250 Relaxing August Miles in Holland, Belgium and France

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By Jay Jacobson (member since the 1990's)

Joan and I began the trip on a six day riverboat (barge) cruise in the Burgundy wine region of France.  It was operated by “France Afloat” a subsidiary of the Orient Express Corp.  Our boat, the Napoleon, had five couples as passengers and a crew of six. The luxury ship was extremely well run.  We sailed between Dijon and Valence on the Rhone River and its tributaries.

Between port visits for wine tastings, visits to other points of interest such as churches and chateaux and times when the ship was moving between ports, I managed to cycle about 40 miles on riverside trails.  The boat carried appropriate bikes and helmets for these rides.  These short rides afforded a picturesque perspective of the Burgundy countryside and river life.

At the end of the highly enjoyable cruise, Joan returned home and I took two trains to Amsterdam where I met my Backroads biking group for a bike tour of Holland and Belgium
This afforded me an opportunity to continue my love affair with this company—this was my 29th tour (on 5 continents) with them.

In addition to me there were three couples and another married gentleman who was also travelling without his wife. We were supported by a highly capable staff of four including guides Angelique and Kelsey and support staff/van drivers Jolanda and Oriol.  The guides almost always rode with the eight of us,

Unlike almost all other Backroads tours, the cycling here was 80% or so on mostly paved paths.  The trails were marked with small directional signs and we were given Backroads’ customary cue sheets.  However we really didn’t require the cue sheets nor the signs as our small group almost always managed to ride together behind one of the Backroads leaders.  Fortunately we didn’t have any extremely fast or slow cyclists  and we usually also had  a second guide riding sweep behind us.  The vans usually could not drive on the bike paths so they waited for us at coordinated cross streets with snacks, water, supplies, etc.

I am not sure how this would have worked out for a larger group which Backroads frequently has, especially is some group members were strong or weak.  Navigation with the small and confusing signs may have been difficult.

Except for a few small overpasses and underpasses there were virtually no hills—I was in my large chain ring the whole time.  We had flat resistant tires on the touring bikes furnished by Backroads and included in the tour price.  Nobody had a flat or major mechanical problem.

We were transported in a large luxury bus from Amsterdam to begin the tour.  We were cycling in a general westerly direction toward Bruges, Belgium, stopping at The Hague for two nights at each of these medium size cities.  From each of these, we cycled an interesting loop from/to our hotels in the center of the city.  Bruges is in the Dutch speaking section of Belgium Its entire city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It was all about beer, chocolate and mussels.

BTW we passed through the home town of NYCC member Merel Van Dyck. There are more than 10,000 miles(mostly auto-free) of bike paths in the Netherlands, a country about the size of Maryland.

When we left Netherlands and entered Belgium, I had been to my 80th UN member country. (cycled in about 60 of them).  The group helped me to celebrate with flags, balloons and champagne.  Belgium had been the only country visited by Joan but not me until then.

Backroads’ $4300 fee for the 5 night,  6 day tour  included lodging at mostly 4 star hotels in a double room, most meals and incidentals.  On the tour I rode 210 exquisite miles on parts of six days which was “E.F.I.” (every f------g inch) of the program.

The food I ate during the two weeks was exceptional—continental and local cuisine standouts—including 3 daily meals, snacks, wine and beer.  Even though I had plenty of exercise, I gained a few pounds which I will have to lose in early September.

Equally good was the weather for both weeks. I didn’t open my umbrella or rain jacket at all.  It just rained for a few hours while I was on the train to Amsterdam.  The daily high was in the 70’s.  My NYCC arm warmer were sufficient for the early mornings, which were slightly below 70.

I am looking forward to many future Backroads trips.  With the cooperation of health, peace and $$$, I am hopeful of completing my objective of 40 of their bike tours in my life.

DID YOU KNOW? 3 of the 5 NYC boroughs have Dutch names (Bronx, Brooklyn & Staten Island)

Contact the writer at: [email protected]

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