Vacation in Germany and France, September 2021
We’ve been quite busy the past few weeks and I didn’t have much time to think again about a travel plan, but now the end of August is approaching and our travel virus comes back, so I look for picturesque old towns and make a plan. Then we celebrate my birthday with Hannah and Henk in their cabin in Noordwijk. We are treated to delicious pizzas, baked by Henk himself and have a great evening together.
On Friday we get our motorhome from the storage. When we arrive home, the part of the parking lot, we closed off this morning, is partly used by the caravan of one of our neighbors.
Actually, the free part of the parking lot is not big enough for both our motorhome and their caravan, but when the neighbor stands diagonally in the lot and we do the same, it just fits and we can start loading our stuff.
And that’s quite a lot because in recent days Dick narrowed both our down duvets, so the covers of those duvets also had to be narrowed. And he made new pillows. He has special ones, made of grains and you cannot buy that kind anymore. As the old ones were too bad he had to replace them. So Dick was very busy with our sewing machine. I don’t have to say that afterwards the floor of our room was littered with down and grains. In the meantime I went shopping to buy new sheets that better fits our mattresses. By the evening everything is loaded, except for the food. However, we are not leaving yet. First, Dick want to go to our Subaru shop to fit our carriage bolts. But when he calls the Subaru shop, he find out that the ordered bolts are still not arrived. Somewhere they are stuck in a container, possibly in a Chinese port, so again no bolts and we leave earlier than planned, on Saturday morning, August 28th .
Actually, that works out well because now we can do some shopping in Bruggen, Germany, where we will also spend our first night. The weather is nice, although not really warm, only 63 degrees. During the day every now and then some rain is falling, but it doesn’t stop us from walking around in the town of Bruggen. When we return at the end of the afternoon, I walk to a drugstore nearby to buy medical masks. These are mandatory in Germany and in case we go somewhere where our regular masks are refused, we have a real medical mask. Of course, as always when we are in Bruggen, in the evening we order a kebab dish from the restaurant across the street and have a non-alcoholic German beer.
I don’t know why, but we are both tired so we go to bed early and when we wake up on Sunday morning it is already 9.15 am. We slept for 12 hours, so we needed the sleep. We have breakfast with old bread, but actually that would not have been necessary because the bakery in supermarket Rewe, also at the other side of the street, is open as we see when driving away. But as Dick says, our old bread has to be eaten too. When thinking about and figuring out our route (first to the south of Germany and then crossing France, again to the coast) I discovered a geocache challenge.
It’s only allowed to log this geocache, when you found a cache from every year that geocaches are hidden (since the year 2000). During our trips to the USA, we found many caches from the different years, but the oldest geocache from the year 2000, hidden somewhere in Oregon, is still on our bucket-list. For the time being, however, we will not be able to search this one because the borders of the USA are still closed to Europeans.
And so, we looked for such an old geocache in Europe and found it north of Bouillon, Belgium. That’s why we adjust our route and today we will drive to Belgium. I don’t think we need to make a detour to find this geocache, as we are on our way to Mettlach in Germany, but Dick has a different opinion and when I look at the map later, I have to admit that he is somewhat right. In Namur, Belgium, we stop.
The parking for motorhomes is located near the center of town so after parking the motorhome in the right position, we take a walk to the center. The city consists of nice narrow streets and everywhere are terraces, beautiful squares and different groups of statues, all depicting a story. It is lovely to wander around here. Unfortunately, the weather is less, it’s gloomy and the sky is gray, because with a steel blue sky and shining sun the temptation to sit on a terrace would be greater. But we can’t complain because there is no rain and with 63 degrees it’s not a bad temperature to walk around. Unfortunately, when we return to our motorhome at the end of the afternoon, we find out that all the restaurants nearby are closed so we have to cook ourselves.
The bratwurst with green beans and oven-potatoes tastes great.
At the beginning of the new week, Monday August 30th, again we have breakfast with old bread. Well, Dick eats the last part of this old bread and I have a nice bowl of yogurt with fruit and then at 9.30 am, we leave the city of Namur. On our way to the missing geocache from the year 2000 on the coordinates N 50 00.000 and E 005 00.000
Our Hakuna takes us on narrow roads through the forests of the Belgium Ardennes and I am worried about a parking spot because the road is really narrow and nowhere it’s possible to park on the roadside. But when we arrive at the indicated coordinates, an exit of a forest path appears where we can park the Frankia and after a short walk through the forest, we find the oldest geocache on the European mainland, that can still be found and is placed at 7-7-2000. We now have a geocache for every year that geocaching exists.
