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    Archive for the ‘Nicolai’ Category

    The Proudest Monkey

    Thursday, December 5th, 2013

    I believe I’ve already used all of this years’ self-promoting silver coins (here and on Facebook ) – but bear with me, this one is different.

    Since I got back from my RTW bike ride I’ve been a member of De Berejstes Klub (DBK), a Danish club (founded 1996) that aims at spreading the desire to travel and spread information about travel, foreign countries and cultures (home page and wiki). In other words, it’s a great club where travel-crazy people can meet other travel-crazy people, share ideas and thoughts and perspectives.

    Every year the DBK honor one of its members with the “Folkersen-prisen” – a travel award that is given to a member of the club who:

    …over the years has traveled in the spirit of Poul Folkersen (one of the founders of the club), a person who has ventured far away from the usual tourist spots through a particularly energetic and boundary-pushing traveling life, a person who has thus gained a thorough understanding of local life and culture. Furthermore, it is emphasized that the member’s travel experiences have been appropriately passed on (through the written word) to both the club and the rest of society [My translation from DKB's website).

    Needless to say, I was really surprised and super proud when my name came up last Saturday at the DBK annual general meeting. At the meeting the president of the club, Søren Fodgaard, explained and justified this year's decision. To me it was all beautiful, memorable words that turned my whole body into goosebumps. Standing there in front of some 70 members of the club, I was trying not to look too fazed by it all, but it was a special and intense moment.

    Folkersen-prisen

    Folkersen-prisen

    Along with the great honor and a prize money came this fine heavy-duty trophy, appropriately shaped like a Globe.

    With much appreciation and proudness: thanks to De Berejstes Klub, for the Folkersen-prisen and for the best travel club in the country.

    / Nicolai (DBK-member #588)

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    Tourplan updated, september 2012

    Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

    Just go HERE!

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    The Talk Plan Updated (Danish)

    Friday, August 26th, 2011

    Just go HERE!

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    Day 1.413 – A Golden CPH-Reception

    Saturday, February 20th, 2010

    Departure from Roskilde, with Ates and Ödül.

    The arrival in Copenhagen, Denmark. 1.413 days on the road...

    Arrival 5

    Arrival 2

    Champagne at the arrival in Copenhagen, Denmark. 1.413 days on the road...

    "At home" with friends Tomas, Bris, and Pabs...Ahhhhhh!

    Showing the baby...

    Bris and Kim The Camera Man...

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    Day 1.412 – The Day Before The Day

    Friday, February 19th, 2010

    Nyborg -> Roskilde
    Distance (km) : 75
    Time on bike : 4h 11m
    Brutto time: 09.30 – 15.15
    Avg : 17.1 km/h
    Max.speed: 31.0
    Total (km) : 62.148
    Altitude: 20 m
    Difficulty: 2½

    Terrible weather in Nyborg, Denmark...

    Waiting (in vain) for a ride across the Storebæltsbroen (Great Strait Bridge) where no bikes are allowed...

    The 20 km train ride across the Great Strait Bridge (Storebæltsbroen) - no cyclists - between Nyborg and Korsør, Denmark.

    Familiar scenery?

    Neither looking nor feeling too happy about the weather...

    Couchsurfing with the great Turkish couple Ates & Odul in Roskilde, Denmark.

    The last "foreign" bed before tomorrow's arrival in Copenhagen!

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    Day 1.411 – Wind + Snow = ?

    Thursday, February 18th, 2010

    Middelfart -> Nyborg
    Distance (km) : 75
    Time on bike : 4h 35m
    Brutto time: 11.50 – 19.05
    Avg : 16.2 km/h
    Max.speed: 30.1
    Total (km) : 62.084
    Altitude: 10 m
    Difficulty: 3½

    Getting ready for leaving Middelfart.

    The windmill tells it all: headwind (icy)

    Enter Odense (on Fyn/Funen Island).

    Another cold and uninspiring ride (but the bike path is fine)...

    When Will This Stop?

    Couchsurfing in Nyborg, Denmark.

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    Day 1.410 – The Artichoke (UK)

    Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

    Dinner at the Restaurant Artis-Kokken with my parents. Middelfart, Denmark.

    It’s been quite a while since I went out for dinner with my parents last time. More than 3 years. Vietnam seems sooo far away now.

    Dinner at the Restaurant Artis-Kokken with my parents. Middelfart, Denmark.

    Late in the evening there’s a knocking at the front door. Childhood friends, Jens (of earlier WT-fame) and Thomas surprisingly drop in for a happy chat and a cold beer. Wonderful and how I’ve missed just hanging out with good friends, speaking my native tongue, cracking jokes and sharing anecdotes together.

    Surprise visit at home: Thomas and Jens.

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    Day 1.409 – Lukas

    Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

    I wonder if he’s missed me as much as I’ve missed him?

    I wonder if he's missed me as much as I've missed him?

    Most of the day’s spent trying to get organized, re-packing my beloved bike bags for tomorrow’s take-off, leaving everything behind that I don’t absolutely need, and stocking up on off-bike clothes for my arrival (and first weeks/months?) in Copenhagen.

    Being reunited with my old wardrobe anno April 2006 is a feat that cannot be overestimated – and is all part of my on-going process of becoming a “normal” (or less Lycra-clad, at least) citizen again.

    Trying to get a little organized...

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    Day 1.408 – The Interview

    Monday, February 15th, 2010

    Lukas (b. 1997)

    WT-media-wise, the highlight of the day is Line, a journalist from the Danish newspaper Fyens Stiftstidende, who pays me a visit at home with her photographer Asbjørn for a longer interview (come back shortly for the article, in Danish only).

    Interview with Danish newspaper, Fyens Stiftstidende.

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    Day 1.407 – Sunday At Home

    Sunday, February 14th, 2010

    Fyens Stiftstidende 13FEB2010...

