Author Archives: Shell

I’M HOME

There was no way I was going to miss the eurostar this morning, so I gave myself nearly two hours to spare, even though it was only a 15 minute cycle to the station from the hostel.

I had a right mare with getting the bike through the X-ray machine and had to take my wheel off, then it wouldn’t go back on cos I was rushing. The woman on the machine was being a bitch and I snapped at her, which probably wasn’t wise- I was so stressed I just wanted to scream “just let me go home”.

anyway I got on the train in time and the 1.5 hour journey went really quickly, in no time I was on home ground at st Pancras!

Once I stepped out of the station, saw all the masses of people rushing around, the London cabbies and buses I felt a massive weight lifted and so happy to be home in London. It definitely helped that it was an unusually beautiful sunny day!

It took a little bit to get used to cycling on the left side of the road again and also how much drivers hate cyclists here, but his didn’t dampen my mood. I passed the British museum, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and Houses of parliament- god I love London. I’d only told My best friend Lauren and my sister Sam that I was coming back- I wanted to surprise Nik. He’s been home alone for 5 weeks so I was expecting I’d have some cleaning to do when I got home, before I could have my much awaited soak in the bath!

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Enough is enough

18th April- Strasbourg to Lille

After a hearty breakfast Hils and I set off for the train station so I could see her off, then set off to head in the direction of Reims- which I anticipated would take 4 days.

after saying goodbye I suddenly felt very alone and really sad, and then it started to rain. I circled the station for a while, thoughts swimming around and dreading the prospect of even 4 days of cycling alone, let alone at least a week to get to Lille, and I decided right there I want to go home and headed back to the hotel to use the wifi to find a way to get home.

I spent about 2 hours online figuring out he best way that wasn’t going to cost a fortune, all the while battling with the voices in my head. “You’ve failed if you go home now, it’s only a week and what will people think” then the other “get stuffed, I’m done. I’m missing Nik, I’m sick of being on my own and this is my journey nobody else’s.” The second voice won and I booked a train from to Lille and changed my Eurostar for the next day. I know I’d made the right decision because normally the stingy in me wouldn’t agree to paging an extra £150 onto anything, but I didn’t care I just wanted to go home.

The first hurdle was to try and get on the fast train that didn’t usually take bikes, so I was ready with my best ‘I’m a poor defenceless girl alone who really needs your help’ face. It worked- luckily the very nice train manager, who also had his bike not only let me on the train with my bike but also let me off paying extra for it and put me in my own little carriage. He was my knight in shining armour who let me breath a huge sigh of relief knowing I’d be home in my own bed with my man tomorrow.

Got to Lille around 4pm and hung around in the hostel for the evening, which had a real buzz to it and some nice people to talk to. I still had the first voice in my head, but the second was definitely overpowering it.

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Fun in strasbourg

15th- 17th April- Strasbourg- rest weekend

Nik’s mum came to visit me the weekend, which was just what I needed after a tough few days on the bike- mentally not physically.

i arrived a little earlier and got to the hotel to make the most of the nice bathroom (all to myself), comfy bed, TV and a kettle to make as much tea as I wanted. It’s the little things eh?!

It was lovely to see Hils and spend some quality time together, which we haven’t really done yet. Good chance for her to check out if I’m definitely marriage material for Nik and also for me to ensure I won’t have a nightmare mother in law to deal with- luckily i think we’re both safe!

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This woman is a real life shopping guru, she knows all the names and products (it seems) of all the shops and her ability to swoop in, pick an item up, assess its quality and durability in seconds is really quite something. I came away with a dress, cardigan, pair or trousers and a top without it realising I’d bought anything!

we didn’t just shop though, we checked out the cathedral in the main square which has this grand old clock inside with so much detailing you had to stare at it for a while to take it all in. Outside we got talking to a guy from Yorkshire and I told him what I was doing and he very kindly gave me €10 towards the fundraising.

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We did a lot of walking, despite Strasbourg not being a huge city- we checked out the European Parliament part of the city, where we stumbled across this lovely park with an old orangerie, fountains and even a mini free zoo!