After, of course, taken the necessary pictures, we drive on and in the town of Bouillon we park the motorhome in the parking lot behind the castle of Bouillon. Although there are still many clouds, we also see the sun appear regularly. Of course, we climb up the mountain to the castle and descend on the other side, we cross the town of Bouillon and on the other side, we climb another mountain, which offers us an even better view of the castle. All that climbing and descending makes us quite thirsty and because I forgot to take water with me (and Dick didn’t draw my attention to that either) we are dehydrated when we are back in town at the end of the afternoon, so we take a seat on a terrace. I can assure you that the coffee and cake taste very good.
When we are back at the parking lot we see next and opposite us two other Frankia motorhomes. That’s really special because you don’t meet so many motorhomes from this brand, so for a long time we chat about our RV’s and agree that it is a very good brand. We had a late coffee and cake and are not so hungry anymore so after eating some toast with French cheese we don’t cook anymore.
Tuesday morning, we drive on quiet roads to Luxembourg. The sun is shining and it is at least 67 degrees. Finally, the gray cloud cover, that has been hanging over Europe for so long, is somewhat broken. On a mountaintop along the road in Luxembourg we stop at a viewpoint over the river Moselle and the town of Remich and enjoy the landscape. Of course, we fill up in Luxembourg where the diesel is still cheaper than in the surrounding countries, but we have to conclude that the very cheap is gone. Since the town of Mettlach is only 19 miles away, we arrive there at the end of the morning and park our motorhome.
Although it’s busy here we find a nice spot at the front. We walk to town to pay our parking fee at the tourist office (we still don’t like paying via an app on the mobile), visit some outlet stores and also climb the hill behind the center to enjoy a view over Mettlach.
At 6 pm we walk to the terrace of the brewery. There are enough free tables and the temperature is not too bad
, we are shielded from the wind, so we don’t have to put on our down jackets during our dinner. Again, the meal tastes delicious. Dick enjoys his good steak and my schnitzel with mushrooms and sauce also tastes great. However, the outside air (or is it the freshly tapped beer) makes us sleepy and before 10 pm we already sleep. Of course, we stay another day in Mettlach and after having a good breakfast with fresh croissants, we get our e-bikes.
Despite the fact that we already made several bike rides in this area, we found another mountain slope where caches are hidden. The forest paths are challenging. We already used to climb here with our e-bikes, but this current mountain slope turns out to be a bit more difficult than the previous slopes. Dick again shows us flawlessly the way over, often almost impossibly, steep paths, full of stones and tree roots. But the turbo mode of our E-bike drags us up and we have a nice trip.
Eventually we reach a special place in the forest where (of course) a geocache is hidden. It’s a beautiful woodcarving made from the remains of a former huge tree and we enjoy. Until the moment we reach the edge of the forest again. We have one last steep climb where I crash with my bike on a thick branch lying on the forest path. Unbelievable that Dick could avoid this branch. Fortunately, the forest floor is soft and covered with moss and I do not hurt myself, but my E-bike refuses any service and, on my display, appears the text: “motor in error”.
We are lucky that our way back to the motorhome goes only downhill. Now I could not have conquered the steep slopes we encountered when arriving here. When we are back in town, we stop at a shop that sells bicycles, but it does not do repairs. For that we have to go to Merzig, a town 7 miles away, so we return to the motorhome. Whatever Dick tries, he doesn’t get any movement in my e-bike. So, we look up the address of a bicycle repair shop in Merzig where we can go tomorrow. Just before we have dinner I app my sister Hannah that my e-bike refuse to work any longer and then she tells us to look at a small metal rod in the rear wheel. When this one is out of alignment it causes that speed is no longer indicated and the support motor doesn’t function anymore. Both she and Henk already experienced that when the bike-repairman bent this metal rod, the e-bike functioned again. At that moment we enjoy our dinner at the brewery (yes, again) and we cannot look at it.
But when we are back at the Frankia Dick get my e bike out of the garage and although we have little faith in this solution, Dick bends over the metal rod and yes, the e-bike wants to give an electric support again. After a few rounds of cycling over the parking lot we know with great certainty that tomorrow we really don’t have to go to a bicycle repair shop. The problem of my e-bike has been solved.
