BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Friday, 7 December 2012

Next stop Belgium. Where in Belgium? We'll let you know when we get there.


We enjoyed a great day today.

We planned to get going early in the morning and try and make the most of any good weather that was available. That is we were hoping there might be a bit of sunshine, and a temperature above six degrees.

We had a lousy night's sleep as there were tradesman painting on our floor, and they were noisy. We both had a bit of a sleep in and ended up riding out of the car park just before lunch. To be fair, the manager at the hotel gave us a free night and half price parking, so that was good, but we were still tired and had a challenging ride in front of us.

On our way out of Amsterdam the temperature was hovering between one and two degrees. As I've said before, with all the gear on it's not too bad.

Light rain started to fall. After about half an hour on the freeway I said to Suzanne "Is this rain, or is it snow?" It looked like rain, but wasn't hitting as hard. Suzanne laughed and said it's rain. Then I looked to the grass paddocks on the side of the road and asked "OK, if it's rain how come the grass on the side of the road is white?" Yes, we were riding while it was snowing. I can tick that one off the bucket list.

We rode in the snow for about forty five minutes. I must admit I did laugh to myself quite a bit while we were doing this. Visibility was a bit of a problem, and I was getting a build up of ice on the bike screen. 

The temperature stayed on one degree for some time (I don't know if the thermometer goes any lower on the bike) and the BM instruments flashed up a little snow flake on the dash to remind me to be on the look out for black ice.

Our target was to get to Brussels, but an hour on the bike in these conditions is about as much as I can take. I'm fine except my thumbs get frozen, and my toes aren't far behind. I'm going to make some dodgy hand guard extensions for the bike, and try wearing four pair of socks. The heated grips are on the maximum setting, but I can't actually feel any warmth coming from them. I hate to think what my hands would be like if I didn't have them. 

Sorry, no photos of the above. As much as I wanted a photo, I wanted to find somewhere warm more.

We made a short detour into Antwerp and found a nice little Italian restaurant. When I pulled up outside and Suzanne was getting off the bike, she got her foot caught on the seat of the bike and fell flat on her bum on the road. Luckily with all her padded riding gear on, Suzanne didn't feel a thing. I'm sure it looked funny from inside the restaurant. What Suzanne thought was funny was that I tried to help her up while holding up the bike. She could see it going all wrong and both of us lying on the road trapped under the bike.

There was a staff of six in the restaurant and one of them owned a bike. When he asked where we were from, and we told him Australia, he turned to his mates and said something which got the usual "Wow" sort of reactions, and one guy made swimming actions with his arms. We were looked after extremely well, and defrosted quickly. The coffee was especially good.

Yes, I had to go out and feel the snow.
I couldn't help myself.

After our warm up break it was back on the bike, still riding in the snow, for a quick fifty kilometre ride into Brussels. We want to go to Luxembourg, but staying there is very expensive, so we'll make it a day trip. As we have a habit of doing, we rode into Brussels in peak hour, in the dark, in the rain, and the cold. We've got to get better at this.

Brussels peak hour.

The first hotel we checked was full, but they pointed us in the direction of the Reyers Hotel, which was just across the intersection. Suzanne went to reception while I sat on the bike outside. There's no point in us both taking our gear off if we have to move on. Our intercom works well and I can hear her when she talks to people  in the hotel. Score - we have a room for tonight, and it's really cheap, only seventy Euros. Oh oh, that is cheap. The Ibis down the road was 164 Euro. Hmmm?

I walked in and met Bruno at reception. Bruno is what you would call a character. He has a long white beard and hair, and dark eyebrows that flick up on the ends. His sense of humour is as dry as. When I asked if I could leave my bike outside the front door he said "Of course. But if it was my bike I'd put it downstairs in the basement garage where it will be safe."  We asked what time breakfast was available and Bruno replied "When ever you feel like it. Just try to be down before four o'clock. Before twelve would be good also."

So we were in our cheap hotel. We went up in the tiny lift and exited into a hallway with grotty carpet, complete with stains, and some sections missing. We both said, OK, it's just one night. We were very pleasantly surprised when we walked into our room. It was spotless, and very nice. Happy happy!

Time for food. We were told about a restaurant on the corner about fifty metres from the hotel. When we got there were found the menus were bilingual. They were in French and Flemish. Fantastic! Now both my French and Flemish are a bit rusty so I had to enlist the waiter's help. Luckily he spoke English. Once again we experienced the Aussie phenomenon. Our waiter was very polite and did nothing wrong at all, but when he found out we were Australians, he was our best mate. Nothing was too much trouble.

Dinner was great and I discovered Duvel beer. It was only after I'd had what was probably too many, I found out it's 8.5%. It was nice though. I was then introduced to Dr Suzanne. We spent hours psychoanalysing why I stress out so much when I pack the bike. It was very interesting and I learnt a lot. Now I just need to work out how to fix it.  I guess I'm a work in progress...

Dr Suzanne's notes.

We had been watching it snow from inside the restaurant but now it was time to go. We wandered outside and of course we had to write in the snow on the cars...

We miss you Paige.

It was a great day. Tomorrow is tourist time in Brussels.  We'll have a look around and might head off to Luxembourg in the afternoon. We'll see how we go.

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