This bike ride started from my dislike of the 10 o’clock evening television news. Watching and listening to stories of human suffering followed by a dreadful weather forecast fails to set the scene for sweet dreams. So my preference is to watch 30 minutes of pre-recorded day-time telly with a biscuit and bedtime drink of Horlicks.
Many of those day time television adverts show European river cruises that tempt the winter fire-hugging viewer with marvellous scenery, calming waters, historic cities, blue skies and warm weather – how fantastic is that. The adverts also show a safe path that can be cycled along – now that certainly sets the scene for my sweet dreams.
Another favourite is ‘Bargain Hunt’ and the presenter Tim Wonnacott occasionally remarks that the antique he is critiquing may have been acquired on the ‘Grand Tour’. The ‘Grand Tour’ was a traditional trip of Europe undertaken by the well-off who would then return home with souvenirs; works of art, furniture and collectables. I found my ‘Grand Tour’ in a guide book The Rhine Cycle Route: From source to sea by Mike Wells (ISBN 978 1 8584 691 6).
Mikes’ publishing house is Cicerone and oddly enough it was a chap called Cicerone who used to accompany the well off during their European ‘Grand Tours’ in the Victorian era. Now the book carrying his name will be my travel companion, although I am not well off and the souvenirs of countries visited will be fridge magnets.
The river Rhine is said to be 776 miles long. My daily plan was to cycle 3½hrs before lunch and 3hrs in the afternoon.
Knowing my average cycling speed is slightly above 10mph a daily travel distance of 65 miles required 12 cycling days to complete the journey. Additional days to get to the start, sight-see during the trip and then travel home afterwards required my travel plan to last 19 rather than 12 days.
I also set myself a budget and referred to the cost of a 10 day river Rhine cruise as a benchmark. The average cost at the time of year of my departure for full board in a mid-range cabin for 1 person was £1,400. So I set this amount as the total spend for my 19 day solo cycling break.
Day 1 : Began on Friday June 19th boarding the 08:20 Harlech to Birmingham New Street train. A change of train in Birmingham then took me to London Euston where I wheeled my bike to St Pancras where she was checked in for despatch to Paris whilst I booked into a London hotel for the night.
That evening I went to the Albert Hall and listened to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra who played music from films and television programmes that had a space theme (Aliens, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, ET, Flash Gordon, War of the Worlds, Star Trek, Star Wars & Superman) complimented by a laser light show. The evening’s entertainment lasted over 3 hours and included guest appearances by Darth Vader with his light-saber sword, Jedi knights and stormtroopers – brilliant!
Day2: Was an early start to St Pancras where they announced a £30 ticket upgrade from standard to business class so I treated myself from a kitty of loot that had been handed over as part of my retirement gift from work. The seat gave me more leg room and a complimentary meal.
Arriving at Paris Gare du Nord where my bike had been delivered the previous evening, I simply attached my pannier bags and cycled down the road to Gare du Lyon. Here I boarded a train to Zurich for an overnight stay via Airbnb. I shared the cycling carriage with a lady from Zurich who was returning home from a cycling holiday in France. She lived close to my Airbnb accommodation and kindly cycled with me to show me the location of my overnight stay.
Day 3: After a comfortable night and an enjoyable breakfast I set off to catch 3 different regional trains; Zurich to Goshenan, Goshenan to Andermatt and finally Andermatt to where my bike ride starts in Oberalppass. I had to concentrate to find the correct platform and train, then spot the correct carriage for bicycles.
Apart from Zurich station (above) the others did not have a raised platform. This was fun, I had to undo my panniers, throw them into the carriage (or out onto the platform) and then lift my bike in (or out of) the carriage within the 90 second stopping time of the train.
It had taken 7 trains and 3 days of travel to reach Oberalppass in Switzerland. There are other ways of reaching the start. Some are quicker and less expensive. I simply like train travel.
My accommodation for the next 2 nights was a guest house at the summit of Oberalppass, Gasthaus Piz Calmot. The owner did not speak English but we muddled through the booking arrangements and he allowed me to store the bike in his wine cellar. He showed me the room I was to stay in and pointed to a slipper box outside the door and the nice wooden floor inside the room. I assumed the owner wanted to protect the newly laid bedroom flooring by encouraging guests to wear slippers so I did and left my trainers on the tray outside the door. The next morning my already clean trainers had been polished and a bill for 2 Swiss francs was attached.