Still, after breakfast on Thursday September 2nd we drive to Merzig, but that is because we heard from our friend Richard that Rewe advertise with their Fruehstueck (breakfast) juice and the nearest Rewe supermarket is located in Merzig. We want to buy that juice now because from here we drive into France and when we return to Germany the commercial will be finished. In the store we find still 9 bottles of juice and we buy the entire stock.
Then we continue our drive to Hatten in France where we find a large parking lot at a war museum. We may spend the night here. It is on the edge of the town and there is enough space. We will not visit this war museum. In the vicinity we already visited Fort Schoenenburg (we liked that very much) and we don’t think this museum will add much to it, so we walk through the town. It’s not really special here (we both think it’s boring) so when we enjoy a cake with “café au lait” on the terrace of a bakery, we decide to leave tomorrow and drive to nearby Wissembourg.
That town is always picturesque and feels cozier.
Before we can sit on the terrace, first our “pass sanitaire” must be checked. It is the first time we have to show this QR code on our phone. In Europe you receive this QR code when you are fully vaccinated, tested negative less than 24 hours ago or when you are cured from Corona. Although it is 70 degrees it feels cold outside caused by the blowing wind so when we are back at the motorhome we stay inside.
In the evening I buy us a kebab meal in town that tastes good. At night it is dead quiet on this parking, there is no traffic or any other human presence. As agreed yesterday, we drive to Wissembourg after breakfast, finally with a fresh French baguette. This town is only 16 miles north of Hatten and we arrive there early. A good moment because now we can occupy the last spot in the overcrowded parking lot next to the swimming pool. There are at least 9 motorhomes parked and all other spots are occupied by tourists who park their cars here and walk or cycle around.
This morning, while dumping our black water, I accidentally kicked the cap of our toilet cassette down the drain, and as it rolled straight into the sewage system, it was impossible to get hold of it again, so our first task now is to buy a new cap somewhere. Fortunately, we have two toilet cassettes and are not immediately without a cap, but when we unexpectedly have to use our second cassette, we have to close it with plastic foil. When I look on the internet, I see that in the town of Bad Bergzabern, just across the border in Germany, a Fritz Berger outdoor shop is located that sells parts next to camping supplies, so we may be able to buy there a new cap. And as this is not so far from Wissembourg, we get our e-bikes.
It is a nice bike ride to Bad Bergzabern, although the path that Dick chooses is very bumpy and rocky, it takes us right through the grape fields and as the month of October approaches, the grapes are ready to pick and nice to see. After some searching, we arrive in Bad Bergzabern at the outdoor store where we find a cap for a toilet cassette, but it’s for a different series and the seller does not know whether this cap will also fit on our toilet cassette. That’s why we don’t buy it and leave. The temperature is good, it is warmer and the sun is shining, so a break on the terrace of a bakery cannot be missed and, strengthened by a coffee and a good pastry, we cycle back.
On the way home we again ride long stretches over bumpy roads through the grape fields and also have to climb some very steep slopes.
The straightening of the metal rod in my wheel helped obviously because my support motor runs overtime on these, sometimes 19% steep slopes and I am so glad. Hannah, it’s great you sent us a solution after my e-bike breakdown. On the way back we stop briefly at the Deutsche Tor, the entrance to the “Deutsche Wein Strasse” (German Wine Road) and after making the necessary photos at huge wine barrels we ride back to the town of Wissembourg.
There we store our bicycles and for a while we sit outside in the warm sun before walking into the town around 6 pm. We look for a restaurant. We don’t want to go to the one, we visited before, they charged us too much. In the main street we find a cozy terrace in the sun with a menu that appeals to both of us. Of course, before taking a seat on the terrace, we have to show our sanitary pass.
We love it that our QR code is valid throughout the European Union and after approval we take a seat. It is nice sitting outside with the warm weather and now the evening is falling and more and more people find their way to this pleasant terrace. We enjoy this summer evening with a delicious French wine and good food. After dinner we walk back to the parking, enjoy a coffee and look back at a wonderful day. We are in bed early. At least I don’t notice that it’s 10 pm.
Saturday September 4th we get up in time, the sky is already steel blue and in the bright sunlight I walk through the still sleepy town to the bakery. After breakfast Dick get our bikes from the garage and attaches our side bags to them while I collect all our clothes and bedding. It’s laundry day today. On the internet we discovered a laundromat at the end of the town, but we don’t want to drive there with the motorhome, because when we return, there will certainly be no space left for our 26 feet long motorhome. Many new arriving motorhomes are already driving back and forth to look for a spot.
