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Europe » France
May 16th 2011
Published: May 16th 2011
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Tues 10.....So our last blog saw us in the campsite by the Moselle in Schweich. Getting ready to leave was frustrating! The location of the campsite was great but the way it was run was crap. The only utilities block for showers/loos/washingmachine and washing up was way up in one corner....about a 7 minute walk......a tad inconvenient if you’re busting for the loo. Carrying dishes to be washed-up was equally too daunting. However we did use their showers, cycling up and back clutching ones requisites. The showers operated on a weird electronic key system (as did the washing machine)........supposedly great IF it works. .

Anyway the final cause of annoyance before leaving was that both grey water (from our sink/shower) and our loo cassette had to be emptied down the same hole. On removing the man-hole type cover, a gas mask would have been welcome and the sight was so bad, words can’t describe! However we finally left and set off for Trier, founded 1,300 years before Rome, about 8 miles away.

We parked up and off with the bikes to head for the Tourist Info office for a map, finding it located next to one of the major sites, the massive and well-preserved Porta Nigra (Black Gate). We tied up the bikes and did the city walk encompassing beautiful, spacious squares with central fountains, magnificent buildings as well as the Dom (cathedral) which houses the tunic that Jesus supposedly wore as he carried the cross, only on display every 10 years and next year is the year...we’ll have to come back. The gigantic Basilica (bombed in 1944) and rebuilt, the attached Rococo-style palace, the Roman remains of vast thermal baths and an amphitheatre were among the other sites. After walking around until lunchtime (charming bar/restaurant) we finished our tour on bikes.

Returning to Hymie, despite allowing as much ventilation as we safely can, the temperature was 98.4 degrees! It’s been another hot day. Driving out of town along the Moselle, we drove through Konz and followed the Sarr River where we found a pleasant riverside pull-in to spend the night. The temperature has now dropped to a pleasant 74 degrees and our salad is now going cold!

Wed 11.... Within 20 minutes of leaving our riverside spot we were in Luxembourg and in the capital city (also Luxembourg), 35 minutes after that. Finding parking was difficult....eventually choosing a large coach/van type car park. On asking a local coach driver the direction we should cycle to the centre, he warned us that we were not allowed to park there and we’d get a ticket..............tough. Cycling through the park we spent the day admiring this unusual city.....there is a whole area of contemporary buildings which house the European administration, then there’s two high sides and one low valley. The original old town lies in the valley, with wooded parks all around. Two beautiful viaducts link the more modern centre (inc building like the Ducal Palace built in 1700’s) and another high area with other palaces and impressive squares and buildings.

We tootled around the mainly pedestrianised (bikes allowed) upper city centre, including following the wonderful Chemin de la Corniche, the most beautiful balcony of Europe with splendid views looking down into the huge natural gorge with the old town, called Grund below. Finding a buzzy part of town for lunch we enjoyed kebabs before setting off to descend into the valley taking paths through splendid wooded parkland to Grund, under the viaducts with the high fortified (extensive network of tunnels) sandstone cliffs either side. After a refreshing drink of Panache (shandy) and exploring the lower sights, we took a lift back up to the higher level. We actually got lost trying to find our way back to where we’d parked, but eventually perseverance paid off....and yes, we got a parking ticket. So?
Looking for a nearby overnight spot we headed for a small town, Reckange-sur-Mess. A road closure frustrated us but we eventually found Reckange but not the Mess that it’s meant to be on! However, we are parked in a quiet spot and will rest well tonight.

Thu 12.....Another sunny day and within 20 mins of setting off we were in Belgium. After a few miles of lovely countryside, we took the motorway for about 60 miles, coming off at a point where we could follow the gorge following the river Semois. Driving through pleasant countryside and small towns, we stopped by the river at Bohan for a Hymie lunch and a stroll along the river and around the sleepy village. After several more miles enjoying the scenery and in the meantime passing into France, we were met with another roadblock telling us to follow the deviation. As we reached the point where the deviation cut back in to the river route, we decided to make a detour into Chaleville/Mezieres (quite a large detour...25 miles round trip) to see if we could find a place selling motorhome tyres.....our front 2 are fairly bald! First place, Palais de Pneu was no good...a dappy woman in a cleaner’s overall couldn’t help but directed us to another nearby tyre place. A helpful girl, with a low cut blouse (one of us didn’t notice), tried to help but we either had to wait two days or drive to Reims.......too out of the way for the route we’re taking. We know we’re back in Belgium/Northern France ‘cos of the Friteries...mobile chip vans!

So we drove all the way back to the point where the deviation cut back in, followed the road for several miles to be faced with another Road Closed sign and barriers almost blocking the road...but no Deviation/Alternative route signs. Deciding we’d had enough, we skirted the barriers and for several miles made good progress....until we came across a number of heavy road building machines and stretches of newly laid tarmac.....bugger! Just as we turned around, two school busses came from the direction we wanted..................if they can drive through, so can we....so we did.

We finally got through to Montherme where we’d possibly intended to spend the night as motorhomes were allowed to park up by the river. Whilst it was a reasonably pleasant place, we have become quite fussy and being only 4pm we didn’t feel it was good enough to stop at for the night. So after a break and a cuppa on a bench by the river, we set off again. We’d used TomTom to find us a camping site, using the onward town of Rocroi for a search. So still following the lovely river route, now the River Meuse, we continued through Revin and the fortified town of Rocroi on to much more narrow farm routes until TomTom said....You Have Reached Your Destination.....there was nothing, other than a crossroads and a couple of dilapidated buildings. Using TomTom again for another nearby campsite.....we found it, after crossing back into Belgium and interrupted the owner playing Boules (obviously irritated) to be told the site was only for fixed caravans, and no, we couldn’t stay the night.....try Chimay. Yet another 5 miles driving into this charming looking town with a fabby looking castle AND a campsite. So we checked in to this idyllic spot and have finally settled with everything we need (except wi-fi). The town looks so good, we’re sure we’ll explore tomorrow before moving on.

