questo è il primo post relativo ad un argomento a noi molto caro: il viaggiar sicuri!
Nel bel mezzo del viaggio in Olanda, Arthur ebbe la grande idea di cascare dalla bici e di scartavetrarsi un po’ ovunque.
Da quel momento ci siamo detti che a tutti può capitare di cadere dalla bicicletta e siamo corsi ai ripari.
Cercando su internet per un kit d’emergenza da riporre nello zaino, ci siamo imbattuti in “SJ Works“, brand danese che produce kit medici installabili direttamente sulla bicicletta.
La particolarità dei kit SJ-Works è che sono davvero leggeri, circa 300 grammi, e facilmente posizionabili sulla bicicletta.
In questo modo Arthur eviterà di lamentarsi per tutto il viaggio e potrà curarsi sin da subito! 😛
Ci sono diversi modelli: noi abbiamo scelto un kit da posizionare sotto la sella ed un altro sulla canna della bicicletta
Entrambi hanno gli stessi prodotti medici ed abbastanza spazio per piccole cose come ad esempio le chiavi di casa. La differenza sostanziale tra i due, oltre che estetica, è che in quello posizionabile sulla canna è presente un apposito spazio in cui alloggiare lo Smartphone.
La sicurezza è troppo importante per essere ignorata.
Si spera sempre che questi prodotti non debbano mai servire, ma si sa, prevenire è meglio che curare.
Siamo pronti a parlare del nostro cicloviaggio nei Paesi Bassi.
Siamo stati in questo favoloso paese per 5 giorni e divideremo l’esperienza in 5 post, uno per ogni giorno in cui abbiamo viaggiato ed un ultimo che riassume il viaggio e le nostre riflessioni:
1° Da Amsterdam a Leiden;
2° Da Leiden a Rotterdam;
3° Da Rotterdam a Utrecht;
4° Da Utrecht ad Amsterdam;
5° Sintesi finale e riflessioni sul tour.
sveglia prima dell’alba per prendere l’aereo direzione Amsterdam: era presto, molto presto, troppo presto.
Una volta raggiunta la “Città dello svago” abbiamo noleggiato subito 3 biciclette e girovagato per tutta la città.
Amsterdam è una città favolosa e c’è il rischio di “perdere” ore ed ore solamente a seguire l’incredibile rete di canali ed i tanto caratteristici vicoletti.
Siamo qui per aiutarti! Se hai pochi giorni da dedicarle, non puoi assolutamente perderti:
Museumplein: la famosa piazza dei musei, se cerchi l’arte dei nel posto giusto! Concediti una visita al Rijksmuseum se ami l’arte fiamminga, allo Stedelijk Museum basato sull’arte moderna e al Van Gogh Musem per ammirare la vita di Vincent, dalla nascita alla morte;
Dam: la principale piazza della città, composta dal “Nationaal Monument“, l’obelisco alla memoria dei soldati caduti, il Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, il Royal Palace e il Nieuwe Kerk (Chiesa nuova);
Canali: Si. Sono magnifici, bellissimi e lunghi più di 100km!
Non ti diremo che dovresti girovagare per la città in bicicletta, oh no, tu DEVI farlo! 😀
Ti sentirai come un vero cittadino.
Pensa che dalle ultime statistiche si contano circa 850.000 abitanti e 847.000 biciclette ed ogni anno circa 15000 biciclette vengono ripescate dal canale. 🙂
Inoltre la magnificenza delle piste ciclabili nei Paesi Bassi è incredibile, ci sono più di 32000 kmdi pista ciclabile: puoi andare praticamente ovunque senza mai ritrovarti in strada.
Road to Leiden
Tempo di pedalare! Salutiamo Amsterdam passando attraverso il VondelPark e l’Amsterdamse Bos, due dei più grandi e suggestivi parchi della città. Per raggiungere Leiden abbiamo incrociato il Westeinderplassen, un complesso di laghi appartenenti al territorio dell’Alsmeer, città che ospita il più grande centro commerciale di fiori e piante del mondo.
Pedalare in questa nazione è davvero semplice e sicuro grazie alle piste ciclabili che ricoprono tutto il territorio. Ti basterà seguire la LF routes per raggiungere qualsiasi posto o città tu voglia visitare.
Il territorio è costantemente pianeggiante, pieno di bellissime abitazioni, distese di campi verdi, mucche e canali.
Dopo 45km abbiamo raggiunto la nostra destinazione: Leiden.
Eccoci qui! 😀
Leiden è una piccola e graziosa cittadina universitaria ricca di storia: l’università più antica di tutta la nazione si trova qui, costruita nel 1575, Einstein insegnò qui ed i padri pellegrini vissero qui per un periodo prima di salpare con la Mayflower.
Il centro città è davvero romantico ed è l’ideale per una coppia, oppure per del sano relax tra amici.
Da italiani pensavamo che la passione per il calcio fosse certamente minore qui nei Paesi Bassi, ma quando l’Ajax durante la semifinale di Europa League “Ajax-Monaco” segnò, abbiamo cambiato idea.
L’intera piazza TREMAVA!
Abbiamo riso per 10 minuti e tutt’ora ridiamo ripensando a quella scena!
La passione è passione, dovunque tu vada.
Ora di cena, cosa possono mangiare degli italiani il primo giorno all’estero? La pizza ovviamente, come possiamo resistere senza pasta/pizza almeno una volta al giorno? 😀
Tuttavia nemmeno il tempo di accorgersene che ha iniziato a diluviare: immagina 40 persone correre verso il locale cercando di far da scudo a pizza e bibita 😀
Il tempo in Olanda a volte è imprevedibile, davvero imprevedibile, ma non è anche questo il bello di un viaggio?
Dopo aver riposato e fatto un’ottima colazione vicino alla stazione centrale, siamo pronti per raggiungere Rotterdam, passando per Scheveningen e Den Haag, conosciuta in italiano come Aia.
Il tutto è riportato nel secondo capitolo, CLICCA QUIper leggerlo.