When our bikes are loaded with laundry and washing powder, we cycle to the end of town. Some washing machines are in operation but their program is almost done and soon we can fill the two 30 lb. machines. While they are running at full speed, we leave the laundry room. First, we sit on stones in front of the building but it’s in the full sun and too hot and soon we wait, sitting on a guardrail, in the shade of some trees, till all our laundry washed and dried. After folding everything Dick manages to stow everything neatly in our bags and we cycle back to the motorhome.
Because it is still early in the afternoon we decide to walk through town. We already visited this town several times but even now we see places we never visited before. Regularly we seek the shade of trees, because it’s really warm, 83 degrees. We are back at 5 pm and for a while we sit outside (now in the shade of our motorhome) before walking back to town.
Here, again, we take a seat on the terrace at “Café La Rose”. This time there is no check of our Pass Sanitaire, we are recognized immediately. Once again, we have a good dinner and are lucky with this warm summer weather, even though September has already arrived. In the evening Dick discovers that the town we intend to drive to tomorrow, Oberreichenbach in Germany, is not really successful because the restaurant where we want to eat and stay overnight is closed on the first Sunday of the month. So, we look at another destination and that is the town of Freudenstadt, Germany, but before we drive there, we first dump our gray and black water in Hatten.
The road to Freudenstadt is very beautiful and takes us through a mountainous area. We arrived in the German Schwarzwald (Black Forest). There is still space in Freudenstadt despite the number of motorhomes already present here and we park our Frankia.
Within 10 minutes we move to another spot with a nicer view and then we walk to the center of town. All shops are closed on Sunday. Unfortunately, because we walk under the arcades along the large square in the center and everywhere are shops. Dick likes it, after all, now I can only “window shopping” and not walk in to buy something I don’t need at all.
Because the sun is still shining and the “ice cream” terrace is very attractive, we walk in that direction. But the terrace is overcrowded and every time a table becomes available, people run towards it. So, we return to the motorhome and eat the ice cream, I stored in our freezer. In fact, it is good we returned home because our roof hatches stayed wide open and suddenly the clouds have thickened. Just as I sit outside, writing at the laptop, it starts to drizzle. And it doesn’t stop there, the drops turn into serious rain and while Dick quickly stores the table and chair, I close the roof hatches.
It’s strange because while it’s raining, the sun is still shining. Fortunately, there are only a few heavy showers and it clears up again towards evening.
Monday, September 6th, the sky is steel blue again, the sun shines and early morning it’s already 67 degrees. We decided to stay another day in Freudenstadt and take the e-bikes to explore the area. We found a nice cache route that takes us through the woods in the surrounding area.
Directly outside town are, often steep, forest paths. I never understand how Dick succeeds, but he finds all the narrow paths that lead us deeper and deeper into the forest and we enjoy ourselves. Not strange with this nice weather. This forest shows a different face every time.
One moment we are cycling between the tall pines, the next moment we are cycling next to a thick carpet of moss covered bottom and a little later we are cycling through deciduous forests. Although we don’t actually meet anyone on our voyage of discovery through this vast forest, it turns out that there are a lot of people walking and cycling around because, when we want to eat something on top of the mountain at a sun-drenched mountain cabin, there is no free spot to sit and we ride on and have a drink from our water bottles.
Around 3.30 pm we arrive again at the beautiful town square where we cannot resist the temptation to sit down and have a coffee with cake at a bakery. We cannot sit at the ice cream terrace because that’s closed today. Here nobody checks our QR code (it doesn’t work in this part of Germany) but we have to download the “Luca app”. After filling this app with our personal data, we log in (and log out when leaving) and take a seat on the terrace. When back I walk to the supermarket to buy some food. After a good meal of potato salad, bratwurst and bread we feel our legs and arms tingle. No wonder, we wandered endlessly through the forest, finding our way through sometimes waist height weeds and nettles. Of course, we check each other for ticks. Not a superfluous luxury because we actually find one in my leg. It is not a really good tick year because this is only the third tick we remove from our body.
