Start am 09.06.2013
As usual Sven had coordinated the flights perfectly, we would have arrived at the same time in Paris. But unfortunately my flight had a delay of more than 2 hours. Check in of both bikes ran smoothly, the required unscrewing of the pedals worked well: these were packed in the carry-on luggage. The fact that I had to open my bag to prove to the security people the harmless nature of the pedals did not irritate me. But then the security officer pointed at the pedals and said: „They are confiscated“. Suddenly I felt quite uneasy. Cycling 500 km without pedals did not seem very appealing to me. Fortunately, the humorist meant my cookies, he had the same taste for biscuits.
Sven was waiting for me at baggage claim, he was half reading, half asleep. We received the bikes, assembled them and started.
A few meters before we arrived at the station platform to enter the train to Paris, Sven realized that he had left behind his helmet at the luggage belt. In his helmet he had well hidden his papers, credit cards and cash. But in Paris, as is well known, nothing gets lost…
The metro took us to the Gare du Nord: No problems to pass with our bikes, they even had bicycle friendly revolving gates. At the train station we booked our overnight stay in the next hotel, it turned out to be the worst and most expensive hotel of this leg of the trip.
Since we wanted to be on the road at 9 clock, we started out early without breakfast to Gare de L‘Est. While having a snack we had time to take a look at the amazing station concourse.
We were still familiar with Reims from last year’s stage, so orientation was not an issue. Supported by tailwinds we started full of energy. It became the day with the highest average speed on our tour ever. The only flaw in my navigation was that the intersection where we were supposed to turn, turned out to be a bridge. Result: 5 km against the wind back to get the correct turn.
The first day had already shown us that the north of France is not very densely populated. On the way to our first destination Bar-Le-Duc, we barely had a chance to refill our water supplies. In this lovely village we were happy enough to find accommodation in the only hotel and got enough food in the only restaurant.
The next day we started towards Nancy. Unfortunately we had forgotten to refill our water supplies completely. By the early afternoon we passed neither a store nor a gas station. We had to change our route to pass through a bigger village. Here we actually found a gas station for our water supplies with an affiliated cafe!!!
We reached Nancy in the early afternoon and found a very nice hotel in the city center. Looking for a restaurant we hung around at the “Place Stanislas”, very impressive with the shiny, gilded fountains and buildings. Thanks to the restaurants and cafés the square is very busy and an ideal spot to start the evening with some ice cream.
At night this place is amazing as well…..
The next morning we had breakfast at the “Place Stanislav” and we went off to the third day‘s ride towards Sarrebourg. We couldn’t wait to start our ride along the Marne-Rhine canal.
The eastward part of the Marne-Rhine canal connects the Moselle at Nancy with the Rhine at Strasbourg, covering 267 meters of altitude in the Vosges with 57 locks and 2 tunnels.
Despite consulting Google Maps and Google Earth it was not quite clear where we should best start the ride along the canal. So we crossed the canal several times without identifying the dirt track next to the canal as a bicycle path. We rode with nice weather and a slight tail wind to Sarrebourg and decided to add another 15 km and make it to Saverne.
In Arzwiler the canal disappears for more than 2 km into a tunnel. In the past they used to pull the ships through with small narrow track railways. A bit further the road brings you directly to the ruins of Lützelburg.
The bicycle lane is well paved, we still had tailwinds and the sun was shining down on us. Perfect conditions!
Saverne is a nice tourist spot in Alsace, equipped with a many hotels, but also packed with a lot of tourists at this time of year.
Ergo: All hotels were booked. The only hotel without any stars had a room available, we quickly booked it without thinking twice The canal runs right through the town and one of the 57 locks is in the center of the village. In a nice garden restaurant located next to the lock we celebrated the glorious day with a wonderful dinner.
The whole 4th day we rode along the canal until we reached Strasbourg. This meant a very relaxed day for the Navigator. The ride was very smooth, the path even and easy to follow. We were accompanied more by water animals than people.
The building of the European Parliament is very impressive even from a distance, and the historic center on the large island is very well worth seeing. Strasbourg, an incredibly vibrant city with very busy people carrying black briefcases. The city was packed with a lot of tourists from all corners of the world.
This beautiful house with a garden serves as a practice for a psychologist. By the way these little islands are not the result of floodings, the inhabitants used to drain a few square meters of the river Ill running through Strasbourg. An island for everybody!!!
Behind Strasbourg we continued cycling along the canal southbound to the Rhine towards Rhinau where we left France on the ferry. On the other side of the canal in Kappel we met Moni and Jette (Moni’s dog), both welcomed us warmly.
Moni took us (and the bikes) to our hotel. But first we enjoyed on Moni’s shady terrace a few liters of Coke, Sprite and apple cider. The heat made it feel like 40 degrees, it was one of the hottest days on our tour.
In the evening Finn and Kjell (Sven’s sons), joined us. We also met Rainer (a friend from Hamburg), this evening felt almost like arriving at the finishing line! Many thanks to Finn and Kjell, who had collected my bike helmet from the street. I had placed it on the roof of Moni’s car for the photo session (see above) and totally forgot about it.
On our last leg heading to Basel, Finn, Kjell and Rainer were ready to go. Rolf joined us the next morning, we picked him up at the train station.
The next morning we met the Boltje family in Kappel (not Kappeln) near the Europa Park in Rust, they were also part of our well-thoughtout logistics concept.
The bikes are well prepared, we are ready to go! Many thanks again to Moni, she did a great job in organizing the logistics’ part. With her trailer she always managed to transport the bikes to the right location, always just in time!
On our last day heading to Basel we wanted to ride as close as possible to the river Rhine on the Rhine cycle path. Unfortunately, our guest’s super hightech road bikes were not suitable for the gravel road. But after the first two flat tires we (better: I) had all the pleasure of using the small off-road trails evaporate, so we preferred going back to the county road.
Re-planning of our day’s trip: Rolf and Frank are studying maps and decide to change the route: we will continue in France, this seems to be the best option for today.
2000 km done on our x-Europe tour !!! Celebration with lukewarm water. After many miles with perfect conditions for the street bikes on the country roads, it was time to change to the smaller roads with bad road surfaces.
The border to Switzerland showed us that we have reached this year‘s destination. After Scotland, England, France, Belgium and Germany we cycled into the sixth country.
In the evening we had an excellent dinner at the Boltje family’s home. Once again thank you very much for that! This was a great finish to an amazing years leg. All friends, who participated the last day could share in our fun on the x-Europe tour !
Next day; while Rainer, Moni and I were already on our way home, the Gade family could enjoy a special sightseeing tour of Basel, guided by the Boltje family.