Belgium

Introduction

It is 1993 and we decided to go to International Tandem Rally, which was in Belgium, that year. As this was for one week and we had two weeks we spent this first part in The Netherlands, see more on the Holland page. We briefly visited the eastern border area two years later, see the page on Germany.

Getting There

There are various sea crossings, from long to short, but being in the north of England the most practical is from Hull. North Sea Ferries run to Rotterdam (Europort) or Zeebrugge in Belgium and one can travel either route, the cost is the same. We went to Europort and right from the terminal you have a cycle path, to take you in whichever direction you choose. Coming back we came via Zeebrugge. The crossing is an overnight one sailing aroud 6pm and disembarking around 8am. From Zeebrugge after a mile or so, it is possible to find a quiet road to Damme and Brugge which is the best route.

The Weather

Generally similar to the UK, but usually warmer, especially the further inland. We were there in June and although we had a heatwave in Holland, in Belgium it was cooler and better for cycling, at around 20 degrees. The second visit, again in June, and we arrived in a heat wave, at 30+ degrees.

The Terrain

Our entry was via Liege and the valley of the Meuse, to Huy on the edge of the Ardennes. The first part was industrial , boring and the roads were rough in places. The Ardennes were scenic although some of the climbs were quite steep. Away from the main river route the roards were quiet and ideal for cycling. Our second visit we were again in the Ardennes further east, and here although a bit higher the climbs were easier. The route back to the coast was by comparison rather uninteresting, flat and rural. Some roads have pretty rough surfaces.

Maps

At the Rally we used route sheets provided and for our across Belgium travel we used only a whole country map at 1/250000 (1cm-2.5km), by Geocart World Travel Maps.

Food and Lodgings

Cyclists tend to seek out all the best cafe’s, but now with many bars open all day there is more choice. Youth Hostels are still popular with the UK cyclists, while others go for the B&B, both being very common in the tourists regions and infrequent in non-tourist areas. 1997 prices for hostels are from 5.65 self catering, 8.50 average, to 20.50 b&b in London. B&B vary according to the region, Stratford upon Avon is from about 20.00, York a little less, Scotland from 12.00, are examples. All these are in pounds sterling.

Costs

Generally slightly more than in the UK, with the accomodation about the same as UK.

Other

The first area was of French speaking people and then we finished in the Flemish speaking area. The first gave us some trouble and the latter much trouble, but there were quite a number who understood English. On a later trip ( to Germany) we cycled from Zeebrugge to Brugge and took the train to Verviers and was able to take the tandem, in the baggage car, on the train with us. We used the train coming back fron Genk to Blankenberge but this had no baggage car, and although at first they said no tandems, they did sell tandem tickets, so it was part hung, part propped, in the space used for solo cycles. The Ardennes are the most popular cycling area.  Brussels has horrendous traffic and road conditions, so it is best to avoid taking a tandem in there. It is a short train ride to Leuven, nearby, which is a nice place.