    Mum and dad.

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    Day 1.406 – Cruising Middelfart

    Saturday, February 13th, 2010

    Some 15 packages sent back to Denmark by me from around the world were awaiting me in my childhood room...

    Middelfart Marina...

    Middelfart Marina...

    Middelfart Library.

    Me, my sister, and her boyfriend Lasse. Middelfart, Denmark.

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    Day 1.405 – Arrival Middelfart!

    Friday, February 12th, 2010

    Breakfast in Gråsten, Denmark.

    Gråsten Slot (castle) i baggrunden...

    Oh no, more winter roads...

    Too much snow!

    Swan - the national bird in Denmark...

    Wild life in Haderslev, southern Denmark.

    Snowy crosswinds...chilly!

    Getting very close to Middelfart...

    Horses + Winter

    The Eagle Has Landed!

    Welcome home, Nicolai!

    Welcoming flowers (thanks to E&E)...

    Back home...

    Dad, mum, sister, and Lasse (boyfriend)...

    It's heavy. It's delicious. It's Danish. It's a classic. Flæskesteg med rødkål, brunede kartofler, hvide kartofler og chips...Bon appetit!

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    Day 1.404 – Winter & Danish Hospitality

    Thursday, February 11th, 2010

    Leaving Goethesvej in Sønderborg, Denmark...

    Plenty of snow this winter...

    Wind power...

    Åbenrå, 2010.

    A very fine (and cold) ride today...

    Snow and ice...

    Church, betw. Aabenraa and Haderslev, Denmark.

    Winter 2010.

    Winter in Haderslev, February 2010.

    Afternoon coffee in Starup/Haderslev with Sven and Esther...

    Golden sunset over southern Denmark...

    Aase, Anne, Marie, Line, and Sven preparing a lovely dinner in Graasten, Denmark.

    The Dall Family & me in Graasten...

    Line, Marie, Nicolai, and Anne...

    We both loved it!

    A comfy night awaits!

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    Day 1.403 – The Nugget

    Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

    Daddy Sam & The Nugget...

    Look, mum!

    Mads, the nugget...

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    Day 1.402 – DENMARK!

    Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

    Last morning before crossing the Danish border. In Flensburg.

    Leaving Flensburg, minus 4 degrees C.

    Just 5 km to go...

    I had a few minutes to spare before the border crossing into Denmark, scheduled at 12PM. And I needed a little something to take care of those butterflies inside of me…

    Free wine tastings in the Fleggaard shop...

    100 meters to go. Denmark is virtually just around the corner...

    For now, you’ll have to imagine all the emotions that went through my head at this point, just 100 meters from the isolated Danish border post. Suffice it to say, it was a salty, strong moment for me. Unforgettable.

    Arrival DENMARK!

    Interviewed by the press at the tiny (pedestrian) border crossing...

    Action-filming at the border...

    Ragge and I, enjoying a cold (first of) Danish Tuborg beer...

    Happily back in Denmark.

    More frost on the Danish side of the border. Minus 3 C.

    Snowy Denmark.

    Dybbøl Mølle.

    Winter in Denmark, February 2010.

    Beautiful Sønderborg, southern Denmark.

    Sønderborg, southern Denmark.

    For months I’d been waiting for this moment…and true friendship rarely disappoints.

    Re-united with my best friend Anders & family...

    The nugget Mads (14 months)...

    Reunited.

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    Day 1.401 – The End’s Near

    Monday, February 8th, 2010

    Solo-breakfasting in Rendsburg, Schleswig-Holstein - Germany.

    Hotel Grüner Kranz, Rendsburg.

    When you have this…

    Another cold ride...

    …you usually get this…

    Ice, the wrong place...

    Near Hwy 77, just before I got pulled over by the German police...

    Smooth (if slippery) cobble-stoned road in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

    Smooth (if slippery) cobble-stoned road in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

    Heaps of snow in Germany!

    What a feeling!

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    Day 1.400 – 200 Holidays Non-stop

    Sunday, February 7th, 2010

    Brekkie, my way...

    Breakfast (incl.) at the "An der Karlstadt Gasthaus" in Bremerhaven...

    Bismarckstrasse, Bremerhaven.

    Danish on street signs = sure sign that I'm getting closer now...

    More and more snow as I move north...

    Tunnel under the Kiel Canal...

    Tunnel under the Kiel Canal...

    Giros dinner for one in Rendsburg, Germany.

    Ahh, Franziskaner, the good white beer.

    Having been on the road for – what time-wise corresponds to – a whopping 200 consecutive charter holidays was worth a bit of celebration. And it made it easier to justify another ridiculously expensive night at a German gasthaus…

    At 45 Euros, this ended up being the most expensive accommodation in WT-history...

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    Day 1.399 – Conditions: Not Perfect

    Saturday, February 6th, 2010

    Great and healthy brekkie table with Dietmar in Oldenburg...

    Brekkie with Kim and Dietmar...

    Interviewing in a German restaurant near Oldenburg...

    Berliner mit Kaffee...A Classic.

    Number of times I fell off the bike on this stretch of icy roads: 3

    Slippery, very slippery...

    Not enjoying the slow progress...

    Waiting for the ferry across the Weser River from Nordenham to Bremerhaven...

    On board the ferry to Bremerhaven...

    My Bremerhaven room. Ridiculous value-for-money, at 40 Euros/night, but I was cold. Painful.

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    Day 1.398 – Dietmar

    Friday, February 5th, 2010

    Breakfast table reserved!

    Winter backroads in Lower Saxony/Niedersachsen, Germany

    Smile!

    Do you see my cameraman?

    Shooting in a German bäckerei (bakery)…

    Smile (and say something clever!)...

    Anything for the camera, right?

    Couchsurfing with Dietmar (71) in Oldenburg, Germany.

