Wissant, France to Menen, Belgium

Sunset over the English Channel

A ship on the channel this morning

The white cliffs of Dover, as seen from France

I, somewhat reluctantly left France today, not even getting the chance for one last French meal. My last French meal, last nights supper, did wake me up in the middle of the night with indigestion, so maybe it is just as well that all I've had to eat all day today, including supper was bread, cheese, some jam and butter with breakfast, and two delicious pastries.

I'm in a 4 star hotel - and a BestWestern ;-{ - in Menen because I couldn't find any inexpensive hotels. On the other hand,at 80 E including what I hope will be 4 star breakfast, this hotel is actually one of my better bargains in lodging. The room is huge, I have an excellent workspace, everything works, and I have wireless, not in my room, but in a salon that I can set up in and, with luck, transfer a bunch of files while I sleep tonight. I already uploaded and set up web pages day20 through day28, but then the connection went down. I'm back in my room - better desk setup - working on this page now and, later tonight, I'll try to start the mass transfer. If the connection is working, I may stay here till noonish tomorrow, working on the web.

I had a somewhat late start this morning because, at breakfast, I had a good time chatting with Kiwi couple. They had been driving around Europe for three weeks and were going to Britain today via the Chunnel. They have kids in Britain, the US, and New Zealand, so they were stopping over in California for a week on their way home to Nelson. We had a good visit and I left about half an hour later than I would have.

The road to D 231

When I rode away form the hotel today, I was intending to take D 940 along the coast. Then I reached d 940, looked down the hill and decided I'd rather try the road from Wissant to D 231. I had looked on the map last night and that looked like a promising route. It avoided the coastal congestion and seemed to follow a railroad - always a good sign - and, best of all, D 231 looked like it would make almost all of todays ride, down wind. It turned out even better than I expected. I rode 84 miles, with 2200 feet of climbing, in six and a half hours. I could easily have gone over 100 miles today, but I quit because I wasn't seeing places to stay and a nice lady at at a bike shop in a small town had told me how to find this place.

Riding D 231

To get to D 231, I had to ride about 6 miles southeast. That was not fun! With a cold 15 mph side wind, I was chilled as well as blown around too much on that leg of the trip. Once I crossed the autoroute and got on D 231, thing were MUCH better. A 15 mph tail wind meant no wind chill when you are cruising at 15 mph ;-}. I still got cold a few times today, mosty when I had to ride into or across the wind, and when I stopped to take a break. There were a few 'sun breaks' but not many, until late this afternoon when it cleared up a bit. The lady that helped me at (her) bike store commented that it was unusually windy, so I have some hope for less wind, and maybe even some more sun, tomorrow. Over near Calais, I think wind is the normal condition. I saw lots of 'flagged' trees which indicates high winds during the growing season

Really flagged trees, the train, and a village, all seen from D 231

A small wind machine at a really strange house on D 231,

I rode D 231 till it ended about half way to Belgium. It was a simply great road to ride east across that part of France. Little traffic, nice views, not too many hills and some pleasant towns along the way. I stopped at about 11 AM in one of those towns and got a baguette and two pastries. I still had cheese and apple sauce from my last grocery stare stop, So I was, as it turned out, set for the day.

In St Omer

When D 231 ended, N 42 began. It wasn't quite as good riding - more traffic - but it continued another 20 km to near St Omer, the big city on todays route in France. The last few km to St Omer where another D road, and, in St Omer, I lost my way. I found it again by using the train station as a starting point and working my way east and south looking for the road to Cassel. Life was good after that, until I got to Cassel.

On the road to Cassel

I stopped to picnic lunch just before this sign

The view from 500 feet up

Cassel's main square

I saw this big hill ahead and thought "I hope I don't have to climb that." Cassel is on top of that hill. I was running out of time to find a restaurant, so I tried, and failed, to get up that hill ASAP ;-{. At about 1:35, I stopped a a small picnic area almost to Cassel, to make my lunch from my supplies. That was where I got chilled since I was sweaty from the long climb, and resting in the shade while eating. There actually was some sun, briefly, while I ate. Then I cranked on into Cassel. It was kind of neat and the view was very nice, but the ride down the other side was cobblestone. Ugh!

Cassel is close to Belgium. The road from Cassel, D 948, was OK till near the border where two way big truck traffic on a narrow road was a problem.

One of many windmills on D 948

D 948 near the border

There actually is a border! They weren't checking cars, but all of the trucks were getting inspected. I rode through into Belgium, wondering what differences I would find. Almost immediately I found myself on a road that banned bikes. There was a bike path somewhere near, but I didn't know where, so I cranked, at 18 mph, down that road to Poperinge. A pretty big town and quite different from most French towns in appearance, although not so different from St Omer.

In Poperinge

I wandered around town for a while, checking it out, then rode on to Leper (Ypres) which is a major tourist town because of WWI stuff. I stopped at a service station on the way to try and buy a map, but the woman there, who spoke excellent English and was very pleasant, said they were out of Belgium maps. I stopped a bike store in Leper, but the woman there, who was vacuuming, said hello and then ignored me. I found a road heading east - southeast and followed its bicycle path, choosing the easterly choice at each roundabout. Finally I saw a sign for Menen and followed it.

On the bike path beside N 8

I saw another bicycle store and, this time, the woman in it was helpful and we discussed touring in general as well as touring in Belgium. She told me there were two hotels in Menen and recommended this one.

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