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  1. #1
    Senior Member sanford_w/o_son's Avatar
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    Western Europe in two months???

    can one do enough justice to western europe in a two-month tour, specifically: england, scotland, ireland, northwestern france, belgium, holland, and northern germany? would this leave adequate time to spend a couple/few days in several cities along the way?

    or is it better to focus in on a sub-region (e.g. england, scotland, ireland), and have a more in-depth experience in those two months?

    thanks!

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    Covering too much geography in the time available was, imo, a tragic error I made on a major trip (non-bike, North Africa, 1978). Bicycling the coast of the lovely Repulblic of Ireland took me about a month, maybe five weeks. I don't remember how long I spent in Scotland but I do remember making one large loop (with Lairg at the Southern end, I think) twice because it was so much fun and beauty. When I crossed the border leaving Scotland, I got off the bike and kissed Scotland goodby. Probably all the places you want to go are wonderful in the extreme for bicycling. Don't be chugging fine wine.

  3. #3
    Senior Member filtersweep's Avatar
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    I would either pick the island or the continent... also, what season are you thinking about?

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    Senior Member sanford_w/o_son's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by filtersweep
    I would either pick the island or the continent... also, what season are you thinking about?
    summer, mid-june to mid-august

    edit: of island vs continent, do you recommend one or the other? andy pros/cons? thanks.

  5. #5
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    During my tours, I typically spend four to ten days in each region. Assuming you ride seven or eight days, spend one or two days resting, and take a day to travel from one area to the next, that's six regions during 60 days. So I would say that your original itinerary is far too ambitious, even moreso if you like hanging out in cities, which I generally do not do. I would dissuade you from trying to "do" a city in a day or two. It takes a lot of time to soak in a city like London or Paris or Amsterdam.

    I am one of those people who especially enjoys the physical and mental aspects of bike touring: the effort of figuring out routes, the high of making it up an impossibly steep hill, and the pleasures of a good meal at the end of a long day. Because this is a focus for me, I am probably guilty of travelling a little too quickly and superficially. I could spend more time smelling the roses and absorbing the views. But I travel on the assumption that I will eventually return to the places that catch my attention!

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    I spent four weeks in Scotland in 2004 and there were still places I wanted to see. I would suggest narrowing your focus a bit.

  7. #7
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    2 months is plenty of time. You could spend two months in Germany alone, but 2 months is still enough time for the trip you mentioned.

  8. #8
    Senior Member sanford_w/o_son's Avatar
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    thanks for all the advice. it is appreciated.

    it sounds as though to do things as in-depth as i would like (i do enjoy touring for the places to go along the way, and not just the journey itself), i should do sub-regions, and assume that some day i will have the time to go back.

    so for 2 months, i'm thinking either 1) england, scotland, ireland or 2) northwestern france, belgium, holland, and northern germany.

    any pros/cons about one region or another, for mid-june to mid-august?

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    One small thing: The month of July is the time when all the people of Europe drop whatever they are doing and go on holiday. At least it seems that way. This means that during the month's of May and June, when the wild flowers are all blooming and the climate is luscious, the campgrounds are almost empty and the B&B's will welcome even single bicyclists like long lost friends. Come July 1, the campgrounds suddenly fill up, B&B's will only accept double-occupancy, and the weather can become quite hot. That was my experience, anyway. Perhaps things have changed in the past ten years.

  10. #10
    Mutt Owner gizem310's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RalphP
    One small thing: The month of July is the time when all the people of Europe drop whatever they are doing and go on holiday. At least it seems that way. This means that during the month's of May and June, when the wild flowers are all blooming and the climate is luscious, the campgrounds are almost empty and the B&B's will welcome even single bicyclists like long lost friends. Come July 1, the campgrounds suddenly fill up, B&B's will only accept double-occupancy, and the weather can become quite hot. That was my experience, anyway. Perhaps things have changed in the past ten years.
    well said. august is even worse! and pretty hot, too.

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    I agree to RalphP. Choose for May, June. The weather is generally okay in July (as hot as in 2006 it has never been in the Netherlands!).
    Especially May and also June maybe a bit cool in the itinerary I describe. And second: France is a bit neglected in that plan. Come back a second time fot the midwest.