    Calling my parents in Denmark, from Oldenburg, Germany.

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    Day 1.397 – The Documentary-Maker

    Thursday, February 4th, 2010

    Another frosty morning. Don't feel like pedalling.

    Bundesrepublik Deutschland, WT-country #52.

    Not ideal ride conditions!

    Oh, the heavy dirt on my Danish flag...

    Meeting up with filmmakers Jan and Kim on German backroads

    Meeting up with filmmakers Kim (in car) and Jan on German backroads......

    Zigeunerschnitzel - echt super!

    Schnitzel-dinner with Kim in German Gasthaus Restaurant in Löningen, Niedersachsen.

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    Day 1.396 – Stroopwafels in Enschede (photos)

    Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

    Room with a view, Enschede - The Netherlands.

    Stroopwafels - a sweet, Dutch biscuit...

    Working in WT HQ

    Enschede Synagogue...

    Me and Esly in the synagogue...

    Enschede main square...

    Enschede downtown...

    Esly and me in the kitchen...

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    Day 1.395 – Bromfiets

    Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

    Day 1.395 – 02FEB2010: Oostrum -> Enschede
    Distance (km) : 122
    Time on bike : 5h 40m
    Brutto time: 09.10 – 16.15
    Avg : 21.6 km/h
    Max.speed: 38.0
    Total (km) : 61.481
    Altitude: 70 m
    Difficulty: 3

    Overwhelming brekkie with Truus in Oostrum, Holland.

    Ready for another snowy winter cycling day...

    Crossing the Maas/Meuse River...

    German sneak preview!

    Crossing the mighty Rhein River in Germany.

    Lasagne dinner in Enschede with Esly...

    Dutch Word of the Day: Bromfiets (=scooter. (Fiets=bicycle, Brom=the sound of a scooter)

    From wet to dry...

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    Day 1.394 – From Belgian To Dutch Hospitality

    Monday, February 1st, 2010

    Day 1.394 – 01FEB2010: Zonhoven (B) -> Oostrum (NL)
    Distance (km) : 102
    Time on bike : 5h 34m
    Brutto time: 10.10 – 17.30
    Avg : 18.3 km/h
    Max.speed: 32.9
    Total (km) : 61.359
    Altitude: 100 m
    Difficulty: 3½

    Text missing for now…

    Ready for take-off after wonderful days in Zonhoven, Belgium.

    The Koga in winter dress...

    Winter in Belgium...

    The Koga in winter dress...

    Winter in Belgium...

    Koffie break in Belgium...

    The Netherlands! WT-country #51...

    Pond in Holland...

    Great cycling conditions in the Netherlands...

    America (Dutch version)

    Picturesque...

    Dirk in Oostrum (and a welcome sign)...

    Wonderful Dutch dinner in Oostrum...

    The vlaai cake...

    Chilling with Truus, Pieter, and Dirk in Oostrum, Holland.

    New town, new bed...

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    Day 1.393 – The Baby Shower

    Sunday, January 31st, 2010

    Text missing for now…

    Arvo sky in Genk, Belgium.

    At the baby shower...

    Belgian Temptations

    Kids at the baby shower/babyborrel...

    Cycling is healthy!

    Night sky...

    Papa Jan free-styling on his harmonica...

    Studying tomorrow's route north...

    The Last Westmalle!

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    Day 1.392 – What’s Another Few Days, Anyway? (UK)

    Saturday, January 30th, 2010

    Morning view from my room...

    Lunch with Sofie. January 2010.

    The Walk…

    A Walk.

    Though part of me is itching to get back to Denmark, to get this WT-thing over and done with, hanging out with Sofie here in Zonhoven (east of Hasselt, northeastern Belgium) – which will only be my second and last stop-over in tiny Belgium – has paused me for a moment, and, really, there’s no rush getting back.

    It was a beautiful winter day in Ter Molen...

    With nigh on 1.400 days in the bag, what’s another few days?

    Sofie and Nicolai, rotating.

    It was a beautiful winter day in Ter Molen...

    Man Walking His Dog.

    Winter in Belgium 2010.

    Such a lovely dad (thank you so much, Papa Jan)…

    Papa Jan cleaning my Dutch lady. So kind.

    Snowstorm over Hasselt, Belgium.

    Weird Belgian signposting…

    Women only! Discrimination is what I call it...

    At night Sofie and I go to the movies in neighboring Genk, then a quick kebab in Hasselt through the snowstorm (above). All good!

    Ahhh, döner kebab!!

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    Day 1.391 – Papa Jan (UK)

    Friday, January 29th, 2010

    Brekkie with Sofie in Ter Molen/Zonhoven, Belgium.

    Indoor comforts are supremely on the agenda today. I don’t leave the house today at all. Don’t take pity on me. It’s exactly how I wanted it to be. Tennis semi-finals from Melbourne keep me glued to the TV set all morning.

    I have a long chat with Sofie’s Papa Jan – a Jack of all trades, as Sofie said – about his seafaring youth on the Seven Seas e.g. Papa Jan even dismantles the Dannebrog on my bike and gives a good scrub and wash. Very kind.

    The TLC makes the flag real red and alive as when Carolyne made it in Adelaide in 2007…

    Cosy times in Belgium!

    Chilling with Sofie (and her family), sharing stories about our love for (almost) everything Australia, watching a movie…it all eats away the afternoon. Feeling very good here.

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    Day 1.390 – From H(e)aven To H(e)aven In Belgium (UK)

    Thursday, January 28th, 2010

    Day 1.390 – 28JAN2010: Namur -> Zonhoven
    Distance (km) : 111
    Time on bike : 6h 04m
    Brutto time: 09.45 – 17.30
    Avg : 18.1 km/h
    Max.speed: 35.3
    Total (km) : 61.257
    Altitude: 120 m
    Difficulty: 4

    Bike track north of Namur...

