Not so many kms that day but we had fun and relax all day long! We left the three fortified city in order to Reach Sliema passing throug La Valletta. These pics were taken at the moment of our arrival, on the top of a rock on the port. If you are afraid of heights we really do not reccomend it. If it’s not a problem you will find a beautiful view! La Valletta is the Capital of Malta and it’s very particular for its style. It has been built in a Baroque style with some elements of Mannerist, Neo classical and modern Architecture. A kind of style you can find in all the island but especially here. The city is also knowed as “La superbissima” in Italian that means “the most proud” due to its magnificent baroque palces, gardens and churches. In 1980 has been recognized as World Heritage City by Unesco.
Happy Old Friends! 🙂
After relaxing in La valletta, eating some healty food in a local restaurant we headed towards our final destination Sliema and St Jullian. Before to arrive in Sliema Bruno called one of his friend that we discovered was living in Malta and that he didn’t see in years! Life is strange, you don’t see a person in years and then you meet him/her in a foreign country! We met Luca in Sliema and we decided to have dinner all togheter in a Italian Restaurant in Sliema! No wait stop! We are not the classic italian people who eat pasta and pizza in every place we go! Ahah jocking, yes we are. But we try other food too. But that night pizza. Pizza a heart lefted. One of us left it’s heart to the waitress.. but this is another story. St Jullian is well knowed for its nightlife and even if it was barely spring there was a lot of movida. We had a little bit of relax in a Narghilè Bar telling stories of the things happened in the past during our trips and our lives, just like people who don’t see for years do 🙂 Thanks Luca for the company! 🙂
Time To Say Goodbye, Malta!
Here we are at the end of our trip. We slept in St Jullian and the morning after we had to come back to Italy. We woke up early, we had to give the bikes back and reach the airport. We want to thanks The Cyclist Malta for giving us the opportunity to try their services and for supporting us. The bikes were impeccable! They also allowed us to try an e-bike. We never tried it and we have to say that is really exciting! Maybe we will try them for an entire trip.. who knows!? 🙂
It has been a very beautiful experience in a place that we didn’t expect to be as beautiful as it is. Thanks to all Maltese people who helped us during the trip giving us information and thanks to us for reading us! Especially THANK YOU for putting up with our bad left-hand drive! 😛
See you on the road, have nice & safe travels. Bruno & Arthur – BikesPhilosophy
This time we decided to tour in Portugal, to discover and live the nature in all its beauty, from the hills to the beaches.
It will be divided in 8 posts:
From Faro to Albufeira;
From Albufeira to Lagos;
From Lagos to Vila do Bispo, via Sagres;
From Vila do Bispo to Odeceixe;
From Odeceixe to Vila Nova De Milfontes;
From Vila Nova De Milfontes to Vila Nova de Santo Andrè
From Vila Nova De Santo Andrè to Tròia;
From Tròia to Lisbon.
Let the music play: Start the journey!
Early, early in the morning, but very very early morning. No, not this time.
Late, late in the evening, we started our journey.
the previous days were very weird. Anxiety, joy, skirt, enthusiasm.
It was the first time that we bring our bikes and you know, first time is always the first time. 🙂
Our flight was at 7.25 a.m. but due to the distance from our houses and the necessity to arrive at the airport at least 2.30 h before we decided to sleep there.
Airports at night are something special. Very few people sleeping, other people reads, someone is smoking and someone else talks with a stranger.
How many stories, how many destinies and destination.
For what it concern us we met a friend of Arthur and we spent the night helping him to choose photos for a work and trying to place his hammock. Yes, an hammock in a airport! Can you believe it?
Look at the photo down here! 🙂
The best thing happened that night was at the wake up. A stranger left a piece of toilet paper on which he wrote that he left a bag full of snacks under the hammock! Breakfast assured 🙂
Faro, take care of us!
Time to start the journey, plane takes us to Portugal!
The flight was very easy, not as it’s happened at the return (we will talk about this, oh yes!).
We arrived in Faro on time and after ONLY two hours we finished to assemble all the parts. Please have a cup of tea, it was the FIRST TIME 😛
We really appreciated that the airport was equipped with 3 “bike stations”, very useful for assembling/disassembling bicycles.
