The World Cup of Travel

The women’s World Cup is going on in France as I write this, and in honor of the tournament, allow me to present the World Cup of this trip. It’s Italy vs. France vs. Belgium for cycling, eating, and drinking. Who will win? Let’s find out…
Terrain
Gold Medal: France
Silver Medal: Italy
Bronze Medal: Belgium
Provence has everything you need for interesting cycling. You can climb mountains, or ride flat. Or you can mix it up. Italy has some good hills, but the terrain is not as varied as France. Belgium is as flat as an open Coke that has been left out all night. Floridians will love it here. We are still looking for a hill to climb.

Scenery
Gold Medal: France
Silver Medal: Italy
Bronze Medal: Belgium
There’s nothing like riding through the vineyards of France. And every eight miles or so, you get a village that has been around since the year 1500. Oh, and there’s that lavender thing.

Italy has some nice churches. We visited so many that we have been named honorary Catholics. There’s not much to Belgian villages. Two World Wars have taken care of many of their historic buildings.


Drivers
Gold Medal: Belgium
Silver Medal: France
Bronze Medal: Italy
The drivers in Belgium are amazing. Basically, the bicycle has the right of way. Drivers stop and let you go in front of them. They give you plenty of room. We could get used to this. French drivers are not as good, but they give you plenty of space. The Italian drivers are rude. You are in their way. They do nothing to give you more space on the road.


Infrastructure
Gold Medal: Belgium
Silver Medal: France
Bronze Medal: Italy
The bicycle is the national car of Belgium. The entire road system is designed around bicycles. Every road has a bike lane. Bicycles get special bridges over rivers and highways. There are bike trails everywhere. France has added a lot of bike lanes since we were there in 2015. France also has an incredible amount of small roads that go thru vineyards that cars just don’t go on. Italy has no special facilities for bikes. Reminds us of Georgia.


Friendliness
Gold Medal: France
Silver Medal: Belgium
Bronze Medal: Italy
Everyone sings out a nice “bonjour” for you in France. Eve has gotten quite good at it. Belgians are not as friendly, but most of them speak English, which is a good thing because our Dutch is terrible. Italians won’t even recognize you when you say hello to them on the road. They must not like strangers.

Bakeries
Gold Medal: France
Silver Medal: Belgium
Bronze Medal: Italy
Every town in France has a bar, a hotel, and a bakery. The bakeries serve up some incredible treats, and the bread is excellent. Belgium’s bakeries can give France’s a good run, but the French bread is better. Poor Italy. It was tough finding a good bakery, but warm, fresh Italian bread is an excellent accompaniment to any meal.

Restaurants
Gold Medal: Italy
Silver Medal: France
Bronze Medal: Belgium
There’s nothing like an Italian pizza or a big plate of fresh pasta after a long day on the bike. The portion sizes in Italy are huge and you never go away hungry. French food is prettier, but there’s not that much of it. Belgian food doesn’t have much of an identity. Think brown bread, dried meat and cheese.

Beer
Gold Medal: Belgium
Silver Medal: Italy
Bronze Medal: France
The beer in Belgium is the best we have ever had. We tried over 25 different beers and each one was better than the one before. We found one line of Italian beers that is trying to brew Belgian-style and is doing a pretty good job. French brewers have basically given up. Most restaurants/bars serve Belgian beer.

Wine
Gold Medal: Italy
Silver Medal: France
Bronze Medal: Belgium
Now one could argue that French wines are better, and we wouldn’t necessarily disagree.  We happen to like the Italians more. That’s just us–your mileage may vary. Do they make wine in Belgium?

Bars
Gold Medal: Belgium
Silver Medal: Italy
Bronze Medal: France
There is nothing that can compare to a real Belgian beer bar. The bartenders know their beers and they are happy to help you pick one out. Each beer is served in its own special glass. (Note to Atlanta beer bars: serving a Reformation Cadence in a Bud Light glass would never happen in Belgium.) Italian and French bartenders aren’t really into their craft. They can often be found outside smoking with their pals from town.

And the winner of our World Cup is…France. The terrain is great, the roads are smooth, and we get such nice rewards in the patisseries. Our poolside villas were rather nice as well. We’ll give the silver medal to Belgium because of the beer, but the cycling is rather uneventful. The bike lanes are amazing, though. Coming in last is Italy. The wine and the food are good, but the drivers are scary and the residents are not that friendly.

This is the last post of our European odyssey.  Thanks for joining us.  We will see you on our next adventure!

Follow this blog and get an e-mail notification every time we publish. Just click the FOLLOW button on the upper right side of the page!  You’ll get an email to confirm your subscription, and then you are set.

10 thoughts on “The World Cup of Travel

  1. Loved this comparison! Confirms my suspicions that I would love bike riding in France. Your posts are always so articulate. Thanks for all your time and effort in making your posts so fabulous to read and enjoy. Hope your move and settling in at your new home is going well.

  2. Just got back from France and even though we have never been to Belgium, we agree with your assessments. France does win.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s