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Afterwards we went into this lovely patisserie for fancy tea and cake- the selection of cakes made my mouth water! I really need to curb this cake addiction when I get back or I’ll be the size of a house.

We’re both fans of rose wine and I especially love my food, so as the weather wasn’t too great we spent a decent amount of time eating wonderful food and drinking nice rose- my idea of a perfect weekend.

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Rushed through

14th April- Oberstaufen- Konstanz- 70km

Weather forecast was rain today, so I was prepared in my waterproofs with plastic bags at the ready for my shoes. Luckily it only rained a little and got gradually nicer as the day went on, but I cycled pretty fast with little breaks in between just in case.

For lunch I stopped at a little shop in a village to get my standard baguette and meat for sandwiches. The little old woman behind the counter was so sweet, she ripped the pack of salami open, brought out some salad and made the sandwich for me despite there being a queue forming- it certainly beat my meat lobbed in baguette I’ve ripped apart daily meal.

I hadn’t reAlised how big Lake Constance is, really pretty around there too. I got the ferry across to the city of Konstanz from Meersburg, which didn’t take long, but the journey was a scenic one across the water.

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Konstanz is a lovely city, from what I saw of it too- nice buzz about with lots of old buildings and cobbled streets with a river running through. I had a walk around and sampled some local food- Currywurst- yummy Herman sausage in a curry/gravy sauce. Mmmmm.

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Drenched

13th April- Fussen- Oberstaufen- 70km

The day started off so well. I joined some Thai women in the hostel for breakfast, however my yoghurt and muesli looked pathetic next to their full on Thai dinner!

It was a little cold outside but the sun was shining and I was honoured with lovely scenery again. I even passed some deer and goats in the field, which made me think. Most goats you come across have bells around their neck, but why just goats, why not sheep and pigs? Anyone know?

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Anyway, for lunch I stopped on a bench with my whopper of a sandwich and got chatting to a guy with a backpack who spoke good English. He was travelling in the direction I came in and was asking about my trip; he had a big bag with him and I asked if he was camping, then he told me he was ‘a tramp’ in his words and he just travels around, then said goodbye and was on his way.

About 55km into the ride it started with thunder and lightening and then the heavens opened up. I had my waterproof jacket on, but I was too drenched by the time I thought about getting my waterproof trousers that I didn’t bother. As for the waterproof shoe covers I bought- I didn’t read the packet properly and they’re just for cycle shoes so I snapped the bloody things and left them useless! I did another 10km and could t go on any longer, i was bloody freezing, so I stopped at the first eat house I saw and asked them for a room. With my minimal German I understood the couple to be telling me their guest house was long term only. They let me stand outside shivering, without offering so much as a towel or hot drink whilst they talked amongst themselves about where the next guest house was. Arghh. The next village was only a few km away, but of course it was up a hill, and of course it was in some fancy spa resort town with the cheapest room €55. I wouldn’t have minded paying that much, but the room smelt, had no kettle, no wifi and not one English speaking channel on the TV- not even CNN/BBC….I thought every hotel had those channels?! On the plus side it was so nice to get my wet clothes off and have a hot shower- I fell asleep at 8pm!!

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Castles and spa day

12th April- Fussen- 10km

This has been one of my favourite days so far. I cycled 5km or so to the ticket desk and purchased my combo ticket for  Neuschwanstein (the one that inspired the Disney castle) and the other one opposite it (Hohenschwangau). Hohenschwangau doesn’t have the wow factor from the outside, but the tour inside the castle was amazing.

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Most of the original furniture is still there, and all the paintings on the wall are originals having never needed restoration. The guide was great, kept things really interesting. It was made more amusing by the cute/annoying little American kid that had his hand up in every room ask questions. I’ll give you some interesting facts I learnt…

  • Hohenschwangau means the high swan palace
  • it was built in the 19th century by kind Maximilian II
  • In Those times (those with money) the husband and wife had separate living areas, so in this castle’s case the queen had her floor, the King had kids, then the kids and their nannies had theirs
  • they would only have a bed necessary for their size, so no doubles and it would be shorter as they were scared of lying down completely vertical In case they stopped breathing I they’d sleep half upright!

