Six Wheels In Germany – Month 15

June 2015

Cycling Statistics This Month

Here’s a map of all my rides this month.

June Rides

And here are the statistics.

June Statistics

Rides this month

Alfie goes to Kleve

I had long nurtured a plan to cycle to Kleve (where Anne of Cleves, one of the wives of Henry the Eighth, came from). One weekday the weather forecast was for 35 degrees which is horribly hot – but when one is cycling on a recumbent trike the wind cools you down, so I decided to do a long ride. Train-assisted of course.

The original plan was to get the train to Kleve and cycle back, but when I set off heading to Kempen railway station (cycling due south to get to the station) there was such a massive headwind I thought it would be really tiring riding back from Kleve (also south). So I decided to do the tour the other way round, ride north to Kleve and get the train back (with the desperate hope that there wouldn’t be any train issues).

So here’s my ride for the day:

Kleve trip map

Although I live right on the border with Kreis Kleve I don’t cycle there very much, mainly because most of my chums are to the south in Viersen or St Tönis or Krefeld etc. But I was reminded how lovely Kleve is – the villages seem spread further apart and it feels a bit quieter somehow. There are also regular reminders of the Dutch influence on this part of the world – I had no idea how to pronounce the name on this bus stop!


It’s very relaxing doing this kind of cycle ride – pootling along at a relaxing pace, following the little purple line on the Garmin, seeing very few other people (and those you do see say hello). It gave me loads of thinking time which was good.

I had decided I would stop for cake halfway so when I arrived in Kevelaer, a rather lovely town, I turned on my Cake-Radar and it didn’t let me down – I found an absolutely fabulous café which a great selection of cakes. I chose this amazing Straciatellakuchen which was really, really tasty.

Straciatella Kuchen 1

As you can see, my tea came in a nice china cup and they gave me a teapot so I was able to have plenty to drink. The orange juice was also much-needed refreshment as the temperature was now 32 degrees. I lingered at the café, not rushing on, just watching the world go by and enjoying my tea. After all, I was in no hurry – I had the entire day to ride.

Eventually I extricated myself from my seat and headed off. It was 12:30pm and the sun was really, really hot, but as soon as I got up a bit of speed on Alfie the wind cooled me nicely. I made good progress too due to the tailwind – it made me think I was a much stronger cyclist than I really am!

I rode through Weeze which is where Ryanair have their airport for Düsseldorf (which is a very long way away). Lara flies from Weeze to England regularly as she’s still brave enough to fly Ryanair; it’s a former British airfield I believe. Anyway, Weeze itself was small.

After Weeze I followed my purple line on my Garmin and it looked like it was taking me to ride along a Landstrasse (busy A-road) but I saw signs for a Bahnradweg to Goch which sounded like a better plan so I turned back and followed those signs – and had a wonderful fast section on lovely, smooth asphalt with no cars.

There was a lot of traffic though – dozens and dozens of school children riding home from school along this Radweg. It’s great to see how for German children the bike is just a normal method of transport to and from school.

I had soon finished the contents of my water bottle and decided to stop at a supermarket and buy some more. I happened to be in Goch and so popped into the local Edeka supermarket – which seemed to be full of really fat people. I was the thinnest person there! It was most odd as usually Germans seem much more normal weights than Brits, but it was like a trip to Asda in Colchester. Anyway, I was able to buy a bottle of water from a chiller cabinet and drank half of the litre straight away. Lovely!

Goch may have fat people but it also has a sense of humour – look at the name of this swimming pool:


From Goch I decided to follow the cycle signs rather than my Garmin to have a hopefully more attractive route to Kleve than the Landstrasse one that I had plotted. And this worked well except I found myself riding up a rather steep hill (Asperberg) which was hard work in the 35 degree heat. And then the cycle sign pointed to the right, which seemed weird as the road signs for Kleve were straight ahead, but I obeyed the cycle sign.

And ended up on quite a detour. I think some wag had rotated the sign a bit. As after 2km I saw that I was going to intersect with my original-planned track and so was doing two sides of a triangle. And of course the cycle signs had disappeared as I wasn’t actually on a route. But I found my way to Kleve and was surprised to discover there’s a very steep hill down into the town centre.

I stopped at an Eiscafé for a refreshing ice-cream… except that no-one came to my table. After a fifteen minute wait I gave up and headed to the railway station – and lo and behold there was the train to Kempen already there! I dashed into the ticket office and bought my tickets – the chap said the train wasn’t leaving for seven minutes (Kleve is the end of the line). I manhandled Alfie onto the train, sat down in my seat and then realised I hadn’t pinged the tickets (you have to put them in a machine to validate them). The machine was on the platform, Alfie and I were on the train. I wasn’t sure if it was about to go so asked a group of ladies sitting near me and they said I had two minutes. So I hopped off and ran to the pinger machine to do the tickets and ran back. When I got back to the train I noticed one of these ladies was standing at the door ready to stop it closing if I wasn’t back in time. Very nice of her!

