Ostende, Belgium - August 16, 2010
I'm sitting in a cafe in Oostende, Belgium... watching it rain and blow and be it's typical European self. I have eight hours to kill until the 1 AM ferry sailing that will take me back to England... arriving about 4 AM. I'll have to sit somewhere there as well until it gets light. Don't fancy jumping back to left side in the dark. But I'm now coming from having spent a great weekend with Niels in Germany. He still doesn't have his bike back on the road... although it is back in Germany now getting looked at. Will be a few months yet.
Blowing in Ostende, Belgium
I had a great time at his place. He rented a bike for the weekend and so Saturday he took me on quite the tour. We went through some of the back streets of Bonn, the capital of West Germany before it got moved back to Berlin, then headed down to Remagen. I had gone through Remagen on my way to his place on Friday, and it tweaked something in my memory (from watching too many late-night WWII war movies no doubt) about a bridge, and crossing the Rhine and so on. Anyway, I asked Niels and he said yes, that there was a bridge that the Germans had failed to destroy and so the Americans had crossed the Rhine with “dry feet”. Only the bridge piers are there now, but it is quite impressive. Then we went for a countryside tour... up to a road race track at Nurbring. It was amateur hour and so there were all kinds of nuts on it. Some tearing the heck out of their family car's engine and tires, some in their $150,000 BMW's, some motorcycles with guys in full leathers, one with his girlfriend on the back and panniers. All mixed together. Lots of accidents I guess, and sure enough the track closed after a while due to an accident somewhere. Anyway, we went for some more riding, through vineyard country and back home. Great ride and perfect weather.
Cathedral at Cologne
Niels and His Rental
Bridge Towers at Ramagen
Cafe "Go Like the Wind"
Sunday's weather sucked big-time and so we left the bikes parked and went to a museum in Bonn on the post-war history of Germany then went to Cologne for about three hours in a spa. I'd never been in one like that before. The Kamloops YMCA just doesn't cut it anymore. They had several pools of various temperatures and mineral content, as well as dry and wet saunas (about eight, all different) as well as sleeping rooms, bars, restaurants, you name it. We only partook of the pools, saunas and bar. Wow... that knocks you out... the sauna that is But had a great Mexican dinner (my first real Mexican since leaving Canada) and that polished out a weekend of non-stop action. Niels was a great host and I give Chez Niels a 9 out of 10. He has a professional coffee machine in his apartment and will make to order but I found that it was best just to go with the barista's recommendation. He only gets marked down for having a 100 gallon aquarium with giant algae eaters that are nocturnal and scrape the glass all night. The sound is identical to a cat scratching at the glass. Earplugs are definitely recommended if staying there! But other than that... 10 out of 10.
Anyway, I headed out this morning under not-too-great skies that only got worse as I came towards the coast. I got off the autobahn once I hit the Netherlands figuring that Dutch and Belgian countryside would be preferable scenery-wise, but found that not to be the case. Gads... the Belgian towns are ghastly. Dark red brick row housing set about 15 feet back from the sidewalk. Most do no landscaping at all preferring to either to pave or gravel their front yards for parking. No flowers, few plants of any sort. Ugh. Anyway, after about two hours of that, I headed back to the autobahn. Besides... it's easier in the rain. Just drive straight if you can. Sort of another hurricane today and with so much water on the highway, it was sometimes hard to see the lane markers. So I just followed the lights ahead.
And here I sit. On my second cup now. The coffee comes with a tiny ice cream cone filled with a liquored eclaire type of cream. Yummmm. I can head back to the ferry terminal early, but have to wait until the 6:45 PM ferry departs.
Have it all sorted out now with storing the bike and all that and so I'll dump the bike and pick up a car at the airport on Wednesday for a quick trip up to Glasgow to meet the family, coming in at 6 AM on Thursday morning. With them being up all night on the plane, and me being up all night at the airport, we should all be in the very best of moods when we get together. Might remind me why we don't do the family vacation thing very much! Noooo, I'm just joking. Nothing a good night's sleep can't fix.
I just hope it doesn't rain the whole time we're in Scotland and England. I often remember what Diane said last April. “Well it CAN'T rain all summer!” HA!!