FOR THE FIRST TIME during CORONA: OUTSIDE THE NETHERLANDS – part 2
Friday, June 26th 2020, the temperature rises early in the morning and it feels hot, it is at least 90 degrees. We don’t have to drive far before we can cross the border into France. Unfortunately, the motorhome parking in the town of Sierck les Bains is too short to park our Frankia, so we drive straight to the Carrefour supermarket just outside Sierck. At home I already figured out that there is a Laverie (laundry). We urgently need this because washing is required. After checking inside and discovered that we are the only ones to wash, we bring in our full laundry bags and fill the washing machines. It just fits in the available machines. Now we have to wait until everything is clean again. This waiting time is not unpleasant because, even though we are not allowed to wait inside (because of Corona), we can put some chairs outside to wait and watch the shopping public. After the drying program also ended, Dick helps to fold all the clothes and after 1 pm we can hit the road again.
10 Miles to the north is the old town of Rodemack, our destination. Next to the city wall is a huge parking lot for more than 200 cars, completely overgrown by tall grass and weeds. It is clear that cars and motorhomes have not been parked here for months. In anyway, there is plenty of space to park our Frankia. Because the sky looks quite threatening, we walk directly to this walled medieval town. No one is outside and the streets feel deserted. Only at the bakery is a couple sitting, having coffee with a tartiflette (cake). It is oppressively hot. Fortunately, the town is small, so we don’t really have to walk far. However, the path along the city walls is beautiful. Just before we arrive at the motorhome, the thunderstorms erupt and lightning rays illuminate the now darkening sky. It does not rain without full conviction till we are inside our motorhome. Great, because later it rains so hard that we would be soaked to the bone walking outside. It keeps raining for a long time, but we don’t have to go out so we grab a book and do our administration.
The next morning it is still cloudy, but raining has stopped. The temperature plummeted down to just 64 degrees.
After having a delicious breakfast, we drive to the border with Luxembourg, to the city of Mondorf, to fill up our spare tank with diesel and then we drive deeper into France.
71 Miles to the south we stop in the town of Bruley on a large parking lot. The town is completely deserted and looks boring so, after looking around, we decide to leave and drive 3 miles further south to the town of Toul.
Here is a nice parking along the city wall.
This place appeals immediately so after choosing a good spot, we walk into town.
We wander through the streets of another old city and look around in the enormous cathedral. Unfortunately, the high tower cannot be climbed at the moment because I would have loved to see the view up there, but the walled courtyard is also impressive. Of course, we light a candle for Auntie Ank and our parents, who passed away long ago.
When we leave the cathedral the weather changes. The clouds have given way to blue sky and sun and the temperature has already risen to 79 degrees. Lovely weather and slowly we walk back to the motorhome and take our chairs to sit outside in the sun. Until late in the evening It is very pleasant to stay outside. We enjoy a delicious kebab meal and chat with other RV’ers. It is striking how many French motorhomes stay at the parking lot. Foreigners are currently in the minority. It is obvious that Covid 19 influences people’s travel behavior, especially in France.
Despite the fact that we stay outside until 11 pm (it does not cool down) we still get up at 8 am the next morning. The bakery is less than 330 feet walk so of course we have breakfast with a fresh baguette.
We are now in a part of France where wearing face masks differs from place to place because here no one is wearing one and my beautiful yellow-green mask (hand-made by Dick) makes me look like an alien. Unfortunately, after breakfast, the sun disappears behind a thick cloud cover, so, to be sure, we take rain jackets with us in the saddle-bag.
Dick select a nice route along the Moselle and we enjoy our trip and of course try to find the hidden geocaches. That is not always easy because in months no outdoor activity could take place here.
The weeds have overgrown everything and often we have to break our way through the tall weeds and the blackberry bushes. From head to toe we are now covered with scratches and mosquitoes make frantic attacks on our bodies.
Finally, human flesh in their environment. In some places I am the only one to climb the steep slope because it would still be too risky for Dick’s new knee, which, by the way, is going very well.
