Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Three Countries in a Day

No Big DEAL?

The first thing on the agenda for this day where we visited three countries was a quick trip down to Deal to see where Caesar landed in 55 B.C. It turned out to be not quite a quick trip but the only way you'll hear about that is if you leave a comment on this post!

Not everyone thought going to Deal in the cool, showery conditions was the best use of some leisure time, but those who weren't put off by the endless jokes about English weather thought the side-trip down to the "beach" was well worthwhile.

Here's a photo of Sam sharing the good oil on Caesar's visit to a rapt audience on the shingle ...

Caesar Seminar on Deal Beach in authentic English conditions
The way Sam tells it, Caesar came to Britain as much to build on his own mythology, crossing the "English Channel", or "La Manche" as the French know it, to show that he could; to demonstrate to the plebs back in Rome that there really was a land across the water. So it was actually a "big deal" so to speak, to cross the channel, land at Deal and influence the course of history on the islands - even if he didn't hang around.

Not being a serious or even very good student of history, I played hooky from the seminar and took this photo of white cliffs along from where class was in progress ...

At Deal "beach"
Di took this photo of Sharon on her way back up to Cliffe via the bike path ...

Sharon ahead of the trailing pack

And so to Dover

Back at our hotel we assembled for the group ride down to Dover. Here's the Red Team ...

Federica and Roberta for the Orange Team
... and the Blue Team ...

Chris, Emily and Don for the Blue Team
The rest of us were just a patchwork bunch. Maybe once the weather warms up again we can go back into full team colours ...

All ready to go we rolled off towards the port of Dover a handful of kilometres to the south to catch the ferry for Dunkurque. Once down near the docks there was the interesting sight of what appeared to be a railway line built into the cliff, which Aaron and I stopped to photograph (you can get a better look by opening the photo for a larger version) ...

Is that an old railway line, now disused?

After all the fantastic organisation that Sam had put into timetabling our departure from Dover for 10:00 he was informed that the ferry operators were changing our booking to the midday sailing. This meant that we were going to be much later arriving at  our destination for the night, the historic town of Ypres - or Leper, as it is actually know within Belgium. While we would have liked to have those extra two hours to do a bit of laundry and generally relax and explore the history of the town there was nothing for it but say "c'est la vie" and get on with it.  Luckily, it wasn't too far and we had a nice tailwind to look forward to.

France and Belgium: our entrée to the Continent

Once off the ferry there was another brief, minor glitch. Having to get the bikes off the top of the van and trailer and put all the front wheels back on took some time, so we were well behind all the motor vehicles leaving the ferry. When we arrived at the massive gates providing access to the exit - or not - in our case, we found them shut. After hanging around for about five minutes we were just starting to go back and search for a way around when suddenly they mysteriously swung open and we were on our way!  Yeehah! A long held dream of mine held for over 40 years - to ride a bike in Europe - had finally begun!

Federica set a leisurely pace initially, but then the reins were loosened and a breakaway group established itself. Here is that leading bunch rounding a corner, team car behind and Aaron bridging up ...



There wasn't much of a gap before the main peloton came around the bend in pursuit ...


We rolled on along mostly quiet back roads and the occasional bike lane before coming through a gorgeous little town with this figure in front of one of the buildings on the main square ...

Look at me, Mum!
Attesting to the agriculture wealth of the area which allowed for spending on imposing public buildings there was also an impressive clock tower ...

Clock Tower
Despite not being a very good student of history I was aware that we were now entering the Flanders region, with its fantastic soils - which were of course the bane of foot soldiers battling in the trenches of World War I. It was quite moving thinking about all those poor souls enduring the quagmire. On this day a century later, I couldn't help but appreciate how lucky we were to be traversing this countryside on our bikes, looking at the richness of the soil,  the cows and horses feeding off it, the bounteous crops growing. I felt I really had to stop and take a picture of a ploughed field awaiting planting ...

Just how deep are these soils?
Much of the rest of the journey involved rolling along secluded bike paths, interspersed with quiet country roads. 

In Ypres

A major reason for stopping over in Ypres was to witness the playing of the Last Post at the famous Menin Gate. Due to our later than anticipated crossing, it was a bit of a rush to check in, shower and get to the gate for the nightly ceremony, performed at 8:00 p.m. sharp, without fail since 1928. While we were waiting for the ceremony to begin we had a look at the gate itself, a majestic structure. Here is a little detail ...



There was a bit of operator error trying to film the Last Post but Don came to the rescue and here is his video, which largely just captures the music ...


Di did manage to shoot this lovely little video of the musicians finishing the ceremony with Taps ...



After the  ceremony we paused to look at the river ...


... then wandered back to the centre of town to admire the public buildings and forage for dinner amongst the many fine restaurants on the square ...


The Ypres cathedral is a very large, ornate building ...


In contrast to these signs of history, we were tickled to pass a shop specialising in stiletto shoes and boots. Di took this wonderful photo of the cathedral reflected in the shop window ...


... which instantly brought to mind for both of us a wonderful tune by the late, great Kirsty MacColl which I will leave you with for the moment ...


There may be more later, but right now I have to get breakfast in preparation for the ride ahead. These legs do not run on water alone!

5 comments:

  1. Hi Guys, Very interesting. How are the muscles? Any more cramps???
    Cheers,
    Geoff.

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  2. This is great - a lovely way to follow your progress. Hope the weather warms up.

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    1. Thanks Dylan. Appreciate your feedback. Yes, we hope the weather warms up a bit too! It looks more promising over the next few days and it is sunny here in Artres this arvo.

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  3. Bearing up big bro - had a great ride today with Doug so no doubt I'll be even more sore tomorrow and content to get through the day however I can. I stupidly had an unsolicited stationary fall while waiting for the ferry yesterday and thought nothing of it, but today's harder ride has shown up a swollen ankle - that will be the offending ankle that didn't get out of the cleat in time to save the fall so serves it right really.

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  4. Sounds fantastic team. Have fun!

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