Day 4: Oberalppass lies beneath Lake Tuma; its water from melting snow and rain runs into the Vorderrhein which is one of two tributaries (the other is the Hinterrhein) that flows from this side of the Alps to form the river Rhine. I wanted to see Lake Tuma where some the Rhine water is collected. It was a 350 meter climb to the lake and the route was clearly marked by signposts and directional arrows.
I got quite close to the summit where soft snow was resting on top of scree (loose small stone) making it too dangerous to continue climbing.
It was just possible to capture a photograph of the outflow of water from Lake Tuma, the source of the Rhine. I later took a photograph of a lower ‘ Tarn’ (lake) that also contributed to that great river:
So what happens to the rest of the water that drains from the Alps? Well, from its southern side it goes into the river Po that flows across northern Italy and into the Adriatic Sea near Venice. Water from the western side forms the river Rhône that feeds Lake Geneva (Evian drinking water comes from Lake Geneva) before travelling through France and into the Mediterranean Sea.
I returned to my guest house and enjoyed a Swiss rosti supper which is finely grated potato fried and served with bacon and cheese that would fuel me for tomorrows bike ride.
Day 5: Oberalppass is quite high up in the Alps and is almost twice the height of Snowdon in Wales. It was a cold (4º C) and damp start to my cycling descent. Much of the cold, damp and early morning mist is due to the height of Oberalppass.
I quickly descended 52 kms from Oberalppass (2044 meters) to the town of Llanz (699 meters) to be welcomed with warmer 16º C dryer air.
The road down to Llanz was a series of switchbacks and although it had recently been covered with snow there were no potholes – I guess this is because the road was closed rather than gritted in wintry weather.
My journey to Llanz passed Sedrum golf club which is one of the highest in Europe, and at the village of Disentis I visited Kloster (Abbey) St Martin that has a community of 30 Benedictine monks. I stopped for lunch in Llanz and enjoyed a ham roll that I had saved from the breakfast buffet and a drink of coffee that I had poured into my Stanley thermos flask (again from breakfast). I did the same every day and must have saved a small fortune.
After lunch I continued towards the town of Chur that is roughly 35kms away. This part of the journey involved a steep climb over the Ruinaulta canyon where I saw the Swiss Glacier express train travelling from St Moritz.
I then reached Reichenau. This is where the Vorderrhein and Hinterrhein come together to form the start of the river Rhine that I then travelled alongside from Switzerland through Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands.
After an hour or so I passed the city of Chur to reach a choice of routes. The East bank of the Rhine would take me through the villages of Heidiland where the children’s story Heidi is based. I remember the Heidi television programmes being shown in the 1960s’ and 70s’ but preferred to watch the other channels that showed the Monkees and Fonz. So instead of turning East I stayed on the West bank and went to the thermal health spa of Bad Ragaz and booked an Airbnb overnight stay where Eleni the owner provided me with a very relaxing 45 minute Jin Shin Jyutsu session funded from my leaving loot. Eleni and her partner are also local wine producers www.casanova-weinpur.ch.
Eleni assures me that wine from Switzerland is of exceptionally good quality. But not for me – these days I rarely drink alcohol. My favourite drink is carbonated water and on this trip I also enjoyed the cool purity of drinks from the village fountains.
Today I had cycled nearly 80 miles and needed to reduce the temptation of covering too many miles as I easily notch up 100 daily – my plan was to keep to about 60 miles per day and enjoy the journey.
Day 6: Eleni kindly filled my Stanley thermos with milky coffee and I carefully packed a ham and cheese roll in my sandwich box from the breakfast buffet for my lunch. From today onwards my cycling would be along traffic free routes, initially following a dyke that runs alongside the river Rhine to the neighbouring country of Liechtenstein.
Todays weather was absolutely fabulous with a deep blue sky and cooling breeze. I was cycling alongside the milky blue, uncontaminated river Rhine.
Within an hour I had reached a wooden bridge that crosses the river Rhine from the dyke cycle way into Liechtenstein. By this time my legs had warmed up and I decided to change from my long cycling trousers into cycling shorts. After the best part of an hour of cycling without seeing a soul, it was a bit embarrassing for a female cyclist to pass me in the middle of my clothing change. She rang her bell and made some comment that didn’t sound like a compliment.
I made my way to Vaduz the capital of Liechtenstein, that has an unusual form of public transport – a road train.The royal castle of Vaduz is positioned on the hillside above the town and my sister tells me it was used for sleeping beauty in the film snow white.
