Forest Row Bike Club
FRBC Flanders Tour 2006
Day 1 to Bollezelle
EG to Edenbridge, to Dover, to Calais, to Bollezelle. Flanders in France. About 50 miles.
Day 2 Bollezelle to Kortrijk (50)
Through Poperinghe and Ypres. In the rain. The beautiful stained glass windows in St Nicolas’ church.
Day 3 Kortrijk to Geraadsbergen (50)
Hilly, vertical archery, exhibition in Oudenarde on the Tour of Flanders.
Day 4 Geraadsbergen to Gent.
Early Mass, a local congregation of six women. Gent the birthplace of John of Gaunt. The Van Eyck altar-piece in the cathedral in Gent. The cobble-stoned route to the hotel.
Day 5 Gent to Brugge
An easy ride of 25m by the side of the canal. A picnic.
Day 6 Rest day in Brugge
Music at Mass, lunch in a square under the trees, Vespers sung by nuns. The Christian hotel-owner.
Day 7 Brugge to de Panne (50)
Across the polders, against the wind. Hard, steady cycling. Find the right gear, shoulders into the wind, just keep pedalling.
Day 8 de Panne to Calais (50)
Against the wind, against the clock. Against our expectations we arrived at Calais in good time for the boat. To Dover. By comfortable rail to Tonbridge (with tea along the way), to Edenbridge. The concluding cycle home, against the wind.
Tour-related musings, gossip and PHOTOS are needed! Send them to webbie - sensitive editing assured.
Cyclists and associates
Eleven of us took our bicycles and our panniers; two others, spouses to two of the cyclists, travelled by car.
Flanders and Flemish
The medieval wool trade, wealthy medieval cities, rich burghers, the Flemish language – we were in Flanders.
The surrounding language was Flemish. So were the signs. We could have been in the Netherlands.
With one exception, the route signs were in Flemish. Once though they were in French, and we surmised that for a kilometre or two we had passed from Flanders into Wallonia. Language, in Belgium, is a serious matter.
Yes, the land was flat. On the first day, in French Flanders, we followed a canal. Even so, we went astray two or three times. On subsequent days, we also used the wide cycle- tracks that ran alongside a canal. Good cycling.
I wondered and still wonder how those cycle-paths, and all the others we used, came about. What was it in Belgium, in the Netherlands, and in France that led to the building of that network of cycle-paths.
Woollen jerseys and oilcloths
In Oudenarde (the site of one of Marlborough’s battles) the annual Tour of Flanders is celebrated in a up-to-date exhibition.
The old newsreels and the old photographs showed the working-class nature of cycling.
One rider, we read, wore a woollen jersey and, when it rained he put on an oilskin table-cloth which had a sufficiently large hole for his head.
The one-day Tour is still held each year. It is evidently a celebration of cycling and also of Flemish identity.
Cycling alone in company
It’s possible to cycle alone when in familiar company. In such company, each rider can converse or be silent as the mood dictates. (In unfamiliar company, silence may be misunderstood.)
We followed the same paths, stayed in the same hotels. Yet each of us will have a personal tour to report. The highlights, the low spots, what was seen and unseen – each will be personal. There is no authoritative account. Instead, there are versions
The tour provided the opportunity of daylong cycling, day after day.
Each day, as we cycled away after breakfast, we knew that we had the whole day for our ride, rather than the part of the day. No rush, just steady cycling. Time to give a couple of hours to the first run, to the coffee stop. Time later on for a picnic. And still time to continue to tea and eventually to the hotel.
Daylong cycling. The steady rhythm of it. Sometimes silent, sometimes hard going, sometimes conversational, sometimes easy riding.
Listening to the band, in the rain
By the side of the civic hall in Ypres, out of the rain, the West Yorkshire Police Band played. Just like home.
A generous man
The owner of the Hotel Lucca in Brugge, an organist, a flautist, and an editor, explained the connection with Lucca and with the Arnolfini family. A member had died nearby in 1482. He explained too that his hotel-keeping was informed by his religious values. He welcomed us. He took to us. As we left we learned that the cost of the evening meal had been excluded from the bill. It was his gift to us.
Continuity, and …
The organ music complemented the spoken words of the Mass as well as the hymns. The singing was ably led by the younger assistant to the older officiating priest. That assistant also spoke well when he gave his homily: the quality of the presentation was evident even if the sense was not as the language was Flemish.
The welcome though had been given in three languages. A particular prayer for James, an alcoholic.
Later in the day, some 20 nuns, mostly old, sang Vespers in a small church. They had sung the Office many, many times. In the large church and the small one, the sense of continuity was palpable.
..a passing show
The driver also delivered a standard text as he steered us along the waterways. Sit still, look up (usually), be ready to commend the old. There, on the left, was the oldest hospital in Europe. Really, but how good was it? The bridge was built four or five hundred years ago. Time for a new one. And the driver’s agenda swamped any other one.
At lunch-time we spotted a meat shop. We bought our bread, rolls, and fillings for a picnic. We distributed ourselves by the side of the river. It flowed, we ate, all was well in the world. So it was by the side of a canal; so it was during the week.
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