All good! The sun was shining and legs were ready! We were so excited, all went good and we were on the bikes with our yellow bags full of clothes and useless things! Useless like the blue jeans of Arthur’s father. He says that don’t know how is happened… Useful as the pair of Bruno’s jeans in excess!
Destination Algarve: The wild nature
5 kms from the airport and we were already deep in the Algarve Region. This region is very wild and the nature is simply incredible: pines, palms and dirty roads!
To reach Albufeira is really easy, it’s just 35 kms from the airport and you can chose between different roads. If you have a mountain bike or a gravelwith good tires you can take the dirty roads and enjoy the wild surroundings, otherwise you can follow the normal road.
We decided to follow both. The first part in the wild passing through the salinas and the second part on the normal road BECAUSE WE WERE DYING! Jocking 🙂
The first thing you will notice following the main road is
that is full of golf resorts. Miles and miles of green fields and people driving golf cars. We will think about this when we retire! 🙂
Jokes aside, this is a renowed region for Golf!
The first day was very easy and before noon we were in the white Albufeira.
Albufeira: Fortress of the sea
Albufeira is a well known town in the Algarve.
The city was founded by the Arabs in order to be a fortress on the sea. His names literally means “Fortress of the sea”.
Born as a fortress, during the centuries it became a little fishing village and now, in the last 50 years, it has become one of the most touristic place in the south of Portugal.
This city is a little white pearl, full of narrow street, beautiful views, amazing beaches and its famous nightlife.
It’s a little bit difficult to visit it by bike because is built on a hill.
Up & Down, Up & Down, Up & Down…:D
The Main place to visit are the clock tower “Torre do Rologio“, the symbol of the city, and “Torre Sineira“, a beautiful tower with 8 bells.
Despite this town is full of churches and monuments we didn’t have enough time to visit them, so we decided to do a little tour of the city and then relax a little bit at “Praio di Peneco“.
We enjoyed the sunset at the beach and then we went to the hotel.
Welcome to the São Rafael Atlântico Hotel!
Once arrived at the hotel we had the possibility to leave our bikes safe in a little storeroom behind the reception desk.
The whole staff was very friendly and once in the room they brought us a tasty dish with strawberry, chocolate, meringue and orange juices! NICE SURPRISE!
Look at its smile! 😀
We were happy, so happy that Arthur created a funny dance to celebrate the moment. We jealously guard the video, make an offer and we’ll let you know. 😛
The room was really beautiful, a room of a refined elegance and almost big as our houses!
And what about the view from the balcony?
After 2 days without sleeping on a bed it was like being in paradise! Oh, it’s a paradise even if you have slept normally the day before. Trust us.
If you need to relax and fully recover your strength, we strongly recommend this hotel for your stay in Albufeira.
We suggest you to take a look to the photo touron their website. You will not regret it!
After a good shower we were really hungry so we decided to have a walk outside. PLEASE DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE WE DID!
We stopped in a restaurant that was rated 4 stars on Trip Advisor.
As good italian boys we decided to order two pizzas, also because the chef reassured us that pizza was one of his specialities.
We’re still shaken by that experience that we don’t even want to mention the name of the restaurant. :’D
The tiredness accumulated from travelling by plane and bicycle was so much that once back in the room we fainted on the beds and we woke up directly in the morning.
Someone said morning?!
What’s better than a good breakfast?
What’s better than a continental breakfast?
The buffet was so big that you can lose yourself in it.
It’s weird because when we are at home we eat just a croissant or some biscuits with a tea/coffee, while here we ate like there was no tomorrow! 😀
Too bad we stayed here only for a night .. 😥
It was time to leave Albufeira, morning stretching, a last look to the city and we headed to our next destination: Lagos.
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
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 😀
Outside it was cold and the previous evening we returned late after a ride through the streets and breweries of the city of Ghent.
