We had 2 nights in Rennes one cheap and one expensive that averaged out to our budget. The first was the Votaire - a couple of miles from the centrum in a very funny, quirky old 1950s type hotel with all sorts of funky memorabilia including manequins hiding in corners and old obscure movie and rock star posters.
After a lot of research at home, it turned out the best way to get from Belgium to the Britanny/Loire region was to go from Lille on the one TGV a day that both allows bikes and does not require a station change in Paris. So we headed south from Ghent toward Lille with an overnight stop at an AirBNB room just south of Oudenaarde.
Leaving Bruges and getting to Ghent was a piece of cake! We had a lovely canal trail and a downwind sail the entire way. First time we haven't had the wind in our face since leaving Haarlem! Getting TO Ghent was no problem but getting THROUGH Ghent to our place on the far side proved another matter entirely.
We took the train from Dordrecht to Vlissingen, a small seaport and resort town on the North Sea. We stayed with a lovely lady named Monique who we found the Vrienden Op De Fiets (Friends on Bicycles). She is a charming and industrious woman who runs a B&B in a beautiful classic house surrounded by gardens and who raises bees on her balcony! The Vrienden you only pay 20 Euros per person including breakfast so it is a great bargain. We enjoyed exploring the town of Vlissingen and took the ferry the next morning across the Westerschelde on our way to Brugge.
OK - I haven't felt like writing for a few days. We had a bad experience in Dordrecht and it's taking me awhile to bounce back. We are always the most careful of travelers, constantly keeping track of things, locking everything, watching, ever vigilant.....
We wound up going through Rotterdam on our way to Dordrecht, but since it was Sunday we were more in danger from the "spandex crew" than from car traffic. We crossed on the ferry at Kinderdijk and got another good look at the massive pumping windmills that we had seen last year, and proceeded into Dordrecht, arriving just as it really started to pour. We loved Dordrecht and our charming, tiny house in the historic district. This was a real find through Airbnb.
We headed out from Haarlem on Saturday - a day earlier than planned. Everything just came together to make it better to leave. The bikes were ready and perfect so we did not need the extra time. And we were able to get together with Willy and Gert for a great dinner at Collette in Haarlem Grotemarkt on Friday night. Gert was just in from their place in Provence and had just got off the plane and came straight to dinner - serious jet-setters those two! Also the weather was looking favorable for 2 days, then pouring rain so we decided to get a jump on it.
Wednesday night jet lag kicked in, and I couldn't get to sleep until 4:30 am. Or maybe it was the Thai food? So it was a good thing we built some slack into the schedule. Thursday started out lazy, but then the weather got so gorgeous we couldn't resist the call of the beach. We needed more testing of the bikes and the nav gear anyhow. We saddled up and with Garmy (the Garmin GPS) and Goog 's (the phone with Google maps) help had no trouble getting to Bloemendaal aan zee and then down the beach to Zandvoort.
We left South Haven Monday, August 5, around noon for a 7 pm flight out of Detroit. Everything went a lot easier this year than last... we didn't have to put the trailer in a farmer's yard and beg a ride to the airport.
We've spent the last few days doing our test packing. The challenge, of course, is you have to figure out exactly what you'll need (and not one ounce more or it will have to be jettisoned) to travel by bike for 2 months - and then fit it into a not more than 50 pound piece of luggage.
Here are some photos around town in South Haven, and around our funny little Hobbit House cottage. The house is built right on a ravine - we love the site and dream of building a small but open cabin with lots of outdoor entertaining space but that will have to wait. My sister Kimberly and her husband Jim visited, and so did our daughter Alena. The 5th wheel makes a fine guest quarters until we get a better house built.
We don't have a detailed plan for the Loire. Just getting there seems like a huge challenge and once there the choices are overwhelming - castles and hotels and quaint villages and wine caves everywhere.