The journey back to Kempen started most inauspiciously with the family from hell (a woman and two very-badly-misbehaving children). I had significant fears for Alfie as he was in kicking distance of the very wriggly younger son but they actually ignored us and the family got off at the next stop. Phew!

The rest of the train journey back was very pleasant, watching the landscape at a faster speed but recognising places where I had cycled.

I arrived back in Kempen and rode the 5km back to my house from the station, making my total day’s ride 68.93km at an average of 17.9km/h. It was great fun too and I burned 1,600 calories according to my heart rate monitor and software. Which isn’t much for nearly four hours on the bike but shows that my fitness levels are a bit too high for real energy expenditure on the bike!

Alfie rides with Oliver and Klaus

Just the next day, after the Kleve ride, I’d planned to ride with Klaus as usual but this time to meet up with Oliver our friend in the Netherlands. I had planned an adapted version of the Knotenpunkte ride I had developed a few months ago (which I have still not managed to ride – going round all the Knotenpunkte on the border of Kreis Viersen, 150km or so). Anyway, one section of this was very unknown to me as it was around the Brachter Wald and Elmpter Wald (former British Army hangouts) and I thought it would be good to ride over there and check it out before I do the proper Knotenpunkt tour (if I ever manage it).

As we were going to Oliver’s general area I asked if he would be around and he said yes, he’d meet us for coffee at Weissen Stein and then ride with us as far as the Lüttelforster Mühle where we’d have a late lunch and be joined by Claudia and Lara, Klaus’s wife and daughter.

Here’s the track of the day.

Oliver trip map

Klaus and I set off from his home in Viersen and headed west to Boisheim, bagging a mill on our way. We arrived at Weissen Stein a few minutes early but Oliver was already there in his cool yellow Mango.

Oliver in Mango

We went into Weissen Stein and ordered some drinks.

Oliver and Klaus

I also ordered Poffertjes as I like them.


We then headed off on our Netherlands section of the tour which Oliver had refined for me previously (he’d sent me an updated GPS track). It was a lovely ride along quiet roads and he did very well to ride slowly enough to keep with us – he is twice as fast in his Mango as I am on Alfie usually!

We stopped for me to climb on these giant lego bricks.

Giant lego bricks

This is such a familiar sight to me on bike rides – I’ve stopped to photograph something/climb on something/look more closely at something and my companions are patiently sitting there on their trike/bike/velomobile thinking “I wish she’d hurry up!!”

Oliver and Klaus 2

We were underway again with some odd bits of off-road but nothing too terrifying. And also a very impressive cycle path crossing of the motorway which becomes the A52 when it enters Germany.

Crossing the A52

We went through a few little villages – here are my companions whizzing ahead as usual.

Riding along

We were now heading towards the Meinweg National Park which turned out to be a wonderful bike-friendly park where you can cycle really fast (if you’re Oliver or Klaus; not if you’re me).

It was a wonderful fast, smooth road surface with almost no cars. Oliver headed off on his own ahead (very sensibly!) and Klaus also disappeared into the distance. I pootled along at a reasonable speed (for me, on Alfie) and eventually found Oliver and Klaus. Oliver had only had to wait five minutes for me! But it was a lovely ride and we had made up some time (we looked like we were going to be late).

We crossed over into Germany again and Klaus’s and my phones started working again – with messages from Claudia checking we were on time for our meeting at Lüttelforster Mühle. It looked like we would be late so I put the pedal to the metal and we whizzed the remaining five or six kilometres to the mill, arriving one minute late.

To discover that it was closed. Ah.

A quick bit of discussion and we decided to go to the nice little Windbeutel place at Hariksee, just 5km away. Claudia and Lara started up their car and headed off, we cyclists also headed off. I wondered if it would be possible for us to beat them to the destination and Klaus thought it very likely as the bike route is more direct and the car park at Hariksee can be a little walk.

As it was, Oliver Klaus and I arrived about fifteen minutes before Lara and Claudia. They had a bit of a walk from the car park (they’d chosen the larger car park) but still, it shows how bikes can be much more efficient for these sorts of journeys.

Oliver ordered a Windbeutel.

Oliver Windbeutel

I also had one of course.

We spent an enjoyable hour or so relaxing there with Claudia and Lara before it was time to head off again. Oliver was going directly home and Klaus and I planned another 30km ride, which ended up rather more as we realised we could go for 100km fairly easily. Se we diverted to Kaldenkirchen before taking the fast Bahnradweg from Lobberich back to Grefrath giving us a total for the day of 107.39km at an average speed of 18.2.

It was great to ride with Oliver again and it’s always good to share cakes/Windbeutel with Claudia and Lara. The chance to ride a longer ride was good for the legs too, and it was good to do a new, unknown section through the Netherlands.