P.S. For those of you interested in our gin drinking habits, for the last couple of weeks we have not been able to find a suitable mixer to go with the cheap 2 litre bottle of gin we bought way back when. We have tried various lemon drinks and have usually found grapefruit very pleasant too..........but recently, the quality of the mixers was really not good. It turns out it was the gin that was naff, so having poured the remains down the sink (what a waste!) we now have an acceptable gin and have stopped blaming the mixer.

Fri 13...............oooheeerrrrr. Waking late to sunshine and birdsong, we decided to stay at the campsite for another day/night. We set out on the bikes intending to explore the town and enquire at a couple of places for new tyres. Within ¼ mile, J’s only working brake cable snapped (back brake not worked for a while). Since we were going downhill with a main road at the bottom, something had to happen fast.........loud shrieks from J alerted B who swerved in front and disaster was averted!

So we returned to the campsite, loaded the bikes and drove into town spending the morning seeking tyres (no luck), getting the bike repaired (both brakes) and Internetting. We then finally had our cycle around the town whose best feature is a superb looking castle. After that we drove about 6 miles (passing a field with the most massive/muscular bull imaginable) to a nearby abbey. Lunch in Hymie before strolling around church, chapel and gardens, then back to the campsite to slob/snooze and read in the sun.

Sat 14.... A pretty boring day really. Heading eventually for Calais, we covered about 100 miles through pleasant countryside and towns. A few miles out of Chimay, where we’d camped, we came across another tyre place who, whilst they couldn’t help us, were able to tell us that the tyres we need are in Boulogne.....so maybe we’ll detour there before our tunnel crossing back on Tuesday 17th.

Being so close to the French/Belgium border, we seemed to dip in and out of both countries several times. This sends Vodafone into a frenzy as they send a Welcome to ABC/XYZ message whenever we enter a new country. This is a real swizz, as if you open the text message, you get charged....being wise, we now delete them.

Seeing extensive fortified walls and moat at Le Quesnoy and being lunchtime, we diverted into the town lunching in Hymie beside a rather nice lake. Before leaving we drove through the town centre but it was nothing special at all..............perhaps we bombed it in the war. Driving onwards we were seeking a bit of life......maybe a Saturday market or Spring Fair? Failing that a cafe or bar with either cakes or the cup-final playing.....and as a last resort, at least an ice-cream. Nothing at all. The towns/houses were all fairly bland with no-one in sight, completely dead.

We finally arrived at an equally boring Aires site at Harelbeke, two spaces with free electricity by the sports-hall at about 5pm. To keep up with the boring theme, we parked up and played scrabble.........one of us won! Tomorrow we may visit Ypres (Ipers) or Wipers as the soldiers called it in the Great War. Our intention is to be parked up on the Calais docks/tunnel check-in, on Monday night for an early Tuesday morning crossing to Folkestone. We’ll head straight for Claire/Paul/Joshua’s and bump (due 27 May) and stay Tuesday , maybe Wednesday night before returning to Billingshurst.............we wonder what the garden is like....our wonderful neighbours Chris and Gerry have been keeping an eye, but there’s only so much you can ask/expect. And so endeth today’s diary.

Sun 15....Up and away from this boring spot. Driving through the town we remarked the most exciting thing about Harelbeke were the speed bumps. What these people do for entertainment/socialising is a mystery. Belgium, certainly in the areas we’ve been through is very bland.....the architecture and language seems to be Dutch but there seems to be little in the way of town centres, cafes with tables on the pavement etc. It is however extremely neat and tidy with manicured gardens.

Anyway we took a very rural route on back roads to Ypres.........often single track roads. The countryside was good as were the towns (yet still little life!). Sunday cyclists were out in force, mainly in groups.......all lycra & helmets.

Ypres is a charming town with beautiful buildings (especially the Cloth Hall (1304) and Belfry), squares and streets. They are particularly amazing since whilst the originals were built centuries ago, the whole town was flattened in the First World War and rebuilt to its former state. We spent some time at the huge Menin Gate, where every evening at 8pm the Last Post is played, looking at the thousands of names of the soldiers missing in action and therefore having no grave. After a delicious lunch of Belgium Stew (we think it was beef, not Cheval) we explored further, visiting a walk through museum, which is a reconstruction of trenches and tunnels, depicting still-life scenes with sound effects.........all very moving. We then walked back via the ramparts and headed onwards.

A fairly featureless drive took us to Tobacco Alley, Adinkirke to stock up on supplies and then an hour on the motorway towards Boulogne. Taking a wonderful scenic route to the coast from the motorway just north of Boulogne, we have parked at an Aires a few minute’s walk from the sea. We haven’t seen the sea since Italy! No chance of swimming....it’s freezing. Tomorrow we hope to get tyres fitted in Boulogne then spend the day meandering back to Calais, ready for our Tuesday am crossing.

Our Route (overnight stops in capital letters)
Since Schweich........Trier; KONZ
Grevenmacher; Luxembourg; RECKANGE-SUR-MESS
Dippach; St Menehould; Rochehaut; Vresse; Bohan; Charleville-Mezieres; Thilay; Montherme; Revin; Deville; Rocroi; Forge-Philippe; CHIMAY x 2
Avesnes-sur-Helpe; Le Quesnoy; Valenciennes; St Armand-les-Eaux; Tournai; Avelgem; HARELBEKE
Menen; Ypres; Adinkirke; motorway from Belgium border to Junction 7; AUDRESSELLES



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