Ci conosciamo dalle scuole elementari ed in passato le nostre vite si sono incrociate molte volte:
Abbiamo giocato insieme nella stessa squadra di calcio e siamo anche stati avversari nel corso degli anni.
Negli ultimi anni, a causa di una serie di eventi, abbiamo scoperto di condividere la stessa passione per la bicicletta, ed è per questo motivo che abbiamo deciso di aprire un blog nel quale promuoviamo un sano ed eco-sostenibile modo di viaggiare, esplorare e vivere.
Vuoi sapere come è iniziato il tutto? Ovviamento per scherzo! 😀
Stavamo parlando a proposito della cultura della bicicletta nei Paesi Bassi e sulla bellezza delle loro piste ciclabili e abbiamo deciso, così dal nulla, di sfidare noi stessi in qualcosa che non abbiamo mai fatto prima: Un piccolo viaggio da Amsterdam ad Utrecht andata e ritorno, attraverso dei piccoli paesini nel mezzo.
Capirai che non eravamo assolutamente preparati ad un’avventura simile, ma 50km al giorno ci sembrano fattibili per tutti.
E’ stata un’esperienza incredibile e sconvolgente. Mai ci saremmo aspettati che sarebbe stato così, così pieno di emozioni tali da farci sentire di nuovo bambini.
Dopo diversi viaggi possiamo affermare che non sai mai cosa si può provare e trovare in ogni singola tappa perchè ogni tappa è unica, ricca di proprie sfumature e bellezze.
Conosci la massima “La felicità è reale solo quando condivisa“? No?! Hai assolutamente bisogno di rimediare guardando il film “Into The Wild”.
Per questo motivo abbiamo deciso di condividere con più persone possibili la nostra passione ed il nostro modo di viaggiare, con la speranza di coinvolgere anche te in questa incredibile esperienza, perchè di incredibile si tratta.
Magari ti starai chiedendo: Si deve essere bello, ma quanto tempo libero avete?
Partendo dal presupposto che come molti anche noi lavoriamo e non abbiamo tempo infinito da impiegare per singolo viaggio, vogliamo dimostrarti che a differenza del credo comune è possibile viaggiare in pochi giorni.
Vogliamo dimostrarti che è possibile godersi la libertà di viaggiare senza dover lasciare il proprio lavoro e non c’è nessuna ragione per il quale anche tu non possa fare altrettanto.
Attualmente stiamo esplorando l’Europa. Ci piace esplorare una nazione alla volta senza mai attraversare i confini nazionali, per cercare di capire come la gente locale percepisce la bicicletta, come si relaziona ad essa e quanto un paese faccia per rendere
Viaggiare in bicicletta è il modo migliore di godersi il viaggio lento e di viversi una nazione in tutta la sua unicità, dettaglio dopo dettaglio.
Non ci resta che incrociarci in strada, cosa aspetti?! 🙂
The alarm was ringing, it was time to get on our feet!
Just a little problem, Arthur’s knee was hurting and neither a strong breakfast with 2 slices of cakes and hot tea could help him.
After discussing about what to do, we decided to look for a therapist in the city before doing our next step. Luckily the knee wasn’t hurting so much to stop pedaling, but we didn’t want to make things worse.
We left the hotel, and the first thing we did was going to the only one therapist we found, but unfortunately he told us to come back at 6.pm.. It was 9 o’clock and our plan was to reach Roncobilaccio ( half way to Firenze) through appennines. We definitely couldn’t wait!
So we decided to pedal slowly to visit the beautiful city of Bologna.
What to see in Bologna, capital of Emilia Romagna.
Bologna is a small, welcoming city, it is like a warm hug from a person who really loves you. Bologna is a living city, a city in which, in the tumult of people, you can feel its blood flowing.
Its famous arcades, streets and people make it a picturesque city. This city famous because of its food and before that, because of its art. In fact, Bologna is considered the crossroads of Italian culture.
So, we’ll be brief: here’s what you shouldn’t miss if you visit Bologna for one day:
Piazza Maggiore: the principal square in Bologna, it hosts the Basilica of San Petronio and it is surrounded by historical buildings. This square is really important because it was one of the first squares to be rebuilt after the fall of the Roman Empire. The inhabitants needed a space of aggregation, a space to be used as a market so the municipality bought and demolished the old popular buildings to make the current square. This sanctioned the birth of the Italian squares as a meeting place.
Basilica di San Petronio: one of the most known curches in the city. It hosts the longest sundial of the world in a structure and Bologna’s people love it.This church is a world record for many things: the 4th in italy by size, the 6th in Europe and the first Gothic brick church in the world always by size.
Torre degli Asinelli: The Asinelli tower, one of the main towers, is known as the symbol of the city. The tower can be visited by paying a free entrance. After 498 steps you will be able to see Bologna from above. A popular saying says don’t climb to the top if you are not graduated yet because in that case you won’t succeed. Would you challenge popular says??
Arcades: the arcades represents this city, they are renowned in all the world because of their extension of 40 kms. Just perfect to take a walk in all season 🙂
Basilica of San Petronio
Look at the
Torre Degli Asinelli
Walking down the streets, just before lunch, we met Hokito, a funny equilibrist with whom we talked for half an hour. He left his job 14 years ago to start traveling by bike earning a living with small shows along the road. It’s surprising. We really admire this kind of people! We do not know if we could ever make such a decision.
Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving.
Good luck Hokito!
Time to make an HARD DECISION
Once satisfied by the food we took a last look at the city. And here we are at the moment of the difficult decision, at the crossroads, the crossroads between heart and mind, between continuing to ride on the mountains putting in serious danger the knee of Arthur or recognize when it is time to stop.
It was hard to decide, when you think you are well trained, when nothing seems can’t stop you an old pain comes back. It’s life, and sometimes BIP happens. And sometimes the only thing you can do is going through it, through the rage, through all the “i could have trained better”. Arthur struggled for many hours with this thoughts… then he drinked a beer, took a coffee and an ice cream.
