Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

For more information on the Cafes I have visited and the latest cafe cycle news go to http://www.cake-crusader.co.uk/

Cake Crusader Book

There is now a Cake Crusader book available where you can follow my journey from humble local trips to world record attempts and near-death experiences. How did a simple method of keeping track of decent cycling café pit stops turn my life upside down? Track my adventures into Europe, up mountains and right across Great Britain as I become a 'rising star' on social media. Will I prove my critics wrong? Should cheese scones be served hot or cold? Do I really have nothing better to do with his time? A must read for lovers of cycling and cake or anyone wanting to make it big in the virtual world

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Sunday 23 October 2022

Tour of Italy part 5 (To Naples and Pompeii)

Tour of Italy Part 5

For our final stage we would be heading to Naples. It will be the first time we would have seen the sea on the West coast and, as everyone knows, that no long bicycle ride is complete without a bit of sun, sea and sand. There would, however, be less cultural experiences until we finish with a bang at Pompeii.

Day 16

We woke up to drizzle and the forecast of heavy rain all day. We were now also on a deadline as Mrs Crusaders friend, Catherine, was going to fly out to Naples to meet us with our bike boxes. So we needed to be at the airport on Saturday morning to meet her.

With this in mind I had planned a long 65 mile ride which now looked likely to give us a soaking. We therefore put on all our waterproofs and set off at our regular 9.30 pedals down.

We soon discovered that cycling routes were in short supply on this section of the ride. We spent the first few miles on a busy road getting sprayed by passing lorries. To recover we had an early stop featuring excellent ring doughnuts.

From here it was down to the sea. The early excitement was soon lost as the area was a bit swampy and had swarms of mosquitoes and we all now how that turns out.

We decided to head back to the busy road and skip that section of coast especially as the heavy rain had not materialised and it was now rather hot.

Fortunately the next bit was much more sea sidey and what we had imagined. With the help of a nice cycle path we made it to our hotel. Not surprisingly it was our fastest average speed to date.

The hotel was having an actual Italian wedding so I enquired if I could ask the local godfather for a favour but apparently it wasn’t that sort of a wedding.

Day 17

We set off in bright sunshine by the sea. What could be nicer than fabulous cycle track and views of the beach. 

Unfortunately it only last for a few minutes before we arrived at the SP 213 which was a busy road featuring several scary tunnels. We stayed on it for the next 25 miles and although the views were stunning there was no way I would be stopping to photograph them.

After a few more miles we took a short detour for refreshments in a pretty little costal town. I was fooled by how easily we had found such a place and expected to find lots more every few kilometres along the shore. But how wrong I was.

After we finally got off the busy road we went through miles of deserted holiday accommodation, bars and mini markets as we were now at the start of the closed season. It was all pretty post apocalyptic and I wondered if we had missed something on the news. After awhile we returned to more busy roads and it was clear we hadn't. 

For our final drama the hotel we had booked, a large weeding venue, was also deserted and we wanderer round both inside and out looking for someone to book us in. It appeared we were the only guests there today which was probably why we had got a good rate. The place was very posh and setting up for a huge Italian wedding tomorrow, surely there will be a godfather at this one I can speak to.

Day 18

Although wedding prep was in full swing there was no time for any mafia based action this morning as we had a rendezvous with my bike boxes at Naples airport to make. If you recall Mrs Crusaders friend Catherine had offered to fly out to Naples with the boxes and join us for the rest of the trip in Naples and Pompeii. This was a great relief as we had no idea how we would be getting the bikes home and my suggestion of cycling them had fallen on stony ground.

We left early and it was straight onto busy roads. Whereas other areas in Italy had provided excellent cycling facilities on their stretches of Euro Velo 7 it appeared that once past Rome no one could be arsed and just stuck you on anything that wasn't a motorway. Fortunately we were now used to lorries whizzing past us giving only a few inches space. Mrs Crusader certainly would have hated this 3 weeks ago but now took it in her stride.

The last 15 miles was all built up as we approached Naples. And this was a real adrenaline thrill as we learnt the way of the Italian driver. Basically you just ignore all the other road users and do your own thing and it seems to work. If in doubt honk your horn (or ring your bell) and throw your arms in the air.

Even so progress was very slow as traffic was at a standstill for the final few miles. With heart rates at maximum we eventually made it to the hotel where we jumped in a taxi just in time to find Catherine coming out of the airport wheeling our bikes suitcases for the way home.

The afternoon was spent on a relaxing open top bus ride along the coast but culture was so far hard to find in Naples.

