I planned to have a final cycle ride through the Dutch countryside to the ferry but my nose starts streaming and my head aching and within the space of an hour I’m in the throes of a cold bad enough to make my nose red and sore from the tissues and something (air? mucus?) come out of my tear ducts when I blow my nose. So instead I get the train, via Rotterdam, paying an extra few euros to take the newbike on unfolded. At Hook of Holland I cycle round the quiet streets beside the ferry port. It has everything you’d expect in Dutch village – several bars, a coffee house and three massive cycling shops. I find a place that does mussels in a garlic sauce that tastes like all of the garlic in the world and hope this will cure my cold. I could cut through bank vaults with my breath by the time I’m done eating it. Despite this a guy on the ferry boldly strikes up a conversation with me – he’s a composer of operas and his friend’s dad worked out the solution to the travelling salesman math’s problem – I have heard of neither the operas or the maths problem and he doesn’t know what the solution was so I go back to putting my presentation together, trying to breathe away from the netbook in case I melt it.
Friday morning and I come off the ferry to be greeted by five wide lanes and ‘CARS ONLY’ written big beneath them. A sign tells me that Harwich ferry port wishes me a safe and pleasant journey’ which rings rather false as the road to the station is an A road with no cycle lanes (but plenty of trucks). The little road leading into a housing estate says beside it ‘No through road’ so I go down the big road grumbling and complaining under my (still smelly) breath. When I get there it turns out that the station which I need is back at the port but I’d missed the signs so I cycle back and chat to two other cyclists on the station (because we’re all riding bikes) – they’ve just returned from five months touring Europe. Without folding bikes they’ve struggled on trains, especially in France and Italy and tell me that the Czech Republic has amazing cycle tracks but crap roads – needs a mountain bike apparently but great apart from that and very cheap.
On the train to London I start trying to pick just a couple of case studies for the presentation but then start to just put them all in on the basis that I can always skip through them but will need more if I do a longer presentation at our office later. I start to realize just how much stuff I’ve got, how many places I’ve seen and how much I’ve learnt.
In London I get a City of London cycle map which shows me a special bicycle route to London Bridge. I fail to see what is special about it – there’s no segregated bike lanes and the traffic ignores me. Maybe Boris will be painting some on really soon.
But it’s not all bad – people are generally friendly, the bacon butty I get at Liverpool street is good. I don’t have to pay extra to put my bike on the train. At Balham it seems that Boris has been out with his paint can and they have have big blue cycle tracks, like Copenhagen.