Leaving Lille

Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Gaardegracht campsite

Flag of Belgium  ,
Sunday, August 27, 2006

I have arrived in Bruxelles/Brussels, as it is locally known. I have yet to source food or lodgings, or do anything. I have stuff to write, but I ought to make sure I have somewhere to sleep first. Today is Sunday, so this may take a while. I'm seriously considering paying for a real, actual bed for the night. Reckless extravagance.

According to this website I have now traveled 1% of the world- at this rate I could do the job-lot in 2years.

In the end, I left the campsite outside Lille at 10:30am, after waiting an hour and a half for the driving rain to relent. (It stopped completely at 10:45). I crossed the Belgian border not only without incident but without noticing, and pedalled merrily through the Belgian countryside. (Belgian countryside is really very similar to French countryside, or indeed English countryside, but the city dwellers among you I refer to the photo labelled 'Countryside'.) There are two significant changes a short while after the Belgian border, however. Both the language and the terrain become significantly more lumpy.

The term 'rolling hills' is insufficient to convey the exhausting nature of these contours. After one non-stop 1km long climb up an incline simple fractions cannot describe (a quadratic equation, perhaps) I came across one of the most unlikely Belgian tourist attractions- le Musee de la Tour de France. Happy to stop and needing to refill my water bottles, as well as being understandably intrigued, I pulled into the courtyard. I was met by a wonderful, excitable Belgian who, after an uncritical and praising critical appraisal of my kit, wanted to know all about my trip, and then to tell everyone else in the little tea room of the museum about it.

I didn't look around the museum, as time was getting on, so all I can describe is this tea-room, which was wallpapered from floor to ceiling with posters, paintings, caricatures, autographs, lithographs and photographs of, from or otherwise pertaining to the Tour de France. Keen to discover why in the world this place exists, in Belgium, and is run by this man, who is obviously the genius behind it all, I ask the obvious question:
"Did you compete in the Tour de France?"
OK. Bye then.

He did, however, give me directions to a big campsite en route to Brussels. On the way down the other side of the hill, I clocked my personal cycling land-speed record of 55.6km/hr. Without pedalling.

+++The campsites I've stayed in so far have been 6, 7 and 8 Euros. They all had showers, toilets, and two had washing machines+++

... I arrive, 75km from breakfast. "How much for one person, one night."
Receptionist: "10 Euros"
Me: sotto voce, "sheesh!"
Me: "You have showers?"
She: "Yes. 50cents, if you want hot water for 7 minutes."
Me: "What?" - IF you want hot water? For SEVEN minutes! Who decided that 7 minutes is the official duration of a shower? Who says no, actually, I don't want hot water? Without hot water IT'S NOT A SHOWER, it's just a pipe with a leak.
Me: "OK. 14minutes of shower please. Do you have washers and dryers?"
She: "Yes. 3 Euros 50 cents. Each.
SEVEN Euros, to do one wash? Thats nearly as much as it costs to stay here in the first place!
She: "Here is your card for the pool"
Me: perkier, "Oh, there's a pool?"
She: "Yes. The card makes it cheaper."
Me: grrrrrr
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