Basically a child, an happy child! 😀 DO NOT LET BAD THINGS RUIN YOUR TRIP 😀
We decided to to save energy and recover the knee for the last few days,so we went to Florence by train. It’s just an hour and a half of travel with a change to get to your destination.
We’re gonna talk about carrying your bike on a train in italy in a further post 🙂
What an ART, Florence!
We do not believe that Florence needs introductions, but for all those who do not know what it is, we can say that it is simply the “Cradle of the Renaissance”.
It is in fact the Italian Renaissance city FOR EXCELLENCE, All those who appreciate art must at least once in their lives visit it and observe how a city can be artistic and expressive.
If you have only a few days to visit this beauty, you can’t miss:
Dome of Florence and Giotto’s belfry : Your visit should start with Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, heart of the city. It’s the third largest basilica of the world, second only to San Pietro of Rome and St.Paul of London. We assure you that you would only spend hours observing Brunelleschi‘s magnificent and majestic dome.
admiring its artwork
Piazza della Signoria and Loggia dei Lanzi: The most famous square in Florence that houses the fourteenth-century Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of civil and administrative power of the city. You will be addicted to ancient marble or stone sculptures, such as Donatello’s Marzocco or the fountain of Neptune, the first fountain in the city.After a few steps you will find yourself under the “Loggia dei Lanzi”, which was the seat of the ancient public assemblies. The Loggia today houses numerous marble sculptures, including Benvenuto Cellini’s masterpiece: The Perseo, dating back to 1554, which with an athletic gesture proudly exhibits the beheaded head of Medusa. Take a look at it:
Galleria degli Uffizi: The Uffizi Gallery needs no introduction, just think that it is one of the most famous and visited museums in the world, incredibly full of priceless and unique artworks, open to the public since 1581!
Ponte vecchio: Symbol of the historical Florence, allows the passage over the waters of the Arno river where it narrows. The bridge is sprinkled with artisan workshops, which were once butcher shops and today are goldsmith shops. However, the shopping strip will stop in the middle, where two terraces await you. Panorama insured.
Giardino di Boboli: Private park of Palazzo Pitti, the ancient residence of the duchy, connects the famous palace with Forte Belvedere. 45,000 square metres of garden with museums, statues and residences. Its beauty will not leave you indifferent.
We forgot to tell you that another essential thing to do in Florence is eating like crazy!:D
Your stomach will thank you, scout’s world of honor.
But let’s go back to our story! previously we said that due to the physical mishap we stayed two days in Florence, but we did not have a facility in which to stay the first evening and we decided to book blindly, checking Booking availability.
WE ENDED UP IN A FANTASY PLACE. The receptionist seemed to have come out from some thriller film in which he was the crazy killer: Very thin, bewildered eyes, very rapid and sudden movements, elegant jacket with sleeves covering almost entirely the hands and jeans.
Arthur asked him if by chance they had a bag of ice to try to appease the pain, but the recepetionist replied that he would have to check later because at the moment he was very very very busy. The problem was that while he was saying this, he turned and stared at his empty desk. COMPLETELY EMPTY.
In the meantime, a young man arrived and presented himself as the new receptionist on his first day in structure. Our protagonist, after welcoming the new employee, decided to accompany us to the room, climbing up the stairs when suddenly the phone rang!
PANIC! He began to run up the stairs yelling to the new receptionist (who was arrived only two minutes before) to answer the phone. In the distance we heard a shy and sketched “hello?. We laughed so much that we will hardly forget it.
That is not the end of the story! In fact, after a small evening tour in the center, we came back to the hotel thinking about how funny was the scene of the afternoon.
As soon as we crossed the threshold of the hotel we didn’t see anyone at the reception. We advanced towards the second entrance of the hotel from which on the right you can access the stairs, when an unidentified boy passed from nowhere hopping the entire hall and making strange verses. We laughed so much that Arthur risked to fall off the stairs. WE WILL NEVER FORGET THAT HOTEL!❤
How to end this Experience
The next day we stayed at Plus Florence, youth hostel and multicultural: Just think that the receptionists know at least 3-4 languages.
Meanwhile Arthur’s knee was almost healed so we explored the city passing by the riverside (“Lungarno”) and along the beautiful streets of the Florence.
While we were walking through Florence we were stopped by Filippo, who recognizing our BRN equipment and told us about his journey from Florence to St. Petersburg.
it’s incredible how two travel bags catch the eye: in fact we’ve been stopped several times by other like-minded people.
In this photo you can see Arthur with a lovely couple of New Zealanders on an European bicycle tour of 6 months.
Despite the misadventure this experience has been beautiful, because the most exciting thing is that each of our adventure gives us emotions, feelings, circumstances and memories that we will always take with us and that push us to explore more and more with the bike this beloved world.
True freedom is only in yourself, never stop looking for it.
After a good breakfast based of 2 cups of tea and 2 muffin, we were ready to pedaling towards Bologna.
But first we want to give a look to Reggio Emilia ’cause the first day we were too tired to do it.
“Reggio” is a little & cozy town that can be visited for one dayGet lost in alleys and lead in pleasant squares is something to try once in life.
Its inhabitants are so kind! A lot of people stopped us to speak about our journey and support us.
This is the kind of people that we mostly appreciate, always ready to spread happiness! 🙂
Once you visit this town, you must see:
–the museum of Tricolore: You need to know that Reggio is where the italian flag born!
What’s better than a museum to celebrate it and its story? Get lost in the charming italian history!
–First italian murales: It was made in the ’40s and although it is faded, you can read: the right people want snow, a slogan against poverty and the fascist regime.
–City center: A lot of squares and monuments like S.prospero square with its homonymous basilica and Camillo Prampolini square with the Dome of Reggio Emilia, Santa Maria Assunta cathedral.Get lost in the italian architecture.
Time to reach Modena. Once again the route was partly cicleable, anyways It’s pleasant ’cause the stretches alternate between flat and gentle descents.