After buying souvenirs and postcards I left Liechtenstein and re-joined the deserted dyke to cycle onwards to Bregenze in Austria. Here the river Rhine flows into the Bodensee (also known as Lake Constance) where I stopped for my roll and coffee whilst looking to the distant peaks of the Alps where I had cycled from.
From here my route was to take me from the eastern to western edges of Bodensee. As the choice of one route would miss visiting villages dotted on the opposite shore, I put my bike onto a passenger ferry that called to both sides.
One of the stops was Lindau , the spiritual home of Lindor chocolate. I love its milky taste. ‘Lindor’ wrappers feature a trademark lion that guards the harbour entrance.
Whilst moored at Lindau I brought 3 bars of Lindor chocolate and popped them in to my pannier bag for family and friends. How silly of me. I knew the weather was hot so why (2 weeks later) was I so surprised to find that they had melted.
Day 7: I cycled along the south (Swiss) side of the Rhine and came across the first of several hydroelectric dams and arrived at the mighty Rheinfall, Europe’s largest waterfall. It is a mass of foam, noise, spray and power so different from the gently flowing Rhine.
Cycling from the Rheinfall I quickly reached Kloster Rheinau (Rheinau Abbey) that used to be a Benedictine monastery.
I have been told by a friend who is a Benedictine monk at Douai Abbey in Berkshire that during the turmoil of the French revolution and the French invasion of Switzerland in 1798, the abbey was temporary suspended but restored in 1803 under administrative supervision from Zurich. The canton would not allow new novices and the Abbey closed in 1836.
That evening I stayed at a campsite in Waldshut, Germany. I was really impressed with the site. Touring caravans were able to pitch next to a UVPC shelter that I presume contained a living, sleeping and eating space. Whatever it is used for, the extension effectively doubles the size of the caravan and unlike awnings, it won’t blow down in the wind. The campsite site had a restaurant and when I asked for a bottle of carbonated water I was told the site could only sell still water – yet I was seeing plastic bottles of carbonated, so I went to bed confused, grumpy and in a sulk. Since then I have been told that I was probably looking at bottles of soda. When mixed with white wine it makes a drink known as spritzer, which is extremely popular in Germany.
Day 8: The ride to Basel was a journey of some 68kms and the temperature went up to 28ºC. Throughout this trip I hardly saw a single person but once in Basel I had to keep my wits about me. Because my bike is silent pedestrians don’t hear me and I had to be aware of this in case they strayed into the cycling lane and collided with me, causing injury to both of us and damage to the bike.
It took a good ½ hour to weave my way through the city centre, not only avoiding people but also tram tracks and the trams themselves. Fortunately my guide book has very clear directions that enabled me to deal with a multitude of complicated junctions and turnings without error to follow the Canal Du Rhône Au Rhin to Strasbourg.
The canal is really pretty and people have made an effort to keep the water clean and free from debris. Locks are freshly painted and there is no broken glass on the paths – significantly different to my last (Manchester Bridgewater) canal experience .
Along the Canal at Pont du Bonc, a tank marks the area where 1500 French troops lost their lives as they withstood a German counter-attack towards the end of the 2nd world war.At Marckolsheim I visited the tourist office who arranged my overnight stay in a Bett & Bike guest house. The accommodation was really smart and I had time to hand wash all my clothes and dry them on the patio. For supper a walk to nearby Lidl sorted me out with sandwiches, bananas, orange juice, chocolate and water. During many of my nights in Germany supper would be brought from Lidl. The following morning I left with my roll and coffee from the breakfast buffet.
Day9: I cycled to the outskirts of Marckolsheim and visited a museum dedicated to the Maginot Line and after spending an hour or so there I continued along the canal that took me all the way into the City of Strasbourg.
Today was hotter, 30ºC. I had intended to spend the weekend in Strasbourg to do some sight-seeing and visit the European parliament buildings whose health and safety rules and regulations had influenced nearly 30 years of my working life.
Within a few minutes of my arrival I decided that Strasbourg was not where I wanted to stay. The traffic was busy and the streets were congested with people whose sole interest seemed to be shopping, alcohol and food. I took a few photos in Petit France, sent a couple of postcards and brought a couple of souvenirs. As for the European ‘jobs-worth’ buildings – I couldn’t be bothered looking for them. Strasbourg was not a place for me.
