Venice to Dunkirk Bicycle Tour In 10 Days
Following on from last year’s bicycle tour around the highlands of Scotland, my buddy and I decided to do a bit of a Euro-Trip for 2022, by flying into Venice and cycling to
Calais Dunkirk, ticking off quite a few countries in the process.
This year’s tour didn’t go exactly to plan (for myself), as I was pretty unfit when it came to the main climb–Stelvio Pass but I had a hell of a time on the bike, cycling through so many amazing places.
Let’s get into the trip!
Table of Contents
Day 00 | Flight To Venice 🇮🇹
After faffing for the entire day yesterday with the bike, going back and forth, not sure which bike to bring, I made a schoolboy error by ditching my light road bike, and instead boxed up the beast, Big Bertha, in the name of ‘comfort’.
Oh if I could go back in time knowing what I know now…
Anywho, finally with my bike and gear all packed up, not much sleep, I was soon at Gatwick Airport, thanks to my better half who got up at stupid o’ clock to drive me there.
My buddy arrived a short-while later, after having problems with his train, but when he arrived and went to check-in his bike, for some reason his box had to get manually checked by the security staff, talk about stress.
Once we got the ok from them, we soon boarded our flight to Venice, all the travelling stress behind us, with new stress impending for the legs ⛰️ 🇮🇹
When we landed in Venice and collected our bikes, we brought them outside the terminal and built them back up, and then made our way over to the hotel, which was about 10km.
Once checked-in, bikes locked up, and showered, we mozied around Venice, taking in the sights, carb loading with pizza 🍕 and beer 🍺 – we headed back to get ourselves ready for the first day on the bicycle.
Day 01 | Venice to Trento 🇮🇹
Date: 13th Sep ’22 | Distance: 160km | Elevation: 777 metres
We started off our tour just after 7:30am and our first port of call was getting some fuel in our bodies, so off we cycled to the local Spar to fill up. Then onward to today’s destination – Trento. All in all, today was pretty easy going with only 777 metres in elevation, but it was a long one in the saddle as we did just over 100 miles to get to Trento.
As we were trying to cover as much distance as possible to get to Trent before dark, we didn’t stop too frequently but there were a few points of interest:
- Passing through Bassano del Grappa, over the River Brenta, through it’s 13th-century bridge. Pure postcard material.
- The Valstagna region, with views of the mountains and clear blue river.
- Stopping for some salty frites and sugary drinks in the Cornale restaurant in the Enego region before our last push to Trento.
- Beer and pizza after arriving to our apartment in Trento.
So with no training (again), being pretty unfit, I somehow made it to Trento, I’m pretty sure thanks to Will being my moral support and letting me draft him on occasion 🤣.
So while we were recovering in the apartment in Trento, we were discussing the camping gear that we’d brought for later on and how easier it would be if we chucked it and carried on the tour, credit card style. I had my doubts but a shower and a bed each night did sound pretty nice… Soon our tent, sleeping bags, and mattresses were left in the apartment and from there on out, we just booked hotel rooms #YOLO.
Day 02 | Trento to Trafoi 🇮🇹
Date: 14th Sep ’22 | Distance: 145km | Elevation: 1,562 metres
I felt pretty rough this morning and just wanted to stay in bed. Why the fuck do I not even put in the bare minimum amount of training for these events?! It’s not like it’s a short Saturday spin to a coffee shop. Keith, when you read over this again, TRAIN FOR YOUR NEXT TOUR, YOU MORON!
Right, with that out of the way… we rode for a good chunk in the morning, probably about 50km, to a huge InterSpar in a region called Bolzano. There we fuelled up, rested a bit and I contemplated the impending climb that would be happening later today; Stelvio Pass.
It honestly filled me with dread thinking about undertaking this massive climb, sure, we discarded some weight back in Trento but again my lack of fitness and my last minute choice of bringing my heavy steel AWOL bike didn’t help with my nerves. Soon we pushed on.
A little later in the afternoon, I told Will to head on without me, as I felt I was slowing him down, and I wanted to take my time. We agreed to meet back up at our next hotel in the evening. The hotel – Berghotel Franzenshöhe, is nearly half way up Stelvio Pass but unfortunately I didn’t make it… 😆
Time was already against me with my lack of speed and rest breaks, so when I was climbing Stelvio, it was getting dark, I was feeling defeated and then (of course), it started raining. I was just done at that point and to get to the hotel where Will was, it would have taken me at least another two and a half hours. Nope.. it was time to get some rest from the next place I could find.