Unfortunately, many clouds cover the sky on Tuesday September 7th and the temperature remain at 61 degrees. Again, we drive a beautiful route further south. I had no idea the Black Forest would be so beautiful. We follow a winding valley along the river Kinzig and see the mountains around us getting higher and higher. The last part of our trip today ends up on the autobahn A5, much less spectacular and continual there are warnings that we almost approach the Swiss border. Although we would like to go there, we don’t like the hassle that a heavy RV entails when entering Switzerland, so we decided that we will only drive as far as the town of Weil am Rhein in Germany, park the motorhome there, still in Germany and then cycle to Switzerland.
It’s rather to the Swiss town of Basel we will go to. After leaving the highway, about 900 feet before the border, Dick manages to maneuver our motorhome over incredibly narrow roads until we arrive at the parking of a swimming pool. It’s very crowded. This time the parking for motorhomes is occupied with caravans. Its inhabitants rented this spot for a month to live here while working just across the border in Switzerland, where its more expensive to live. But there is enough space in the parking lot in front of it and after we paid our parking fee of 9 euros, we grab our bikes and leave.
Once again, Dick knows exactly which forest paths we have to take in this border area but still it’s a surprise, when we leave the forest after a few miles, that we arrived already in Basel. We don’t see signs with the name of town, but the municipal cars we see have a Basel Stadt registration number and that means that we definitely arrived in Switzerland and that without border control or seeing something that looks like a border.
I guess we have our Swiss Electronic Entry Form in vain. Now we arrived in Basel we cycle through the harbor area. Here we want to visit the border triangle where France, Germany and Switzerland meet. It takes a while to find the place, but when we cycle past some moored riverboats (we first thought that was forbidden area) we arrive at a land-point in the river Rhein with a real monument.
We have unimaginably beautiful weather, the sun is shining and the sky is steel blue and from here we have a magnificent view of the Passerelle de Trois Pays, a pedestrian bridge over the river Rhein with a length of 781 feet.
It’s the longest arch bridge in the world for pedestrians and cyclists and it connects France and Germany while the border of Switzerland is only a few feet away. When jumping on this bridge it will move noticeably so it is obviously that this bridge is our next target. While searching for some caches we wander through Basel and finally arrive (after again crossing the Swiss border without customs) into Germany and at the Passerelle de Trois Pays.
In the middle of the bridge, we both have to jump to feel the resonance of the bridge. Sure enough, we feel, with some delay, the bridge moving up and down. A very strange feeling.
After a few more pictures and looking to Switzerland, we cross the bridge and arrive in France. Here we cycle some time along the riverbanks. At the Swiss banks are only harbors but at the French side are many small beaches with loungers. In France it’s a different way of life. We cycle some time along the French riverbanks and end of the afternoon we cross the bridge again and arrive back in Germany.
There are no borders between France and Germany, after all, together we form the European Union, but between Switzerland and Germany are borders and miraculously, we again cycle between the border posts of Switzerland and Germany and bypass all customs (by accident). It is incredible that this is possible, fortunately we have no harm in the sense, registered ourselves electronically in Switzerland and carry all necessary papers with us.
At 6 pm we are back at the parking lot in Weil am Rhein. After Dick stored our bikes, we walk to the restaurant on the corner of the parking lot. It is built next to a sports field and therefore called “Tribune”. We may take a seat on the terrace when we write down our address details on a piece of paper (the Luca app nor our QR code is used here) and a little later we have a good glass of wine and enjoy our dinner. The quality of the food equals that of the brewery in Mettlach and this restaurant alone is a reason to return.
We are also lucky with the weather because it is still very pleasant outside on the terrace. We supposed to stay another day in Weil am Rhein before heading to Bad Durrheim, where we want attend the meeting of Seabridge, the firm who’s shipping motorhomes to the USA. However, yesterday when I looked for a program for this meeting, I found the announcement that the municipality of Bad Durrheim decided that this meeting cannot take place inside with the increasing corona infections. So now a few tents are set up at the parking lot from where information will be given about the shipping of RV’s to the USA and about group travels to South America, Russia and Europe.
We already traveled three times to and through the USA and only wanted to feel the experience of a meeting (and ask some specific questions about our next transport to the USA when that is possible again). With this information we decide to skip the meeting in Bad Durrheim. And so, we leave directly to France after a breakfast with really old bread, because there is no bakery in the distant environment.
After opening the barrier, where Dick manages to leave the parking through the narrow passage without any damage, we arrive in France and at 11.30 am we park our motorhome in the town of Hirtzbach, France.