Day 10: Hurray, having escaped from Strasbourg I made my way out of France and following the directions in my guide book I crossed the Rhine by ferry into Germany where several cyclists (many were older than me) passed at a fast pace.
Although it isn’t unusual for cyclists to pass, I was impressed at how quickly they were going. Then the penny (or Euro) dropped. They were using electric bicycles. In the days to come I would see many more electric bikes. They have gained enormous popularity in Germany.
This part of the Rhine is also very popular with river cruisers, with ‘Viking’ being one of ½ dozen that operated some of the larger vessels. The tour operators had riverside moorings with space for 3 or 4 coaches to take passengers from the boat to the tourist honey pot at each port of call. Today the temperature was 35ºC and I’m sure the passengers watching from their sun-loungers must have thought I was nuts to be cycling in this heat. Yet the air I was cycling through was coolingly comfortable.
Day 11: Today I would visit and spend the night in Speyer where my route took me inland on park and woodland trails along cycling paths that would run parallel to busy roads. On the outskirts of Speyer I came across the most unusual of sights. The plane is fastened to a metal frame outside a science park and is quite a tourist attraction. People actually pay to walk inside it – strange world. Speyer itself is a really clean and quiet town and that evening I enjoyed an evening meal at a pavement café in the town square.
Day 12: Another bright and sunny day, 40ºC and humid. My legs were sore with sunburn from the previous days cycling so I wore long cycling trousers that made the day feel even hotter.
My route took me through the industrial town of Ludwigshafen that is dominated by the huge BASF factory. I used to buy BASF tapes for our video recorder – a piece of equipment that isn’t around anymore. I don’t know what BASF make these days but they have massive bicycle parking spaces outside their factory and I was pleased not to have arrived at the shift changeover.
From Ludwigshafen I made my way through the city of Worms and then out into the peace and quiet of the countryside to cycle through acres of vineyards.
I stopped in the village of Nierstein where the tourist office arranged my overnight stay at this Bett and Bike that was also a wine making business.
According to the tourist office 40 families in this village own vines and make wine for export.
The B&B landlady charged me 1 euro for a litre of cold carbonated water and placed a complimentary bottle of their wine on the table. She poured a small amount of wine into my glass and topped it up with carbonated water.
Although ‘Water into Wine’ came to mind the taste was foul. Tipping it away I stuck to the water and wondered whether this was the way wine is drank. If so, it would explain why the campsite I stayed at a night or so ago were not willing to sell me a bottle of stand-alone sparkling water. I also wondered whether the bubbles in sparkling water made the effect of alcohol in the wine stronger or whether the addition of water simply made the wine last longer; I drank the water and left the wine.
For my evening meal I found a cosy restaurant with a courtyard where I ordered a pizza. When waiting for my meal a local man asked if he could rest his bicycle against the wall next to me. It was an NSU fixed wheel bike with a single brake lever for the front wheel that looked like it had never ever been squeezed.
Back in the 1970s I owned a cream coloured NSU rear engine ‘Prinz’ car. It was powered by a motorbike engine that frequently broke down. Today’s evidence proves that NSU made better bikes than motor cars and he explained that his parents brought it for him some 40 years ago. Its steel frame, lights and mudguards were all original. I wonder how many people have managed to keep their original bike going?
His bike was certainly more memorable than my pizza.
Day 13: Another scorcher – 40ºC again: Having shielded my sunburnt legs with long cycling trousers yesterday, today I was more comfortable in cycling shorts plus lots of sun-block. Today’s journey continued through vineyards and wine villages including Oppenheim and Eltville; Oppenheim is where underground tunnels are said to link houses together for their wine making businesses. Eltville is said to produce Germany’s finest wine. On the banks of the Rhine a giant crane has been restored. Concrete sculptures of wine caskets that resemble those that would have been loaded onto barges have been placed next to the crane as a reminder of its purpose.
After my usual lunch of bread roll and coffee saved from breakfast I crossed the Rhine by one of the numerous ferries that take cars, cyclists and pedestrians from one side of the river and back again. I was then able to follow the Rhine alongside its west bank to capture the best views of the many hillside castles.
So far most of the bicycle ride has been on traffic free routes and today I was cycling on this path alongside the main road to the town of Mainz. It makes such a pleasant change to be segregated from cars, coaches and LGVs. Like many cyclists on UK roads I have become accustomed to the engine sounds of vehicles that are behind me. Engine sounds tell me about the speed, size, closeness and type of vehicle that I am in front of. But using these paths and not having to take any notice of engine sounds is simply more relaxing. I felt safe in the knowledge that my slowness was not causing annoyance and risk taking by motorists.