    My suggestion: flight to London, ride via Canterbury, Dover (county of Kent) to Calais, then head for Belgium (Oudenaarde. Brussels, Leuven) continue to Maastricht (southern Netherlands), Aachen, Cologne and then head north to e.g. Detmold, Celle, Lüneburg and Hamburg. Continue to Lübeck (jewel).
    Then there are many possibilities to go to Berlin for the return flight. Or from Hamburg.

    But okay, I don't know your motives to combine the UK with France and northern Germany. In this scenario you almost neglect France and the Netherlands. In France there is pretty much available campground in July: French holidays start 1 August.
    But you keep time to visit nice and historic towns and the routes can mostly be made by scenic byways.

    If you want to make a loop you can continue from Hamburg to Bremen, Groningen, (Afsuitdijk) Amsterdam, The Hage, Hoek van Holland, ferry to Harwich, London.

    Like to be more in France? North is rather dull, some historic towns Amiens, Lille, Reims) and Paris, a jewel of course. But then I should continue to Nancy, Strassbourg and Mainz, Frankfurt. Visist Becnal and your remaining two weeks fly away...?...
    But also northern Germany in this variety of the trip?

    What do you think of this all?
    (I visited all these areas and towns, not always by bike)

    Well, good luck, I'm really interested in what are you are going to do.

    Arie, Borne (east Netherlands)

  12. #12
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Arie, have you and I met before?


    Quote Originally Posted by arie
    But then I should continue to Nancy, Strassbourg and Mainz, Frankfurt. Visist Becnal and your remaining two weeks fly away...?...
    Arie, Borne (east Netherlands)

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    My last two overseas tours (Scotland 2004, Tuscany 2006) were done in May, and I noticed that airfares to Europe skyrocketed after June 1. On my Tuscany tour I was told by locals that the crowds would get much worse after early June, and that I had picked a good time to visit. Scotland in May was a little on the cool side, but no midges and no crowds to speak of. Like RalphP said, May and June are much better months to visit Europe than July or August.
    Last edited by markf; 03-04-07 at 07:58 PM.

  14. #14
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    May and June are much better months to visit Europe than July or August.
    True, but it is better to travel at the height of the tourist season than to stay home and do nothing.

    I have bicycle toured in Europe in July and August, and everything has always worked out fine. You may need to start looking for places to stay earlier in the day, and take special care during national holidays when last-minute accommodations may be hard to come by.

    Finding places to stay is part of the challenge of touring. It is a skill that one can cultivate. In many if not most places, people are a little reserved until they get to know you. Once you gain someone's trust, doors start to open. In France, I found that the way to gain trust is to engage in polite yet fairly formal chit-chat, punctuating the conversation with the honorifics "Monsieur" and "Madam." During a trip to Alsace, I found a weekend room in a town where none were available by simply talking to the proprietor of a fully-booked B+B. I began by asking whether she knew of any other place I might stay. She said no, but after 10 minutes of polite conversation -- she wanted to know where I was from, where I was going, what I did for a living, etc., she mentioned her neighbour, who operated an unofficial B+B, picked up the phone, and asked if they could accommodate me for the weekend.

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    Becnal, only on the forum, but as I emailed you: ironical remark.
    Arie

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    Senior Member jakuma's Avatar
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    Scotland in May was a little on the cool side
    I have found Scotland to be generally cool year round with few exceptions.

    As far as your tour, it depends what you want out of it. If you want to spend time and get to know a country then do so. On the other hand doing a small taste of different countries would be my preference. For me the same goes for cities. You could spend all your time in just a couple of cities to truly explore them but then you could go to a number of cities, hit the highlights, and continue on your merry way. Personally I prefer the hit and run mentality of guerrilla tourism but occasionally have regrets that I miss somethings along the way.
    True bike touring is a lot of stopping

  17. #17
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    In May, June I prefer the south of France, Italy. It rains lots up there about La Manche.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    I come from the UK, and feel flattered you'd include us, but apart from Scotland, which can be breathtaking (though like England, the food can be hit and miss), I'd be tempted to miss out the UK. Nightmare traffic, surly drivers, overpriced accommadation, bad food, litter, graffitti, scattalogical cycle routes, I could go on and on.

    Actually, you might not see it as I see it. Call me jaded from living here 43 years and having seen how most of the rest of the EU lives...

