A Palace of Beer and the worst cobble stone known to man
Total Distance 80km
See Below for map, elevation profile, and GPX file.
Some days on the bike you find exactly what you’re looking for. Seventy kilometers into our ride today we were just about to head into Toufflers, France from Belgium when we see a vision from above—The Palace of Beer. Lining this unassuming storefront we see magnum after magnum of delicious and rare Belgian beers. Without debate we stop and lean the tandem up against the wall. There are over 125 breweries in Belgium producing over 800 standard beers. This store probably had around 300 different beers and appeared to have at least one from almost every brewery. Excited, we asked whether they carried any of the mythic Westvleteren. The lady at the counter said that sometimes they have it, but alas, not at the moment. We wandered around the store for longer than we needed to, just trying to figure out what we should get. In the end we decided to get the Quadruple La Trappe from Koningshoeven, the one Trappist Brewery in Holland. We also got both Achel beers since we weren’t going to make it that far north on this trip.
As we were leaving the beer store still in awe, trailer laden down with several liters of delicious beer, a little old man came by with a couple crates of empty beer bottles and stopped to talk to us. We knew he was speaking French but we couldn’t understand anything he was saying. He seemed really interested and kept pointing at the trailer and the bike. I did my best to make out what he was saying, but in the end gave up with a “Je ne comprends pas Francais.” To which he gave a toothless “quelle domage.” Quel domage indeed. Sorry to lack the language skills necessary to make a new super friend.
The beer store and our near-super friend were a great near-end to a relatively boring day. We started out under more rain but thankfully rode through to some-what less gray skies and dry roads. The goal of the day was to reach a little town outside Lille, France where we were planning to stay with a friend. We routed ourselves on a few minor roads between Dour and Ville Pommeroeul where we picked up a Ravel route. In places where the bike infrastructure is great, like Belgium and France, riding on bike paths is usually a good idea. They tend to go long distances and are usually dedicated to cyclists and pedestrians. They also offer a great long-distance alternative to highway riding. Though the unpaved routes coupled with the rain can leave your gear particularly filthy.
This particular route was along another canal and flat or downhill the whole way. I think we saw about 5 other people on the path the entire time we were on it. We took this path for about 30km where we departed in Tournai. The path continues on to Ruien near Afligem, Belgium.
It’s a little tough trusting the map to navigate on little roads through France. Many of the roads don’t have signs and when you near the border there aren’t even arrows directing you to the neighboring country. It was a little frustrating so we stopped to ask for directions whenever we saw someone on the road. We felt really relieved and excited when we started to see signs for our destination but no sooner did we start to celebrate than we found the worst sight know to cyclists, wretched ancient cobblestone.
For about 2 kilometers we were bumping down one of the worst paths we’ve been on. It was so bad that we got off to walk because we couldn’t handle it anymore. The sign at the end of it said something about preserving some ancient Roman road or something, but we were too fatigued from all the jostling to read it. We had a few hours to kill waiting for our friend to arrive home so we got a coffee at a little café and warmed up a bit in what we thought was his town. It turned out to be the town over. We only realized this when we called him in front of what we thought was his address. One more lesson learned about France, most towns have the same street names that sometimes even connect neighboring cities, but have different numbering. He came down to meet us and directed us to his house. We rolled over 80 km for the day when we arrived at his house where we spent a great evening catching up and enjoying the delicious (though well-shaken) beers we had bought.
View Petit Dour to Hem in a larger map