Penelope goes to Xanten with Lara

Lara (who I live with) and I had booked a Friday when we were both free to go for a long ride together. The weather forecast was pretty warm so I couldn’t decide which bike to take – Alfie is cooler but Penelope is faster. In the end I decided on Penelope as Lara is such a fast rider.

I had plotted a route to Xanten which would return via the hill at Sonsbeck but with the chance to climb the Aussichtsturm and enjoy the views.

Xanten trip map

We set off very early as the forecast was for it to get very hot. Lara’s a very fast cyclist and the route was actually quite a lot of Landstrassen (fast A-roads) so we kept up a good pace. We got to Xanten pretty quickly without stopping on the way. We sat down at Eiscafé Santin in Xanten – our bikes were surrounded by lots of Carbon Bling.

Xanten 1

It turns out that the Eiscafé in Xanten has its own cycling club with matching blue jerseys – well, they meet at the Eiscafé before their rides and the café seem to sponsor their jerseys. There were a lot of very skinny, fit-looking pensioners in the group – and one lady that we saw. Lots of them came over to Penelope to peer inside.

I ordered an ice cream of course.

Xanten Eis

We stopped for about half an hour and then, mindful of the weather forecast (it would continue to get hotter), we decided to head back.

I had planned the route to go past Sonsbeck and the Aussichtsturm (viewing platform) which I had visited on my previous ride to Xanten with the ADFC. Of course it involves riding up a hill… which is no fun in Penelope, particularly on a hot day. Here is the view of the hill from the cockpit as I approached.

Sonsbeck Hill

Yes I know that doesn’t look very hilly but, believe me, when you live in the flat Niederrhein area, any hill is annoying.

However, I have not reached my vast age without learning some cunning tricks. “Lara,” I said, “Would you like to ride Penelope for a bit?”

“Sure!” she replied.

So I parked Penelope at the bottom of the hill, got out, hopped onto Lara’s upright bike, sorted her out in Penelope and off we went.

Lara rides up hill

Since my visit to Ligfietsshop Tempelman in January I have reduced the height of the seat in Penelope and Lara hadn’t ridden her since. It turns out that Lara can’t now really see out when sitting back in Penelope so she rode rather a weaving path up the hill, unable to see the cycle path in front of her.

As you can see, it’s as hilly as Switzerland!

Sonsbecker Schweitz

Lara is incredibly fit – she’s brilliant at all sports, wins lots of swimming competitions including open water swimming, and is deadly fast on her bike. And she does all this without breaking a sweat. But not any more – in Penelope the oven, riding at 10km/h up a long hill, she was getting decidedly overheated. I consider it one of this month’s triumphs that I got her to actually work hard at some sporting endeavour!

I weaved a very odd course on her bike as I’m not used to uprights and don’t like the way they lean round corners. But we made it to the top of the hill, Lara riding about 1.5km in Penelope overall, and then it was time to expend even more energy to climb the tower.

The website explains the tower as such:

Der Aussichtsturm auf dem Dürsberg, eine Holzkonstruktion aus dem Jahre 1981 ist eine einmalige Attraktion am unteren Niederrhein. 154 Stufen führen zur Aussichtsplattform, die ca. 100 m über NN liegt.

Von hier aus hat man einen herrlichen Panoramablick über weite Teile des unteren Niederrheins.

In other words, the Dürsberg Viewing Platform was constructed in 1981 out of wood. It has 154 steps to the platform which is 100 metres above sea level (no idea how high it actually is to climb).

Notably, it was lovely and cool at the top with the wind. And the views were fab!

View towards Xanten

View towards Sonsbeck

The bikes were a long way down.

Looking down at bikes

Here is Lara at the top. It would be all downhill from here so we were both looking rather cheerful.

Lara at the top

We were both pretty warm after our cycling and tower-climbing exploits so shared the bottle of water that I had brought with me. We set off on a lovely downhill (we reached 51 km/h, me in Penelope and Lara on her upright) and then wended our way back in the direction of Kempen, riding through Kapellen, between Geldern and Issum and then Hartefeld. We were both pretty thirsty by now so decided to buy some water in Hartefeld but couldn’t find a shop. Never mind, we could get some in the next town which is Nieukerk.


Lara called out that she had a puncture when were were in the middle of nowhere.

We rolled forward another 100 metres or so as there was a farm building. We then stopped and I felt most relieved that I had picked up my spare 700C inner tube which we bought when James was riding Klaus’s bike. The reason was that Lara’s rear wheel tube has the Dunlop or Blitz valve that my bike pump doesn’t do. The Presta valve on James’s inner tube would be a bit thin but at least I could pump it. Lara didn’t have any tools with her, she was relying on me having everything with me (which I do), but the pump issue could have been a major problem.

