day 01

Today's ride:

And the whole ride so far:

Last year's ride had passed along the top edge of the Netherlands:

Groningen was the nearest point we could sensibly reach by train to continue our lap. As the distance from above there to the German border was a lot further than the distance from there to Groningen, we figured this was a legal start-point.

As always on this crossing, the day begins at an ungodly hour with some woman on the world's loudest PA trying to sell you breakfast. I gave her my usual succinct reply. Our plan was to stop off in Rotterdam for breakfast.

The train journey to Groningen began with the little two-carriage Sprinter to Rotterdam. We had considered cycling this leg, but I'd done it twice before in the opposite direction and what would be the first stretch in this direction was rather desolate and lacking in cafes, so we let the train take the strain.

And off we went.

In Rotterdam, we wanted to head out of the station for breakfast. My trike was too wide to fit through the barriers, and getting the wide gate opened seemed to involve about seven members of staff. The same seven I needed to get back in ten minutes later after discovering Rotterdam was closed ...

We had breakfast in a station cafe.

"What about that pain au chocolat just outside the shot?" you ask? You know me well.

Back up to platform level for our train to Leiden for leg 2.

At Leiden, my trike wouldn't fit in the lift. I carried it all the way down the steps, only to discover that our train departed from the same platform we'd arrived on. Which we then missed. Did I mention that I don't do mornings?

So then back down the stairs for tea. Some kind strangers took pity on me and helped me carry it down this time. (It's either a one-person job or three-person job - two is actually more awkward than just carrying it on my own.)

More tea.

Then the final train journey, to Grongingen. This was the closest sensibly-reachable train station to the point at which we'd crossed from the Netherlands into Germany last year, and the official start of the trip. The train did pass right through our destination for the end of the day, but we pretended not to notice.

Both this train and the previous one had wifi. Not the fastest wifi in the world, admittedly, but good enough for a bit of facebooking.

The train station, like all Dutch train stations I've seen, came with a mult-storey bike park attached. This was just one small part of it.

Every cycling website seemed to think the route was off to the west and then back across to the east, ignoring what appeared to be a major cycle path heading directly south to our destination. I loaded the ridewithgps route into my Garmin, Eric just put the hotel address directly into his GPS and we decided to see what they each came up with.

What mine came up with was a little tour of Groningen. Which is pretty enough, but we did actually want to exit the place. I rebooted it and it was still very confused. The route should have been 27 miles, but at this stage it was showing we'd cycled 4 miles and had 29 to go.

Eric's seemed less confused at that point, but we mostly opted for heading south until we were clear of the town.

The weather gods thought it would be amusing the pick the time we were battling with GPS devices to rain on us.

Eric's GPS thought we should turn left down a little lane. Mine insisted we stay on the cycle path next to the main road to Assen. Until we decided to follow mine, at which point it promptly announced we needed to do a U-turn and take that little lane.

We had a look, but I didn't fancy the unpaved road surface, so we headed back to the main road.

We knew we had to go through Assen, so when in doubt, we followed the road signs.

This was, though, a familiar sight.

Setting it to always ask did save my sanity, as I could either permit it or refuse it depending on how confident we were of being on the right road.

As for the cycling, it was very pleasant.

And we were on track.

With lots of unmistakeably Dutch architecture

Oh yes, and flat. I like flat. Did I mention that I like flat?

It appeared word had reached the Netherlands that I'd stopped abseiling off skyscrapers for the time being.

I always think of tree-lined avanues as French, but the Netherlands has its fair share of them.

Still flat. I like flat. Did I mention that?

Out in the middle of nowhere, I jokingly asked Eric - whose odd two-wheeled bicycle design allows him to see further ahead - whether he could spot an ice-cream shop. Just a mile or so later, we really did.

Which was good. However, less than two minutes after asking for ice-cream and being offered these, the waitress came and put this menu in front of us. That's just cruel.

Still, perhaps I'm making much balloo about nothing.

My GPS seemed determined to make us switch from one side of the road to the other. As I assume cycle paths are uni-directional when there's one either side of the road, we ignored it until a diversion asked us to do the same thing.

The final five or six miles were through forest, and absolutely beautiful.

With occasional equally-beautiful non-forest sections.

The hotel was great - very friendly welcome, had received my request for garaged cycle parking and had also put us in ground floor rooms "so you won't have to carry your luggage far."

A cool, gradually warming shower after a hot cycle ride is one of life's most enjoyable simple pleasures.

We were both hungry already, so headed for an early dinner. Trip Advisor reviews had praised the food, and they were right to do so. We each had an absolutely fantastic steak (you may spot a certain pattern to my food choices).

We were also thirsty.

Eric had had a starter - a mustard soup. I didn't, as I'd spotted something on the dessert menu.

One thing that has always puzzled me about cycling holidays is that I never lose weight. I'm doing all this exercise, I should lose weight, right?

We finished dinner with a medicinal cognac at 9pm, intending an early night. I don't know how Eric's plans worked out, but mine were complete scuppered by Netflix Netherlands being happy with my Netflix UK login ...

We had at least agreed we'd meet for breakfast shortly before it ended at 10am ...

We'd sort of cheated today, heading south rather than out to the border, but that was an accommodation-based decision. In the morning, we'd aim to plan a route heading out toward the border, accommodation permitting.