The beginning of this blog is really in the summer of 2008. I had just landed a job in Brussels and had 2 months to lay the groundwork for my family to join me. I bought a used city-bike from a dodgy colleague and used it to commute to and from work, as well as to search for an apartment that would become the next home for my wife and two small boys. I don’t even remember the brand of the bike, but I do remember that it was a 7 speed and it served me well in the city.
Having quite a bit of time on my hands on the weekends (there’s no point in looking for apartments on the weekends in Brussels, as everyone is off to the seaside), I came up with the brilliant idea of cycling the 80-ish kilometres of the Belgian seaside during the upcoming weekend. I did my research and found that Belgian tourism offices do a great job of portraying the seaside as interesting, beautiful and a worthwhile visit. There was even the promise of seeing traditional fishing villages where the locals still ride through the shallows on horseback dragging a net to catch gray shrimp, which are then served in the form of croquettes, while one quaffs local Belgian beer or a nice white wine.
I planned to cycle from Knokke (the northern-most seaside town of Belgium) down to DePanne (the southernmost) over two days – a leisurely 40 km. per day, stopping when my fancy took me. I dutifully went to Decathlon (the local sporting goods giant) to buy panniers, a sleeping-bag and two man tent (for comfort’s sake), packed and got really excited about my big trip. Saturday early morning, I cycled to Gare Centrale and hopped on the first train to Knokke (they go at least once an hour). Weekend train+bike tickets are a steal on SNCB (Belgian railways) – I think I paid a little over 10 Euro round trip.
An hour later, I was off the train in Knokke and blissfully cycling south along the Belgian coast. Ah, the romance of it all – here I was, new dream job, new country, beautiful weather and the North Sea on my right. Life did not suck.
It started to suck pretty soon.
I soon realized several things: 1. The Belgian seaside is ugly as hell. It’s kilometre after kilometre of ugly Stalinist block apartments with short stretches of grassy dunes inbetwixt them (the grassy dunes are, admittedly, beautiful). Those short stretches are there (probably) because they haven’t cleared away all the mines from World War II; 2) headwinds suck! 3) my ass hurt and 4) 7 speeds is no good for trekking and 5) I couldn’t find anywhere I would like to stay – everything was full and looked horrible.
I told myself that I’ll cycle to