    Leaving Namur proper turns out to be more complicated than expected. In town I manage to find the bike route (Ravel) that Nicolas recommended last night. It’s snowcovered though, so I opt for the road running parallel to it, hoping things will stay parallel. Bad choice. Gradually, the main road veers off the bike track, up to a 150-200 m plateau north of Namur, leaving me in smalltown territory, with no map, and no way of navigating with the sun since the sky’s cloudy and lousy.

    After 16 km cycling I suddenly recognize a shop sign that I passed 45 minutes earlier, just 3 km north of Namur, and realize that I’ve been cycling in circles (well, just one circle, but that was more than enough). Frustrating. Especially, since I have a rare appointment today and I’m already running late.

    Belgian backroads...

    Sofie has invited me to come and stay with her and her family in Zonhoven. Halfway between Namur and Zonhoven we’re supposed to meet up in Landen at 1PM from where we’ll ride back to her house. I hate being late, so for the next 3 hours solid I just kick the pedals hard (my knee luckily agrees to this plan) and focused, and make it just in time, with the biggest hole in my stomach.

    Sint Truiden central square...

    I’ve now entered the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium, and this province, Limburg, is literally plastered with fine-fine cycling paths. Sofie’s done her homework and we stay on mostly car-free bike tracks all the way home (ca. 55 km).

    Sofie in Sint Truiden, Belgium.

    Sitting in In De Zwaan Restaurant near Hasselt (Belgium) just a few hours after we’ve met, it feels like I’ve known Sofie much longer. It’s great company, the atmosphere’s right, and the food’s super delicious (and plentiful – Hungry Wolf likes). And did I mention the Westmalle?

    The good old (and dangerous) Westmalle!

    Sofie in De Swaan Restaurant, near Hasselt.

    In Zonhoven I get my own room, complete with TV, wifi, DVD, elevation bed (love it!), and it all feels wicked. Will stay some days here, I’m sure…

    The best meal of the year so far...

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    Day 1.389 – Raja – The Warrior Kitten (UK)

    Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

    Breakfast with a note...

    Raja, the beauty.

    Raja, the beauty.

    Lunch at a Italian restaurant in Namur with Nicolas & Sophie...

    Gnocchi lunch at a Italian restaurant in Namur with Nicolas & Sophie...

    After a good, solid gnocchi lunch with Nicolas and Sophie in a Italian restaurant, I head off for a bit of sightseeing. Namur’s impressive citadel is on top of most tourists’ agenda in town, I guess. Rightly so…

    Namur downtown...

    Namur citadelle...

    Namur from the citadelle...

    My left knee was somewhat sore this morning so I turn to the trusty Ibuprofen again (the last dose this time around). I’m pretty careful walking up the stairs to the citadel and as long as I keep the grandpa speed, things are all right.

    Namur's old part of town...

    I hardly meet other people on the massive citadel, and the joy of sniffing around foreign towns is back, full-on.

    Citadelle, Namur.

    Jambes from Namur's citadelle.

    Sexy curves on the Citadelle, Namur.

    Namur center...

    Anno 1775, Namur.

    Raja in action (as almost always!)...

    Nicolas, Sophie, and Raja all know perfectly how to make you feel at home (less so, when Raja is in his warrior-must-destroy-all-mode). I really love it here and feel sad that the departure’s waiting at the other end of tonights’ sleep…

    Good times with Nicolas, Sophie, and Raja (the Bengal cat) in Namur, Belgium.

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    Day 1.388 – Goodbye France, Hello Belgium (w/ photos)

    Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

    Givet (FR) -> Namur (B)
    Distance (km) : 55
    Time on bike : 3h 37m
    Brutto time: 12.20 – 16.40
    Avg : 15.3 km/h
    Max.speed: 27.3
    Total (km) : 61.147
    Altitude: 80 m
    Difficulty: 3

    As with all other good things in life, my stay in Givet has come to an end. 14 days with indoor comforts (incl. immense amounts of wifi and time in Camp WT), relaxation, knee exercises, Ibuprofen, chill-out time with new friends in Givet – not to mention the mild frustration about the knee situation.

    Tranquil cycling along the Meuse River...

    I leave Givet just after noon and have an easy 55 km ride to Namur in Belgium. The winter’s suddenly back in Givet, and the temperature’s minus 3 degrees Celsius. To spice things up, I’m hit by a brisk headwind all day. Not quite what I was hoping for.

    Belgique, here I come!

    The bike computer says 61.097 when, after 15 minutes, I reach the unpatrolled Belgian border along the Meuse River. WT-country #50 in 45½ months.

    Just south of Dinant, Belgium...

    Naturally, I’m careful not to push it today. My knee seems to be doing all right (after I put the saddle up some 3 cm the other day – the equivalent to the thickness of the sole of my new, trouble-making (but warm) boots), but still I somehow feel a bit fragile, a bit vulnerable, having realized how thin the line between feeling like Superman and being handicapped can be.

    Beautiful Dinant, Belgium.

    The scenery along the Meuse River is equally great on the Belgian side, with lots of impressive, vertical rock formations right on the edge of the river. Most of the day I’m on a car-free bike path, sometimes cobblestoned (no like), often paved (yes like).

    Just north of Dinant...

    Namur at sunset...

    Via Hospitalityclub.org I’ve organized a place to stay in Namur at Nicolas’ and Sophies house in the centre of the city of 110.000 inhabitants. Nicolas (professor of geography) and Sophie (graphic designer) recently moved into their beautiful 3-story apartment with Raja, the 3-months-old Bengal cat – it didn’t take long before I’d completely lost my heart to this little furry nugget.

    At "home" with Nicolas, Sophie, and Raja The Destroyer...

    Paraíso in Namur...