But, a big relief, the puncture was in the front wheel which had a Schraeder (Autoventil) valve and my pump does that fine. This was very good news – we’d expected the puncture in the rear tyre as she had had two punctures in the last week in that wheel and had changed the tyre but the tyre wasn’t sitting properly. But anyway, it was the front wheel.

Puncture repair 1

As I’m much more experienced in puncture repair I set about changing the tyre and sent Lara off with my empty water bottle to see if someone at the farm would give us some water. The gate to the front door was locked so she walked 100 metres or so to another house with builders outside; it was rather unfortunate that the house had no running water because of the building works! A builder gave us a bottle of iced tea (which was very kind of him) and we said thankyou and were very grateful – but neither of us drink it! Lara tried a small amount but it wasn’t her thing either.

We took the front wheel right out and repaired the tube, which involved me giving one of my little lessons on puncture repairing. There was a very obvious sharp stone that had wedged itself in the tyre so finding the hole in the tube was not exactly a challenge. I got to use my new Topeak Turbo Morph pump which my parents gave me for my birthday and it worked really well! It’s a mini foot pump which is necessary for me as I can’t use two hands to pump.

With the repair done we put the wheel back in, discovered that the connector for her hub dynamo was rather rubbish (in fact it didn’t work properly – I fixed it later), and headed off again.

Puncture Repair 2

Lara wasn’t feeling too great because of the lack of water so we were pleased to find an Edeka supermarket in Nieukerk and buy a bottle of water each. From there it was just a quick ride through Aldekerk back to Kempen and she felt much better.

In total we rode 82.88km at an average speed of 19.9km/h. It was a very enjoyable day and once again it was great to ride in Kreis Kleve again. I must do more riding going north – which is eminently possible as Babs gave me a book on cafés with special discounts and most of them are in Kreis Kleve…

Alfie goes to Mülheim an der Ruhr

On the last day of June I still had to do 40km to reach my June target of 1000km so hit upon the idea, the day before, of cycling to Mülheim and cadging a lift back home again with Klaus (he sits at a desk there pretending to work). I’ve never ridden to Mülheim, or indeed seen the river Ruhr, so it looked like a good idea!

The weather was mega hot, forecasted to be up to 32 degrees, so I took along an extra bottle of water.

This is my track for the day.

Track to Muelheim

I planned the track on online cycling software and as I wasn’t familiar with this part of the world I was entirely at the mercy of the route planning algorithm. Fortunately it did a very good job!

There were a few sections of mild-off road but they were eminently passable in Alfie.


We crossed the Rhein at Duisburg. I always get a good feeling when I see the river!

Crossing the Rhein at Duisburg

We crossed over the A40 motorway bridge.

Rhein bridge

This was a rather inconvenient bit of metalwork to slow you down for crossing the railway.

Railway Slalom 1

Railway Slalom 2

I’ve visited the outskirts of Duisburg before and it’s rather run down and unpleasant. However, this time I rode slap bang through the centre and it was actually quite nice. It had a very interesting church which seemed to be missing a steeple.

Duisburg Church

Eventually I saw a sign to Mülheim, although the distance wasn’t right for my trip (I had to ride 5km to the east for my lift home).

Muelheim sign

Duisburg and Mülheim are pretty much conjoined but I knew I’d reached Mülheim proper when I went over the Ruhr.

River Ruhr

I was surprised how small the river was – from all the wartime stories of bombing along the Ruhr corridor I expected it to be bigger.

I turned off fairly soon on the route to the industrial estate where Klaus works. He had warned me when I first started talking about doing this ride (several months ago) that there was a whopper of a hill to climb from the centre of Mülheim to where he works, virtually in Essen. And he said it again when we made the arrangements for today – did I realise how long a hill it was? So I was well prepared and had left myself with loads of time, but actually the hill wasn’t thaaaaat bad. Just long and slow, I twiddled up in my middle ring, about fourth gear on the Alfine hub, with no real issues. It was a hot day and I didn’t want to go too fast but the hill was fine. You can see it on this elevation profile of my ride.

Hill profile

I was 20 minutes early so rather than going straight to Klaus’s workplace (he was in a meeting until four) I stopped off at a little drinks vendor to buy an ice cream – I definitely deserved it. I had a chat with the lady running the shop who was retiring in a month’s time. She thought, like so many other people, that I come from the Netherlands because of my British accent speaking German.

With a few minutes to go I headed off downhill to Klaus’s workplace, left Alfie outside and signed myself in for the minute I waited in reception until my taxi appeared. Alfie was folded and stowed in his boot and then I had a nice air-conditioned drive back to Viersen, from where I cycled home again.

Total distance for this ride (the two sections – Kempen to Mülheim and Viersen to Kempen) was 64.16km at an average speed of 17.5km/h. On a really hot day it was lovely to be out in Alfie and interesting to explore a new area to the east of where I live.

