All good things must end, and it’s time to part ways. We had fun times, but now Frank and Michael are headed south to Chambord on the Loire in France while we head back to Holland.
We got to Bruges easily with a nice bike-friendly train from Dordrecht to Vlissingen (Flushing), then a ferry, then a long scenic pedal to Bruges. But our good luck seemed to have run out for the return. The NS train from Vlissingen to Dordrecht was canceled for maintenance for 3 days! The alternative was bus, but the bus doesn’t takes bikes. We had nonrefundable bookings so staying in Bruges was not an option. And in fact our options were limited… we finally decided to go to Antwerp and from there to Rotterdam… We try hard to avoid big cities and Belgian trains which are notoriously un-bike-friendly. And no one seemed to know what was going on… several people from both railways systems gave us erroneous data. But we had no choice. We booked the route and bike tickets by phone the Dutch international NS number and paid extra for the assurance that we could take the bikes…
On Saturday morning we got to the Bruges train station in plenty of time and there were actually HUMANS at the station (very unusual) but again were given erroneous information that there would be a bike car to Antwerp but that we would need to make yet another change at Breda. Both turned out to be wrong. When the train arrived it had NO bike car…. We had no choice but to force our way up 3 very steep steps into a very crowded space where we had to stand holding our bikes the entire way to Antwerp. And of course the fellow passegers who were jammed in were not understanding of the situation at all.
At Antwerp there were NO elevators to the tracks… so we had to unload to carry everything DOWN and the again UP to the track toward Rotterdam. We were already dripping with sweat and exhausted when our luck changed yet again! Two very large, burly and smiling Dutchmen immediately saw our plight and stepped up to help. They helped us load our bikes and gear, and then keep the bikes steady all the way to Rotterdam. No change at Breda needed. Without them we would have gotten off because the conductor didn’t seem to know where the train was going either.
The train barrelled on straight to Rotterdam without a hitch. And even better, our friends told us about a much better bike route leaving Rotterdam Centraal and the along the scenic Ijssel River Dijk and GroeneDijk all the way to our next stay near Gouda.
So the day was significantly improved the moment we met our Dutch friends. so the day ended on a very happy note. Back in Holland! From here we are taking a deserved rest and recuperation with longer stays for the rest of our trip.