Saturday, 13 June 2015

Hastings to Folkestone (OMG, I could do this every day)


I wake up at 3 am, decide that that’s way too early and have a sip of the Gallo American white wine that the British sell.  A French store owner would have his windows smashed for committing such sacrilege.  But even the Gallo does the job and I sleep again until 4:30 am.  Time for instant coffee and the rest of my chocolate digestive cookies.  After I ponder on what to do for a little, it hits me: I’m in a town on the coast.  There is a beach. 

Out I go.  The wind is ferocious!  The weather forecast with its prediction of 35 km winds with gusts up to 45 km wasn't joking.  Fortunately that wind is blowing exactly in the direction that I want to travel ;-)




All of Britain feels like this: If the glass breaks, replace it by plywood. If the plywood breaks, just leave a hole.  Either the new state of the world or a new directive outlawing glass bricks in ceilings (holes are a better option ;-)


typical English pebble beach as I know them.

It's so early and dark, even the seagulls aren't moving yet


Then I notice the reflections in the SAND.   Sand at a British beach?




When I get to the beach, I make an astonishing and abhorrent discovery.  So far I also assumed that France had the gorgeous beaches made of that very fine sand that reflects anything and is solid enough to allow riding a bicycle on it and that England only has pebbles of varying sizes as beaches.  The tide is low and to my utter amazement I discover, Brittania has the same amazing beaches as France but that they have poured/trucked/dumped those pebbles onto the beach.   That happened presumably for the prevention of coastline erosion but what a thing to do.  Just think, the destination of my dreams could have been Brighton instead of Saint Malo if the Brits hadn’t dumped those big stones at their coast line !





I'm not sure what comes out of that effluent pipe, but the seagulls sure like it




at higher tide, it will be nicely hidden from view



Concrete, bright lights, pebbles.  I miss French beaches ;-)


Time to climb up to my tower loft and wait for breakfast.




Since I already didn’t have a proper dinner (kitchen closed), I pay the hotel 9 Pounds for a full English breakfast.  It’s far smaller than what I got yesterday but it does the trick, so that I feel up to the task of sailing in front of the wind at 8:30 am



Band stands, narrow track trains, piers etc etc. The British seem to feel the need to convert a beach into a circus.


Leaving Hastings towards the East by bike is a bit of a challenge. There is no road along the coast due to the cliffs.  Accordingly, the road East runs on top of those cliffs and that means climbing a hill.  And a steep hill it is !


you are here ...



It is even steeper on the other side which I realize when I spot the 12% gradient signs.  Ah well, good thing I got my front brake pads replaced before I left.





Then there is another beach at the other side. 






I just keep following the posted bike route 2 signs and the landscape keeps changing.




When I take a brake to sip some wine in the midst of this greenery, I also look at my cell and discover that I'm not supposed to be here !
As can be seen on Google Maps on my cracked cell screen: I wasn't even supposed to be here !


The menace of every British bike path: Stinging Nettles reaching for one's bare legs


Yes, this is a rail-road crossing ONLY for bikes along the bike route


Yes, the bike route leads through the gate




5 minutes later I meet a friend

He/She is utterly fascinated by me and doesn't let me out of her/his sight.
S/he reminds me of Donkey in Holland last year.  Once of a while there is that strange reaction to other people or animals.
For all I know, s/he is an Einstein among sheep, but will still be slaughtered next week to satisfy some carnivore's desire to grow fatter.
Pleasure to have met you !

It wasn't that special (just kidding)




If memory serves me right, this is Lydd, a small town with an army base and a weapons range along the beach.  Depressing place, but at least it has an unsymmetrical church tower and a cemetery in which they bury people with their feet!




A few kilometres further down the road I reach New Romney.
The Cinque Ports Arms: France is NEAR 
I do like the vibe of New Romney, even though it is almost impossible to cross the High Street because of the constant traffic flow.  I also discover a bicycle shop, in which Le Velo II (It's going to France, so it earned that honorific ;-) gets quite a few stares and questions regarding its mileage.  I only carry one of those tiny bicycle pumps with me, which is good to get you going again after a flat tire, but isn't really suitable for inflating the tyres (;-) to the proper pressure value. One of the owners or operators right away volunteers to get the proper pump out and inflate my tires to 50 psi.  Not a penny charge either, but then I overheard them selling a 700c bike tire (tire, not tube) to someone for more than 30 Pounds.



The church in New Romney (note unsymmetrical tower again)

I've been having pasta cravings all day, so it is nice to find an Italian restaurant operated by Russians in England, where this German/French/Canadian can satisfy his pasta craving. So far Globalization sounds good, doesn't it?

But then the ugly side of globalization pops up again. I ordered Seafood pasta. New Romney can’t be more than 5 km from the ocean.  And what’s in my dish? Those bloody New Zealand green-shelled mussels again.  

Just a few kms after New Romney I reach heaven: NO PEBBLES at the water; This could be Saint Malo! (OK, there are pebbles higher up ;-(







And what does one do on a St Malo-style beach?
Yup, one rides one's bike over the sand ;-)


video







Come on guys and gals; show some taste in your architecture !
Hastings is getting closer; this is Hythe:


Hythe
And yes, you might have to scroll a bit to appreciate the beauty of the next picture of a bike path between a river and a golf course ;-)


And what is on the other side of the golf course?


And all that with a 35 km/h tail wind ;-)

When I started taking the camera out, they all had their beaks in their feathers


Greece?  Nope, Folkestone ;-)



Wow, people must have been rich and lazy around here !



I stay in what looks like one of those Grand seaside hotels of old.  It lacks upgrades (no WiFi in the rooms) and upkeeps (the shower head only dribbles instead of showering) but it has that certain charm.  And given it's location, one can't really complain about the price of 34 Pounds for a double room including breakfast!




'Downtown' Folkestone is an example in poor city planning.  Dirty and deserted, except for a few pan handlers waiting for crowds and help.


I find another Italian restaurant (this one with Wifi).  Another reminder that I'm in England.  The entire time-honoured tradition behind a Pizza Quattro Stagion (4 seasons) is to separate the ingredients into the 4 quadrants of the pizza, like so:


My 4 seasons
While the taste of my Quattro Stagioni is not bad per se, it's a bit cheap with ingredients, a fact that they tried to cover up by not separating the ingredients as above, but by trying to cover the many empty areas of the dough.





During my last cigarette of the day I scan the clear southern horizon and yes, there is something there. Maybe it's just caravans of ships traversing my line of sight, but maybe these are coastal features of France beyond the channel.  After all, France is supposed to be visible across the water from here !





Yes? Maybe? No?
Tomorrow I shall push the bike up a hill from hell (Screw you, Google Maps!), take a ferry, let my wheels roll in three different countries, sleep in a medieval house, and utterly exhausted and famished wolf down a fabulous steak in Belgium.

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