London to Varese

800 Miles from London to Varese for Luke and Leukaemia


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Day 7 – A day of two halves

Our longest day started in the rain after an early start. 91 miles lay ahead of us and we set off in the rain with best intentions to cover the distance quickly. Only 5km into the ride however and a simultaneous puncture on one bike and spent rear bearings on another bike had us on the hard shoulder for over an hour!….nevertheless we got it all fixed and set off again for a second shot at covering the distance! After just another 5 miles however Luke’s rear wheel slipped out under breaking coming down a mountain pass and he found himself under the barrier on the side of the road!…so after another short pit stop we set off yet again to try and get to Colmar! You know what they say, third time’s a charm and before we knew it we were 50 miles down and were having lunch in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains!

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After a quick feed, and a cheeky rub of cream in nether regions, by the side of the road we pointed towards the Col Du Bonhomme (949m), gritted our teeth and got on with it! Not content with our trials and tribulations so far the heavens opened and a hailstorm rained down for the last hour of what was a 9.5 hour day!

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But then as we rolled into Ammerschwihr our fortunes changed entirely – a huge welcoming party with champagne and cameras and even the town journalist cheered us over the line and to our host venue for the next 2 nights – The Henri Ehrhart vineyard! We ditched the bikes, grabbed some sparkling wine and let off ‘a little’ steam (if by a little you mean, a lot) with our kind host Cyrille.

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Day 6: Une journee d’histoire

History was the theme of the day for our 6th outing of the trip. Step aside Starky, we’re here and reckon we’d look better in tweed jackets with elbow patches.

Sad to leave Luxembourg and the city behind, but excited for a fresh adventure ahead, we soon found ourselves back in France with its glorious nuclear power plants in the distance and here it began.

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First up, a lazy meander down into Rodemack, a beautiful medieval town with a classic American twist. Ancient ramparts minus two original towers, blown up to make way for tanks. “At least they liberated the town at the same time” is what we guess the locals were saying. Still, it was perfect for a photo-opp and our elevenses.

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Next up, a classic Edd and Luke GPS detour into a French militarised zone, through a forest. What should we stumble upon? No less than the Maginot Line, hidden in the woods. Hill turrets, eerie silence, and no sign of an actual road in the direction we wanted to go. Perfect setting for a nazi-zombie horror movie…

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2 miles of dirt track and a field or two later and we were back on the open road, making good with our legs along the country lanes and eating up lost time. That is until Tim had yet another mechanical failure and managed to snap his chain. But we’re pros now and had that cleared up in a flick of a tool.

So a few setbacks but we arrived to a great, if slightly creepy, village B&B. It’s a house full of dolls. Hopefully we’ll be alive in the morning to set off on our longest day yet!

Stay tuned.

HbR


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Day 5: Sayonara Belgium, Hola Luxembourg

Greetings from Luxembourg City!

The day started well with a routine trip to the local boulangerie. 7 men, 10 baguettes and 10 pastries. Nothing remained.

Shortly on our bikes, full of optimism for the day ahead, we were quickly derailed by the Belgian’s inability to properly implement a well-organised traffic diversion. So we optimistically set off in totally the wrong direction.

Five years later and we were back on the beaten track, climbing endless and punishing hills, observing non-plussed cows, laughing at poor Belgian driving and asking when lunch would be every five seconds.

THEN we arrived in Luxembourg.

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Our favourite place so far. It might be a fraction the size, but it offers a great deal more than its predecessor. Although a round of beers in the city will cost you about a month’s wages.

Sadly, one of the Wills had to depart on business. He had to interview someone who had recently achieved an AQA pass grade in Powerpoint Presentation skills. We miss him already and thank him for his support and good humour up until now.

We’ll leave you there for the night. Tim managed to ruin his gears and his inability to repair them demands an unwelcome early start. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for our next stage onto Chateau Salins. Better be as nice as it sounds.

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Much love,

HbR xxx


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Day 4: Brussels to Durbuy

Day 4 saw us saying goodbye to Brussels (without a huge amount of reluctance) and hello to Southern Belgium, which we now know is confusingly named “Luxembourg”, specifically a town named “Durbuy”.