Mill bagging

I wrote my blog post about visiting all the windmills and watermills of Kreis Viersen – and then a week later Klaus found a list of mills including 36 that I hadn’t visited!!!

These were mills that were converted to houses (or, in some cases, knocked down with nothing to see). I removed the destroyed mills from the list and then set about marking the positions of all the other mills I now had to visit. That is in progress now.

A ride with Tino in the basket

When Poppy was in Berlin (see below) friend Claudia was looking after her neighbour’s dog, Tino. It was a bank holiday Thursday and it seemed like a good idea to go for a cycle ride, but we had to take Tino with us. Fortunately I had Poppy’s bike basket so Tino was my passenger. He’s much quieter than Poppy!

Helen and Tino 1

This picture is most weird as Tino’s face seems to have merged with mine!

Helen and Tino 2

We rode to Landcafé Bruxhof in Klixdorf and had a slice of cake before cycling back (and bumping into four other recumbent trikes on the way back – most unusual!)

And it’s good to see that Claudia has definitely now got the Recumbent Grin

Claudia recumbent grin

Events this month

Poppy goes to Berlin

My dog Poppy has an awful life. She lives in a house with four other people, all of whom love her and pay her lots of attention. I work from home so she isn’t on her own that much – and if I’m out usually someone else is in. She lives out in the countryside surrounded by fields and woodland with plenty to look at. She gets regular walks and also goes out cycling. Most weekends she spends the day in Viersen with me when I visit Claudia, Klaus and Lara and gets to help Claudia with the dishwasher pre-rinse. She likes watching television and often invites herself downstairs to cuddle on the sofa with Gudula, Frank or Lara to watch the latest TV programmes. And then, this month, she got to go on a four day holiday to Berlin – without me!

Gudula and Frank had a holiday planned with friends which had to be cancelled at the last minute by their friends, so they had four spare days. They decided to go and visit their son Lars in Berlin and asked if Poppy wanted to come along. As the day they were leaving was 5 June, Poppy’s birthday, I asked her if she’d like to go as a birthday present. She said yes, of course!

Poppy goes to Berlin 1

So Poppy travelled with them in the VW Bus to Berlin, staying in Lars’s shared flat. Lars’s flatmate, Kitty, really hit it off with Poppy (Poppy already loves Lars completely and absolutely) and so although she was put in her crate to sleep the first night, Kitty sprung her and let her sleep in her bedroom.

It was very hot on the Friday so Kitty took Poppy to the Schlachtensee to relax by the water.

Poppy at Tegeler See

They travelled by S-Bahn. Poppy’s been on a train before with me but not in Berlin.

Poppy on S-Bahn

The next day she went cycling with Frank and Gudula.

On Saturday she hung out with Kitty and Lars.

Poppy and Kitty

Poppy and Lars

They sent me lots of photographs of Poppy in Berlin and the notable thing was that in every photograph after the first day she was asleep. I think she was exhausted by the excitement of a holiday in Berlin!

It was very strange at home without her – very quiet with just me in the house most of the time. But Poppy had a great time and behaved herself completely (apparently). I think Kitty wanted to keep her really but she had to come home to me!

Sound of Joy Choir Concert

This time last year I attended a concert in which Claudia was singing – and was thus introduced to the Gospel choir Sound of Joy which I subsequently joined.

This year I was singing with them as well – and heading off to England for a work event the next morning.

I got a lift with Claudia to the concert (having cycled to her house – and then changed clothes) which was taking place in the Johanniskirche in the LVR Klinikum, Viersen-Süchteln.


Here we are singing – we performed 11 gospel and other songs and the audience seemed to really enjoy it.

Choir singing

Gudula my landlady came along (with her mother in law) and took some photos too. This is some of the choir at the end. Including me.

Choir at the end

I went to England

Four times a year I return to England for a work thing and also to see family and friends. Because of the Süchteln Choir concert, and my birthday six days later, it was to be a short England trip (I wanted to be back in Germany for my birthday). Poppy wasn’t coming with me on this trip to make it easier – Gudula and Frank looked after her. But I did have a companion – Lara hitched a ride so she could visit some of her friends in Canterbury for a few days.

As usual for a trip to England I had a list of things to buy there and bring back to Germany but also a few things to take with me this time (as I have a large car). These included clothes for a wedding I am attending in August (when I will go by aeroplane but James will be driving – he will bring my suitcase) and, rather more surprisingly, a coolbox filled with Quark. This is because in early July I am having another holiday in England, this time with Klaus, Claudia and Lara, and Klaus eats Quark for breakfast and it’s not available very widely in England (and where it is – Waitrose – it’s three times as expensive as Germany). So as I was taking a coolbox anyway I bought six tubs of Quark and took them with me.

Coolbox Quark

Although Poppy wasn’t coming with us when I started packing the car she jumped in the back. She wasn’t very keen on being left behind – for three minutes, then she recovered!