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After a 20 minute walk up a hill I reached Neuschwanstein castle, which is even more breathtaking up close. We only got an audio guide in here, which felt a little rushed but just getting to look around the rooms in this place was phenomenal.

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king Ludwig II, the son of Maximilian II had this and two other castles in Germany built in the 19th century- this one in honour of his composer mate Richard Wagner. He was pretty reclusive and wanted to live like a medieval King, with all the painting in the castle depicting medieval royalty life. The castle was never actually finished, as he was declared mentally ill then died shortly after his 40th birthday under suspicious circumstances.

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I came away from the castles feeling honoured to have seen inside these palaces and to have a learnt a little bit too.

As Fussen is a thermal pool area I wanted to check out the spa on offer. Oh my word, this puts any spa I’ve ever been to and I imagine any spa anyone has ever been to (big call I know) to shame! In the two hours I had I didn’t have enough time to go into every sauna/pool/steam room there were that many. If I had to guesstimate I’d say 10-20 saunas and steam rooms, all different scents or oils each win their own health benefits, then 10-15 different pools (outside and inside) including a 20% salt pool you could float on! the place was huge and The best bit was the view of he mountains and Neuschwanstein castle in the outdoor pools and a panorama sauna.

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I couldn’t take photos, so taken some from the website instead. I couldn’t take photos cos the bloody place was a naked spa!! I felt a bit uncomfortable at first, then I went with it and it was liberating- I’ve never felt freedom like it!

 

 

 

 

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Picture postcard

11th April- Iffeldorf- Fussen- 85km

I crept out of my tent this morning, paranoid someone would come and find me. I was right next to some taps, so I thought I’d be able to have a cuppa and brush my teeth before I left- but the water had been shut off of course so I had to make do with brushing my teeth in the lake.

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fuhnsee campsite Iffeldorf 

It was freezing last night, so I didn’t get much sleep again. However it was worth it for the view I woke up to and also when I nipped to the loo in the middle of the night (when I say loo I mean bush) the stars were out of this world. Excuse the pun. Living in London it’s easy to forget a real starry sky.

I couldn’t stop taking photos today, the scenery was beautiful- like every travel magazine you see of Austria in winter, snowy mountains and lush green fields. The little villages I passed either had gorgeous paintings on he houses or wooden houses with decorative carvings.

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5km from Fussen

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Lunch stop

My mood was so upbeat I was singing at the top of my voice (Justin bieber  ”sorry’ in case you weren’t wondering) the way you sing when no ones around- those real high pitch notes I really can’t hit when two guys on bikes cycled past pretty cautionary giving me some really strange looks. I was just a tad embarrassed. He he.

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Got to Fussen in the afternoon, dropped my bags at the hostel and went for a wander around. It’s a really cute little town with cobbled streets that run along a river but not a massive amount to do other than he castles tomorrow which I’m so excited about!!

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Fussen

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A great day on the bike

10th April- Salzburg (Austria)- Rosenheim- iffeldorf (Germany) (100km train, 90km cycle)

I snook out as quietly as I could this morning, which was made easier by the fact he was sleeping in the basement for some strange reason!

Getting the train to Rosenheim meant I have enough time to see the castle in Fussen before I meet Niks mum in Strasbourg. The trains in Germany & Austria put ours to shame- they’re clean, have plenty of space for bikes, much cheaper and are actually on time!

Today has been one of those days on the bike that make up for the shit days and remind me why I’m doing this. The whole ride was constantly entertaining and without headwind, which helps, and the rain had stopped and the sun came out. I passed Through thick forest, then through some lovely picturesque villages with snowy mountains in the background and came across a lot of other cyclists on the way. I stopped for a beer and joined a guy who was just trying out his e bike for the first time- nice chap.