Day 19

There would be no more cycling on this trip but just a final search for culture and history. I was worried that Naples won’t have much to offer on this front, espically when I spotted a Neptune fountain. I had found one in Bologna, Florence and Rome which were all superb (as per the one in Rome below).

But the Naples offering looked like it had been made at an amateur pottery class.

With the success of the coastal bus tour yesterday we had the option, on the same ticket, to go on the city tour and see the famous sites. The experience was bizarre as it turned out there weren’t any and we just sat in a traffic jam for an hour and saw a lot of washing.

After a walk and pizza on the seafront (which was packed) we went on an underground tour of Naples in the old Greek water system (which became an air raid shelter in WWII). It was very interesting and rated as Naples number 1 attraction on trip advisor which wasn’t surprising as there is nothing to visit above ground.

On the plus side Naples is a lively busy city and the drivers are all quite mad. There are also a lot of vesper scooters which whole families travel on and it seems compulsory for the children not to wear helmets.

By the end of the day we quite liked Naples although there are no imminent plans to ever go back.

Day 20

For our final day we headed to the ancient city of Pompeii which had been buried by mount Vesuvius in AD 89 and rediscovered in 1768. It was mainly excavated last century into the huge area it is today (so our guide said anyway).

It had everything you would expect from a ruined Roman city; forum, baths, theatre, auditorium, streets of houses of varying sizes and cobbled streets. Our guide took us round and told us lots of interesting facts none of which I can remember. Mrs Crusader wanted to see more buried dead people and Catherine more mosaics but all in all in provided the historical cultural experience I needed to round of our trip.

In the end we cycled over 800 miles but after 3 weeks what have we learned 

1. Eurovelo 7 is about as consistent as NCR 1 in terms of the range of surfaces and uncycleable bits it provides as well as some fantastic stretches of cycle paths.

2. Virtually every bar in Italy seems to sell excellent cakes.

3. There are a lot of mosquitoes in Italy and once bitten Mrs Crusader can swell up easily

4. Nearly all big cities have an impressive Neptune fountain except at Naples where it is a bit rubbish.

5. All Italian towns and cities have a square with a compulsory big church, bell tower and fountain.

6. There is an awful lot of pizza in Italy (which was invented in Naples) and plenty of culture too (but not in Naples).

7. Don’t take Mrs Crusader on 100 mile detour to see a wonky tower as she won’t think it’s worth it.

8. Italian drivers don’t like to use their brakes but prefer to accelerate past bicycles as if they are not there, surprisingly the system seemed to work.

9.  Michelangelo is my favourite renaissance artist and also my favourite piazza although we both still think David’s hands are too big

10. Mrs Crusader bottom can only last for about a 3 week cycle tour.

Thursday 13 October 2022

Tour of Italy 4 (to Rome)

Tour of Italy 4

With Florence in the bag then the next few days will be cycling focused as we head towards Rome. Culture will very much be taking a back seat. Im also keen to plan some shorter days to allow for more recovery time as Mrs Crusader is getting rather pooped.

Day 11

My first day of the new strategy was a 40 mile ride which I was confident we could knockout by early afternoon.

As usual this was overly optimistic as we had 8 climbs totalling 8 miles to conquer plus we hit a number of very tricky off-road sections.

In fact in turned out to be our slowest average speed so far and we eventually crawled into our hotel late afternoon.

Evening entertainment was trying to order food from an Italian menu with Italy’s answer to Manuel attempting to help. Google translate reconned I was having pasta at the tobacconist but there wasn’t one for miles around so had it in restaurant instead.

Day 12 

As we set off Mrs Crusader was unusually quiet as it turned out she had forgotten to wake up. We therefore made an emergency early coffee stop and the extra shot of caffeine seemed to do the trick.

The profile said it was flat, which was spot on but unfortunately mainly on a track so progress was consistent but slow and our hands and wrists took a beating.

The scenery was very nice as we left Tuscany behind but quite samey after a while.

As we approached our destination it started to get dull with rain in the air. Fortunately, after the swelling eye incident, Mrs Crusader had stocked up with most of Florence’s supply of mosquito spray so doused herself down before we headed to our accommodation.

That night it was a 15 minute walk to Chiusi for the nearest restaurant in a very compact town square but there were still the requisite big church, fountain and bell tower.

Day 13

As we travelled towards Rome accommodation was getting harder to find as we were out in the smaller towns and villages on this part of the route. This meant it would be another 50 mile day (like the ones I said we wouldn’t be doing anymore) for todays ride.

Fortunately it was the first profile that had more down than up. Unfortunately it started with lots more gravel track.

