We set three records on this day: shortest distance cycled (67km), longest travel time (almost 11 hours), first bicycle portage.
We set off just past 8am on a sunny day from our B&B in Dunkerque heading for the car ferry, about 20km through town then into a vast port and industrial area full of warehouses and petrochemical plants. Along the way the path over a railway track was under reconstruction and open only to pedestrians. Stairs. To detour was lengthy. Undaunted, off came the panniers and in two trips we moved bikes and baggage over the temporary pedestrian bridge. Our first bicycle portage.
We arrived at the ferry terminal at 9:25 for our 10:00 ferry. Surprise: one must arrive an hour before sailing to purchase a ticket (not mentioned on the website). Surprise: because we didn’t pre-book, the fare was €39 each rather than €25 (also not mentioned on the website). We set sail at 12:30, delayed half an hour by slow loading (the dock with two loading ramps was being used to refuel a ferry, the active ferry got the dock with one ramp). And so it went; on arrival a long delay getting the ship moored properly. If you cross the channel, don’t use DFDS Seaways. Go to Calais.
The Channel was calm and the crossing pleasant. The cliffs of Dover are white and visible from far away.
The only problem with the cliffs is that the roads are on the plain above. Construction at the terminal made it difficult to find any bike route. We ended up doing the climb on the A2 motorway with a narrow shoulder and cars buzzing past. At the top of the hill, we turned off on the smaller A258 road toward Deal, but it turned out to be a narrow two-lane road with no shoulder and busy Sunday traffic. Near Deal we got on the N1 cycle path. A relief after an unnerving start. We followed the N1 on quiet roads to Sandwich, then took busier roads to Canterbury. A long day.
It is an adjustment coming from the Netherlands and Belgium to the UK. No one cycles. There are almost no bike facilities. Cars don’t give way to pedestrians. It is odd for a country with history of cycling and walking.
Our hostel in Canterbury, Kipps, is a treat – friendly, clean, busy and not far from the town centre. After a shower and dinner in town, we slept well.