Some striking houses on the outskirts of Lelystad

It looks as though I didn’t ever finish my blog about our 2019 trip. That’s a shame, as we had fun – cycled on from Lelystad to Zaandam and then returned to the UK via the usual ferry. I had no idea, of course, that we wouldn’t get away for a cycle tour again for three years due to Covid and family issues. It feels like longer, to be honest. It felt familiar and unfamiliar to be cycling from Newcastle out to North Shields to get the ferry to IJMuiden again – lots of the old landmarks but also brilliant sunshine, which isn’t traditional for us. Sitting outside in the ‘Sky Bar’ on the ferry while it headed out to the North Sea felt properly holiday-ish.

Heading out to the North Sea in brilliant sunshine

A few more familiar and unfamiliar experiences were waiting in the Netherlands – the border checks were different and we had our passports stamped, but it was still all very efficient and we were through in little time. The reports of queues and delays at Dover were pretty daunting, but arrangements for the North Sea Ferry seem to be working well all things considered. We were straight off onto the familiar Dutch cycle paths and decided to risk pushing on a bit further than we had initially planned for our first ‘proper’ day – all the way to Almere in Flevoland via a coffee stop at Sloterdijk and an ice cream stop in the pretty town of Muiden. I was surprised at how joyful it felt to be exploring by bike again. In all we cycled about 59km, which would have been easy enough to take in our stride back in the day, but we both felt rather tired at the end of it.

IJMuiden to a coffee stop at Sloterdijk on the outskirts of Amsterdam

Ominously, we both still felt very tired this morning. We could debate whether today was day 2 of proper touring – Sunday having been just a trip to catch a ferry – or day 3 of the cycle holiday. I’ve written in this blog before about Day 3 woes, and it certainly had all the hallmarks of a day 3. Both tired, Bruce struggling with leg pain, me struggling with foot cramps, enough of a headwind to make everything harder, we couldn’t find a place for a coffee stop and the route-finding went all wrong so we wound up doing a whole lot of additional kilometres. We decided early in the afternoon to cut our losses. Instead of heading to Dronten, our original target for the day, we stopped at Lelystad (at the same hotel where we stayed in 2019!) – which would have been only about 28km from our hotel this morning by the direct route but wound up being 40km by our weird detour. But along the way we stopped at a picnic spot surrounded by windmills, and most of the day we were pedalling through beautiful rural Flevoland in glorious sunshine, so by the standards of the last few years, we had a lovely day even if we were tired, sore and (by the end) very hungry.

NOT the direct route from Almere to Lelystad…
Picnicking beside the windmills

Tomorrow we are going to cheat and catch a train. We need a day for our various aches and pains to recover and to allow our energy levels to catch up with us. We plan to take the train to Assen and then continue cycling from there. Onwards!