Tag Archives: bicycle tours

Cycle Bruges

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Planning a European cycling tour? Consider Bruges. Just 18 kilometres from Holland and 10 to the North Sea, Bruges is a small, quiet, perfectly intact medieval city of 117,000 whose respect for cyclists is legendary.

Everywhere are the paved red paths indicating cycling tails that provide access to the inner city and beyond. Those looking for a shorter trip head to the village of Damme five kilometres away on the canal bike path.

To explore any of the 18 museums of Bruges, including the quirky French Fry, Chocolate and Folk museums just pull up in front, lock your back wheel and remember to take your key. All bikes are left freestanding, including rentals, which can be found on Hallestraat off the market square.

Other good stops include the Half Moon Brewery and Cafedraal – whose courtyard provides excellent lunches on sunny afternoons and an elegant dining room for dinner.

The mussel and vegetable soup is a house specialty that goes well with their cherry beer. In a county that produces over 700 top notch brews, it’s a good idea to order a different one at every meal and rest stop.

A good place to spend the night is the Hotel Albert near the main city bus terminal in the town centre. The small, reasonably priced inn provides an excellent hot breakfast complete with stewed cherries and rhubarb as well as the usual assortment of cheeses, cold cuts and cereals.

Direct flights from Toronto to Brussels are available on Air Canada with quick and easy train connections to Bruges one hour away.

Cycle Florida’s Pinellas Trail

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Where railroad tracks once sat, abandoned and rusting, now runs The Pinellas Trail, a paved, greenway corridor in Pinellas County, Florida . The first six-mile section of the Pinellas Trail opened in 1990, connecting Taylor Park in Largo to Seminole Park in Seminole. The trail became immensely popular, now ranking as the third most heavily used rail-trail in America with 1.2 million users per year. Stretching 47-miles from St. Petersburg north to Tarpon Springs, the trail links some of Pinellas County’s most picturesque parks, scenic coastal areas and residential neighborhoods.

We plan to start cycling the Pinellas Trail in Dunedin, one of the oldest cities on Florida’s west coast. Downtown Dunedin is notable for its absence of large commercial signage, fast food franchise restaurants or big box chain stores. Dunedin is perhaps best known as the home of the Toronto Blue Jays spring training camp.

After picking out our rental bikes from Dunedin Cyclery, we hit the trail. The plan is to bike the 6 miles from Dunedin to Honeymoon Island State Park for some swimming and return to Dunedin for dinner. First stop is Eli’s BBQ for lunch. Nothing fancy, just good old Southern barbecue at its finest: tender smoked pork, sausage, beef, chicken and turkey done right.  A local favorite, this roadside attraction next to the Pinellas Trail at Skinner Blvd. is only open Fridays and Saturdays.

After a delicious, smokey, pulled pork sandwich, we cycle across Dunedin Causeway towards Honeymoon Island. The pioneers called it Hog Island, but when a New York developer built 50 palm – thatched bungalows for honeymooners in 1939, it became Honeymoon Isle. You can swim, fish and snorkel in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Shelling is good here, as the Gulf currents deposit an incredible variety of seashells on the shore. The Honeymoon Island visitor’s center has a knowledgable staff to help navigate their exceptional display of shells.

With wide lanes and no elevation changes, The Pinellas Trail is a breeze to cycle and soon we’re back in Dunedin. Dunedin hosts 25 festivals annually and we check out one – a weekend arts and crafts market on Main Street in Dunedin. For casual waterfront dining in Dunedin, try The Olde Bay Café. Dine al fresco on the deck and watch the sun go down while sipping a Landshark and eating a smoked mullet taco, one of the best fish tacos we’ve had in Florida. Many different beers are available as well as fresh catch of the day specials.

The free Guide to the Pinellas Trail is available at the trail office, area libraries and the Pinellas County Courthouse Information Desk or on the Internet . The pocket-size guide details rest stops, service stations, restaurants, pay phones, bike shops, park areas and much more along the entire length of the Trail.

So hop on your bike, lace up your in-line skates, or put on your jogging shoes and head to the Pinellas Trail.