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  1. #1
    Mutt Owner gizem310's Avatar
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    Cycled through The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg

    And today we are headed for Strasbourg, France.
    We have been on the road for about three weeks now. I can't even begin to tell you how (relatively) easy it is to ride in Europe compared to The States. Every single driver goes out of his way to make room for us. If they can't, they just stop. Going on steep hills, we hear honks of encouragement all the time. We are offered water, fruits and cold beer wherever we go.
    We camp and stay with host families most of the time. Most of our camping is stealth, since the understanding of camping in Europe is having a tiny patch of grass in a trailer park, yikes! We cook our food and some days we spend as little as 15 euro for two people, everything included.
    We have a blog if you want to check it out. www.travelpod.com/members/globeriders
    My husband's second hand, $200 mountain bike seems to be doing much better than my $1200 2007 Trek 520! The stock tires (Bontrager Race Lite) remain to be pain in the neck.
    Let me know if you have any questions. This is so awesome and it can be very inexpensive too, I really would love to see more people doing it.

  2. #2
    Senior Member DukeArcher's Avatar
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    Hey, sounds cool! I'll be following in your footsteps sometime mid-year. I too have a 2007 Trek 520, though I will be upgrading the tires to Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. So far it's rode a dream in my touring training. Check out my site if you want, it's all about the planning atm, as i am not on the road yet.

    www.bikevoyage.blogspot.com

    Cheers,
    kyle Archer

  3. #3
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    Hey, sounds like your having a great time! I too will be following in your path later this year, and I'll be doing it "on the cheap", so your words are very encouraging! It's good to know about the traffic as well; that's the only part I'm worried about at the moment! Take care, James

  4. #4
    Senior Member stokell's Avatar
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    I've got a question about stealth camping.

    In Canada, I do it on Crown Land, the Queen doesn't seem to mind. In Britain I've been stealth camping beside canals and rail trails.

    I'm leaving for Europe in about a week. I've been enquiring for some time of Forum members about stealth camping attitudes in Netherlands, Belgium and France. The answer seems to be that it is frowned upon. Have you experienced any negative vibes? Are you really stealth camping or are you gypsy camping?

  5. #5
    cyclotourist
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    I think stealth camping would be challenging in such a densely populated country. There just isn't much space. The dunes along the north sea route would be good, but you are not supposed to go off the paved pathway. I don't know how heavily enforced the rule is but my impression is that they take it seriously.

    There are lots of small forests and national parks in the country, with good cover for camping, but on the weekends they are full of people communing with nature.

    In Friesland for example, I think it would be impossible. It is all farmland, there is little cover and there are people everywhere. I even got busted for eating my lunch in a little lakeside park where bicycles were not allowed. (The guy who apprehended me was very polite and apologetic).

  6. #6
    Senior Member chrisch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gizem310
    And today we are headed for Strasbourg, France.
    We have been on the road for about three weeks now. I can't even begin to tell you how (relatively) easy it is to ride in Europe compared to The States. Every single driver goes out of his way to make room for us. If they can't, they just stop. Going on steep hills, we hear honks of encouragement all the time. We are offered water, fruits and cold beer wherever we go.
    We camp and stay with host families most of the time. Most of our camping is stealth, since the understanding of camping in Europe is having a tiny patch of grass in a trailer park, yikes! We cook our food and some days we spend as little as 15 euro for two people, everything included.
    We have a blog if you want to check it out. www.travelpod.com/members/globeriders
    My husband's second hand, $200 mountain bike seems to be doing much better than my $1200 2007 Trek 520! The stock tires (Bontrager Race Lite) remain to be pain in the neck.
    Let me know if you have any questions. This is so awesome and it can be very inexpensive too, I really would love to see more people doing it.
    Fantastic! I toured through Strasbourg last summer and loved it; although I spent most of my time in neighbouring Kehl. Two questions for you! What's bothering you about the Bontrager Race Lite tires, and how are you finding host families to stay with? Happy travels!

  7. #7
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    Man, I stealth camped in western Europe for 4 months....no negative attitudes at all.
    It mostly seems to be a combination of:
    1) Being respectful of where you are (even if you're in a technically 'illegal' location for the night)
    2) Not asking for permission - people are a lot quicker to tell you that you CAN'T do something than to tell you that you CAN, so unless you're in someone's backyard, just be bold enough to do set up camp.
    I never got hassled, mostly because I didn't cause any trouble.

    Places I 'stealth camped' (that sounds too sinister, I just call it freecamping):
    city park in the middle of Limoges, France, beside a racetrack in England, off the side of a country road in france (in full view of everyone), off the transcanada highway (ANYwhere in norther ontario, Can), and a nice forested area on the outskirts of Luxembourg.

    It's easy to get the hang of it...

  8. #8
    My tank takes chocolate. FlowerBlossom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stokell
    I've got a question about stealth camping.

    In Canada, I do it on Crown Land, the Queen doesn't seem to mind. In Britain I've been stealth camping beside canals and rail trails.

    I'm leaving for Europe in about a week. I've been enquiring for some time of Forum members about stealth camping attitudes in Netherlands, Belgium and France. The answer seems to be that it is frowned upon. Have you experienced any negative vibes? Are you really stealth camping or are you gypsy camping?
    Just another experience...