    Ireland I've never been to so can;t comment. I imagine it's beautiful, though can be pretty rainy?

    If it were me, I'd head for something dramatic; Black Forest, past the alps, into Austria, up to Czech Rep and Prague. Then onto Dresden, upto Berlin and maybe even Hamburg (don;t know how far all of that is - 800 miles maybe?)

    Or maybe Prague, down to Salzburg, over the alps (choose a low pass) and into Italy; Venice perhaps, then back to the south of France (hot, though later than May).

    Or miss out the UK, start in Belgium, through Holland, North Germany then add scandanavia with the time you save missing out the UK. Go into Denmark, through Copenhagen, then into Sweeden then maybe Norway or Finland, if you still have the legs. I believe the North Sea Cycleroute goes pretty much that way. (My friend and I worked on a route that stopped short of Hamburg, which is pretty close to the Danish border, and at about 40 miles a day we figured it would take 3 to 4 weeks depending on how many days we took off.

    Or how about right the way down France, over (or round if you go via the coast - don;t quote me on that option, though) the Pyranees, down to the Costa Brave (the nice part). You could end the tour by swimming in the wonderfully clear waters of the Mediterranean. Aguablava would be my ideal choice. Then down to Girona (a great town), and maybe Barcellona (not so great in my book - too like any other big city).

    Then again there's the Danube radweg. Start in the Black Forest, follow it all the way to Vienna, maybe. Simple but some stunning scenery.

    Oh the possibilities are endless.

  19. #19
    Senior Member sanford_w/o_son's Avatar
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    great advice here. it sounds like i should skip england, if the traffic situation is so bad. it also sounds like i should try not to miss scotland and ireland.

    an advantage of using a folder is being able to skip ahead to other places. i like gotte's suggestion of germany/vienna/czech republic. i'm a bit concerned about the topography, but it sounds very scenic with nice cities along the way. and hopefully a bit less crowded in the summer than western europe???

    so maybe in two months one could fly into london, take a train/bus to northern england or scotland, tour scotland, ferry over to ireland, tour ireland, (or maybe ferry to wales and tour to london? how worthwhile is the touring there, and how bad is traffic?), fly to frankfurt (from ireland or london), tour to vienna, prague, berlin, fly back from berlin.

    this sounds like it could still be ambitious, for the type of touring i like to do.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by sanford_w/o_son
    so maybe in two months one could fly into london, take a train/bus to northern england or scotland, tour scotland, ferry over to ireland, tour ireland, (or maybe ferry to wales and tour to london? how worthwhile is the touring there, and how bad is traffic?), fly to frankfurt (from ireland or london), tour to vienna, prague, berlin, fly back from berlin.

    this sounds like it could still be ambitious, for the type of touring i like to do.
    There are some amazing bargains to be had on overnight sleeper trains from London to Edinburgh and/or Glasgow (ScotRail's Caledonian Sleeper) if you book far enough in advance, pick the right days, and travel out of season. Check http://www.nationalrail.co.uk for fares.

    Lon Las Cymru (Welsh National Cycle Route) is an excellent ride, I did the off-pavement variation of the northern half a few years ago and loved it. Get maps from http://www.sustrans.org.uk for this and lots of other cycle routes in the UK. Be advised, though, that Sustrans routes meander an amazing amount and can be poorly marked.

    Virgin Trains and Stena Ferry Lines have some good train/ferry combination fares from London and other parts of the UK to Ireland.

  21. #21
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    How about this for a route:

    Fly into London, Canterbury, Dover, Calais, Brugge, Amsterdam, follow the Rhein up, and then the Danube down, all the way to Bucharest, flat all the way, cyclepath all the way, amazing cities a day apart and all geared up for cycle tourists.

    You could then take the train via a senic route (Paris ?) back to London and home

    and I'd also avoid July/August

  22. #22
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Can you say, "DREAM TOUR" anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brains
    How about this for a route:

    Fly into London, Canterbury, Dover, Calais, Brugge, Amsterdam, follow the Rhein up, and then the Danube down, all the way to Bucharest, flat all the way, cyclepath all the way, amazing cities a day apart and all geared up for cycle tourists.

    You could then take the train via a senic route (Paris ?) back to London and home

    and I'd also avoid July/August

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