The next leg of our journey took us overnight from Dallas to London, so we all tried to get some rest on the nine-hour flight. As may be typical, we were late departing Dallas, and arrived at Gatwick airport forty minutes late. With only about an hour scheduled for changing planes, it dawned on us only on touchdown that it was going to be a very close connection. Only a few minutes later, the cabin crew announced that Bologna passengers were to meet the gate agent at the end of the jetway. I took it as a good sign that they were aware of us.
A young couple, and the five of us, eventually congregated with a British Airways gate agent, and off we went at a fast trot. It was a good thing, as the young Pakistani woman brought us to the head of the lines in the security screenings, and knew the circuitous route to our gate. We had trouble keeping up with her, despite the high heels that must have made it difficult for her to jog faster than us. Up and down long escalators, and jogging down moving sidewalks, constantly encouraged to keep moving, we reached our gate in plenty of time. However, the gate agents were not as optimistic about our luggage and bicycles getting onto the same flight.
It seemed a short flight from London, over France, and into Bologna. It was interesting to contrast the vivid green, irregular fields of England, the more straight-sided fields of France, and the hilly and mountainous topography of northern Italy. We promptly filed the paperwork with British Airways in Bologna for our delayed luggage, and as Tony was the last to leave (a shortage of pens prevented us from filling forms simultaneously), two of our suitcases arrived with high-priority tags. But no bicycles.
We were met by a taxi service arranged by the hotel. There was plenty of room for bikes in back of the van, which was now unnecessary. About an hour and a half drive on the autostrada brought us past Rimini to Riccione. The Belvedere Bike Hotel is about two blocks off the beach, with a small pool (with swim-up bar) right in front, along with an adjacent patio for outdoor seating. Nadia and Danielle warmly greeted Rick, recalling his phone calls arranging the details of our stay. We sat outside, in the warm sun, drinking fizzy water and cappucinos. Soon riders began to arrive from the day’s rides, and we had discussions with a few of them, in addition to one of the guides. Shortly, the post-ride buffet was served, so we had an excellent Italian lunch of salads, cold meats, cheeses and pasta.
Once situated we walked down to the beach and turned southward to walk along the water’s edge on the Adriatic. Workers, armed with bulldozers or rakes, are grooming the beaches in preparation for the summer season, which seemed imminent. Preparations are being made for shaded areas on the beach, within the confines of each hotel’s allotted section of beachfront. We watched a rookie experimenting with a sea kite, and David used the occasion to explain the mechanics and dangers of the sport. At the southern end of our walk, we stopped at Bar Mario for a beer, and then walked the main waterfront street back to the hotel to prepare for dinner.
Riccione is very clearly a seaside resort town, a second city to the larger Rimini just to the north on the Adriatic Coast. As the weather warms, the hotels will be very busy with Italian families on vacation at the shore. However, a group of about fifteen hotels have hit on cycling vacations to fill the beds during the spring and fall. This is amply demonstrated by noting that the bicycle storage room has wallpaper appropriate for a toddler’s bedroom, and must be some sort of daycare facility in the summer. There was just one such family in the hotel while we were there, and everybody else was a cyclist. It is hard to tell just where the Hotel Belvedere fit into this group, but they seemed to appeal to the more serious cyclists.
Shortly before dinner we learned that our bicycles and luggage would not arrive today. And on Sunday there is no flight from London to Bologna, leaving Saturday as the only reasonable option for them to arrive. This bad news cast a pall over the remainder of the evening.
Dinner was at 7:30 PM. We arrived a few minutes past the start and the group of 40 or so Austrians had devastated the buffet. Replenishments came eventually, and we had a great meal, featuring lots of seafood dishes. Saturday is the changeover day for most of the guests, so the Austrians gave speeches and awards after dinner, including a rendition of “Happy Birthday” in English.