And that place was luckily close as the rain was getting pretty heavy.
Hotel Madatsh, You Life Saver
I pulled into Hotel Madatsch and asked about prices, a quick back and forth with the manager and we agreed on a rate with dinner included, sorted 🤝
Shower was had, and I popped down to the restaurant where I was treated to an absolute belter of a spread. No more words needed, just look at the photos!
Day 03 | Trafoi to Tschierv 🇨🇭
Date: 15th Sep ’22 | Distance: 45km | Elevation: 2,014 metres
I had a great sleep and felt somewhat ready to tackle the rest of Stelvio today, unfortunately I had to wait around a bit in the morning for one of the staff to come and open up the storage area for my bike, so I didn’t get going until nearly 10am – not ideal.
Straight out of the gate, Stelvio (and the rain) welcomed me back with a swift slap in the face and so the climb continued. It took me a few hours, many stops but I eventually got to the top, feeling so tired but accomplished. After a few photos were taken, I took refuge in a hotel/restaurant and stayed there for at least an hour to hide from the rain.
*Also, the amount of gel wrappers that I passed up the climb was ridiculous, stop littering you pricks!*
The weather didn’t look like it was getting better anytime soon, so with a belly full of pizza, off I went to take my well earned descent down the other side of Stelvio Pass, through to Biosfera Val Müstair. Will was already about 50km from Vaduz at this point, so there was no chance to catch him today and it was getting dark, so off I went to find another room somewhere.
I decided I’d ride until Hotel Süsom-Giveè in Tschierv to rest up for the night and call it a day. Little did I know I had about 15km of a hilly ride to finish for the day, not as bad as Stelvio but still.
Day 04 | Tschierv to Lavin/Zurich 🇨🇭
Date: 16th Sep ’22 | Distance: 37.6km | Elevation: 517 metres
After breakfast in the hotel, I made my way down to Larvin, to catch the train to Zurich, and meet up with Will. I smashed the 37-odd km as there was finally a downhill 😆 🚀. After initially going to the wrong station, that was only for cars (odd I know), I made it by the skin of my teeth to the correct station!
The conductor was lovely and helped me on and buy a ticket from him instead of faffing at the machine. I spotted his latin-sounding name on his jacket – It turned out, he’s from Mexico and we had a brief little chit chat in Spanish 🇪🇸
After grabbing my connecting train to Zurich, a friendly German couple were waiting to pop their bikes on too, so we chatted away. We needed bike reservations, but they reserved one for me on their phone, damn people are awesome.
After meeting up with Will in Zurich city centre, we made our way over to our booking.com apartment. After finally checking in with the host, and getting our key, we decided not to stay as the place was a shit hole, and had nowhere to store our bikes. A few people had turned up at this point as there was an Ed Sheeran concert that evening and we all left in disgust. It turns out Booking.com didn’t want to know, so no refund – noted for future trips.
We found a hotel down the road (that wasn’t a crack den), so off we went to get food and relax for the night. There was a nice little note on the kitchen cabinets that read:
You may rent kitchen equipments at the reception for CHF:20 Per Day
I pulled a Macgyver and avoided that fee 🤣
Day 05 | Zurich to Blotzheim 🇫🇷
Date: 17th Sep ’22 | Distance: 102km | Elevation: 624 metres
Easy day today as we headed towards Blotzheim, France, via Basel. Nothing too note worthy to add, and I’m kind of glad of the fact I was feeling the fatigue set in a bit, so it was nice to just get to where we needed to be fairly quickly. I will say that the stop off in Basel was nice, mainly due to the fact that we ate in some kebab place and my lord it was one of the nicest meals I’ve had on this trip 🤣 – it was some kind of kebab burger thing, anywho delish.
Will’s brakes were playing up all day so we stopped off and he had a quick tune-up in a bike shop a few kilometres from our destination for the day and we were soon on our way.
We arrived to our Airbnb , after stopping in a supermarket close by, and stocking up on food. Our host was superb and we chatted for a bit before hitting the hay.
Day 06 | Blotzheim to Strasbourg 🇫🇷
Date: 18th Sep ’22 | Distance: 118km | Elevation: 56 metres
We headed out just before 8am and started our journey towards Strasbourg. It was a super flat ride with just 56 metres of elevation and we got there in record time.
