45km Putney, England – Den Haag, Netherlands
With winter coming on, it was still very dark and we crossed Putney Bridge, onto the Kings Road, feeling slightly vulnerable in the already heavy rush hour traffic.A white van man slowed down just to yell at us, ‘where’s your lights’, even though we had front and back lights on and plenty of reflectors.
On we pedalled, through Chelsea where three young well-to-do women waited to cross the road, the rain splashing off their high-heeled leather boots but their perfectly coiffed hair still protected as they huddled under one umbrella.
Through Sloane Square we went, past swanky bars and chic boutiques, then across Victoria with its tangled knot of roads around the train station and into Parliament Square, where a solitary bell rang out from Westminster Abbey. Up Whitehall, past the Cenotaph and Horse Guards Parade, it was still dark but a few more people were walking to work, coming off buses, clutching morning coffees.
We opted to walk across Trafalgar Square, before hopping on our bikes again and moving past Leicester Square, then turning right towards Holborn. By now it was getting light and as we wove our way through Leather Lane Market, traders were setting up their stalls for another day. Vegetables, fruit, clothing, fabric, mobile phones, jewellery, all on offer.
A left turn put us on the path for the great Saint Paul`s Cathedral and Bank – now we were truly in City of London territory. A sea of suits darting in and out of traffic, preferring to take their chances with the cars rather than wait for the crossing lights to turn green.
Only a group of construction workers broke up the wave of black, in their neon safety vests, all of them carrying coffee in a simple styrofoam cup and bacon sarnies from a greasy spoon down a side street. No Pret-A-Manger for those boys. Just a few turns later and we arrived at Liverpool Street, where the streams of people coming off trains was truly a sight to see.
For five minutes, hundreds of souls got off the train and headed for the tubes. Once they`d cleared, we got our bikes on the same train and left Britain for the last time in a very long while.
Once we arrived in Hook, we jumped straight onto cycle paths to a bed with friends in Den Haag, about 25km down the road. The scenery was quite pretty, following the coast for much of the route.