Thursday & Friday, Germany to France, 3rd week

Time for an off day of sorts on Thursday to help recover from the previous 3 days of riding. Plus it’s cold and wet, at least in the morning. We drove around some looking for some bigger tires for Bushy’s bike, found some in a town close to us called Kall (I think) Back to the time share for some lunch and time to swap tires for a trial ride. The afternoon weather moderated enough to still be cold but not wet so time for a lot of cycling clothes and then a ride on a back country road along the hill ridge just behind us. We tried driving up there earlier and it looks promising. Easy, flat, no effort hour-long ride to explore. Wow, driving up little hills is so deceiving!! I don’t even remember any altitude change when we drove but now on a bike, this easy ride isn’t so easy. Lucky that the climb portion is not long and eventually we find a road that probably was the original highway to Gemund but has been replaced with a new road and that leaves our path for today a nice traffic free day. Out and back, another day to explore further.

Dinner plans are the local pizza place that has all kinds of food choices and looks like a local favorite. A beer and a small pizza and time to get home. Tomorrow we leave early to eventually end up in Lille France for a 3 day stay.

Bags and bikes packed for a short trip away, we are off back to Brussels so we can purchase rail tickets to get us to Rotterdam on the 14th. (Added travel option because of our mess up with the Germany trip) We are back at Gare de Midi, Zuid (South) station that we are familiar with. After some misplace directions we are in the que to purchase tickets, takes a while but gets done OK. Back out to where we parked the car, dam, a parking ticket! We missed the pay box somehow driving in and now I have to pay a bit extra for that parking spot.

Thanks to the GPS in the car we make it back out of Brussels and head towards Lille. Sunday is the Paris to Roubaix race so we decide to go to the Forest Arenberg on the way to our Air BnB to check out the area so we know where it is in relation to our lodging. It’s a beautiful warm spring day and as we get to the race course and the forest we see lots of activity, riders, course workers setting up fences and barricades and of course the entrance to the cobbled historic Arenberg section of pave. We have all our gear and bikes in the car, time to ride. Parking along the side of the road with others, we change, get the bikes ready and off we go. The entrance is only about 100 meters from our parking spot. There are a handful of Italians straddling bikes, I’m not sure if we can ride or not so I ask them if it’s open and they say yes. I look at Bushy, remembering the Koppenberg attempt, and off I go. Crap, how does anyone ride these at race speeds? They are in fact seriously rough but it is flat so I will ride this all the way no matter what. It’s not pretty or fast but I keep riding, trying to stay on the crown where it’s supposed to be smoother, there is a flat bike path on one side tempting me with smooth pavement, NO, pave all the way. Eventually I see the exit and that section is done. Bushy arrives not long after. We both have the biggest smiles of our lives stuck on our faces. Some pictures and we decide to continue to ride the race course in search of more pave. Another long flat section appears, not as rough as the forest. We finish it and there is a guy and his wife at the end asking if Bushy and I are together, yes, of course. He has a pro looking camera and asks to take our pictures and gets Bushy’s email address to send them to us. Nice guy, can’t wait to see the picture. On the bikes again and we find the next section and ride it, hard but not so bad, getting better at this pave stuff. Now what? I guess it’s time to return to the car, out and now back the same way, we do 3 sections two times each, stopping in between for photos. Back at the car, we change and load up and are off to Lille to find the BnB which ends up in a very old section of town, lots of family residences, not very exciting art of town like Brussels but OK. Our host, Luci, is outside waiting for us. She speaks french only, we speak none. The language barrier is happening again. Luci invites some neighbors over and they translate some for us. Luci has also made sweet bread for us, hot out of the over, homemade chocolate pudding as well plus a welcome beer. We all sit around talking two languages, trying to get to know each other. The home is narrow and 3 stories. We are on the second floor, up an impossibly steep, narrow staircase with stair treads that are tiny, Luci the third floor. There are cats everywhere we look, I think she said 8 in all. (None in our room and bath area thank you)

We settle in and shower are then go for a walk with Luci as our guide, me and Luci trying to communicate as best we can.  She shows us the local park, school, restaurant area, the entrance to the metro train station where we meet a young couple who can speak English and explain how to buy tickets. Out of the metro tunnel and up to the local Lebanese restaurant for dinner. Great addition to our list of food choices. The owner is very friendly and has some English skills and is happy to practice them. Dinner done, time to pick our way back the 10 to 12 blocks, guessing as we go but eventually finding the home.

Luci plans to make us breakfast while we are here, amazing. Tomorrow, drive to Roubaix, look around and then ride someplace, maybe Dunkirk or some other bike path area yet to be found