London to Venice – Day 1 – Dunkerque

Been a while since I did this, so as per, this blog will start very very poor. Hopefully something dreadful will happen soon (to Matt) – and then the blog will pick up…

Initial fears that Matt wouldn’t get to mine on time this morning were allayed and rather surprisingly we set off on our pedal to Dover in good time. We didn’t make good time though – and it became alarmingly clear very quickly that we are going to have to ride into touring fitness over the trip. Otherwise the Alps and Dolomites are going to take us 2 months!!

The first 30 miles of the ride were over very familiar ground for me. Riding some of Kent’s finest downs, just as I and my comrades in Penge CC frequently do. One major difference however is that I am not normally doing it on my tourer (Crispin) and not normally with over 30 kg’s weighing me down. The going was tough, and I have to admit that at one point (Church road – you know it), I couldn’t hold the bike up whilst travelling at 0.0005 mph and so had to push. Mortified!!

I say we are going to have to ride our way into fitness, we both are, however Matt definitely is. I think the first 25 miles to Otford nearly killed him. He is however the Essence of Man

Or something like that… or maybe not at all.

We enjoyed being massively ripped off for a bacon sandwich and being looked at like Martians while doing it in Otford… worse however, we decided that we might utilise Southern Rail and jump ahead (catch up) and take the train to Ashford. 2 reasons for this. 1. I had arranged to meet Craig and Toby en route in Ashford and the timing wouldn’t have worked given the snails pace we were averaging and 2. We were hoping to get an earlier ferry and avoid the carnage that is arriving off a ferry in France, in the dark, having had possibly one or 2 beers on the crossing, and then find the campsite and pitch a tent.

Gareth (Penge) will be more than familiar with the humiliation that is the platform at Otford, but I this case we made the right decision. We met Craig and Toby in Ashford they then accompanied us for 10 or so miles through the South Kent downs. Fairly certain they both took much confidence and some amusement ripping us to pieces on gradients over 1% Was good to see them though. And very much looking forward to riding with them to Newcastle in a September…

The remaining 25 miles to Dover was hilly… hilly but beautiful and we made good time.

Highlight of Dover (other than the ferry terminal and train station) is this

And very thought provoking it is too. That is to say the banksy, not Dover.

Whilst we ride to Venice the European elections will be happening across the continent. The continent I dearly hope we will remain a part of beyond the foreseeable.. our trip will take us through Strasbourg, Luxembourg and even Schengen – all places that for some conjure up fear and mistrust and in some case elicit total lies. as for me, and I think Matt too, I love the European project and have a great love for all of the countries therein. Tomorrow it will be croissants for breakfast and flandrian canals for the ride – what is not to love.

So we got to Dunkirque….or perhapos that should be Calaise B – as we rode 15 miles just to get to Dunkirque…

pleased that our campsite is on Rue Margate…wtf?? Have they been?

Feels a bit of a cop out getting the train today – won’t happen again.

Spent the last hour cooking on our stove – pasta and pesto and listening to Deacon Blue, yes!! Deacon Blue.

Struggling with tech – so I’ll leave you with this… And honestly…WTF is this (taken from the loo in Dover)

The greatest gift of all. Ciao.

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