High up on a mountainside I find a mineshaft where a cache is supposed to be hidden but after trying twice to find it, I have to give up. The cache is hidden at the end of the shaft and this shaft keeps twisting and twisting deeper inside the mountain and get narrower. I simply dare not to go into the mineshaft alone deeper than 200 feet. I do have some fear of collapsing shafts added to my limited visibility due to my small phone-light.
During the afternoon the cloud-cover is thickening so we don’t keep it dry. The last fifteen minutes we ride in a pouring rain. Fortunately, the sky opens again at 7 pm and the sun starts shining. Very nice because now I don’t have to wait in the rain in front of the takeaway. It is so busy at this diner in Toul that I have to wait almost an hour before I can bring back our chicken dish. And no one, really no one, keeps the necessary distance (by the way, the safe distance in France is only 3 feet). So, I dance around restlessly and I’m the only one wearing a mask.
When I finally return to the motorhome (Dick has already called what’s going on with me) we enjoy an excellent meal outside with a view of the beautiful cathedral, lit by the last sunrays. Because of the enormous wilderness we struggled with today, we have to check for ticks before going to bed. That’s a good thing because a mini-tick digged into my belly. It takes some effort, but finally, after a few failed attempts, Dick manages to get the tick out of my belly.
The rain of yesterday afternoon cleared the sky because when we wake up on Monday June 29th, the sky is blue and the sun is shining. After a good breakfast, we dump again our gray and black water and fill up with clean water and then we drive, over narrow winding roads, the 50 miles to Verdun. We find a parking at the Leclerc supermarket. Although it is on a slope, Dick’s manufactured levelers come to help and after some efforts the motorhome is levelled.
We walk to Leclerc to do some shopping and thereafter we walk into the city of Verdun. It’s a long walk around the huge Citadelle but finally we arrive in the center of town which looks a bit shabby. Again, Dick knows how to find his way back again over narrow winding roads, along endless steep (medieval) steps and after a 4-mile walk.
Because the supermarket opens at 9 am (so I can’t get fresh bread earlier), we don’t get up until half past eight on Tuesday June 30, so we have a late breakfast but with delicious fresh croissants. Then Dick takes the bikes out of our Motorhome and we explore the area. At the Tourist information we learn that the battlefields of Verdun and the Ossuaire, a monument with the remains of 130,000 unknown soldiers, are 5 miles outside the city and it’s not on our route today, so we will visit these a next time. Now we want to see more of Verdun. Besides a nice old entrance gate and some remnants of the city wall, we do not find it a special city and when returning to the motorhome in the afternoon, we store our bicycles and walk back to the Citadelle.
When we arrive there, we have to wait about 45 minutes before we can explore the underground corridors of the Citadelle. We wait outside, not unpleasant because it is dry and not really cold.
7 Minutes before our scheduled visit time, we walk into the underground corridor system of the Citadelle, put on our facemasks (required) and disinfect our hands and after a couple of minutes we can take a seat in a cart.
Normally there is room for 9 people in this three-bench cart, but now, in Corona times, only 4 people are admitted and an empty bench remains between us and the other two visitors. We slowly disappear into the 4,5 miles long underground corridors. During the ride we are told the story of this underground city and the soldiers stationed here in the Grande Guerre (1914-1918).
The French language is of course used, but we have headphones where a Fleming translate into Dutch. Unfortunately, the sound level of the speakers, placed in the corridor system, is so loud that the Dutch spoken text is barely audible.
Fortunately, we read the history of this Citadelle prior to our visit so we can follow the story in (runaway) French. After a 30-minute drive we get out to walk and witness the ceremony that took place in 1920: to choose from the anonymous dead an unknown soldier who was later buried under the Arc de Triompf in Paris.
Deeply impressed by a horrible time, we slowly walk back to our motorhome and have a simple meal (burger with salad).
The month of July doesn’t really start well. It doesn’t feel like summer, it is cloudy and no sunray is in sight. After a good breakfast, of course with fresh baguette and croissants, we do some shopping at Leclerc before driving to the small town of Revin.