Fortunately, we had the beautiful scenery to keep our eyes pleased (and the drivers apparently had “one of the most attractive barmaids they have ever seen”). Notable features of the day include the fact that we happened to be on the “Route du Fromage”, the absence of any ability of Belgian drivers to use a roundabout properly (we genuinely saw somebody drive straight through the middle), the outdoor laundrette at the Carrefour in Durbuy (it did the job, but outdoors, really?), the fact the Belgium is so boring we managed to ride in total silence for almost an hour, the unimaginable pain of sustained riding on cobbled roads, and, finally, having our own house for the night (which we managed to heat to a not so cool 30 degrees, why not?)

Tomorrow, we’ll be off to actual Luxembourg, fuelled by Mathias and Greigy’s decadent carbonara.

We’ll leave you with a quick video of today, and a piece of advice: If you’re in Belgium, bring something to do.

Yours sincerely,

HbR.


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Day 3: Lille to Brussels

Safe to say that the team muscles are now in Brussels – a little sore, but here safe and sound, sitting in an artists studio with seven mattresses on the floor for beds. We have hit the pinnacle of luxurious travelling – how can it get better?

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Despite the relative short distance between Lille and Brussels, and Belgium seeming to be a nation determined to minimise any interest tourists might have in it, we still feel it has offered an entertaining day.

To kick things off we had an irate Luke, teary-eyed that he’d lost his wallet and adamant he hadn’t packed it in his bag. Lo and behold, an hour later and after ransacking the hostels (dirty) laundry bags, it turned up in his bag. Panic over, we hit the road – and found ourselves looking at a dirt track within 7 miles of leaving.

Cue a dramatic change of course that lead us to come across endless flat roads, steady hills with eternal and gruelling up downs, abandoned villages (where the hell are all the Belgians?), beautiful twins (in Edd’s opinion) serving sublime biscotti, an angry JH (finally), bovine selfies, chevalian selfies, angry belgian drivers, making an even angrier JP.

Imagine how we felt upon realising we had another 15 miles to go, all mentally prepared for a casual two mile cruise into Brussels. Our faces when we arrived said it all. As you can see, Tim remained relaxed the whole time.

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We make it sound bad though, and looking back it was a remarkable day topped off with the best meal thus far. In fact I’m basically snoozing as I write this.

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Oh and Will and Will found AEJ Collins in Ypres; Menin Gate. For those not in the know – he scored the highest single innings ever recorded in cricket. A casual 628 not out. Lad.

Until tomorrow gang.

Much love,

Team HBR xxx


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Day 2 (and an apology for lack of Day 1): – Calais to Lille

First and foremost – we want to apologise for a lack of an update yesterday. Not that we’re making an excuse, but we arrived to such premier accommodation and found Calais to be such a gloriously beautiful place that time just ran away. We might have shared a beer also.

What we learnt from Day 1 was that we never want to do London to Folkestone again. Imagine a tame autobahn with no traffic lights and a Holiday Inn at the end. Yeah nice, and with little else to report.

BUT, Day 2 on the other hand. We always to want to cycle in Northern France. Flat, smooth roads, tree-lined vistas, perfectly ploughed fields and picture perfect towns in which to enjoy a cheeky espresso.

Not that the day has just been just about cycling: Gabes doesn’t know what sun tan lotion is, Tim managed to crash into JH despite being at a virtual standstill, JP escaped ANY abuse regardless of the fact he looked like a fairy all day, we haven’t been attacked even though we’re staying somewhere that looks like a detention camp, Greigy drank four large bottles of Orangina in under two hours and has consumed 4GB of data calling his girlfriend, Luke hasn’t cried (yet), JH hasn’t got angry and Edd only gave us three attempts at parting his historical knowledge of the local battlefields.

We’re just back from a a couple of crepes and a digestif and wanted to provide you with an update of our adventure so far. We reckon these pics sum it so far:

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Love,

Team HBR

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