Our pit stop for the day was in a cool little town called Neuf-Brisach, an old fortified town located near Volgelsheim. I had a tasty little petit dejeuner, but as France doesn’t cater too well for Vegans, Will just grabbed something from the local shop.
Onwards, we passed through fields upon fields of corn, which was some sight, and then we had an absolutely beautiful long canal ride – basically into Strasbourg. Once settled into our hotel and the bikes locked away, we explored the city and back to grab some sleep before another long ride in the morning.
Day 07 | Strasbourg to Yutz 🇫🇷
Date: 19th Sep ’22 | Distance: 191km | Elevation: 1,428 metres
Longest day of the tour today, and our destination was to Will’s mate in Yutz, France.
Heading out of Strasbourg, Will and I parted ways as Will wanted to get there as soon as possible and I would just chilling, meandering there. Not a problem – I was making my way through the Serial podcast (seriously good listening!).
A bit later on in the morning, Will told me that he nearly got taken out by a car as the driver wasn’t looking, close call!
I was riding around looking for somewhere for breakfast but the only places I could find were only serving coffee, luckily I came across a cute patisserie called Pâtisserie Jung, in Saverne.
After fuelling up, I was slowing making progress but was running out of water and food, so I had to knock on a random house to get my bottles filled up, and they informed me that a shop was close by. Luckily the shop was just opening for the afternoon and I stocked up on some bread, a Mille-feuille, and some haribo 🤷🏻♂️.
I made it to Yutz about 7pm, and Will and his mate, Gaelle had already been to the shops to grab dinner so timings worked out quite nicely. Gaelle made us an absolute banger of a dinner and opened up a bottle of Champagne for us! Thanks so much Gaelle 🙏🏻
Day 08 | Yutz to Dinant 🇧🇪
Date: 20th Sep ’22 | Distance: 175km | Elevation: 2,156 metres
Pretty uneventful day. I was listening to music/Serial podcast for a portion of it as we were climbing a lot today and I just wanted to keep my head down and get on with it. The morning traffic heading into Luxembourg was shockingly bad, so many fancy cars all going a few mph – mental 👎🏻
We arrived into Dinant about 7pm and as we weren’t staying in the town (just outside it), we grabbed food from a local burger joint near to us. We ended up chatting to one of the locals having a beer there, apparently it’s just a thing you do – grab a tipple in the burger place with your mates.
With the amount of climbing today and in previous days, and the fact that I was feeling so shit, I was contemplating to just pack it in and grab a flight/train back home. I guess you’ll get days like this, and the fact that we didn’t include any kind of rest day was insane in hindsight. More lessons learned on this trip.
Anywho, I got some kip and continued on in the morning, just about.
Day 09 | Dinant to Ghent 🇧🇪
Date: 21st Sep ’22 | Distance: 158km | Elevation: 1,158 metres
Legs were definitely feeling it this morning and it took me a few miles to get into the rhythm. I got over my hissy fit from last night and on we went!
Passing briefly through the beautiful town of Dinant for the second time of my life, I really should go back and just take a day to explore this place. A few minutes on the bike is just enough time.
About 18 miles in, Will and I parted ways again, I can’t remember why this time – I think I might have said crack on as I was taking my time 🤣. Looking back over the Strava Flyby data, I can see that I caught a nice straight (and mundane) road into Brussels, so I actually beat Will there this time lol 🥇
I was chilling in Brussels park, enjoying a well deserved Fritz Cola, and Will came by fairly soon after. We passed by something that I’d wanted to see for years; the Atomium – pretty cool structure and after. a few photos, we went to get to our hotel.
Day 10 | Ghent to Dunkirk 🇫🇷
Date: 22nd Sep ’22 | Distance: 128km | Elevation: 233 metres
Final day and we had a ferry to catch, so off we popped at 6am and flew like little rockets in the misty darkness. We made it to Dunkirk in time, stinking of shit (don’t ask) to catch our ferry but we couldn’t exactly see any port or boats… Checking Google Maps, it turned out the port is about 20km away from the town 😢 What a schoolboy error.
Thank Jeebus that another ferry was due in a few hours so we hit the supermarche and waited around.
Dear lord, what a trip, so much mileage per day and hills – the stress of it all. I’m sure I’ll look back on this one with rose coloured glasses, as I always tend to do, but another message for future Keith – plan your trips with less mileage per day and take a rest day!