Eurocycle 1: Cardiff to Amsterdam

We're setting ourselves a bold venture. To travel from Cardiff to Amsterdam and back again on trains and bikes. This isn't really that bold because 3 train rides and 6 hours+ hours later and we are in Amsterdam. The tricky part is the return journey because the travel back to Brussels (where we take the Eurostar back to Blighty) will mostly be done on bike.

We travel by air quite a lot for work and decided that as well as the associations with going somewhere gastly and talking to arrogant and slightly boring people, we wanted to be a bit more environmentally friendly.

So bike and train it is.

We took the 8.25 from Cardiff central to London Paddington Surprisingly this is an 'off-peak' service for an unsurprisingly high price. We also had 4 very jolly early-teenagers next to us, who sounded like they were the Pevensies on their way to an Enid Blyton convention in Narnia.

"Anyone for cards?"
"I should say"
"Shall we say it's Old Maid"
"Crikey, Lucy! You're a rotten cheater"

Cycling through London was something we were a little worried about because of the traffic. Thanks to the excellent TFL website we found a low traffic route from Paddington to St Pancras, which mostly took advantage of the London cycle network of dedicated cycle lanes (not the rubbish taxi/bus/road sweeper/horse-drawn cart/temporary "I'll be really quick" parking/bicycle lanes we suffer in Cardiff). We downloaded the route (in GPX format) to the good old iPhone using a nice little app called Trails, from the TFL website.

I kept having to stop and look at the iphone which slowed us down but it meant we did t get lost or end up decorating the wheel arch of an articulated lorry.

If you plan on taking a bike on Eurostar, make sure you're prepared. We have lovely little Bromptons which fold up to an incredibly tiny size, so Eurostar will let us take them on board in a bag (£3 car tire bag from Ikea works excellently if you don't need to carry it long distances) and not charge. If you have a larger bike you'll certainly have to pay £20 per bike and you might have to suffer you bike follow you on a late train if you haven't booked a space for it. That'll put the kibosh on a tight schedule so plan ahead!

We alighted at Brussels and got the expensive express train to Amsterdam. We had a bit of a fright because we lugged all our things up to the advertised platform in plenty of time, then 10 minutes be fire departure heard an announcement in Dutch containing the word Amsterdam... I began to smell a Belgian rat and low and behold the blackguards had changed the platform on us. We just caught the train then had to turf 2 grotty French teenagers out of our seats.

Amsterdam station is very close to the red light district, as we found when we were taking 'the scenic route' to the hotel. Watch out for that. Although at a little before 7pm there was not much too it other than a few DVD shops and stoned students wandering about trying to look sober.

I' m not sure what I was expcecting if Amsterdam but there are canals and cyclists and rather s lot of both. Cyclists rule the city in a strange sort of anarchy: no road markings at junctions, ability to cycle against the flow of motorized traffic, competition with trams in some roads and only a bike bell saving them from serious maiming.

More crazy amsterdam cycling tomorrow…

If you would like maps and directions for this journey, have a look at our general Eurocycle page.