The radiators were at full capacity but getting up from bed was a leap of faith 😀
A new town was waiting for us so, after getting up we got dressed faster then a lightning, we went downstairs to have breakfast and after half an hour of talking with our hosts we were ready to go! Their kids are fantastic, the eldest son is able to speak 4 languages and he is only a kid! Unbelievable how he switches from one language to another to make his life easier, although not the life of the listeners 😀
What to do now? First of all we went to have another breakfast at Paul Boulangerie: we saw some delicious cakes that it would have been a pity not to taste them!
So, full of energy we were really really ready to go!
We will kill you, wind!
The road to Bruges is really easy and flat, you can follow the sign to N9 till Koning Leopold Straat and then follow the canal named “Kanal Gent-Brugge”. Roads are really clean and safe so you shouldn’t have problems.
stay here! 😀
The only thing you need to be careful of is a small detour to Knesselare that you should follow otherwise you will find yourself like us and other cyclists in front of a bridge under construction with the road closed, and this will make you lengthen your trip by 4 km.
In addition, following the river you will not find any restaurant, so if you detour to Knesselare you will definitely have more opportunity to find a
restaurant or shop open!
Anyways, both the routes are beautiful and surrounded by infinite green fields, populated by cows, chickens, and weird animals that Bruno decided to call….. drumrolllllllll……. WEIRD KANGAROOS! Exactly, Ladies and Gentlemen, exactly. Weird Kangaroos! We do not have any photo of the weird kangaroos (Arthur: I think that they don’t exist, but don’t tell this to Bruno).
And cows, cows everywhere, and do you want to know something about cows?
After a little discussion and some mooing Arthur sent a photo of the cow to his mother and when he got back home he found it on the wall.
A little bit disturbing btw
But you know what is funny too? Bruno while eating at the local carrefour in Knesselare! (as I said before there are no restaurants along the river so we did a detour to this little town). Look at him eating a gorgeous sandwich!
For the next trips we promise to inform ourself better about the wind! Being Bruges close to the sea and us in its direction we have found a killer wind against us for almost the entire track! Buuut as we said in the last article the best thing to do in this situation is to change your attitude into a smile! And swear. Just a little bit, it could help! 😀
After the stop in Knesselare we decided to continue riding through the little villages following the N337 and sooo we left the canal! We suggest to follow this route too because the villages are pretty and deserve to be viewed 😀
Last kilometeres sweating like children at the park we reached Bruges!
Can you hear
Check the weather first. If it’s a windy day and you aren’t ready for it, don’t choose the “Kanal path”, but the “Little country path”. It’s more sheltered from wind and you shouldn’t suffer it. Just follow the N461 until Knesselare, then it will begin the N337, that reaches directly Bruges.
What to say? We were really lucky, apart from the wind it was a hot and sunny day and also this time we reached the city one hour before the sunset.
Blast from the past: Bruges
Bruges is a pearl, of course touristic but very charming!
Bruges is a blast from the past, she is romantic, it’s like to live in a painting. Cobblestone roads that thread under beautiful brick arches, and pass through beautiful houses and wonderful stone churches. And how not to mention the canals that cross and embrace this beautiful city?
If you are a couple don’t miss this Unesco heritage city because it is very romantic. Our girls wanted to kill us for going there without them!
As soon as we arrived in the city we found ourselves in front of the imposing, Gothic, Sint-Salt-Salvatorskathedraal.
Breathtaking at daytime and fascinating at night when it is all illuminated. A MUST SEE!
Bruges is a city to explore by bike or by foot, especially Markt, the central square, where Belfort is located! Belfort tower is one of the symbols of the city and used to control the territory. If you want you can visit and climb it to watch one of the best landscapes of Belgium.
We visited it only from the outside due to the long queue.
The square is surrounded by historic buildings, among which there is the Historium, where you can wear magic glasses and catapult yourself in the virtual reality at 360 degrees of Bruges of the Fifteenth century.
After the visit of the city center we were a little bit tired and desirous of a bed where to lay for the rest of day so we decided to reach our hotel! Last 2 km with a pain in the ass literally but aware that the next day we would have had the wind behind us.