An early coffee stop was once again required where I had more top hot chocolate and fantastico cake.

Sadly it was followed by a 3 mile climb meaning we hadn’t got far by lunchtime.

As it started to spit with rain we decided to look for shelter in a delightful bus shelter with views of the road and nearby A1 motorway.

It never did rain properly so we regretted not stopping at one of the many scenic points we later passed

But after lunch things became very straight forward as we whizzed through pretty countryside and little Italian villages.

But as always there was a twist as once again the rain cloudsgathered and lightning flashed across the sky.

Hammers were jettisoned as we made a dash for home and avoided all but a bit of drizzle while all around you could see the heavy rain. Day 13 turned out to be a lucky one.

Once at the hotel I couldn’t believe our luck as the view from our room was of the local motorway toll booth which I spent many happy hours watching that evening.

Day 14

Looking at todays ride profile it looked like it would be our toughest ride yet but if successful we would have made it to the edge of Rome.

By now we had our routine pretty well sorted and could guarantee a 9.30 pedals down hoping to have broken the back of each ride by lunchtime.

However although pedals down was spot today it was straight on to the hardest hill of this ride which had both very steep bits and tricky stoney off road sections. We both had to walk our bikes at times and it took almost an hour to cover the opening 3 miles.

We were also short of water and picnic but fortunately a few miles later we passed a supermarket. It also had a cafe with a fine selection of pastries and biscuits plus another excellent hot chocolate so spirits were once again high.

Unfortunately round the next bend was another steep long climb with a barking dog on every corner so progress once again stalled.

In this part of the country they like to build their towns on top of high hills. We were on to this so if we spotted the route going up and over one of them then a detour was introduced although as a result we may have missed some more big churches, bell towers and fountains, ho hum.

After lunch things improved as although Mrs Crusader was very tired the hills became less steep and the road surface much better.

We finished the day at Sacrofano which was again a the the top of a big hill. Our accommodation was at the bottom of a very steep bit but there are no plans to go back up it ever again. Instead we will head to Rome. We obviously don’t have to plan a route but just head down any road to get there.

Day 15

Our accommodation had been the first apartment of the trip meaning we had to find our own breakfast. Fortunately there were a number of bars open that had a fine selection of cakes and pastries. Who doesn’t love a country that has cake for breakfast.

Now feeling all set for our trip through Rome there then followed an unfortunate incident. While discussing the best route to get back on track from our breakfast stop a car slowly reversed out of a parking space and straight into Mrs Crusader pushing her to the ground. She yelped with shock and surprise as the whole village came to the rescue and shouted Italian at the elderly driver. Fortunately neither her or the bike were damaged and the driver, who was the only one who could speak English, was distraught and terribly apologetic. With the locals still shouting and waving we decided to leave them to it and headed off.

Luckily the ride into Rome was very straight forward allowing Mrs Crusader time to get her karma back.

The rest of the day was a game of two halves. We kicked off the first half at the Rome circular outer ring road where we had several miles along pristine cycle track running by the river. A real treat.

This took us right into the centre where we could see the tip of St Peter’s. However we were going to give the Pope a miss on this occasion and see how many of Rome’s famous landmarks we could cram in over the half time interval as we pushed our bikes across the city.

First we went to see how much we could get ripped off by, by having lunch at a cafe in the packed Piazza Navona. And we weren’t disappointed on and scored highly on the ripped off ometer but at least sight one was ticked off.

This was quickly followed by the Parthenon.

Trevi fountain 

Roman Forum


And other random buildings, arches and columns.

After that we kicked off the second half by heading out of Rome until we found a quite cafe at the start of via appia antica which is apparently the oldest Roman road in Rome and is cobbled. We had a lovely ice cream and cup of tea while a fellow Englishman told us how marvellous his ride round the outskirts of Roman on his hired ebike had been but was less than impressed about our 15 day epic from Venice no mater how often I tried fishing for adoration.

The next few miles were hell as the appia Antica and it’s old Roman cobbles went on for miles. We had one aborted attempt to bypass it but this only lead us on, and very quickly off, some dual carriageway so it was back onto the painful and slow rattle down the cobbles. Why or why couldn’t South Rome take a leaf out of North Romes books and tarmac over the cobbles into an excellent cycle track. They could always keep a small section just so you got the idea but is 6 miles of the things really necessary?

After that Eurovelo 7 showed its other side as it took us down a really busy road for the next few miles until we reached our hotel and the full time whistle.

Tomorrow we start our final section along the coast to Naples

Miles so far 669