We stay at a reasonable distance from our neighbors because we don’t have the impression that many other RV’s will come to this remote area. Then we explore the area on our e-bikes. Hirtzbach is a nice colorful town with lots of flowers and well-kept houses and lives up to the name “ville fleurie”. We directly have to climb up, because right on the edge of town are steep slopes. Not a big deal because we just put our turbo on and then we fly up the slopes.
Yet it is strenuous cycling because the hilly paths are very rocky and sometimes, we ride over bumpy grassy plains. But the view is beautiful and, in the distance, we see the tops of the Grand Ballon, a mountain in the French Vosges.
Fortunately, when we are back at the motorhome it is not too hot, also thanks to our awning. This awning keeps part of the motorhome in the shade and that makes a difference in temperature. And it means that we can sit outside in the shade. Very pleasant when the temperature is rising to 84 degrees. By the evening more and more motorhomes arrive at this spot and also a mobile pizza eatery chose this place as its temporary parking. Great, now we don’t have to cook. However, when I walk to the pizza truck at 7 pm, I am told that it is so busy that I can only order after 9 pm. That means we cook ourselves and the Leberkaese with cheese, bread and tomatoes tastes good. Finally, we stay with 13 motorhomes in this small parking. All the motorhomes are French, we are the only foreigners. At night it is very quiet and we sleep well. Fortunately, it cools down a bit at night and we wake up before 8 am the next morning. For the first time we see clouds again on the horizon.
After our breakfast, still with old German bread and the dumping of our gray and black water, we are one of the first to leave this place. Slowly we find our way further into France and again we drive along the river Doubs for a while. Now with more pleasant weather than a month ago when it rained here. Finally, we arrive in Quingey where again we park behind the supermarket. It is not a pretty place, overlooking the paper and cardboard crushing machine, but it is a practical place, in the middle of a small town and next to a supermarket so we can finally supply food. Of course, we first have a cup of coffee before we explore the town and the surrounding area on foot.
Last month it rained so hard here that we hardly visited this old town. Now we slowly wander through the narrow streets, view the old buildings and walk to the river where rapids can be seen. Finally, we return to the motorhome, buy salad and baguettes and enjoy the evening. Although the sky was very threatening today and a shower could fall at any moment, it fortunately remains dry until the evening. During the night it rains hard and the wind increase. That sound wakes us, but luckily the wind only lasts for a while.
Friday morning September 10th it is still very cloudy and regularly there is a drizzle as we drive through the beautiful countryside of Burgundy. A pity because this area full of grapevines is more beautiful when the sun shines in a blue sky. However, the wind died and it’s 65 degrees, so we’re not complaining. When we arrive in the town of Autun the rain stops and the sun makes frantic efforts to make the cloud mass disappear. We arrive around noon and can still choose a parking spot. Soon this town turns out to be very popular and one motorhome after another arrives and look for a parking. In the meantime, we walk (with our rain jacket, because you never know) to the old town with many intact, old city walls and we also admire the beautiful old Cathedral in the center.
We wander through the narrow old streets, cross a large town square and agree that this is an attractive town to stroll around. Before we return, we take a look at an old Roman arena, practically next to the motorhome parking. It is very busy on the Arena grounds because this weekend a Medieval festival is being held and so an old Roman tent camp is being built.
The Roman arena is beautiful and, in some parts, even intact. We watch the crowds below us for a while and then go our separate ways. I look for a supermarket so I know where I can buy bread tomorrow morning while Dick walks back to our Frankia. The clouds dissipated and the sun is shining brightly. It is now very busy. There are 23 motorhomes and a little further in front of the entrance to the cemetery are another 13 parked. This may be partly caused by the festive weekend. When the night falls the group of ravens finally shuts up. For at least an hour they flew back and forth above the parked vehicles and screamed and screamed, an unbelievable sound but a nice view. Now it becomes dead quiet and we sleep like roses.
Apparently, the wind dispelled all the clouds because when we wake up on Saturday September 11th, the sun is shining in a steel blue sky and the thermometer already shows 67 degrees. Fortunately, we wake up early so I can still walk across the Arena site. It saves a lot of walking as the bakery is located on the other side of this Roman arena. I am also back in time because when I return all the roads and paths in the vicinity of the arena are hermetically sealed. We have to drive through the old town because of the road closures and fortunately arrive unscathed on the other side of town after which we continue in a northwesterly direction. After a 3 hour drive, we see the mountain slopes in the distance to which the town of Sancerre is glued. The vineyards of Sancerre wine now appear everywhere. It is not easy to find a parking space in Sancerre. We get angry looks from a waitress when we drive across her terrace. Well, a narrow road leads between two halves of the terrace and we can barely pass.