For this second day we chose to stay in a hotel, and for this, after much research, we found the hotel right for us: Hotel Velotel, but before leaving the sky gave us a beautiful
show: a rainbow blown up from nowhere, without it having rained, right in Markt, and a gorgeous sunset! Hey Bruges, do you love us?! 😀
The hotel is not far from the city center, just 2 km but by bike it’s very close to!
As you noticed we rarely decide to sleep in the city center and this is because we love to see the less touristic part of the city, the local’s houses, the parks and so on.
We had a really good experience in this hotel. At the arrival we had been welcomed by the front office manager Geert with a glass of juice and this made us very comfortable. He is an easy going person and a good feeling immediately!
If you are a bikewanderer like us we really recommend you this hotel because is Bike friendly indeed it has a large deposit for the bikes! 🙂
The room was pretty and clean and you can’t imagine how Bruno was happy to see the coffee machine inside!
You have to know that he is Napolitan so he doesn’t have blood in his veins but coffee. A lot of coffee.
Obviously, there are no shortages of figures!
We don’t know who is to blame, but one of us has forgotten Bruno’s bag outside the room and at the moment of taking the shower we couldn’t find it. We started looking for the bag in the wardrobe, under the bed, in the bathroom, we couldn’t find it and at some point Bruno heard someone knocking. He asked Arthur if he had heard it but Arthur replied that he had knocked on the closet so no one knocked. Bottom line Arthur went down to the reception desk to ask if they had found the bag and here is explained the knocking on the door! It was the cleaning agent who knocked to ask if that dead bag on the floor was ours: D
Ok. Let’s forget about it!
After the shower we were really hungry so we went back to the city center to eat something and visit the city at night!
Eating in the city center is not cheap, about 24-30 Euros for a main dish, more than a flight ticket from Milan to Brussels. LOL
After dinner we had a walk in the city center to see Markt again. Its lights are really suggestive and the little streets is something you shouldn’t miss.
There are a lot of pubs so you can do a lot of things in the evening.
Upon returning to the hotel we met Geert who was dismantling from his shift and the receptionist so we stopped to talk about our stay in Bruges and our journey. We also took a photo with them!
Sleeptime! Longest ride of the tour for us the day after!
Next week we will talk about how we reached Antwerp and the rail network in Belgium. We will give you some nice tips about bikes and trains 😀 Thanks for following us and keep pedaling!
Just before to start, we wanna introduce you to this tour.
We’ll divide it in 4 posts, one for each day that we toured:
From Bruxelles to Ghent;
From Ghent to Bruges;
From Bruges to Antwerp;
Back to Bruxelles.
It’s time to start. Take a seat. 😀
Bruxelles: Time To Ride!
Early, early in the morning, but very early in the morning, as usual, we got up to take the plane to reach Brussels.
After a double breakfast, one at home and another at the airport, we took the plane and once we reached Brussels we decided to have another breakfast in one of the fabulous bakeries of the city center! We love to stay healty ah! 😀
Once we arrived, after the breakfast I mean, we rented two city bikes at Velo Central.
The bikes were quite good, not the best for traveling but they’re okay for 40-50 kms a day.
The main flaw is that they didn’t have an insurance for bicycle theft, so you should better lock your bike and if possible, bring it inside your Airbnb or choose a hotel with a bike deposit.
I’m not saying that Belgium isn’t safe but in case someone steals your bike you will have to pay €350.
If you wanna travel by bike but you’re not a ruptured cyclotourist we suggest you to bring your own bike, or at least combine your riding with trains! 🙂 We will talk about rail network and bycicle in the future posts!
There are many bike rentals (ProVelò, Cyclo, Villo!, BlueBike) in the city (not too much in reality) and they offers quite the same prices. Villo and BlueBike are not good for traveling but only for the city).
Since we have decided to visit Bruxelles at the end of our trip and not in the first day, after a quick look around, we left the city for Ghent.
Due to the high-traffic Brussels wasn’t an easy city to cycle, even though it is full of cycle paths. A lot of cars invade the lanes for cyclists but once you get out of the city everything turns out to be a paradise! After few kilometres of uphill climb and the incredible traffic in Molenbeek, the Islamic district of Brussels, the road became free and the fun started! 😀
Road To Ghent!