Poppy in car

Lara and I left with plenty of time as my car is a bit long in the tooth and has a habit of overheating if stuck in a traffic jam on a long day, so we gave ourselves an extra three hours. And of course had an entirely uneventful journey to Dunkirk, three and a half hours of easy motorway driving. We thought it worth seeing if we could be bumped up onto the sailing two hours earlier so made our way directly to the ferry terminal and checked in. Only to discover there wasn’t a sailing two hours earlier (there isn’t one on a Saturday) and we now had to wait for three hours.

The first thing to do was to get some food. Unfortunately the Dunkirk Terminal passenger area is distinctly un-equipped. No Wi-fi, a couple of vending machines and toilets, And that’s it.

We studied the vending machines.

Vending machine

I chanced a cheese baguette. Which tasted of plastic.

Plastic sandwich

After the excitement of reading leaflets on visitor attractions in England we had another two hours and fifty minutes to kill. So the next plan was to go for a walk.

The only place we could walk was round the car waiting area. So we resolved to take a turn around the car park.

Car park view

This area came with some attractive sea views

Sea view

The fencing made us feel like we were in prison.

Let me out!

After the excitement of walking round the car park (and commenting on the different types of cars that the DFDS UK staff had parked in Dunkirk) we went back to the terminal for some refreshment.

Lara was a bit hungry now but the plastic baguette did not appeal. I had a banana that we shared and then I had a flash of inspiration and raided my coolbox – no, not the all-important Quark but a bag of biscuits from Griesson de Beukelaer meant for church. They wouldn’t notice if a few were missing.

Biscuits and foamy tea

I bought a vending machine tea. It was remarkably foamy on top. Scary.

Foamy tea

With all this excitement we had whiled away one hour. Two more to go.

The next plan was to watch a TV programme on my ipad. Unfortunately I had only got a couple of programmes downloaded (I don’t really watch TV) but we decided on a documentary about a woman who had a stroke-like event and ended up sounding like she was Chinese. Because of the bright sunlight we both sat in the back of the car and had the iPad on the armrest.

Before the end of the programme we were allowed to start boarding – oh, the excitement!

So we drove onto the ferry, made our way up to the passenger area, and had another two and a half hours to kill.

First things first, while there was WiFi it was catching up on Facebook and stuff. Lara borrowed my iPad and I used my phone.

Lara and iPad

When we set off properly it was time to have some more food. Unfortunately the sandwich-type restaurant wasn’t open and the main food area was fish ‘n chips and heavy stuff like that which we didn’t need. But a little coffee bar had a cornish pasty so I had that.

Cornish pasty

Lara splashed out on a sausage roll.

Lara and sausage roll

You’re not long underway before you can see the coast of England, so we decided to go out and have a look.

Dover in the distance 1

It was actually remarkably windy on deck.

It's windy on deck

Inside it was rather less windy but the windows needed a clean. The whole boat really needs a clean – it looks very sad and tired compared to the Stena ferries that take the Harwich-Hook of Holland route.

Inside looking out of front windows

We did a few Sudokus on the iPad and then Lara decided to take some selfies.

Selfie 1

One to show the effects of the wind when outside.

Windy hair

She used the time-lapse feature on the iPad, the video feature, and took dozens and dozens of selfie still photos. Here’s a screenshot from my camera roll on the iPad.

Thousands of selfies

Fortunately before the iPad memory was completely full we docked at Dover. I dropped Lara off at a waiting area (her friends from Canterbury were collecting her) and then headed towards London, taking the Dartford Tunnel to Essex. The A12 junction with the M25 was closed so I took the A127 instead – fortunately I know these roads well. I arrived at my UK home at 00:04.

The next morning I went to church as normal – Lion Walk URC is something I miss now I am in Germany. I distributed the chocolates and biscuits from Griesson de Beukelaer and I don’t think anyone noticed a lot were missing as Lara and I had snaffled them.

On the way home we stopped off at Waitrose – and they had Quark.

Waitrose Quark

£1 for 250gm is about 1,40€; the ones I had brought with me were 0,45€ each.

In the early afternoon a member of the church was hosting a garden party for a charity connected with the church, the Rob George Foundation. James had got us tickets so we went along for a gospel choir concert.

Garden Party 1

Garden Party 2

There was also cake.

Rhys's cake

Cake selection

And strawberries.


We had a good time and the charity did well too with a raffle.

The next day I was travelling down to Eastbourne for work but had lots of appointments on the way, including visiting my sister. She has this wonderful Sock Exchange board for when you end up with only one sock.

Sock exchange

I was passing near to Sevenoaks where my friend Charlotte lives so we met up briefly for a slice of cake.

Cake with Charlotte

I then continued on to Eastbourne and went out for a curry with the sales reps as usual.

Here’s the obligatory photograph of the Full English Breakfast at the hotel.