    There’s Belgian beer, French red, Sophie’s delicious lasagne, non-stop conversations and cosy times in the house with my new friends/hosts. The decision to take tomorrow off to do some sightseeing in Namur and to spend a little more time with Nicolas and Sophie (and to rest my knee that started feeling a little sore this evening (despite the beer, wine and Belgian whisky!)) is an easy one…

    …plus, Raja needs more cuddles! You see why, right…

    Raja, the cute Destroyer

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    Day 1.387 – No Milk Today (UK)

    Monday, January 25th, 2010

    No photos today :-(

    No diary notes today :-(

    No milk today :-(

    Knee’s not too bad :-)

    Will leave tomorrow :-( / :-)

    Looking forward to Belgium :-)

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    Day 1.386 – The Belgian Test Ride (UK)

    Sunday, January 24th, 2010

    After 11 days off the bike, I feel it’s time to give the not-so-good old knee a little test ride today. The Belgian border is just 4 km down the road, and because crossing borders always had a certain charm for me, I make Beauraing on the other side of the border the aim of the test ride.

    Belgian Sneak Preview...

    Uhu, and Belgium it is. Knee is doing okay on the 20 km ride, but it’s still to early to feel too confident.

    Beauraing, Belgium.

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    Day 1.385 – Rivea (UK)

    Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

    I spend the afternoon with Elodie and Yannick in the great Rivea Espace Aquatique (French) a few kilometers down the road from Elodie’s apt. For hygienic reasons, shorts are not allowed in the pools. Shorts is what I’ve got in my bag. Because I’m cheap, I can’t be bothered buying a 12 Euro pair in the vending machine, so I put my underwear on, pretending it’s swimming trunks, hoping the elastic band will keep the trunks in its place.

    Rivea Aquatic Center, Givet.

    The Rivea center is water haven with water slides, jacuzzi, hammam, sauna. The rocks.

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    Day 1.384 – Hibernation (UK)

    Friday, January 22nd, 2010

    Givet, France.

    My knee’s been responding quite positively to the floor exercises I’ve been doing over the last week. This is all good news. Obviously.

    Givet promenade along the Meuse River...

    It’s a rare, sunny day outside today, so the bear decides to leave the hibernation and snoop about smalltown Givet

    La Meuse River, Givet - France.

    Fort Charmont, Givet.

    Givet street scene.

    Cafe de la Place, Givet, northern France.

    Hotel de Ville (town hall) in Givet, France.

    Square in Givet town center...

    Winter street in Givet.

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    Day 1.383 – Silencio (UK)

    Thursday, January 21st, 2010

    Assembling Elo's new couch with Jean-Baptiste...

    Done deal!

    La Tour Victoire in Givet...

    Fort Charlemont in Givet, night-lit...

    A silent day, indeed…

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    Day 1.382 – The Odyssey (UK)

    Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

    This is how I spend most of my days here in Givet – it’s much more interesting than it looks!

    This is how most of most days are spent here in Givet...

    Most of the last two days, I’ve been working on a WT Docu from West Africa. It’s sometimes a tedious process, yet also quite creative and all-up I do enjoy the making/editing of the movies.

    Namur, my next stop on my way home...

    Chilling with friends in Givet usually involves good beer.

    Chilling with Givet friends...

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    Day 1.381 – Free-styling (UK)

    Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

    Exercising in the apartment in Givet...

    I’d be hard pushed to try and find something worth telling about today. I’ll make it quick this time.

    Training my knee free-style (above), making most of a new WT minimovie from Africa, heaps of live tennis from Australian Open, hanging out with Elodie and Jean-Baptiste is on the open agenda.

    Goat cheese salad - Elodie's masterpiece.

    It’s been one week since I arrived here in Givet, and I really like the “settling in”-feeling…It’s a welcome change from the usual, nomadic walkabouts.

    Dinner with Elodie, her boyfriend Jean-Baptiste, and I...

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    Day 1.380 – The Janus Head (UK)

    Monday, January 18th, 2010

    Being forced to stay put here in Givet, northern France, is kind of a pain/pleasure, two-headed Janus situation for me.

    One the one hand, my sore knee (Patellar tendinitis) has forced me to really slow down (physically more than anything), and I can’t recall when was the last time of such immobility. But one door closes, another one opens, and this rest has given me plenty of time to do some WT-stuff that I’ve been wanting for a while now.

    On the other hand, after 5 days of indoor comforts, I’m starting to feel a little eager to get back on the road, like a caged tiger (to keep it in the cat vernacular), to get this WT-thing over with, being a mere 1.000 km from Denmark now. As one reader put it, resistance is really cranking up now, at the end of the line. So true.

    Anyway, the Ibuprofen seems to be working all right, my left knee isn’t as swollen anymore, I can move around without much trouble, and I’ve started doing a bit of exercise in order to strengthen the knees (as if that should be a problem after 61.000 km on the bike, right).

    I optimistically hope that I’ll be able to get back on the bike later this week. My knee and time will tell.

    Love,

    Nicolai


    PS. Being stuck isn’t really a big ordeal, since I’m in good hands with my friend/host Elodie + the Australian Open 2010 Tennis just started and my wifi-sucking laptop displays all the goodies.
    Don’t take pity on me, please…

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    Day 1.379 – Come Inside (UK)

    Sunday, January 17th, 2010

    Knee Status Update: The swell has decreased along with the pain. Seems like those pretty heavy doses of Ibuprofen are doing a dandy job. I’ve started doing a few exercises to strenghten the knee (and who would’ve thought that would be necessary after 61.000 km on the roads? Life’s weird sometimes)

    Running low on visuals here in Givet – because I spend most days indoor, resting my knee, eating Ibuprofen, working on my laptop, hanging out with Elodie and friends – today’s photo presentation shows my room (yes, it’s mine, and Elodie calls me her flatmate by now :-) )…

    The Naked Room...

    …and the view from my room…

    The view from my room in Givet...

