The last leg

Our plans happen to change more often than the English weather. So our simple route back from Portugal went a little differently than expected… Here’s a little update on how things went.

Our trip had started in the Algarve where we worked for several months waiting for the season to turn. By the 1st of April, we had got all our kit ready and set off up the coast with Miriam – a friend we made in Aljezur. We cruised up the Portuguese coastline, enjoying the beaches and dramatic coastlines. We dropped Miriam off in Galicia before heading east along the Spanish coastline.

The north of Spain was equally as beautiful as it’s Portuguese counterpart, yet the hills seemed even harder. Along the way we were considering our future plans and decided not to cycle through France back to the UK. This decision was made on our chances of finding a summer job before other seasonal workers filled all the gaps.

So the question was how do we get back to England?

Our options

      ⇒   Ferries go from Bilbao and Santander. This seemed like the most obvious choice for us, but as you are obliged to take a Cabin on the overnighter journey the price soons adds up to a couple hundred pounds

      ⇒   Flights were going from several locations. We even considered cycling to Bordeaux for the best priced ticket. We decided against this as we would have to demount our bikes, resulting in being considered as another item of luggage. So with 4 panniers, 2 backpacks and 2 bicycles, we quickly exceeded our allowance, racking up quite a fee…

     ⇒   Reluctant not to skip all the beauty of the French countryside we thought about taking a train. The prices were our cheapest option as we didn’t have to pay for excess baggage nor did we have to pay for on board accommodation. We could then take a ferry at the shortest crossing back to the UK.

How it went so wrong…

We cycled out of Spain along the coastline up to Biarritz, then across to Bayonne. The ride was stunning and there was a decent cycling lane in France. We took a train from Bayonne to Toulouse, where we spent two nights exploring the city which shares the same name as Cynthias Family! On our first night we were informed by the French Train company (SNCB) that due to strikes our train had been cancelled…

Merde!

The next morning we went straight to the train station and managed to get booked onto another train the following day. This new itinerary was made up of 3 change overs, Toulouse - Montpellier - Lyon - Lille, 12 hours of transit and having to dismantle our bikes.

It was half a day of hell. We were squeezed onto these trains with what seemed like half of France, all pissed off that their train had been cancelled and that they were standing up…

From Lille, we made our way to Brussels to eat chips with our friends and pick up our helmets that we had left behind after our trip in Asia. In Belgium we discovered the fantastic routes provided by www.fietsnet.be

This system of following numbers took us along canals, through farms and past derelict windmills. We rode up to Antwerp and then into the Netherlands, along the coast back to Belgium all the way to Dunkirk. The Belgian coastline has its moments of brilliance (mainly in the form of beers and fries) but nothing compared the tranquillity and charm of its Dutch brother.

The ferry from Dunkirk was only £21 and took just over an hour. From Dover we then rode down back country roads and disused tow paths exploring quaint pubs all the way back to Esher..!

Where to go next..?

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