In the previous chapter we said that this region is scattered with gastronomic traps and our decision to move away from the via emilia to follow the country roads led us to buy 250g of grana padano.
OH WAIT, it was Parmiggiano Reggiano! Please be careful to don’t confuse these cheeses otherwise you might unleash the wrath of local vendors! 😀
Reggio Emilia is the house of Parmiggiano Reggiano and local sellers want to underline the uniqueness of their product . 😛
Follow the railway.
do you know when your instinct tells you not to rely on the navigator but to ask for information to the only passerby in a very small village? Exactly.
We’re still searching for the road that would have allowed us to reach Modena following a non-existent railway, saving kms and an underpass that we have crossed 4 times.
the railway had not existed for years and the road we were told was more like a jungle.
That’s why we decided to go back on the main road.
Modena: Between Piadinas & Beauties
Modena is a very nice town, a man-sized town. Getting lost in the little streets of the city center, enjoy the Rhytm of the city and its pastel-coloured houses is something you must do when you visit this part of Italy. This town is full of beauties: the heart of the city, Piazza Grande, hosts the Dom and its tower “La Ghirlandina” (Unesco Heritage)
The city is also full of museums among which there is one dedicated to Enzo Ferrari.
Lunch time: never never never visit Emilia Romagna without trying a Piadina, a flat brad filled with cold cuts and vegetables or cheese: basically one of the seven wonders! Time to have a coffee and we were back on the road to stop again 2 km later for an ice cream.. We are a little bit greedy 😀 😀 Back on the road, as we were saying, toward Bologna, last 38 kms left only with a stop for another coffee and to take some photos… mm more then some photos 😀 Luckily the weather was perfect and the road was all on a cycle path. Despite the second day is the most tiring we managed to get to Bologna before night so we could enjoy a spectacular We were not tire and when we arrived at the hotel but Arthur knee was hurting due to an old problem and for the fatigue of the day.
Bologna “La Dotta”
We stayed at Hotel Maggiore, a cozy hotel that we would like to spend a few words to thanking them for their hospitality.
The hotel could seems a common flat from the outside but inside it is very welcoming.
The rooms are very comfy and probably are recently renewed.
Furthermore is one of the very few bike friendly hotels of the city: you can also repair and do minor maintenance for free.
Once we arrived, we left our bicycle in the private garage and it was a great surprise to find more than 10 e-bikes parked there for the guest of the hotel.
A good way to reach the city center, just 2kms away, and explore the less beaten track.
It’s also a beautiful way to visit the city for families.
they love so much the cyclists that they make dedicated discounts for all those who are traveling in Italy by bike. If you are interested check their website: http://www.hotelmaggiore.net/en/
If you guys of Hotel Maggiore are reading us we really would like to thank you for the support and for the ice for Arthur’s knee. 😀
What’s better than an hot shower and a night tour of the city?
First of all we took our bicycles and once reached the center we stopped to eat in a typical Bolognese restaurant: a NEAPOLITAN PIZZERIA 😀 😀
We’re joking…no, we’re joking again. Trust us, we can’t live without pizza.
After dinner we met Arthur’s cousin who he hadn’t seen for years.
Few drinks and back to the hotel.
The following day, after the visit of Bologna which we will talk about in the next post, we should have pedaled on the Apennines but Arthur dancer-meniscus played us a bad joke.
In the next chapter we will talk about the stunning Bologna and Hokito, the cycling misfortune and a very bizarre hotel populated by crazy people. VERY CRAZY. 😀
This time we decided to tour in Italy to discover the lovely cities along the Via Emilia, an old road that was constructed to connect Piacenza to Rimini (or Rimini to Piacenza but it’s quite the same 😛 )
It will be divided in 3 posts:
From Piacenza to Reggio Emilia;
From Reggio Emilia to Bologna;
Cycling around Florence.
Piacenza: time to start!
Early, but very early in the morning, as usual, as very very usual, we got up to load our bikes on Bruno’s car. Direction: Piacenza!
Piacenza is a cozy city at the border between Lombardia and Emilia Romagna with a little city centre surrounded by ancient city walls.
We spent just little time in Piacenza because it was our starting point, but it is a beautiful city that deserves at least a visit in total relax.
After a quick and tasty breakfast with Croissant and Cappuccino we unloaded our bikes and stuff and left for Reggio Emilia.
Luckily, to get outside of the city and reach Reggio Emilia & Bologna it is very easy because you just have to follow the Via Emilia or SS9 road, that is almost straight due to the fact that it was constructed by ancient Romans to connect the main cities of Emilia Romagna.
The first stretch of road is dipped in the rural country side but approximately after 20 kms we reached Fiorenzuola d’Arda, a typical provincial village with lovely colored houses.
One piece of advice we would like to give you, if you follow our route, is to stop in these villages outside the big cities, to observe the daily life and the typical Italian architecture of these centers.
After a quick coffe-break we continued pedaling towards Fidenza, a city mostly known for the homonymous shopping outlet.
Our intention was to reach Parma, but one of the many trattorias set as traps in the street kidnapped and forced us to eat (very sadly) a crazy appetizer of regional cold cuts and a dish of tagliatelle with meat sauce.
TRAVELLING IN ITALY IS LIKE SENDING YOUR DIET TO HELL. If you didn’t know, now you know. LOL
After lunch we left for Parma on the most difficult part of our journey:
we had to cycle on a very long false plan on a tight road while paying attention to the one million high speed travelling trucks on our left and the irrigation canal on our right. Definitely the worst stretch of road of our trip.
Really not recommended for families 😦
Parma: between Art aaaand Food
Parma is one of the main cities of Emilia Romagna famous for its Parmiggiano Reggiano and its raw ham. But Parma is not only gastronomy, we really suggest you to visit this city because it is very pretty and bike-friendly as there is a discrete network of cycle paths that extends outside the city.
This makes it a good starting point for your hypothetical tour in Italy starting from this region.
