Days 4 and 5: Lelystad to Assen, Assen to Groningen

Two ways of looking at this, so I’m doing all three. We could say that the first cycling day was too much for our unpreparedness. We could say we’re on holiday, so we can do what we like. Or we could just say ‘wibble’ – I often do. Anyway, despite wearing padded pants over my padded shorts and chamois cream (I’d left off the padded leggings to let my legs cool), my bum was bruised. My right calf had responded favourably to deep heat cream at a stop – but not for very long. Elly may – or may not – write about her tribulations. But I think the killer was combination of a light but unending headwind and no opportunities for coffee. My leading us towards Dronten (our original destination for day 3) instead of towards Waterwijk (the only obvious break on the way to Dronten) didn’t help. So we stayed night 3 in Lelystad and, after rethinking routes and where to stay, we took a train to Assen.

We both think Assen is lovely. (So is Groningen and the area between.) As Dutch as you like (waterways funky buildings, oh so lovely tarmac cycle paths) but with more history in the architecture than Flevoland. (Not a surprise given how young Flevoland is.)

So we spent yesterday afternoon in Assen’s museum, learning a little about Armenia, the Nebra sky disk, bog-bodies, and generally being on holiday. Yay! We also bought a phone-holder because the glue on my lifeproof holder had died. (The new one holds phones by their corners rather than a sticky pad on the back of the phone, so it will work with many devices.) 

I think we (and Drenthe and Groningen) got today right: about 10km to Vries, drinks and Onter den Linden, another 13 km to Haren, bean salad and cheese toasties and cake (there was a CHOICE of vegan cakes) at Verbeek and then a few km on to Groningen. The only issues were the my water rucksack’ hose detach ingredients itself from the bladder, causing moistness in interesting places, and the sun being so bright that at times I couldn’t see my phone to navigate. A little shopping was the first stop: I bought a new bladder for my water-rucksack, and Elly bought other essentials. (Ask her!) This afternoon’s trip to Gronigen’s library-cum-everything was a wee highlight. Currently we’re in Handy Wash because our cellphones were minging.

OK, I wrote that hours ago, and left it and photos to upload while we went for dinner. That didn’t work (I’d saved the text elsewhere, thank goodness) so here’s hoping it will this time. Dinner was at the Groningen De Baren. Burger and chips have pulled me out of the hypo I took on the way. Yay!

Blocks of photos (below cut) are

Day 4

  • Around Assen
  • Assen museum
  • a very pleasant stroll through Assen’s Asserbos (nature park) with extra werewolves

Day 5

  • stops for a Kodak moment and lunch in Heren 
  • out and about in Groningen. The main library in ‘Forum Groningen’ is inspiring! Perhaps that’s why laughing gas is forbidden. 
  • bimbling around Groningen again

We both really want to revisit this area to explore and enjoy more. Next year?

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Day 3: Almere to Lelystad

25.2 miles (cumulative 74.6)

Day 3 is often a challenge. Today had rather tired bodies and minds against a headwind and going off course, more aches than was nice and more distance between sensible breaks than is optimal. Loving the countryside and funky architecture.

So the train to Assen will be our way forward. Stops today were to buy an inner tube (Elly had given her spare to a bloke struggling with a puncture between Newcastle and North Shields), a picnic spot, an Albert Hein. Looking forward to being just a tourist tomorrow afternoon.

Day 2: middle of the sea to Almere

38.1 miles of cycling (cumulative 49.4). Cyclemeter map:

I woke about 2 am (I’m not sure whether this was UK or Central European Time) and read and tried to blog over maritime Wi-Fi. Lesson – don’t try to blog photos over maritime Wi-Fi! I got back to sleep about 5am and so hardly stirred when Elly went to breakfast.

Getting off the boat necessitated traversing the lorry-deck, all the while afraid the lorries would start moving. But we survived and meandered on our merry way, from IJMuiden to Sloterdijk station. Oh smooth tarmac and my legs working (almost)! At one point EllY had to take advantage of the wonderful facilities and put the hammer down. I can’t accelerate very much just now so it took a while to catch up. It appears Starbucks coffee in the Netherlands is better than the UK equivalent. There were a few interesting aromas in hte crowd outside the station – I’d not realised until I looked at the map just now that Sloterdijk is in fact an Amsterdam suburb, and we’d come further than I thought.

We had another stop in Muiden, about 12 miles further on. I think this is where I had the first of today’s mango sorbets. However, apart from the tarmac and the sheer joy of being able to cycle comfortably, not feeling unsafe, knowing where we are going (even if I can’t see how I’m getting there – just following the little blue line on Google Maps) is wonderful. And we are in Almere after a day of cycling when we thought it would take 2 days.

That said, after Muiden I was flagging. Not so that I couldn’t keep going, just so I couldn’t push at all. Dinner this evening was a delight: De Beren restaurant – vegan burger with vegan cheese and huge amount of chips. Oh man – I have a very happy tummy!

We’re now back in the hotel room, clicking keyboards at each other. A wee walk may be called for once soon. Tomorrow should be a shorter day – we’re aiming for Dronten.

Day 1: Edinburgh to the middle of the sea

11.3 miles of cycling

and we’re off again. Two 50-somethings get on their bikes again, 3 years older and unfitter than their last jaunt. However train facilities for bikes haven’t got better either. I am not strong enough to life my bike anyway. Wonderful Elly struggled the bikes in despite the doors being locked shut. Apart from that, so far travelling has been smooth: cycle to Waverley, train to Newcastle, cycle to North Shields, ferry to (just now) east of Lincoln, north of Ostend.

The inevitable Cyclemeter maps: home to Waverley, Newcastle to North Shields.

First ‘together’ ride of the year

My much better half and I are really missing continental cycling holidays! However, over the past year, my legs have been suffering. My right calf is painful most of the time, my feet cramp when I try to sleep, and walking a quarter-mile to the nearby Caffe Nero can be quite unpleasant. On the rare occasions I spin, I have to stop every 15 minute to apply Deep Heat and stretch out the pain. A physiotherapist thinks I must have torn a muscle at some point, but I can’t remember doing this. I think I’ve cycled to campus once this year – lockdown has removed both the need and the desire, while Napier and Community Council work has kept me chained to my home-desk. 

However, this weekend is mostly free of such work. (I need to post something on behalf of NTBCC today.) So the MBH and I decided to take a wee ride to see how well we and our bikes are. The bikes are in good condition, despite being outside and unloved most of the time. Us? Well, we managed 9 miles from home to Cafe Milk in Leith and back. There was some swearing, and I’m terribly slow, but we kept going. The MBH was buzzing by the time we got home. Next time, I’ll try doing this route with Live Davidovitch fully laden. Break out your earplugs!

If you’re interested, here our our European rides. (Scotland was in the EU in 2014!)