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Passed this cute ‘calf house’

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Lunch in Foching

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Bad tolz

There were some hills to tackle, but they weren’t huge and I was rewarded with some pretty awesome down hills- even clocked my top speed of 56kmph!

fussen is around 150km from Rosenheim so the plan was to get to 80km then find a place to camp. I rocked up at the first camp site and it seemed closed, but yet there were mobile homes there with people around, so I snooped about and found a spot I thought I could get away with pitching my tent. I was wrong. A nice Germany lady politely told me I could stay here, but there was a site 5km away. So I got to the next one, Camping fohnsee, and this officially opens in 4 days. I wasn’t in any mood to go looking elsewhere, and there’s no one actually staying here, just semi perm mobile homes that people spend the summer at, SO I found a spot to pitch my tent in the garden of someone’s spot that doesn’t seem to be here. Fingers crossed they don’t come back!!

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Bit of a let down

9th April- Salzburg- rest day

I hate to sound negative, but Salzburg had been a real disappointment. It may be because it was one of The places I was looking forward to the most, or it could be he fact it was cloudy and rained all day, but I was expecting a bit more wow factor.

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Mozart was born here

I set off early before 9am to make sure I covered the whole city and by 1pm I was done. Yes, I could have gone into every single museum and church, but that’s not my idea of a fun day. There were some lovely churches and other buildings, but nothing too special that I haven’t seen in the rest of Europe already.  Maybe I’ve been spoilt and I’m being super ungrateful I don’t know, but because of the disappointment I turned to comfort eating. I ate pretzels, bratwurst, Salzburg soup (not entirely sure what was in it), cake and I’m supposed to be having schnitzel with the guy from air bnb tonight, but that’s another story…

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I got back just after lunch and went to my room to chill. Next thing I hear screaming between him and his mum. This guy has got to be about my age… But still he was arguing with his mum like a teenager, then went to his room slammed the door shut and played his music really loud then started on his drum set. Yikes. I sat in my room waiting for the commotion to die down, then The neighbours downstairs started banging on the door and they all started screaming at each other! I went to the pub for a little bit to get out of the place, then when I got back the guy was drunk and limping around trying to clean up something spilt on the floor. He made schnitzel and Invited me to eat with him, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to sit with him. I decided the schnitzel was worth it, and it was just about.
Next drama of the night my shoes were missing. We looked everywhere for them and I was starting to get worried as its Sunday tomorrow and I need to get on the road early to make it to the castle on time, so I wouldn’t have chance to buy any. It turns out his mum took them to get back at the dude (Robert),when she came round again I tried reasoning with her and she kept saying “Robert has money to buy you new shoes, you can be happy together.” Ewwww, she thought I was with this disgusting excuse for a man. At dinner I got a bigger insight into his life, about his heroin addict ex girlfriend and how he’d had some too blah blah blah. Then when I asked what he does for work he gave the “In between jobs” answer and goes on about the fact the bank won’t give people like him a loan to set up their own business! NO, you’re a disgusting thing with far too much of your old holey underwear on show. He bent over to pick something up and I got a beautiful view of his arse through a palm size hole in his boxers. Yes, that’s how far down his jeans were. I gagged. Around 11pm my shoes turn up. I didn’t ask questions, I just wanted to get out of there.

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Stupid bloody crows

8th April- amstetten to Linz- Salzburg- 70km cycle- 130km train

Raining again this morning and It was only supposed to be a 50-60km cycle to the train station in Linz, but somehow I took a wrong turning. Only I can follow a river bed and manage to take a wrong turning.
Anyway, because of the short distance and plenty of time I was taking it easy, then realised I was pushing it for time, especially as my stupid GPS loves taking me the long way round. It’s taken a few weeks to realise this but when I input a destination into the GPS and it tells me how far away it is, that’s ‘as the crow flies’- what a stupid friggin idea- I DO NOT FLY LIKE A CROW, I cycle, which is why I bought a special CYCLE GPS.

I made it to the station with 10 minutes to spare and got on my train, this time my bike paid for and reserved, phew. I was absolutely starving as I didn’t have time to stop for lunch. Then he ticket lady came round and said I’d got into the wrong carriage, but if I changed at the next station she’d wait for me. She didn’t and the train left without me, leavin me to wait An hour until the next train- ah well it meant I could get some food.

My right knee has been giving me jipp the last few days which is a bit worrying, so I’m glad of a rest day tomorrow.

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