What you should not miss in this city is the beautiful Duomo di Parma and its Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta: a perfect example of Romanesque architecture with a gabled facades and Gothic and Renaissance inserts. On the inside you find a wonderful fresco depicting The Assumption of the Virgin by the Italian Late Renaissance artist Correggio.
Very close to the Duomo there’s the Battistero di Parma, considered the connecting point between Romanesque and Gothic Style.
View from behind of Parma Cathedral
Battistero di Parma
Last strecht of road: crosswind, pain AND PIZZA 😀
Luckily, the last 30 kms of the days were mostly on cycle path. A little bit tough, maybe for the crosswind and for the fake flat road faced during the day, but the will to reach Reggio Emilia was stronger than everything and we arrived at destination in less then 2 hours. AMAZING: just a minute after our arrival the owners of the B&b where we stayed – Villa Agata- gave us the telephone number of a takeaway Pizza. CHE BELLEZZA!
Half-through a pizza and a quick shower, we fainted, we fainted happy and exhausted, ready for the second day of the journey and curious to visit Reggio Emilia, a gastronomy city (as all the cities of Emilia Romagna) where the italian flag TRICOLORE was born.
Next Chapter: from Reggio Emilia to Bologna via Modena
Yes we know, winter has begun(one month ago) and it will be with us for next two months until spring when we can ride our bikes happy through green fields and along the canals with swallows all around.
Buuuuut it’s still winter, it’s cold outside, the cities are covered by the fog and the flu is always lurking. oh, and there is the risk that the bloodfreezes.
ALL EXCUSES! 😀
one of the questions that our friends often ask us is if we have not become crazy about cycling in winter.
The reality is that there are many people who feel the way we do.
There are a lot of people who use regularly their bikes during the cold season.
Just think about the countries of the north Europe: wind, rain and cold seems not to be a problem for them, so why it should be a problem for the people who live in the warmer countries?
Down below 5 good reasons +1 to pedal in winter.
While in summer cities are more chaotic and the cycle paths are overcrowded, during winter the tranquillity reigns supreme.
Pedaling along waterside or through country road without noise helps to clear your mind, come up with new ideas and learn to appreciate the romantic winter landscapes.
Winter brings many diseases: fever, flu and pains of various kinds. It is widely known
and demostrated by a lot of studies that keep training during winter on the outside helps to build antibodies that reduce the possibility of contracting bacteria and viruses by 45%.
You have to know that exists amood disorderdue to the change of season and who more or less, we all suffer it.
Riding a bike is one of the best tonic for these mood swings. It is proved that getting on a bike during the winter hours of light with the fresh air is a boost for the mood.
Try it before work: you will be more productive and friendly with your collegues and more than everything your boss! 😀
A little bit of rain or snow and roads are clogged up, cars don’t move and public transportation is always overcrowded.
What’s better than a bike? It avoids the stress of traffic and you won’t be late! Two drops of water with the right induments are better than stay stuck in the traffic screaming with the other car drivers.
5. It helps to reflects on organization
It’s quite easy to ride a bike during spring or summer because you just need to bring with you a k-way and a repair kit. But what about winter?
Winter requires attention, it requires that every details be studied from clothing to the route to be taken.
There are many variants to keep in mind: How cold will it be? Will i go through muddy roads? How do i dress? The secret is to not overdressing but use breathable clothes that avoid an excessive sweating. And of course, even if they are unaesthetic, you should mounts the mudguards.
+1. The bonus one
YOU WILL BE READY TO ROCK DURING THE SUMMER SEASON: You trained hard while the weather was against you, you forged your body, your mood and your determination. Nothing will stop you, neither the questions of your collegues who are trying to catch you in a moment of weakness.
WARM SEASON IS FOR EVERYONE, WINTER IS FOR THE BADASS! 8D
In this post we’ll give you some info about HOW and WHY touring in Belgium.
A lot of people think that you should visit Belgium only after other principal European country, more covered.
Why the hell?
Great alleys,enchanting cities, chocolate, museum, canals, keggers and last but not
least, eeeeendless cycle paths that could bring you wherever you want!
That’s just a taste of what you can see here.
Cycling in Belgium
Let’s start by saying that Belgium is split in two in evey sense
They speak two different languages:
French speaking in Wallonia, Dutch speaking in Flanders.
What about Cycle paths?
Wallonia seems not to have a well-structured cycle infrastructure, from what we heard and read.
We should ride through it for a trusted judge. We’ll surely have an occasion! 😀 Flanders have a great cycle infrastructure called“Fietsroutesnetwerk“, very similar to the Dutch system.
The Fietsroutesnetwerk unknots in “Knoopunt” (Ahah did you like the words pun?!): these are road signs with a number that identifies the relative route.
Near each Knoopunt you can find a map that shows possible routes from that point.
It’s an easy way to choose a path and it could really help you!
Finally, you need to know that each route is safely and well segnalated and many of them are really scenic, as you can see from our latest posts.
How do Belgian car drivers react towards cyclist?
They are crazy as hell!
They are truly respectful of cyclists: no one cut us off or tried to kill us, indeed they waited for us to cross and smiled.
Someone honked but it’s probably ’cause we were wrong. LOL
Getting to Belgium by plane from Europe
If you come from Europe you shouldn’t find any problem travelling to and from Belgium.
Here are the links of the main airlines:
Flying to Belgium is really cheap ’cause is one of the most frequented hubs.
Main airports are Brussels Zaventem (really close to the city centre) and Brussels Charleroi (50km far away from the center).
Anyways, the city is also easily accessible from Charleroi. You just need to take a bus/train and you’ll reach it in 40 minutes.
SHOULD I BRING MY BIKE OR IS IT BETTER TO RENT ONE THERE?
It’s not an easy answer.It depends on many factors.
It depends on the airline company that you choose and from the place you land.
With a low cost airline is surely cheap to travel to Belgium, but just consider that you will pay a great overprice to bring your bike on the plane,’cause it’s an extra-service
We decided to rent 2 bikes at the price of € 49 each (bags included)
Instead, the price of the airline transportation for a bike was € 120.