After cycling through Mainz and its hillside castles I arrived at the Rhine gorge where the seductive nature of the river has been immortalised by the humming Loreley rock where a siren named Loreley is seated. She is said to bewitch passing sailors and cause them to ground their boats or lose control of them and sink. Thankfully she is harmless to cyclists.
Day 14: Having covered over 400 miles I had a 5 days to complete the remaining 300. Today took me to Koblenz where I made my way to Deutsches Eck, the point where the rivers Rhine and Mosel gently meet and flow towards the sea as one body of water that retains the name ‘Rhine’ (or Rhein in German).
And what a scorcher, another 40ºC day: Being smothered in sun block it was a wonder I was not slipping off the bike. I made my way from Koblenz to a place called Andernach where the world’s largest cold water geezer can be seen. Apparently it shoots a jet of cold water skyward every 2 hours and by the time I arrived it had gone off and it was too hot to hang around for the next spurt so I made my way to the town of Remagen where I stayed for the night and photographed the remains of their famous bridge.
Towards the end of the 2nd world war the bridge was used by the Americans to cross into Germany. That advance is said to have shortened the war. Hitler ordered the execution of the German officers who were supposed to have destroyed the bridge as they retreated over the Rhine.
Day 15: From Remagen I made my way towards Bonn and noticed the headlines in German newspapers carried pictures of the Queen and Prince Phillip enjoying a boat trip on the Rhine at Bonn the previous day. They must have been trying to muscle into my adventure.
For the 3rd consecutive day it was 40ºC and despite lots of sunblock my legs were again burning so I had to wear long cycling trousers. The directions in my guidebook took me past 2 historical landmarks, Rolandseck railway station and the Rheinhotel Dreesen:
- Rolandseck station was built to enable the wealthy to travel by train from places like Bonn and then embark onto Rhine steamships. My guidebook says that Queen Victoria made such a trip from Rolandseck station. It is now a museum.
- The Hotel Dreesen is said to have been a favourite of Hitler and it was here in 1939 that he met UK Prime Minister Chamberlain and made the empty promise: ‘Peace in our time’
My destination for this evening was the city of Cologne, known locally as Köln, where the surroundings became urban and industrial. My first view of Köln was a concrete jungle. The Ford motor company is a major employer. The last industrial place I had cycled to was Ludwigshafen, dominated by the huge BASF factory where cycling was popular. The same could not be said about Köln. Although there were some cyclists in Köln they were mostly like me, holiday tourists rather than urban commuters. Also noticeable were the number of fast food outlets (Pizza express, Burger King, Mc Donald’s), places to drink alcohol and a lot of significantly overweight people.
According to my guide book the landscape on my route from Köln to Dusseldorf was mostly industrial and had absolutely no interest to me. I decided to cover the distance by train and from the window I passed many factories, housing and busy roads that confirmed my decision to go by train was right for me.
Day 16: Although I had enjoyed most of my ride through Germany I was pleased to cycle into the Netherlands boarder town of Millingen an der Rijn where the weather was a cooler 28ºC. I am told this difference in temperature is caused by the influence of Atlantic rather than the hotter central European weather currents that I had just cycled through. On this bike ride I had cycled from Switzerland into Leichtenstein and then into Austria, Germany, France, Germany again and now Holland without being stopped at boarder crossings. Whilst the absence of boarder crossings seemed a little strange, it certainly makes movement between different countries seamless and reminded me that boarders are man made barriers that are not part of the natural world.
Millingen is also where the river Rhine begins to divide into several different channels that make their separate ways to the North Sea. The first of these is the Waal. Further north is the Oude Rijn (the old Rhine). My route followed the main body of water known as the Lek, which is important for the transportation of materials and holiday makers.
That afternoon I passed a house displaying a bed and breakfast sign. My previous stays had been in guest houses that were highly regarded by Airbnb or assessed as being fit for purpose from Bett and Bike listings lodged with local tourist offices.
A man holding a mallet answered the door and I assumed he was doing some DIY. He told me the cost of B&B and said my bike could be secured in his garage which was fine with me. After taking my pannier bags to the bedroom I took my cycling shoes off and put on a pair of trainers, then headed into the village to find somewhere to eat.
