It was raining when I woke up, so I had breakfast before packing up to keep dry for as long as possible. It was only postponing the inevitable however and within ten minutes of hitting the road I was soaked. The rain was heavy, but it wasn’t cold so I didn’t mind too much – I’ve found that on wet days staying dry is impossible, so the important thing is to keep warm and comforatable.
The scenery was far better than it had been for days – I skirted around Brussels this morning, but after that I was back out in the countryside proper and enjoyed the rolling fields and small villages. The hills I covered last night were just a taster and it was tough going this morning, but after so much flat land I enjoyed streaching my legs and building up a sweat. After around 30 miles I had my worst crash so far: I was going fairly fast and saw a lump of concrete covering the bike lane – this wasn’t unusual as they’re often poorly maintained. I got out of the saddle in anticipation of the shock that would come when I went over it, and kept going straight. It wasn’t concrete but sand and the front tyre sunk into it sending me over the handle bars. It looked worse than it was – all the traffic stopped even though I wasn’t in the road – but the sand broke my fall, and I got away with a couple of bruises and a raw shoulder. The bike was fine too – although the panniers had flown off fortunately nothing was broken.
A bit shaken I pressed on. I came out of the hills, following a river, and the towns became more noticably French as I left the Flemish half of Belgium behind me. It was market day, and I had to walk through the centre of every town I came to as the crowds were so thick – I wasn’t complaining though, the sights and smells of the stalls were a welcome destraction from the rain. In the early afternoon I made it to France, which feels like far more of a landmark than crossing into Belgium or the Netherlands did.
Towards the end of the day I had a bit of a revision session in climbing, ascending 400 meters over a couple of kilometres as I left the river valley for more mountainous country. I finished the day in Charleville-Mézières at a brilliant campsite, just as the rain stopped, with 100 miles in the bank.