Consider that you have to bring your own bag for wrapping up your bike and stowing it .
If you don’t have it, the cost is around €150 to €350 for a good one.
Of course your choice will be strongly influenced by the number of days that you will stay in a country.
More days mean that you will spend more to rent a bike, while the price to charge your bike on the plane would always be the same.
Moreover, riding your own bike is better than riding another one. Don’t underestimate your feels.
So “Just” ponder which offert is better basing your choice on every factor above mentioned.
The only thing to keep in mind is that the bike rental where we rented our bikes does not provide any insurance or assistance so you’re better bringing a repair kit with you and keep your eyes on the bike because if someone stole your bike you would have to pay € 350.
The good thing is that we didn’t have to pay for the flat tire! Yay! 😀
You can check their website for further and up-to-date info:
The shops have good opening hour: they usually open at 8.45 and close at 18:00
The kitchen of the restaurants usually close around 22/22:30
Belgian food is delicious! Try their specialities, like chocolate, beeeeeeers, waffles, belgian fries and mussels, soups and a lot of other exquisite dishes! 😛
You will not regret it, trust us!
Where to Sleep
There are different types of accomodation for each budget:
It is possibile to stay in a camping, hostel, hotel or other kind of accomodation as AirBnb or Couchsurfing.
For those who don’t know AirBnb, this service allows you to sleep in the house of a local. It is usually cheaper compared to a hotel.
Couchsurfing is almost the same but you don’t have to pay for every night, just an entrance fee at the subscription.
The difference is that with AirBnb you can choose better the kind of accomodation, while with couchsurfing you have to spend a little time with your host and usually it is required to do something for him (cleaning, hanging out or cooking something).
They’re all good ways to make news friends from all the countries you visit.
There are a lot of similar websites but these are the most used.
Down below we list our overnight stays:
Gand: Swonnie’s – Polyglot and really friendly.
Bruges: Hotel Velotel: Really nice hotel, 2 km from the city center but very easy to reach by bike. Bike friendly hotel with a safe deposit for bikes. Rooms are clean and comfortable.
Antwerp: Bart House – House in Japanise style. We slept on a tatami! Bart is very friendly and the house is in the heart of the art district in the south of the city.
Brussels: we stayed at the home of a friend of us but Brussels is full of accomodations.
The best period to visit Belgium is from May to October. A little bit rainy sometimes but sunny and hot enough to enjoy what this country has to offer!
Spring and autumn till half October are usually the cooler seasons and the cloudiest.
Winter is cold with a minimum temperature of 3 degrees and we do not recommend a tour during this season because you won’t be able to enjoy the beautiful sceneries that you could enjoy during the other seasons with more sun and colours.
Belgium has a very extended rail network on the north side that connects the main cities.
To bring your bike is quite easy, you just have to pay a little surplus on the ticket at the moment of the emission. Here you can find all the info you need: http://www.belgianrail.be
If you are considering to go from Bruges to Antwerp (100km) we suggest you to plan your itinerary. The distance could be a little bit tiring, so you can decide to take a train at a certain point.
It’s possible to go to Gand and take a train for the last 50 km or go to Loekeren for the last 30 km.
These are the main stations on this track.
If you want to know something more about Belgium all you have to do is select one of the following link:
Heeelloo ladies and gentleman!
Last ride of our tour! We left you in Antwerp after our awakening, a great breakfast at Starbucks and a tour of this beautiful city! 😀
Before leaving we went to the Stadspark, a beautiful park located next to the central station that contains what remains of the Fort Herentals, an old fort of the 16th century.
What a sad life for medieval people. How did they live without bikes?! 😀
We’re joking. We are fascinated by the Middle Ages and by the remains from the past eras.
It’s like to get in touch with those who lived in the same place centuries before and imagining how they lived.
No, we’re not drunk. 😀
You know, visiting a town in autumn, especially its parks, is something magical.
Autumn lights and colours can be a panacea for your mood as it was for us.
This park is the only romantic park of the city and it is the favourite of people who are in search of relax or joggers, walkers, mothers with children, rollerbladers and duck-feeding elderly.
ROAD TO BRUSSELS!
It was time to pedal until Brussels now, 50kms were waiting for us! 🙂
Also this time the road was very simple, just follow the N1 from the city center of Antwerp to the center of Brussels.
Easy, isn’t it?
we really appreciated that important cities are easily reachable by bike, without many changes of direction and a lot of road signs.
This is definitely a good thing for those who don’t know how to orient themselves or just don’t wanna look at the navigator too many times.
Back to us, following the road N1 you will pass through some little town, including Mekelen, which is located halfway.
If you have time, we suggest you to eat something here and take a tour of the Saint Rumbold’s Chatedral and its tower.
This is the most significant church in the entire country. The tower is 97 meters high and it can be climbed, for a total of 514 stairs.
People like Louis XV, Napoléon Bonaparte and a few Belgian kings and queens have climbed its steps.
We ate only a sandwich ’cause our aim was to arrive in Brussels around 3 pm, get a look at the Atomium and reach our friend Alice who hosted and guided us around the city.
A good plan huh?!
WHY TO NOT BLOW A TIRE? 😀
Yeah, it could have been great, if Arthur had not decided to puncture the wheel! 😀
Not a normal puncture, but a real hole due to a piece of steel pointed to the asphalt road.Damn.
He had just finished exulting for the road sign “Brussels” , indicating that we were less than 8km from arrival, when it happened 😀
And think that Bruno had warned him to exult only on arrival: the worst but hilarious situation ever.
Sadly the bike shop didn’t give us a repair kit or any kind of assistance (we’ll speak about that in the next post in which we’ll summarise Belgium and its services,spreading some useful tips)
In the bad luck, the fortune was that the train station was only 4 km away, so Arthur reached the city center putting his bike on a train and Bruno continued by bike.
