Sunday, September 2, 2018:
The journey for today between Breda and Antwerp was a 76km (47.5 miles), just a little shorter than the last two days. My favorite part of the ride today was the various forested areas along the bike route.
After another big breakfast of chocolate croissants, cheese, eggs, and bacon (otherwise, I get hungry on the ride =)), I started the ride from Breda. Weather was pleasant again, just a tad warmer than yesterday. Almost immediately outside of town, the trail went through a wooded area.
Some of the paths on the route were paved, some were dirt or gravel (I’m glad I didn’t bring my road bike). There seemed to be a good assortment of routes, and many people from nearby seemed to be jogging or hiking on them.
The wooded area had somewhat manicured feel – different from, say, the wild/untamed American West – which added to the charm. The landscape has definitely changed from the windmills further north. This initial wooded area went on for a while (6-8km?), after which there were interludes of farms in between:
The ride felt like it went by faster than yesterday – and in fact, I ended earlier. But I think much of it was the type of scenery – in a forest, simply biking along the path is enough to experience the ambiance. I really liked the route – a good chunk of the morning was wooded areas, punctuated by other clear areas.
After biking for roughly 25km, I reached the Belgian border – my first time crossing an international border by bike. There’s no border checks with EU/Schengen rules, but I was surprised that there wasn’t actually even a sign, since it was a small country road. I only noticed because there was a sign about speed traps with “.be” website – I then checked on my phone, which showed that I was right next to the border. The Dutch/Belgian border seems to zig and zag quite a bit, if you look closely on a map.
Anyway, this pattern continued much of the morning. It was a scenic path, though the sections that were dirt were trickier to ride on. I imagine that the dirt would be even trickier in the rain.
Just as my watch was reaching noon, the bike route passed in front of a bakery. How convenient! I parked briefly and bought a filled pastry (mmm).
As I got closer to Antwerp – roughly 25km from the city, the forest proper ended, and transitioned into what seemed to be upscale suburbs, where behind the large leafy trees on the roadside were grand brick houses. Continuing on, the neighborhoods varied in character (with some open areas in between as well). Eventually the route went through an industrial outer harbor area.
Just a few miles outside of Antwerp, the route started feeling more like an urban recreational path, with local joggers and bikers. I followed the path along the water until it reached the downtown, which was full of locals enjoying the Sunday afternoon. With all the people out, I could barely walk my bike through the crowd.
After a hot shower, I took a walk around Antwerp. The hotel was about a mile from the main square with its “Great Market,” but there was a bustling shopping street for essentially that entire distance. The atmosphere on the squares and streets was quite good.
One site that I enjoyed more than I expected was the Cathedral. Admittedly, I’m not sure what my expectations were – but its paintings and stained glass were very beautiful. As a plus, they started a free organ concert while I was inside, so I sat down and listened, while looking at the artwork.
My feet were starting to feel a little sore – imagine that… Not wanting to over-do things, I headed back to get dinner and rest up.