    I met some people from Amsterdam who started in France, biked north, and I met them in Belgium. They said it was difficult to "stealth camp" because most of it is private land and no one wants you relieving themselves on their property.
    Feminism is the profound notion that women are human beings.

  9. #9
    Senior Member stokell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by awc380
    Man, I stealth camped in western Europe for 4 months....no negative attitudes at all.
    It mostly seems to be a combination of:
    1) Being respectful of where you are (even if you're in a technically 'illegal' location for the night)
    2) Not asking for permission - people are a lot quicker to tell you that you CAN'T do something than to tell you that you CAN, so unless you're in someone's backyard, just be bold enough to do set up camp.
    I never got hassled, mostly because I didn't cause any trouble.

    Places I 'stealth camped' (that sounds too sinister, I just call it freecamping):
    city park in the middle of Limoges, France, beside a racetrack in England, off the side of a country road in france (in full view of everyone), off the transcanada highway (ANYwhere in norther ontario, Can), and a nice forested area on the outskirts of Luxembourg.

    It's easy to get the hang of it...
    Well, you are right. Most of that is not stealth camping strictly speaking. More like gypsy camping. Good for you anyway! I always bevieve that if it is not signed, fenced or improved, then it's a camp spot for the night.

  10. #10
    Senior Member greenstork's Avatar
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    Sounds like a fantastic trip, and you're just getting started!

    My wife and I are headed to the Benelux region in June but we are not camping on our tour. Instead, we're going to take it easy and "credit card" tour. I anticipate that we'll only travel about 15 to 40 miles each day. My questions is this: Based on your experience so far, how easy is it to travel from town to town and find accommodations like an inn or hotel? I realize that you weren't necessarily looking for these types of accommodations, but I'm sure you passed by by many lodging establishments, yes?

    We're not booking reservations in advance anywhere, but I'd like to pickup/lease a phone when we arrive and book out hotels and inns about 1-2 days in advance, or even the morning of in some cases. I'm curious to find out from you or others with experience in this region how easy this will be in late June, early July. We'd hate to play it by ear -- not book out a room in advance -- and end up without a bed for the night, since we won't be toting along camping gear.

    I'm also curious to find out how you ended up with so many homestay opportunities too.

  11. #11
    Senior Member xilios's Avatar
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    Hi, you can check out this site for Hostels, also just about every town has a tourist office, just pop in and ask.
    The whole Benelux area is very tourist friendly with loads of places to stay.
    cheers

  12. #12
    Mutt Owner gizem310's Avatar
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    Both stealth and gypsy.
    I agree, The Netherlands was more difficult than the others because it is flat as a pancake and there are no trees to cover up. We do not camp in fenced in areas or farmland. We look for places in the woods and the forests. So far, we free camped 9 days out of 25 and have not had any problems.
    We do not light fires and we are anal about not leaving any trash behind. Often, I pick up the trash left by others, that is my thank you note to the place that has hosted us.



    Quote Originally Posted by stokell
    I've got a question about stealth camping.

    In Canada, I do it on Crown Land, the Queen doesn't seem to mind. In Britain I've been stealth camping beside canals and rail trails.

    I'm leaving for Europe in about a week. I've been enquiring for some time of Forum members about stealth camping attitudes in Netherlands, Belgium and France. The answer seems to be that it is frowned upon. Have you experienced any negative vibes? Are you really stealth camping or are you gypsy camping?

  13. #13
    Mutt Owner gizem310's Avatar
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    Sweet! The more, the merrier.
    March and April are low seasons and there is no need to book anything in advance. June/July would be a bit more difficult, but there are tourist offices in every decent size town and they will find you a place, no matter what your budget is. I backpacked in Europe in June without camping gear and never had any problems. Enjoy!
    There are several organizations that hook up travelers with host families. One of the free ones is hospitalityclub.org, the one we are traveling with is called Servas, which is a global peace organisation. Rule of thumb is not to abuse the system. This is not set up for free bed and food - you are expected to spend some time with the families and maybe even cook a meal or two.
    In The Netherlands, there is even one host family organisation geared for touring cyclists - I found out about it after we were out of The Netherlands!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by greenstork
    Sounds like a fantastic trip, and you're just getting started!

    My wife and I are headed to the Benelux region in June but we are not camping on our tour. Instead, we're going to take it easy and "credit card" tour. I anticipate that we'll only travel about 15 to 40 miles each day. My questions is this: Based on your experience so far, how easy is it to travel from town to town and find accommodations like an inn or hotel? I realize that you weren't necessarily looking for these types of accommodations, but I'm sure you passed by by many lodging establishments, yes?

    We're not booking reservations in advance anywhere, but I'd like to pickup/lease a phone when we arrive and book out hotels and inns about 1-2 days in advance, or even the morning of in some cases. I'm curious to find out from you or others with experience in this region how easy this will be in late June, early July. We'd hate to play it by ear -- not book out a room in advance -- and end up without a bed for the night, since we won't be toting along camping gear.

    I'm also curious to find out how you ended up with so many homestay opportunities too.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Lolly Pop's Avatar
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    I have heard great things about SERVAS. Glad you are having such a good time!

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