Monday, 22 June 2009

Day eighteen.

The Princess of Norway, our ferry back to Engerland and definitely where the party's at tonight, you hear?

A jerk

Home, sweet home. Well, South Shields, but close enough.

Day eighteen.

''Let us brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

And so, the conquest draws to a close. Today the magnificents made their final push through Amsterdam to the port of Ijmuiden on the North West coast of Holland.

The journey has been a long one, fraught with dangerous dangers and perilous perils. There have been laughs, tears, blood, sweat and enormous saddle sores. There have been highs and lows, good times and bad. We have met some extremely interesting people and some not-so-interesting people. We have seen things many will never see except in movies or on the telly, if at all. It has been a huge challenge, but worth every single mile.

We will now venture forth on our homeward craft, the Princess of Norway, towards the hallowed shores of North Shields and England. Glorious England.

It's been fun dearest readers, assuming there are any of you out there. We hope you've enjoyed listening to us whinge and moan, because we've certainly enjoyed whinging and moaning to you.

Till next time, adios

The 3 Magnificent Men
(and John Rambanana, who survived by the way)

Day seventeen.

A plaque erected on behalf of the Allied forces involved in Market Garden, addressed to the people of Gelderland

The Market Garden Cemetery in Arnhem

The Magnificents on Arnhem bridge

Day seventeen.

The penultimate day of the tour, today the magnificos visited the two main sites of the biggest airborne military operation in history, operation Market Garden.

In September 1944 Fieldmarshal Montgomery launched an airborne assault on two bridges crossing the Rhine at Nijmegen and Arnhem in Holland. The idea was to seize control of the bridges and thus ease the passage of Allied forces into northern Holland and Germany. The plan was designed, as famously claimed by Montgomery, to end the War by Christmas.

A combination of the slow progress of Allied reinforcements and an extremely determined enemy meant that the operation sustained heavy losses and ultimately failed.

We hit the bridge at Nijmegen first and you really wouldn't know its significance by just looking at it - no plaques or memorials or anything. Yeesh.

A few miles up the road was the bridge at Arnhem, beside which sat a small Market Garden museum and memorial. The main Airborne museum, which we spent an hour trying to find, was closed until July. Typical. Nevertheless, it was quite refreshing to see a site of such historical significance which was not overrun by tourists dressed like soldiers.

Our hotel for our last night on the road is the 3* Tulip Inn in Amersfoort, and we are currently chilling out watching Mrs Doubtfire on Dutch telly. An old drag queen setting fire to his boobs is funny in any language, I don't care what you say.

Tomorrow is our last day, we rise at 7.30 and make our way to the port of Ijmuiden for the long ferry home. Our last blog will no doubt be written whilst shitfaced on said ferry, so from sober Flameboy and Jonny Hurricane, au revoir and thanks for reading. The Raging Inferno will, as always, be sober anyway.


Day sixteen.

1000 km

Nummer Zes, our bed and breakfast for the night. Complete with electric moving matresses. Bed goes up, bed goes down...

Day sixteen.

The relentless march towards Arnhem continued apace today as the magnificents ventured deeper into occupied Holland.

Our destination today was the lakeside retreat of Plasmolen, just 10 miles south of Nijmegen. The ride today was long - 70 miles - and windy. But at least there were no stinking hills.

Not a great deal happened to be honest, the good stuff should all go on tomorrow. But we managed to find a McDonalds for lunch, which was a triumph in itself.Oh yeah, and we got to hop on a little boat to take us over a river, which was pretty fun.

Tomorrow's post will have more effort put into it, quite tired today. Adios.


Day fifteen.

Don't worry Holland, we're coming to ruin your day too

Gav and Joe fix a punctured tyre whilst Jonno messes around taking pictures

The Hotel Turboch. That's it.

Day fifteen.

Today we finally said goodbye to the hills and valleys of Belgium and hello pretty mama to the flatness of Holland. We love the Dutch.

After about 20 miles we crossed our third border of the tour and celebrated by taking off our trousers and running naked back into Belgium, then into Holland, then Belgium etc etc, just like the first settlers did.