Camelot Lodge Breakfast

And here we are at the sales meeting – spot the Griesson de Beukelaer chocolates!

Sales meeting chocolates

And my boss had bought some Angry Birds Biscuits!

Angry Birds Biscuits

At lunchtime we went to the Beach Hut Café again. Here’s my burger.

Beach Hut Burger

And here’s the view.

Easbourne Beach 1

Easbourne Beach 2

I left the sales meeting at 4:30pm and headed straight to Dover which was actually a two hour journey because the roads are a bit slow. I found Lara at our arranged meeting place (a BP filling station near the port) and we headed to check in. We were two hours early and, rather fortunately for us, the previous ferry was running late so they put us on that one. We only made up an hour overall but that was a bonus!

Once on the ferry we started a Sudoku challenge. Which Lara won by a country mile. She was also well supplied with food this time.

Ferry Sudoku challenge

We were soon heading into Dunkirk harbour.

Leaving Dover

We had to wait a bit for the previous ferry to leave our berth – there it was going past!

Another ferry

Back in France.

Arriving Dunkirk

The 3.5 hour drive back was OK, although I am now in our Honda Jazz (for insurance reasons) not my lovely comfy Audi and it’s not as good at motorway driving. We got home at 1:30am so I was tired but the journey had been much better than last time I did the Dunkirk run as I had Lara as a companion.

I’m back in England in July (holiday), August (wedding) and September (visit and routine hospital appointment), each time travelling on a different route. I will be an expert about getting from Germany to England!

I had a birthday

It was not only Poppy who celebrates her birthday in June but also me!

I’d been in England a couple of days beforehand but wanted to return to Germany for my actual birthday (It’s kind of a tradition – in the last 13 years I have spent my birthday in Germany for 12 of them).

Anyway, the day started with breakfast with Claudia and Lara at Mokka in Viersen. The breakfasts are great!

Mokka breakfast

I then had Lara with me for the rest of the day (whilst Claudia went to work – Lara’s school was closed that day) and she helped me do a bit of sorting out of my Wohnung ready for my afternoon event… a cake party.

Yes, I know this will surprise regular readers of my blog, but I decided to throw a party where we could enjoy cake.

Two weeks before my birthday I sent out emails to eighteen friends inviting them over between 4pm and 9pm for tea and cake. I was delighted and really touched to receive lots and lots of acceptances, as well as offers to make cakes, which I happily accepted.

Anja dropped her work-of-art cake off on my doorstep at 7am on her way to work. It was great!

Anja cake

Gudula had also made me a huge tray of Donauwelle


I (with the help of Lara and Lara) made a Banoffee Pie and I also made some scones as I had brought Tiptree jam and clotted cream back with me from England. Here is the table prepared before people started arriving.

Cakes on table

Lots of people seemed to come at once – and they brought more cakes! This work of art was made by Carole, who came along with her daughter Coralie (with whom I did some English coaching).

Carole's cake

And my neighbour Silke, who owns a Ferienwohnung over the road, bought this cake made with the Dickmanns marshmallow biscuitty things!

Dickmanns Cake

Lots of people came at once and several people brought me gifts, which I hadn’t expected at all. It was great that so many people came – in the end sixteen of the eighteen I had invited were there, which made me feel very loved and appreciated!

Here we all are, sitting around drinking tea and coffee, eating cake and getting to know each others:

Party guests 1

Party guests 2

Party guests 3

I was delighted that everyone came – and was amazed when Gabi appeared at my door. She cycled the 110km from Bonn to see me (bringing a present tucked in the back of her Velomobile), stayed a couple of hours and then cycled back 110km again. Nine hours on the road to celebrate my birthday with me! I was really touched.

Several of us went downstairs to wave her off.

Gabi leaves

Notice Jochen sitting on Alfie the trike. He had a go of the trike (after his unfortunate experience of not fitting in Rolf’s Mango) and so did Uli, another friend.

as previously mentioned, several people gave me presents which was wonderful – they ranged from a Music CD (Allegri – I love it), a book on cafés in Niederrhein with discount vouchers, an offer of a led cycle tour with lunch for me, a buff, some toiletries, a jar of chocolates and lots more… but Hartmut went for a very different additional item… matching pink shirts for him and Klaus.

Penelope shirts

Klaus wasn’t able to be at my party as he had to have a tooth out and was lying at home wailing with a cloth pressed to his mouth so Claudia modelled it instead. They are a matching pair, left side and right side of Penelope, which relates to which side the two chaps rolled my Velomobile when they borrowed it.

And this is on the back.

Penelope shirt rear

When I saw Klaus a few days later he modelled his one.

Klaus in shirt

He has worn it several times since so appears to have become reconciled, after nine months, with his velomobile-crashing experience.

