the link in that blue box above you can see the route in more detail as I will be following named routes – many of them part of the EuroVelo network over the course of approximately two months. On that score, I have yet to make a definitive decision as to when I will be leaving on the overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam. I’m hoping that this will be either at the very end of June or the first weekend in July but I have yet to receive the final nod from the school where I work. At the latest it will be July 9th. What I do know is that I will be returning to the UK on Saturday 3rd September, arriving back in Hull on the Sunday. All ready for the start of the new school year on the 5th. Mmm… That may be the biggest challenge of the summer.
As the years go by, preparing for these long trips does become easier. I don’t think there is any equipment that I need to purchase in advance of the trip. I have all the key things that are needed; the bike, the tent, sleeping gear, cooking gear, clothing, cameras… And I have learnt that you don’t need to take everything with you on departure. Maps, for example (I’m still a fan of taking paper maps) can be purchased en route. There is always a tendency to over-complicate things in the preparation period but you need to remember that one of the beauties of cycle touring is its simplicity. It affords itself to being minimalistic and it’s always worth keeping that in mind. There are two things that are on my mind, however.
First is the prosaic but important area of travel insurance. I’ve just discovered this interesting article on the ‘Planet Edit’ site:
The key thing there is the date it was published – earlier in 2022 – so the information it gives is very up-to-date. Following a few of the links to the insurance companies mentioned, it seems that for a two-month trip around Europe, the going rate for insurance is around £100. It’s interesting comparing the travel insurance situation in 2022 to where it was back in 2010 when I was planning my first long journey by bike in Europe. Finding travel insurance for anything over a month was a real struggle and in the end I had to go via a specialised broker. Most – probably all – of the more mainstream insurers weren’t interested. Nowadays they seem to cover the essentials and do so over a longer period of time. That said, I’ll probably opt for one of the more specialised insurers listed in the article by Lauren Pears. It seems sensible to do so.
The other matter on my mind is the first week or so of the trip. There is no point whatsoever planning in any detail beyond that as things change. Dates certainly change so having a commitment to be in a particular place at a particular time is nonsensical. The first few days can, however, be planned for with some certainty and, as you get your head around cycling long distances again, it can be reassuring that you do have a plan of sorts in place for the start of any trip.
So that first part of ‘Le Grand Tour’ will be a coastal one that takes me from The Netherlands, through Belgium and into France along the EuroVelo 12, the North Sea Cycle Route. Here is the route as it appears on the EuroVelo 12 website:
The yellow line for this part of The North Sea Cycle Route tells us that it is a ‘developed route with EuroVelo signs’ which should make life a little easier in those first few days. According to Google Maps, the distance between Rotterdam and Calais is around 260km and here’s the profile:
No great surprise there. The cycling challenge will, I suspect, come in the form of the wind which in this corner of Europe will be blowing from, predominantly, the south west. The Google distance of £260km is probably an underestimate as the algorithm takes the shortest route rather than following the EuroVelos so I think it’s more likely that my odometer will be clicking over to 300km or thereabouts as I trundle into Calais. Four days? Perhaps five? Five days of 60km seems a reasonable way to start such a long trip.
I have discovered an excellent (I think / hope) database of campsites in Europe. They are from a website called Archie’s Campsites and are updated regularly. There is an app available in the UK at a cost of £2.49 and, as I speak, it is downloading… I’ve used camping apps in the past and, honestly, they’ve been a bit hit and miss. My hopes for Archie’s is higher however as the website is clearly updated on a regular basis. In the next few days I’ll look at some of the options when it comes to camping in that first week of the trip. Should I book anything in advance? Perhaps the first night or two… WarmShowers is another option although I’m having issues using the app and the mobile site. Plus ça change… You’d think after all these years they would have sorted the issues there.
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