Welcome to June… and to the summer of 2023. Well, if the first is your definition of summer. There are several from which to choose. My focus over the next few months will be continue to write the first draft of my new book about last year’s ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe. I’m now heading south along the Vélodyssée in the west of France (day 25 of around 60) so I should have that draft ready by the end of the summer. However, earlier this year I was approached by Dan Joyce, the editor of Cycling UK’s Cycle magazine, asking if would be able to contribute an article about last year’s cycle. That article has now been published and if you are a member of Cycling UK, you should have received your copy of the magazine in the last few days. It’s the June / July issue.
On July 3rd 2022 I set off from The Hook of Holland in The Netherlands, turned right and pedalled off in the direction of France. It was an anti-clockwise tour of the continent; the EuroVelo 12 along the Belgian coast, the EuroVelo 4 to Dieppe, L’Avenue Verte to Paris, La Véloscénie to Mont St Michel before rejoining the EuroVelo 4 to Morlaix, the EuroVelo 1 / Vélodyssée to Royan, the Canal de la Garonne to Toulouse, the Canal du Midi to Sète, the EuroVelo 17 beside the Rhône to Andermatt in Switzerland and finally the EuroVelo 15 / Rhine Cycle Route back to The Hook of Holland and the return ferry to Hull on September 3rd.
Although during the trip I posted short daily videos recounting the tale of my cycle around Europe this summer, the main reason for filming what I did was to make a film about the cycle from the Hook of Holland to the Hook of Holland. It’s quite a daunting task editing 2,500 videos into one film of about an hour but over the next few weeks that’s the plan. To whet your appetite, I have started by creating an into. You can watch it below.
It’s now two weeks since I arrived back in the UK after the summer’s jaunt around Europe with Wanda (the bike…). It’s been an interesting couple of weeks to say the least. On a personal level, I finally feel as though I’ve caught up with things. It was a rather sudden turnaround from being long-distance cyclist to secondary school teacher – about 18 hours to be precise – but after two weekends I’m finally in a position to say everything is ‘sorted’. Well, apart from that cupboard crammed full of my camping equipment but at least I can’t see it unless I make the effort to open the door.
So there it is. Finished. After 63 days, 55 cycling days, around 4,700km, 7 countries, 10 train journeys, lots of ferries (small and large), 45 nights in the tent, 11 nights in hotels, 4 with WarmShowers hosts, 1 with a friend and a night with a Vriendren op de Fiets host, 8 episodes of The Cycling Europe Podcast (the final part 8 episode should be published tomorrow morning upon arrival back in the UK), over 60 (almost) daily videos… and zero punctures, I arrived back at The Hook of Holland earlier today after the relatively short cycle from central Rotterdam and in doing so completed the ‘Grand Tour’ loop. It’s been fun.
The longest day of the trip but it needed to be.it’s now Saturday morning and I still have around 60km of cycling today: 30km from central Rotterdam to the Hook of Holland and then, back up and down the Rhine to the end of one of the other fingers of land to the ferry. Check-in closes at 7pm tonight so I have plenty of time to complete those 60km but if I had stopped yesterday east of Rotterdam that might not have been the case.
Today has been a real joy. Everything came together in a celestial meeting of cycle touring, travelling, people, places, weather… I loved it. Even the trains joined the party after an initial reluctance to play ball at Cologne station this morning. With only 48 hours of this continental odyssey remaining, I couldn’t wish to have spent a more enjoyable day in the saddle. Even that pesky wind which, for much of the past week, has been annoying me in a manner that usually only a tiresome Year 9 student can achieve came to the party and blew me along the banks of the Rhine willing me to get to Rotterdam on time. Fabulous. I only wish you could have been here.
It’s now day 61 and it’s turning out to be a ‘fun’ morning. I’m booked onto a train to Xanten from Cologne but in chaotic scenes very reminiscent of taking a train in the UK, there is some confusion regarding the train that arrived on platform 4 a few minutes ago, wouldn’t let passengers on and then scarpered. I need to change at Duisburg… I’m forcing myself into ‘zen’ mode. It might have been easier to keep cycling and take the train from a quieter station. The plan was to arrive in Xanten – famed for its Roman ruins I Iearnt last night – then cycle over the border into The Netherlands. Come back later today to find out if that ever happens or whether I’m still here in Germany. Or indeed Cologne…