    And please have a look at the latest mini-docu from WT (Northwestern Africa) in case you haven’t seen it:

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    Day 1.378 – Roadtrip to Lille (UK)

    Saturday, January 16th, 2010

    Some people claim it’s always weekend in my world (which is of course bullocks), but since it’s officially also weekend time for Elodie today, we take her cute little Fiat Panda and drive to big-city Lille, some 2½ hours to the west of Givet to meet up with her uni-friend Sebastien.

    Elodie and her Fiat Panda...

    Lille city center.

    Gare de Lille Flandres...

    Ferris wheel in Lille, northern France.

    From the Ferris wheel in Lille, northern France.

    From the Ferris wheel in Lille, northern France.

    Cheers with Sebastien in Lille...

    Welch, a heavily cheese lunch in Lille.

    Heavy and good: the regional favorite (apparently), Welch – a strange but delicious mix of ham, bread, cheese, fried egg…

    Welch, a heavily cheese lunch in Lille.

    …and yes, I like pepper!

    Lille city center.

    As was the case between Xmas and NYE a few weeks ago, when Pablo and I drove to Gent for the day, this happens to be a rainy day too. Bummer, but nonetheless it’s obvious that Lille is a very pretty town with lots of French life and stimmung all around.

    Cobble-stoned street in Lille...

    Lille's magnificent cathedral...

    Macarons in Lille. Yum!

    Chilling in Givet, France.

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    Day 1.377 – The Negligence (UK)

    Friday, January 15th, 2010

    Physically, I’m still in low gear due to my sore knee. This seems to be the result of my self-diagnosis.

    My bike’s been wanting to grab a shower for the last few weeks, so today I take it downstairs/outdoor from the 3rd floor apartment, and give it a good scrub and a little oily massage to make up for the negligence of lately…

    But in WT World I continue the hyper-activity of the last days…

    Raclette dinner with Elodie and Yannick. Givet, France.

    Tune of the Day: A Thousand Kisses Deep – Leonard Cohen

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    Day 1.376 – Stephen Hendry (UK)

    Thursday, January 14th, 2010

    New friends means new possibilities of expanding your horizons, personally, culturally, gastronomically, musically, and Elodie introduces me to a bunch of new acts that I’d never heard about. For instance…

    Tune of the Day: When Was I Last Home – The Do

    I dont’ leave the apartment today. I’m wired all day, making a new WT-mini documentary, checking up on the world, and – more importantly – the what/why/how’s of my sad knee situation…
    The decision to stay here in Givet with Elodie for a number of days seems like the only/right thing to do.

    Poor, crippled Zülle!

    This was the product of today’s long hours at my mobile WT Lappie Office:

    At night Elo and I go out to meet some friends at the local bar/pub, and I get to see a glimpse of the town (7.000 inhabitants) beautifully situated on the Meuse River that flows north into Belgium…

    Givet downtown...

    La Meuse River in Givet, France.

    Stephen Hendry #2. ‘Nuff said. ;-)

    Stephen Hendry #2

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    Day 1.375 – Carte Blanche in Givet, France (UK)

    Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

    0 km cycling.
    Ca. 100 m indoor walking.

    Dinner with Elodie in her new Givet apartment...

    Elodie just moved here a month ago for her new job as an engineer at the nuclear power plant in nearby Chooz. So she works during the day – as do I, on different WT-related project that’ve been on my mind for a while now. Elodie has given me a carte blanche and I can stay as long as I want (she told me even before we met, and how wonderfully trustful people can be).

    A big chocolate fan she is!

    I, as a private person, really appreciate Elodie’s open doors here in Givet, just a few kilometers from the Belgian border.

    I, as a sore knee, equally appreciate Elodie’s open doors (=chance to recover)…

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    Day 1.374 – Wicked Ride Along La Meuse River (UK)

    Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

    Charleville-Mezieres -> Givet
    Distance (km) : 80
    Time on bike : 4h 35m
    Brutto time: 11.50 – 17.20
    Avg : 17.4 km/h
    Max.speed: 36.4
    Total (km) : 61.067
    Altitude: 120 m
    Difficulty: 3½

    The knee is still pretty sore this morning. Instead of my new, heavy winterboots, I put on my proper cycling shoes (incl. neopren shoe cover) hoping they won’t increase the problem.

    After having had absolutely no problems at all with my knee/legs since I left Denmark in April 2006, this obviously comes as quite a surprise – and a very frustrating one. Feeling physically fragile, wounded isn’t exactly part of my standard emotional register. Merde!

    Charleville-Mezieres main square...

    Charleville-Mezieres main square...

    Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful, peaceful ride today along the Trans-Ardennes Green Track (see more info here), a 85 km car-free bike path along the tranquil Meuse River (flat, curvy and just a pure pleasure)

    Along the beautiful bike track, Voie Verte Trans-Ardenne, between Charleville-Mezieres and Givet, northern France.

    A little north of Charleville, I cross the 61.000 km marker on my bike computer. Photo session time!

    Along the beautiful bike track, Voie Verte Trans-Ardenne, between Charleville-Mezieres and Givet, northern France.

    The bike path is some 30 km longer than the direct route, but it’s (physical) money well spent! I virtually have 80 km of smoothly paved bike lanes to myself, and I can’t stop feeling very spoiled on my last proper cycling day in France. Scenery is dressed in white. Air cold and fresh.

    Along the beautiful bike track, Voie Verte Trans-Ardenne, between Charleville-Mezieres and Givet, northern France.

    Icicles blocking the road. Along the beautiful bike track, Voie Verte Trans-Ardenne, between Charleville-Mezieres and Givet, northern France.

    Along the beautiful bike track, Voie Verte Trans-Ardenne, between Charleville-Mezieres and Givet, northern France.