I returned an hour or so later to find that the B&B owner had unpacked my panniers and put my cycling shoes onto the window ledge to air. This may have been a thoughtful act so I gave him the benefit of doubt. In reality I felt it was wrong for him to interfere with my belongings.
A short while later I was sitting by the open bedroom window reading my kindle when he arrived in the doorway holding a hammer. He asked if I would join him for a beer and I explained that I didn’t drink but thanked him for his offer. He then said I could sit with him on his veranda and I politely declined. He wondered off saying that he would have breakfast ready for 8am.
That night I placed my pannier bags and cycling helmet against the bedroom door and slept with one eye open. At 6am I was awake and by 6:30 I had sneaked out of the Dutch equivalent of the ‘Bates Motel’ and made my escape thankful that I ride a silent bike.
Day 17: By 10am I had covered 68kms and reached the small town of Wijk bij Duurstede promising myself that never again would I stay at a place that had not been vetted.
There were quite a few cyclists about today, many on road bikes with riders wearing their cycling club colours or the clothing that national cycling teams wear. This was because I was close to the Tour de France route that spectators were using to see the race.
I came across and cycled through this Windmill. According to my guide book it is the only windmill in the world to have a road running through the middle. Many of the traditional Holland windmills were used to drain water from flood land. Others were used to grind grain.
On a recent television quiz show it was said that according to the presence of wind, modern Windmills in Holland have the potential to generate 110% of the country’s electricity. Today there was no wind and I wondered if there would be a power failure.
Due to the early start I arrived at Rotterdam my destination for the day earlier than expected. By 3pm I was cycling over the Erasmus Bridge into the city centre having just missed ‘Tour-de France’ riders that had visited here from their starting point in Utrecht on route to Belgium by about an hour. The main streets were still closed to traffic and workers were busy clearing away the cyclists’ rest and spectator areas.
The tourist information office was easily found in the town centre where I asked for accommodation with secure bike storage. They telephoned and booked a room for me at a nearby hotel and supplied a street map with directions to get there. When I arrived in the area it looked distinctly seedy. Scruffy men were sitting on doorsteps or standing in groups on street corners – smoking and looking decidedly shifty. I didn’t feel safe so returned to the city centre and found a hotel that offered a double room where the receptionist said I could keep my bike my bedroom
Day 18: This was the last day of my cycling holiday and it was a short 32km ride to my journeys end at the Hook of Holland. Since starting out from the Alps I had no difficulty in finding my way. The Cicerone guide book gave very clear and detailed directions that followed regularly placed signposts that had been spared from the hand of vandals. Bearing in mind that I can get lost going to the bathroom at night, the ease of navigating added to the pleasure of this holiday.
Today’s journey was short and very sweet. I didn’t realise how many and how pretty the canals in Rotterdam are. Residential roads flanking the Canal give a glimpse of old Holland and despite the narrowness of some roads the motorists are patient towards cyclists. It must be because they too are cyclists. I was passed by several people cycling their usual commuter bikes characterised by black mudguards with white tips.
After little more than an hour I found myself at the Hook of Holland and the berths for Stena Line ferries that travel between there and Harwich. I could have joined a ferry from this port and made the crossing back to the UK. Many people do so. For me this option would cost too much time, money, effort and hassle. The ferry crossing takes 7 hours, costs the best part of £100 and leaves me on the East coast of England and a difficult route back to my home in North West Wales.
I continued cycling as far as I could, to the point where the cycling path ended: The end of the Pier, the beginning of the North Sea and sadly for me, the very end of my wonderful bike ride. From the Port of Rotterdam I took a sprinter train to the main station in Rotterdam and boarded a further train to Brussels. Here I booked my bike onto Eurostar for collection at St Pancras in London the following day.
Day 19: I stayed overnight in Brussels and caught the morning Eurostar to St Pancras where I collected my bike and went to London Euston for a 1st class Virgin to Birmingham International, where I had arranged to meet family for coffee before catching my last train home to Harlech.
I had cycled in 7 countries and covered over 700 miles using 7 trains to get there, 5 to get back and another train in between. The best bits were the peace and quite, scenery, the weather, traffic free routes and most of all the experience of my trip of a lifetime. I had a set budget of £1,400 ( that included monies given as a retirement gift) and my total spend was £1,387.
I love ice cream and used some of my retirement money to treat myself in each country visited.
I can now say a big thumbs down to Germanic ice cream; Europes best can be found in the magnificent Knickerbocker Glory sold by Feccies in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales.