After the ‘lumpy’ ride into Luxembourg, I had no hesitation in choosing the relatively flat option of following the Mosel river on my departure. And what an option(!) with a good mixture of different terrain to cycle on as you weave your way through the countryside and small villages, or pass through large towns.
I mentioned in my last blog post about travelling in 3 countries in a couple of minutes, with Tim rather letting the cat out of the bag! 🙂 Of course this is in Schengen, where I duly crossed into both Germany and France (from Luxembourg) and notched up 3 in 3.
Next up, destination Metz and the Decathlon store, as my previous attempt to purchase from this fine establishment was thwarted by the fact that they do not open in France on a Sunday, something I wish I’d known before I’d cycled the extra 20km out of my way to get there. This time though no problems and I duly replaced the stolen travel towel with an even bigger, but much cheaper model. Happy bunny again!
What really has been a bonus about following the rivers and canals is there are so many more options for camping, certainly along the banks of the Mosel. I found it quite easy to find wild camping spots, but there are also very many regular campsites when you want a little more comfort, usually pretty well signed from the main routes.
Wild camping can be really difficult when you’re cold and wet, but there are many more times when it is simply sublime and you get to experience nature close up and personal. I sat watching carp taking flies from the surface of this lake while the sun came up, a magical moment.
Of course it’s not so much fun if you don’t occasionally stray away from the waymarked paths and I made quite a few forays into unknown territory, both to explore and often to find short cuts. Sometimes the short cuts became a little ‘interesting’, but it was such good fun. No chance of doing this if I only had a road bike though!
The cycling surfaces varied from clean asphalt to rocky forest tracks and I have to make a special mention here. I’ve now cycled well over 5,000 miles on my current choice of knobbly tires, Shwalbe Marathon Mondial’s without a single puncture – I’ve never had this kind of reliability in all my years of cycling, plus they are not yet showing signs of wear. I simply adjust the pressure (let out a bit of air when going off-road) for the surfaces and this only takes moments with my mini track pump. Stunning performance.
Back to my (somewhat modified) route and if I thought the Mosel river was good, boy was I in for a surprise when I ventured onto the Marne-Rhine Canal. In the UK canal riding would have me turning my nose up as I tried to navigate the ride-able bits, but this was something else. It’s done right and the cycle lanes are continuously linked, with many diversions to different attractions along the way. I loved every minute of it as I made my way into the heart of Strasbourg.
The sunshine however decided to do a vanishing act shortly after I snapped the picture of the apple blossom trees. Maybe my thoughts that summer was really on it’s way were a little too optimistic?
It turned decidedly colder as I approached Strasbourg and by the time I got there it was actually raining a fine drizzle. The canal goes right into the city, but what I’m enjoying most is that here bikes can go anywhere (not unlike Luxembourg). It’s amazing, one way streets have signs on saying cyclists allowed and as yet I have not found a single street I can’t cycle on. Don’t you wish Britain could be more like this?
I have not done much ‘looking round’ because of the rain and having found a cheap campsite I’ve decided to stay a few days and see if it brightens up – so far it hasn’t. It would be a shame to leave without doing some kind of a tour, but on my first attempt I got soaked and retreated to my tent. Here are a couple of pictures I managed as I visited the tourist office:
Sadly the Cathedral is undergoing major restoration work with scaffolding on many parts, making photography difficult.
Hopefully I’ll get more pictures once the sun returns, so stay tuned…