    After a relatively pain-free ride, my knee starts causing me trouble again 20 km before Givet. Heartbreaking, depressing. My face takes on the painful expression again. Putain! Putain! Putain!

    Along the beautiful bike track, Voie Verte Trans-Ardenne, between Charleville-Mezieres and Givet, northern France.

    Feeling rather crippled, I make it to Givet where Elodie, a 24-year-old engineer from Paris, has kindly accepted my Couchsurfing-request.

    Arriving in Givet, post-sundown.

    Chilling with new friends in Givet, France.

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    Day 1.373 – Increasing Pain (UK)

    Monday, January 11th, 2010

    Rheims -> Charleville-Mezieres
    Distance (km) : 88
    Time on bike : 5h 07m
    Brutto time: 10.30 – 17.15
    Avg : 17.1 km/h
    Max.speed: 45.0
    Total (km) : 60.986
    Altitude: 150 m
    Difficulty: 3

    Tune of the Day: Cartwheels - The Reindeer Section

    Flat and relatively knee-friendly...

    My sore left knee gets worse today on my way to Charleville where I have another contact (via Hospitalityclub.org this time).

    Still flat...

    Having a cold cheese-and-chorizo lunch stop midway to Charleville-Mezieres…

    Lunch stop...

    Luckily, the ride is mostly flat and easy, with only a few river crossing (and subsequent ups/downs) and I’m trying not to push it at all. Cycling parallel to the E46/A34 highway, I get to see some small, quaint villages, unmistakingly French.

    Rethel town...

    The favorite sign...

    As I arrive in Charleville-Mezieres my left knee has gone really bad, and I can hardly walk up (or even worse, down) the stairs at Marie Charlotte’s apartment when I get there. Very frustrating.

    But for now, I’m happy being here, indoor and in great company with Macha (nickname), a philosphy teacher, and her two room mates Timothée, a lanscape architect and Tanguy, a journalist.

    Frozen fountain in downtown Charleville-Mezieres...

    Macha and I go out to get groceries for the dinner and we add in a bit of sightseeing, but me knee’s hurting pretty badly now, I walk like a man 3 times my age (i.e a 100 year-old), and I have to just get back and get some leg rest.

    Cheers! in Charleville...

    Despite the pain, it’s a really wonderful evening with my 3 new friends in Charleville-Mezieres.

    Dinner with Macha, Tanguy, and Timothee...

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    Day 1.372 – Couchsurfing in Rheims (photos)

    Sunday, January 10th, 2010

    0 km etc.

    (Text to come…)

    Rue de L'Universite, Rheims.

    The magnificent Cathedral in Rheims, France.

    The entrance to the cathedral in Rheims, France.

    The magnificent Cathedral in Rheims, France.

    Inside the magnificent Cathedral in Rheims, France.

    Inside the magnificent Cathedral in Rheims, France.

    Rheims city centre...

    Rheims city centre...

    The magnificent Cathedral in Rheims, France.

    Dinner in Rheims with Antoine (Couchsurfing)...

    Creature comforts. Home cinema at Antoine's place...

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    Day 1.371 – Where Is My Mind/Road? (photos)

    Saturday, January 9th, 2010

    Romilly-sur-Seine -> Rheims
    Distance (km) : 98
    Time on bike : 7h 19m
    Brutto time: 10.50 – 19.30
    Avg : 13.5 km/h
    Max.speed: 31.3
    Total (km) : 60.899
    Altitude: 100 m
    Difficulty: 4½

    (Text to come…)

    Breakfast with Jeffrey (left), Jean-Michel, and Lise...

    I was accompagnied out of Romilly-sur-Seine...

    White-out in northern France...

    Snowcovered and bitterly cold headwind on the backroads north of Romilly...

    Where Is My Road/Mind?

    Champagne district...

    In the Champagne district south of Epernay...

    Comfort with new friends Antoine (left), Morgan, and Anais in Rheims, northern France.

    Umm, more bubbles!

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    Day 1.370 – Never-ending French Hospitality (photos)

    Friday, January 8th, 2010

    Sens -> Romilly-sur-Seine
    Distance (km) : 74
    Time on bike : 4h 46m
    Brutto time: 11.20 – 16.50
    Avg : 15.4 km/h
    Max.speed: 33.5
    Total (km) : 60.809
    Altitude: 100 m
    Difficulty: 3½

    (Text to come…)

    The salt on the winter roads do no good for my chain...

    White landscape north of Sens, France.

    Village church, route D939.

    Welcome to Champagne district!

    Welcome to Champagne district!

    Jeffrey pouring a fine champagne...When in Rome...

    R & R with Lise and Jeffrey...

    Having a lovely dinner with Lise & Jeffrey in Romilly-sur-Seine...

    Having a lovely dinner with Lise & Jeffrey in Romilly-sur-Seine...

    Watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Romilly...

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    Day 1.369 – Sniffy Style (UK)

    Thursday, January 7th, 2010

    Gien -> Sens
    Distance (km) : 94
    Time on bike : 5h 18m
    Brutto time: 09.20 – 17.15
    Avg : 17.7 km/h
    Max.speed: 32.5
    Total (km) : 60.736
    Altitude: 100 m
    Difficulty: 3

    It’s been snowing again last night. Gien is all dressed in white, but I don’t care much about it, ‘cos I feel recharged after my great (but too short) time with Laureline, her cats and indoor comforts.

    Nicolai ready to leave the comforts of Gien...

    The surprise of the day materializes when I leave Gien behind me and realize that a little TAILwind pushes me north towards Sens, where I’ve arranged another Couchsurfer-meeting, with Pierre-Francois, a 29-year-old (secondary) school teacher.

    Too familiar by now...

