Thursday, May 18, 2017

London to Brussels - Day 5 (Flemish to Francais)

Day 5: Ghent to Brussels (May 10th, 2017)
45.9 miles, 646' Elev Gain, 6.7% max grade, 12.4 mph Avg (click for route map)

Ghent was probably the most surprising city we visited on this trip, may be because I had never visited it in the past, and was very pleasantly surprised. Onward to Brussels though, our final day of cycling was upon us. It was another 8am start, mainly just to leave us some leeway for stops, and to be sure we arrived at Eurostar baggage drop off with plenty of time spare to transport all 11 bikes back to London (2 riders were continuing onto Amsterdam).

It was another nice sunny morning, but a chilly 48f (9c). We were all dreading the possibility of having to tackle Tram tracks again, but the worst obstacles we came across getting out of town were cobblestones and a construction site (no health and safety here, we walked the bikes right next to rotating cranes and construction vehicles).

For the first 20 miles we followed the canal and route LF5 again, as we had on Day 4, this was flat and easy going, a good way to get some miles under our belts.

Very peculiar sight along route LF5

We left the canal behind at mile marker 20, we followed country roads and a beautiful tree lined greenway to the town of Aalst. After joining the greenway (easy to miss the turn on to it if not looking), we noticed we were one rider short. We stopped and waited, and after 5 minutes he turned up, apparently he got stuck behind a vehicle, this was the only time during the entire tour we'd got separated as a group.

Stopped on the greenway to re-group

At mile marker 25 we connected with cycle route LF38 in Aalst, LF38 follows a beautiful car-free canal/river path, and kept going beyond where we turned off after 6 miles.

LF38 canal path

Quick food & bathroom stop in Denderleeuw along LF38

Cobblestones are to Belgium and France, what Fish-n-chips are to England, or Burgers are to USA - the country is famed for them. We had had our fair share of riding over cobblestones, both in London, and in Bruges and Ghent, but this little stretch of road we were about to meet at mile marker 36.5 was so quintessentially Belgian, I almost could not believe it - this was also the first hill we had encountered since Dunkirk, and boy was it fun.

Cobblestones on the Doelstraat

The look of pain

The hills were a sign we were getting close to Brussels now, only 10 miles to go, but the area still had a very rural feel, very different from London, or even Paris. We past this beautiful church "Sint-Anna Kappel" in Sint-Anna Pede at mile marker 40, the church houses a famous painting, but unfortunately it was closed.

Sint-Anna Kappel

Upon reaching mile marker 42.5, we were in the suburbs of Brussels, with only 3 miles left until the end of our epic journey. Cycling through the suburbs of Brussels was a lot easier than London or Paris, not as busy, cars were pretty courteous. By 1.30pm we had pulled up to Brussels Midi train terminal, the end of the road so to speak - my mind was not ready for the tour to end, but my butt and legs would thank me.

Checking the bikes into Eurodispatch was fast and easy, although they did make a bit of a fuss when we all wanted to pay separately. The cost is €30 per bike, and they load them onto next available trains, guaranteed to be in London within 24 hours. Our hotel for the night was Hotel Agora right off of the Grand Place, it was a small boutique style place, but actually was bigger inside than it looked, and the rooms were a very good size for a capital city, I would highly recommend this hotel.

We had all skipped lunch again, so after dumping gear everyone wandered on the hunt for something small to eat, myself and 3 others found this wonderful sandwich deli, reminded me of a New York deli, this guy took pride in his sandwich creations. The whole group met up at 5.30pm, and we found the perfect bar to toast the tour end.

Belgian beer was flowing on our final night in Belgium

After several rounds of beer, we all needed some food to soak up the alcohol, those Belgian beers are strong!. Half the group opted for a Mexican restaurant opposite the bar, the other half opted for an authentic Belgian restaurant in the Grand Place, "Restaurant T Keldepke" as recommended by our hotel. The ambiance and food at this restaurant were equally as good, in fact it was the best meal we had had in Belgium, of course we had to finish with Belgian Waffles for dessert.

Can not go to Belgium without eating waffles

Day 5 route

Link to DAY 6

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