Cycling in Belgium is really easy and well organized. As we said in the last article the country is almost entirely covered with cycle path and indications. To reach Ghent we followed the road N9, that connects Brussels directly to Ghent. It’s the best way to reach the city, even though the first part goes up and down hill! So prepare your legs and your motivation! 😀
& DOWN! 😀
You can do this route with all kind of bikes. It’s about 55km and the cycle path condition was pretty good, just pay attention if you use a fixed, ’cause the steady climbs and downs could cause you some issues. We saw a lot of e-bikes during this track 🙂
We did a little stop in Aalst, a little town in the middle, where we ate at the local Spar.
Unlike our expectations, food wasn’t bad; on the contrary, Belgian cuisine is very good!
You know,we are italian and hard to please with food but we didn’t eat any Italian food in those day, just to say. 😛
We will talk about it in the further post. In Aalst we ate just a sandwich 🙂
After the break we covered the last 30 km upwind, a killer wind, but of course if you are a cyclist know that the best thing to do in this situation is to change your attitude, change your attitude into a smile! 😀
Outside Aalst we realized that the landscape had changed. We found ourselves in the Flanders with beautiful canals, uphill and green fields. It’s hard not to fall in love with this part of the country!
Enjoy it! 🙂
Show us your beauty, Ghent!
A little bit tired because of the early get up, we arrived in Ghent at 5 p.m.
What to say about Ghent?
Ghent is one of the most fascinating city of Belgium, the gem of the Flanders such as the “rival” Bruges but less touristic. Its city center is full of interesting museums, art galleries and nice shops. Unesco heritage site, the city center is Emile Breunsplein, the most photographed part of the city where the cathedral Sint-Baafskathedraal is located.
If you, like Bruno, love the gothic style, YOU WILL LOVE GHENT.
St. Bavo’s Cathedral is the symbol of gothic style in this town and is really famous for housing a masterpiece of the Reinaissance: Jan and Hubert Van Eyck’s The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb also known as The Ghent Altarpieces. The cathedral also hosts some beautiful artworks by the painter Rubens.
There is a lot to do in Ghent: we suggest you to stay there a couple of days and don’t miss the Castle of the Counts built by Philip of Alsace in 1180, the Belfry Tower that is the proudest city symbol of indipendence and the Cloth hall.
Time to reach our Airbnb now, so after a couple of hours wandering in the city center we followed Coupure river to reach our host house: “Swonnie“!
We were a little bit excited to make this experience and I can say that our expectations have been met fully!
Tom and his family welcomed us very warmly, we felt like we were longtime friends.
He speaks 8 languages so if you ever go to visit him he will surely talk in your language better than the national average of your country 😀
As we said in the last post many people use AirBnb because it is cheaper than hotels and you can find a room even in the city center for a bunch of Euro. But, as we think, the soul of AirBnb isn’t just a matter of money but also a cultural exchange with your host.
Furthermore, we had the opportunity to stay in a typical Belgian house and to climb its typical stairs 😀
Belgian houses could be a bit weird for people who come from “ South Europe” because we have a different architecture style: Belgian houses are narrow and tall, built on several floors connected by steep staircases.
They were so little that we did them in a kind of slow motion!
For dinner we went back to the city center and ate a gourmet burger at Ellis, a nice restaurant in Korenmarkt, a square located in the city center and one of the most touristic location of the city because of the several historical buildings.
After dinner and few beers we did a night ride through the beautiful streets near Vrijdagmarkt.
The atmosphere was pure magic, this neighbourhood really deserves a walk at night because of the beautiful lighting of the buildings! It was like a ride in the past! 🙂
Belgian people really know how to enhance their cities, for example with the promotion of their local brewery. Each town have own typical beers.
GREAT! FOR US! 😛
At the end of the day we were really tired but also happy: we really wanted to visit Belgium and we were about to abandon the idea of visiting this country in those days for some organizational difficulties with work, but you know, nothing can stop a nomad mind! 😀
In the next post we will talk about the second day: from Gand to Bruges, so if you like our adventure stay tuned! 😀