    According to my experience France’s got some of the (probably THE) best and most considerate drivers in the world. Without exceptions they always give me a wide berth, don’t make any stupid, close-call overtakings, often salute me respectful as if I was Superman (and seem to express their sympathy with me cycling in this weather) – so it doesn’t really matter that most of the rural backroads I’ve been taking in France don’t have a proper shoulder for cyclists.

    All my love goes to the considerate French drivers. Exemplary!

    Frost on my forehead...

    It’s still cold, minus 2-4 degrees C, but at least I don’t have this freezing hair dryer (aka headwind) blowing in my face all day long today. I feel strong and confident today (what a perfect illusion a bit of tailwind makes, huh), and arrive in Sens early in the afternoon, head for the local McDonald’s (they all have unlimited, free wifi, hallelujah!) and make a Skype video call to my mum (dad joins too), my dear birthday girl. 07011951.

    Same dude, same cold.

    Pierre-Francois meets me downstairs at his downtown apartment, and walking straight into a strangers’ home has never felt more natural.

    Pierre-Francois in Sens...

    You are crazy, in a good way, and I admire your project, Pierre-Francois proclaims when he hears more about WT. Lots of stories are shared with him, and again I feel fortunate meeting all these wonderful and super-hospitable (French) people.

    At work in Sens...

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    Day 1.368 – Kyra & Shadoz (UK)

    Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

    Bourges -> Gien
    Distance (km) : 77
    Time on bike : 4h 14m
    Brutto time: 11.00 – 16.45
    Avg : 18.2 km/h
    Max.speed: 40.1
    Total (km) : 60.642
    Altitude: 100 m
    Difficulty: 3

    Morning view from my hotel in Bourges...

    There’s live tennis on my little 14″ TV screen, snow’s falling outside my window, and I can think of a dozen of reasons for not leaving my comfy nest and hitting the road. But I can’t justify the 41 euro tag (and can’t/won’t rely on kind WT readers :-) ), so I get packed and head for the local outdoor shop (long live Decathlon) where I find a great pair of Merrell winter boots, half price, size 45 with ample room for x layers of socks to keep my toes warm (along with my new socks).

    Goodbye cold feet! These boots got the message: Keep this poor lad warm and toasty.

    Goodbye cold feet!

    Goodbye dance shoes.

    Old meets new...

    Hello Bigfoot.

    Voila!

    My new 1.5 kg boots make all the difference. It’s a pleasure not having to worry about keeping my extremities warm and for the first time in ages, it seems, I actually enjoy the ride today. Knowing I have a place to stay in Gien on the Loire River gives me a much needed mental comfort too…

    Winter north of Bourges, France.

    Frost in my forehead...

    La Loire River in Gien...

    Through Couchsurfing.com I got into contact with Laureline, a 26-year-old psychologist that lives in Gien with her two cats, Kyra & Shadoz, in an apartment overlooking the Loire River. Laureline makes me feel at home right from the start and hanging out with her and her cats feels just great. French hospitality rules supreme (and thanks a lot for putting me up, Laureline!)

    Laureline and the quiche lorraine...

    Kyra, the chubby beauty...

    The beautiful view over La Loire from the living room.

    La Loire from the window of my host Laureline...

    Dinner with couchsurfing host Laureline in Gien, France.

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    Day 1.367 – Winter Madness (UK)

    Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

    Guéret -> Bourges
    Distance (km) : 125
    Time on bike : 7h 50m
    Brutto time: 08.15 – 18.15
    Avg : 15.9 km/h
    Max.speed: 38.3
    Total (km) : 60.565
    Altitude: 100 m
    Difficulty: 4½

    Sometimes it’s a good thing you don’t know what’s in the “goody bag” of the day, when you head off in the morning. Had I known that today would be such a long and cold haul, I would’ve probably stayed another night at the home for homeless. The caretaker asked me last night if I wanted to stay for 1, 2, or 3 nights.

    At 8AM I shake hands with the (other) homeless people, say goodbye, and leave Gueret. It’s still dark and I don’t feel like cycling at all.

    Genouillac, coffee break.

    I meet quite a lot of encouraging greetings and car-honks from the Frenchmen around me, who often give me this “wow, respect for cycling in this weather!” look when they greet me. I greet them back, but somehow I feel I can’t really receive that sort of respect/street credit ‘cos I’m not doing this in the classic and confident “fist-in-the-air” WT-style way, but rather I’m down in the mouth, I feel a little sorry for myself going through this, and am not enjoying this at all. Hard to explain, but being the most understanding readers around, I know that you, dear reader, will understand what I’m trying to express…

    Another cold day in France...

    I’m focused like a pitbull all day. Endless ups and downs (in the landscape and in me) make for a pretty tough ride. Minus 4 degrees Celsius. Mild headwind all day which makes my forehead and my eyeballs freeze up. Weird feeling.

    Icy cold lunch break...

    The Classic.

    Just south of Bourges the hungry wolf inside of me can’t cope with the hunger no longer, and I have to stop and stuff myself. That’s when I start getting really, really cold. Shiver and shake. Heaven or Hell. This is no fun, and I can’t think of anything but getting my body heat back which isn’t an easy task when the body is totally worn after more than 7 hours of pedaling, feeling utterly exhausted, wind blowing, clothes wet from sweating and bla-bla. I feel miserable and slightly panicky.

    Hotel Cygne, Bourges.

    Stamina brings me to the center of Bourges where I find a hotel near the train station, 41 euros for the night – the cheapest I could find, but also the most expensive accommodation in WT history.

    PS. From my wifi-equipped hotel room I put a note on my Facebook status update about the cycling day, the expensive room etc and – hocus-pocus! – 5 minutes later, one of my Danish readers (no one mentioned, no one forgotten!) take pity on me and transfer that exact amount, 41 euros, to my account. I seriously can’t believe what’s happening, feels like the guardian angels are watching me again, and it just confirms that I do have the best and most caring readers in the world. Thank you so much, Mr. GT. Will not forget.

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