If someone had told Bruno that cycling in Brussels was that hard, he probably would have taken the train 😀
The last 6 km by bike were extremely Up and Down. Also Brussels has nice cycle paths, but they go Up & Down, insanely Up and down.
Maybe it was accentuated ’cause Bruno was really tired in the last part.
Brussels is a very functional city. You can bring your bike everywhere, by train or underground, even if with bags you will be a bit bulky.
Like a bull in a china shop!
In spite of everything, even that day we reached our destination! 😀 Finally at Alice’s home, finally here in Etterbeek, one of the nineteen municipalities located in the Brussels-Capital region.
You know, we love unexcepted events, like doing 4 storeys of stairs carrying the bikes ’cause they don’t fit in the elevator.
We were a little bit tired because of the accident but after an hot shower we decided to go with Alice to the Parc du Cinquantenaire (JubelPark in Dutch and Park of the Fiftieth Anniversary in English) to meet her friends. Of course, we are in Belgium, Belgium has good beers so we stopped to buy some at the local 24h shop. It’s full of this kind of shops here!
The park is immense, a triumph of autumn colors and full of people walking and chilling. The buildings that dominate the entrance were built from 1880 onwards by King Leopold II in occasion of the National Exhibiton to commemorate the 50 years of the Belgian Independence.
So this was our afternoon: some beers chilling on the green field and a football match with Alice’s friends! They were very kind to invite us to play! It was like being kids again, one of the best feeling in the world. We played with her friends and other people who added themselves by simply asking if they could play.
It’s crazy how people from different countries can communicate and empathize easily even by speaking different languages. Sports connect people!
Sport connects people but tries to break Bruno’s knee, but this is another story and Bruno is really a bad player. I swear!
After the match we were hungry so we went to eat in a very good restaurant named Brasserie La Terrace just outside the park. It had different dishes from typical cuisine to everyday food so if you ever decide to visit the park in the afternoon we really suggest you to stop here for dinner 🙂
One of the best things in the world is to talk about everything, and when I say everything I mean everything, in Italian being sure that noone can understand you and then discover that the people in the table next to you are from your country. Ahhh really cool!
Time to go back home on our drunky feet and sleep on our fabulous air mattress (it was really fabulous) but first let us take a selfie another beer!
The next morning we woke up with a little sadness mixed with happiness. Sad for the end of our adventure and happy for the beautiful experience we had! After we said thanks and goodbye to our friend Alice we went back to the city center to enjoy our last day!
WHAT TO SEE IN BRUSSELS!
Brussels is the city that you don’t expect, it’s a city we think deserves to be included in what we define “tourism of the majors european capitals”. Unfortunately, many pe
ople decide to visit Brussels only when they finish their ideas about travelling in Europe and we think it is unfair. It is unfair because it has a lot to offer: only the Grand Place deserves the airline ticket.
The Grand Place is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Eur
ope and would you miss it? Would you miss the amazing Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art, the charming Fine Art museum with an amazing collection of flemish art paintings?! Would you miss simply the buildings of this city?
Another incredible spot is St. Michel and Gudule Cathedral. Really close to the city center, this building is a true melting pot of art. With its stained-glass windows, its ghotic towers and its fifteenth century facade it is one of the most impressive structures of Brussels.
One of the most visited sites of this city is the Heysel Park and the Atomium, the modern landmark of Brussels. This structure stands 102 metres tall and it represents a unit cell from an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. Each sphere of the Atomium have a diameterof 18 mt and inside they host exhibitions and sometimes private parties. Moreover, it is possible to have dinner in the highest sphere in a beautiful restaurant and enjoy one of the best views of the city!
It was built in 1958 for the EXPO and as the Eiffel Tower was meant to be dismantled at the end of the exhibition.
BACK TO MILAN!
And here we are. After 5 days wandering through the beautiful cities of the Flandeers and its unforgettable countrysides we returned the bikes and did a last walk in the city center before going back to our everyday life.
We learned so much from this Belgian experience because we had the opportunity to get in touch with the locals and know their point of view.
Thanks to all the people who follow us and encouged us during this trip. We really hope that our little adventures make you want to take a flight and explore countries by bike like we do, to taste their real essence.
Now we are here, writing these lines with google maps and various airline companies websites open wondering which will be the next trip!
See ya! Keep pedaling!
PS: we didn’t have to pay for the flat tire. WE ARE SOOOOOOO HAPPY 😛
Bruges is very quiet before 9 o’clock so we enjoyed the streets in search of a place where to have breakfast and eat Waffles!
After a titanic breakfast we went to visit the Minnewater park: sourrounded by trees and and adjacent the MinnewaterPark you will find a small lake called Minnewater or Lake of Love.
A local legend says that you will experience eternal love if you walk over the lake bridge with your partner! This legend makes this spot one of the most romantic of all the city, so we really suggest to come here to enjoy a walk or a ride. Or just sitting on a bench. Just be careful of the Swans! Don’t feed them or they will follow you as your shadow! You have to know that this park is full of swans and that they are the symbol of Bruges! Another legend says that Maximilian 1 of Habsburg, after being spared by a popular uprising in which a town administrator named Peter Lanchals was taken prisoner and killed (whose name means “long neck”), punished Bruges by condemning the citizens to feed the “long necks” (the swans) forever!
What a pity we didn’t have another day to spend in Bruges!
Time to pedal towards Antwerp
The warm morning light was inviting us to squash a nap under the trees but our goal was to reach Antwerp, 100 km away.
Antwerp can be reached in two ways that have the same mileage:
passing trough Zelzate
passing trough Ghent.
We highly recommend you to pass through Ghent if you have not already visited it. (We did it before so we decided to pass through Zelzate). Luckily we were in favour of wind and the music box gave us the right motivation to start out hitting the ground riding! 😀
One thing we learned during this journey is that if you mentally divide the road into small stretches, fatigue decreases.
Our method is to divide the road into goals: 10 km at a time, step by step. I know it may seem weird but it really helps a lot, especially on long routes!