The motorhome parking at the border of the river Maas is very popular and almost full. Because it is still morning, we can occupy a vacant spot. We park parallel to the river with a fenced piece of grass in front of the motorhome. Unfortunately, the weather is not so nice, regularly drizzling rain falls down, so we cannot sit outside. Time to pay a visit at the large supermarket next door. One minute I think about doing laundry in the washing machines outside but because in a few days we are going back home I will not fill these machines, although our laundry bag is quite full. The rest of the day rainy periods alternates with dry periods and we wander around in the center when it’s not raining. We are glad when late afternoon the sky brightens up.
Unfortunately, the weather on Thursday is still unstable, but after breakfast we grab our bikes. We found a nice route based on some geocaches and printed them so that Dick can follow the route. Unfortunately, after about two hours of cycling, the sky is getting darker and darker and soon the rain falls down. After taking shelter under a few tall trees, which unfortunately are not really waterproof, we try to find a better hiding place elsewhere. It is present in an old blockhouse, but being between abandoned junk and feetlong weeds, it is so unpleasant that we prefer to cycle back to our motorhome. Meanwhile the rain is pouring down. Fortunately, we have enough clean and dry clothes and with our parking heater on, we quickly feel pleasant inside. Again, not until late afternoon the sky brightens and sunrays are to be seen. However, the wind blows hard and it is not really warm outside and so we stay inside, read and do administration.
Fortunately on Friday morning the sun appears from the clouds and after breakfast and some last shopping we leave for Liart. Because we already visited a number of times our friends in Liart, we quickly find the narrow road through the hilly landscape that leads to the estate of Esmee and Cor.
Actually, I don’t have to give any directions because flawlessly Dick puts the motorhome down on the drive and we are greeted by our friends. From a distance, of course, still no hugging, because Corona is not over yet. We spend the rest of the weekend together and Cor and Dick work together on odd jobs. Cor made a list of chores, preferable carried out by two men, so they are really busy to get everything done this weekend. I guess we have to return this summer because they don’t manage to get everything done. We enjoy good meals together, talk a lot with each other and of course drink a nice glass of wine.
Both Saturday and Sunday morning I bike to the nearby village to get fresh baguettes and croissants. I am glad we have e-bikes because the 2 miles long road to the center of Liart is very hilly and with a strong wind almost impossible to do with a regular bicycle.
As I say this, I notice that, 30 years ago, when we weekly cycled up the steep mountains of the Ardennes on a race bike, I certainly should not write this down.
Now we are not traveling for a few days, I can finally open my laptop to write down our experiences of the last weeks.
On Friday the temperature is not too bad and the sun still shines every now and then, so occasionally I can sit outside and enjoy the sun, but on Saturday it is almost completely cloudy. However, except for the early morning, when drizzly rain accompanies my bike ride, it stays dry. The weekend flies by (fun has no time) and we end our pleasant stay with a BBQ on Saturday evening. After breakfast and again a lot of talking we leave Liart on Sunday morning.
We loved to be here because in Corona time we never visited others and staying here was one of the first times with others. Because we are driving on back roads again, we pass through the town of Givet, France, where we can dump our black- and gray water on the motorhome parking. Then we drive in a straight line to the north.
At 3 pm we arrive in Weelde, Belgium, where in the center of town is a nice parking next to sport- and playing fields. And (even better) the clouds disappear so we park full in the sun. There is a strong wind blowing so it is still not really warm. To our amazement, one parked motorhome after another leaves this beautiful deserted place and at 9 pm we are left almost alone, only one other motorhome stays for the night. For the last time this holiday we get a kebab meal in town. It tastes delicious but, because it is covered with cheese, it is also very rich and we eat too much. Monday July 6th we still have less than 62 miles to drive so we arrive at home in the morning. The rest of the day we have to unload the motorhome and of course clean it. No unnecessary luxury. All together we drove 783 miles and, although the Netherlands is a beautiful country, we loved it to take a taste of abroad again.