Needless to say there was a fair amount of cake left over so I gave doggy-bags of cake to some of the visitors who stayed later and still found myself sharing it about over the next few days. But I had a brilliant evening and it was so lovely that people stayed for such a long time chatting and getting to know each other. Frank my landlord was also brilliant as he kept the tea topped up and ran the plates, mugs and cutlery through his dishwasher!

A visit to Tante Ju

Klaus and I planned a short-ish ride on a Sunday morning and when I arrived at his house with trike he suggested a visit to Mönchengladbach Airport as it was an open day for Tante Ju, the JU-52, as well as the special opening for the new hangar or something. It sounded like a good idea so off we went!

MG Airport is only 10km or so away from Klaus’s house but clearly when we got there we needed something to eat. Pancakes and Strudel seemed the best options.



And if we looked up from our food we could see:

Tante Ju

Tante Ju 2

Tante Ju 3

Tante Ju 4

BMW Engine

There were other interesting aircraft there too:


This is a a CASA 1.131, a license-built version of the Bücker Bü-131 Jungmann.

Buecker Bue 131

A very shiny Cessna.

Shiny Cessna

Another JU-52 but not quite in flying condition.


Is it a bike or is it a plane?

Bike or plane

And on our ride home, as a bonus, we got to play with this cool bridge over the Niers (except we couldn’t fit our bikes into it due to the whacking great metal pole across the entrance way)

Niers Bridge 1

Niers Bridge 2

Niers Bridge 3

My VHS Course finished

I have now completed the B2.2 Volkshochschule course in German. Here is Penelope on our last day in her usual parking place inside the Erasmus von Rotterdam Gymnasium, Viersen, being looked after by the school caretaker.

Penelope at Erasmus von Rotterdam Gymnasium

I could have moved up to the C1.1 course but unfortunately this takes place on Wednesday evenings, when I have my choir practice, so I have decided to take a break from the language lessons at the moment. It was good fun though and the teacher, Brigitte Dubrau, was excellent.

Odds and ends

On one of my regular dogwalks with Poppy there’s a ladder propped up against a tree (which leads to a seat area) which has been there so long the tree has grown around it. I climbed up for a closer look, leaving Poppy below.

Ladder up tree 1

Ladder up tree 2

It appears that I may be turning more German – I went to the supermarket and bought some Quark for myself!


I saw this fantastic drainpipe in Brüggen

Cool drainpipe

And this exceptionally large mousetrap near Dülken.

Alfie and mousetrap

The Queen did a state visit to Germany and there was quite a lot about it on the news. Lara and Poppy and I watched the Queen visiting Frankfurt…

Queen in Germany

We had a disturbed night at the end of June when lots of fire engines appeared at 2:30am taking water from the hydrant round the corner from our house.


It turned out that there was a fire at Spargelhof Goetzens, fortunately not in the main buildings or the animal sheds, but in a machine shed. Lara took this photo at 4:30am.

Fire and smoke

The next morning when I drove past at 8:30am there were still two fire engines there and the smell of ash was very noticeable. Apparently the main issue was a burning hay store. Fortunately no-one was injured.

Their report on Facebook was as follows:

dieses Jahr fand die Spargelsaison ein turbulentes Ende. Nachdem wir Mittwoch den letzten Verkaufstag hatten, brannte in der Nacht von Samstag auf Sonntag unsere Maschinenhalle. Mit Hilfe der Feuerwehr konnte eine Ausbreitung des Brandes verhindert und die in der Halle stehenden Kälber gerettet werden. Der Hof selber ist glücklicherweise nicht betroffen.

Bis zum späten Nachmittag waren wir noch mit dem Nachlöschen und den Aufräumarbeiten beschäftigt. Nun können wir erstmal durchatmen.

Unser Dank geht an die Helfer von der freiwilligen Feuerwehr.

Views this month

As ever, the Niederrhein area provides some wonderful views with its wide open spaces, wind turbines and church spires.

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

Sunset 3

Sunset 4

Cakes this month

Cake 1

Cake 2

Cake 3

Cake 4

Cake 5

Straciatella Kuchen 2

Helen's Windbeutel

Apple SLice

Cake 2


Pastry in Viersen

Stachelbeer Kaesekuchen

Strawberry cake


The Summer Holidays are here

July should be busy with a holiday in England with Klaus, Claudia and Lara as well as lots of cycle rides of course. In August I am having a weekend in Berlin with Klaus, Claudia and Lara (their birthday present to me) and flying to James’s cousin’s wedding in Exeter. I am also having another visit from Wowbagger and Mrs Wow (who came last year), as well as a visit from friend Ines from Berlin in early September. James my husband is also coming late August until September for a few weeks. I’m looking forward to more cycle rides and want to expand my range a bit – and maybe, just maybe, I’ll manage my Knotenpunkt Tour of 150km…

One comment

  1. I must say, this post really had it all. Very enjoyable. What is Quark? Can I find it in the States? I will google……

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