Just outside Bruges, we took an alternative route to N9, parallel to it . It was a cycle path completely into a forest, surrounded by trees and nature with “the birds singin’ sweet songs of melodies pure and true saying’ this is a message to you uh uh” 😀 Hope you get the quote of Bob Marley!
You can easily do it with a Mountain bike or a gravel, ’cause it’s a flat but dirty road.
We did it without problem on a city bike, just pay attention if you have a road bike. We were in perfect harmony. You know, when sunlight penetrates between trees,when you can hear sounds of nature and breath pure air, it’s magic!
Imagine: Nature, trees, harmonyand us, with our stereo box and doping songs 😀 It was surely the best route moment of all the tour.
Back on road N9, we passed trough some little town. A particular mention goes to Eeklo, where the Tour of Belgium in 2010 is started.
Hurrà for water!:D
Path close to Zelzate
Huge Bridge just before Zelzate
Here we are 😀
After 50 km we reached Zelzate, a little town close to the Dutch border, in advance on the schedule but a a little bit tired. It was the first alarm bell.
How could have we been able to refresh ourselves if not with a beer? 😀 We usually use this tactic for each route stop so as not to relax the muscles too much.
Back on bikes, we did other 20 km towards Lokeren, following the N449 until it crosses the cycle path along the canal Moervaart. This cycle path is a beauty too! You know, we have a weakness for watercourses and we easy fall in love with every cycle path along water, but it was truly amazing! Such great colors to see in autumn. You don’t believe us? Here some pics of that piece of paradise!
This path bring you directly to the entrance of Lokeren, it’s easy and gorgeous!
Try to make a tour by bike of The Netherlands, a country with a huge and perfect cycle infrastructure, you’ll always be worried about the conditions of cycling in other countries.
Anyways, we were really surprised about how good were cycle paths in Belgium!
Once in Lokeren, we realized that it was so late: we didn’t have forces for a strong and final sprint of 30km and we didn’t want to let our host wait too long.
We decided to take a train from Lokeren since there is a train station there that brings us and our bikes directly to Antwerp in less than 30 minutes.
It’s always good to consider an alternative way if you have some problems.
That’s why we recommend to study the roads conditions, services and all what concern a bike trip in the nation you want to visit.
We will go further into this discussion in the next chapter, troubles are coming!:D
The first thing we did once we set foot in Antwerp was searching for Bart’s house to have a shower and go to explore the city.
As we did in Ghent we decided to stay in an Airbnb and also this time we had a really good experience: our airBnb was in the the south of the city which is really close to museums, bars and the historical city center.
The studio is very comfortable with a nice view on one of the city’s most fashionable streets.
Unlike the first experience in Airbnb we didn’t talk much with our host, we just exchanged some musical and literary tastes and then went on a relaxing tour through the bars and restaurants.
The beauty of Airbnb is that being someone’s guests you will find yourself in their home, in the tastes of people that reflect in the furniture. For example, our guest really liked Japanese = we slept on a tatami.
Luckily, the square near our stay was full of bar and restaurant so we decided to stop there and eat in a local place. We do not know exactly what we ate but it was good! chicken meatballs in a tomato soup. We just know that we ate meatballs because the menu was only in dutch!
we have a nice memory of this evening because right behind our restaurant there was a concert on a balcony and after eating we went to dance in the middle of the melee.
After a bit of revelry, we went home to rest and relax in order to be ready to explore a little bit of the city the day after.
We had less then half a day to visit the city so we decided to wake up at 7.30 am.
We have to say that sleeping on a tatami has been a good experience contrary to our expectations and visiting the city on a Sunday early morning was quite relaxing.
Are you are wondering about what to do in Antwerp? Here some tips:
The first thing we did was to visit thelocals call it and the unique wooden escalator at the entrance.
Due to the necessity to create a connection between the city’s left and right banks and after many plans failed, the locals approved the Underpass in 1931. Originally they considered to build a bridge over the river Scheldt but this plan was abandoned because this solution would have hampered maritime traffic. This tunnel is still used by pedestrian and cyclists
and it really deserves to be seen! Going on the left side of the city allows you to see the beautiful skyline of the city! YOU CAN’T MISS IT!
A few hundred meters from the tunnel you will find Het Steen, a medieval fortress in the old city center of Antwerp. This fortress is also the oldest in the city and used to be the old city center.
At the entrance of this castle you will find a statue of Lange Wappers that in the Flemish folklore is a giant who used to terrorize the inhabitants of the city.
Not so far from this zone the city center of Antwerp shines with all its beauty.
Grote Markt, the main square, is one of the most fashinating of all Europe and it is the beating heart of the city! despite the square has suffered two big fires and the structures are no longer original the center retains a great charm.
You can find everything in this part of the city: you can find the Heritage site Stadhuis, the renaissance style Karbonkelhuis (Diamond house) that owes its
name to the diamond-shaped decoration of the lower floor and at the center of the square the statue of the painter Rubens. There is also the Rubenhuis to visit, so if you have more time then us it really pays! 🙂
If you love shopping don’t miss MEIR, the most important shopping area in the country!
This street it is considered one of the most expensive of all Benelux and rents can easily reach €1700/square meter/year according to PRO-REAL ESTATE.BE.
Antwerp is very beautiful and its rail station is really a pearl. It had been constructed between 1895 and 1905 by Auguste Ambeau on a design idea of the architect Delacenserie. Considered one of the most beautiful rail station in the world it is one of the symbols of this city.
Just outside the station there is the Diamant quartier where you can admire tons of exxxxxxxxxxxtra expensive jewels! Just admire it. Or buy them if you can. And if you can, please buy us also two Specialized. We will thank you for the rest of our life! Everyday we will call you in the morning or before to go sleep and say thank you. Love u!
Time to go now, thanks for reading our blog, see you next week with the last part of our trip: FROM ANTWERP TO BRUSSELS!
We will talk about how Arthur flat a tire 7 km before the arrival 😀