Slightly further on we were halted in our tracks by a professional cycle race, a warm-up for the Tour de France. The guys in it looked pretty handy; no magnificents but not bad. Then, slightly further on, Gav got a puncture, the first of the Tour. The tyre was successfully changed, I'm happy to report.

Our hotel for the night was the Hotel Terboch in Roosteren and was again of poor quality. In the evening we wandered a couple of km into the centre for some food, crossing the Maas river on the way and in the process going back into Belgium, as the river marks the border. Which was weird. But not that weird really.

Tomorrow will be our longest mileage day of the tour, 60+ miles. Joy.


Thursday, 18 June 2009

Day fourteen.

Our good friend Derek, the albino reindeer

Our hotel for tonight, the very nice Hotel du Wayai. Nazi salute courtesy of The Raging Inferno, naturally.

The woods outside of Bastogne, where the US Airborne were dug in during the Battle of the Bulge

Day fourteen:

Today, sadly, the magnificents left Bastogne and began the homeward leg of their epic journey.

This morning we said a fond farewell to the Bates Motel and plundered our way back into the Ardennes forest, heading for Spa.

The trip today was still pretty hilly, with a couple of monsters to test the old thighs, but the scenery was again breathtaking and pretty worth it if I'm being honest Bob.

Our hotel tonight is called the Hotel Wayai (geordie owned I think), and is really really nice. It has a pool and a zoo, with goats and a reindeer in it. (The zoo, not the pool)

We're off down the road for a chinese tonight then back for part 3 of the BBC's gripping drama, Occupation, which we have been following with interest for the last couple of nights. Will Mike be able to salvage what's left of his tattered marriage? Will Hibbs lose his head? (Ba dum tish)

It's all too much to bear. Tomorrow - the magnificents arrive in Holland. We love the dutch.


Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Day thirteen.

In the company of heroes - Gav meets his Great Uncle Basil.

The American Battle of the Bulge Memorial.

The German owned Bastogne museum had an alarmingly large amount of Nazi paraphernalia.

Day thirteen.

''Highty tighty christ almighty, who the hell are we? Zim-zam, god damn, we're airborne infantry.''

''Highty tighty christ almighty, who the hell are we? Zim-zam, god damn, we're airborne infantry.''

''Highty tighty christ almighty, who the hell are them? Zim-zam, god damn, they're 3 magnificent men.''

Such was the chant of the joyous American airborne veterans when the magnificents emerged this morning and made their way towards the centre of Bastogne.

First things first this morning - we got the bus out to the village of Hotton on the outskirts of Bastogne to visit the grave of Gav's great uncle, Sergeant Basil Orrick, who was killed in the Battle of the Bulge. The small cemetery was as peaceful and picturesque a war cemetery as we have seen on this trip and a really fitting resting place for a real hero, who died aged just 19 fighting for his country.

After that we hit the Ardennes offensive museum in Bastogne, a small privately owned collection of artefacts from in and around Bastogne. The owner spoke with a German accent, and most of the artefacts were German. And there were a fair few Nazi flags hanging around. Hmm...

Anywaaaay, we then made our merry way over to the American memorial, about 2km outside of the town. This enormous star-shaped structure was erected after the War to honour the 79,000 US soldiers killed or injured in the Battle of the Bulge. The museum annexed to the memorial was good, full of authentic weaponry and other artefacts, and the memorial itself was extremely impressive.

We are now back in our hotel and are soon off out to get some carb-loaded food to prepare for the homeward leg, which begins tomorrow.


Day twelve.

The Bates Motel...I mean, err, Hotel Du Sud, Bastogne.

No expenses spared on tonights hotel.

Day twelve.

After feasting heartily this morning on the usual fayre of bread and croissants we set off on our final day of cycling on this leg, towards the famous town of Bastogne.

The cycle itself was again hot and sweaty but still pretty spectacular given the surroundings. We were now entering the domain of the Battle of the Bulge, where the American 501st and 502nd battalions found themselves surrounded by the German Panzer divisions with limited supplies and no protection against the freezing winter temperatures.

We checked into our crap hotel at about half four and set out to find somewhere to get some food.

War stuff was limited as we've got the day off tomorrow to look around. Off to get some beer now. Fanta orange for Joe.