Some umbrellas on the terrace really need to be moved. And then all that effort turns out to be in vain because when we arrive at the parking there is insufficient space for our Frankia and after also searching for other places (we drive back and forth three times under the terrace in question and don’t dare to pass it anymore) we decide to leave Sancerre and look for another destination. It will be Bourges, because that town is only 32 miles to the south. We arrive there at 2 pm. There is a huge parking near a cinema and some sports facilities and we can easily park here. After having a chat with our French neighbors, we walk into town.
Bourges is a beautiful old town with grand buildings, old houses and a huge cathedral from the 12th century, which is rightly a world heritage. We wander through the center and of course we enter the Cathedrale St Etienne where I burn a candle. Outside the church it is very noisy. Not caused by the many tourists walking around, but by the protests of some French against the mandatory vaccination policy of the French Government. Also, a Moroccan wedding produces a lot of noise.
Finally, at 7 pm we walk back, impressed by this town. The weather is still beautiful and the sun is high in the sky. Because we don’t want to cook now and there is a burger restaurant less than 260 feet away, we pick up a meal in the evening. The burger turns out to be very tasty and belongs in the top 10 of good burgers. After this tasty meal we read in our books, watch the news and go to bed at 9.30 pm.
It’s still beautiful weather on Sunday so we decide to stay another day. Now we want explore the Bourges area by bike. We are not the only ones who enjoy this warm autumn day because cyclists and walkers can be found everywhere on the paths.
Our journey takes us to the edge of town and later we continue our bike ride on dirt tracks that run parallel to a narrow canal. For the most part we cycle under beautiful trees which is nice and cool but at times also a bit cold so we put on our hoodie. In the evening we pick up food again at the Quick burger and enjoy our burgers. Again, they are tasty, although not excellent anymore because the bacon is not fried crispy and therefore a bit chewy. But after our bike ride this food tastes good.
Monday, September 13th, the sky is again steel blue and soon it is 67 degrees. After filling up with water, we leave Bourges and because we only drive 47 miles today, we arrive end of the morning in the small town of La Chatre. Unfortunately, there is no place at the Super U to park the motorhome. Height beams in the car park prevent this, but we can park under a steel roof next to the store. At least it’s close to the washing machines.
Important for me because I want to wash again. Dick unlocks a shopping cart and I collect all our laundry and a little later I wait, sitting on a stool, in front of the washing machine.
Unfortunately, there is only one washing machine and one dryer (another small washing machine is broken down) so the whole washing process take some hours. But the weather is good. The sun is shining and the thermometer shows 86 degrees. I am so glad that after a while Dick brings me a bottle of water. While I wait for the first wash to finish and a second wash to start, Dick is busy cleaning the motorhome. With our Dyson vacuum cleaner, he cleans everything and the windows are also cleaned inside and outside.
As soon as the first laundry is dried, Dick takes the folded clothes back to the Frankia, one by one so that when the last wash comes out of the dryer, we hardly have to store anything anymore.
After buying some food in the supermarket we have to find a place for the night. Standing under the roof next to the Supermarket is not really attractive so we drive to the center of La Chatre. Here is another parking. However, this parking is completely full with a fair, caravans and tourist buses. But one of the bus drivers still manage to find a place and direct us to a narrow spot where we are soon parked. Although it is already 3.30 pm, it took us three hours to wash, dry and store everything, we take a walk into town as soon as the Frankia is parked. Again, we visit a small, but worth seeing, town, dominated by an old church and two huge sequoias, planted in 1890 and now they have an enormous size. From far away you can see their peaks sticking out above everything else.
After a nice walk we are back at the parking where it is even busier. Not only with people walking over the fairgrounds, but also with school children. The school buses to the surrounding villages appear to depart from this square. We love this roaring and the coming and going buses. It is getting quiet outside at 7 pm. Even the fair stopped. And we prepared ourselves for a pleasant evening with a lot of noise. None of that, it is getting quieter outside and by 8 pm you only hear the sounds caused by the building of a new attraction. Furthermore, it is dead quiet. It is still warm outside, at least 87 degrees, and until we go to bed at 11:30 pm, all our windows and doors are wide open to give space to every bit of wind. It does not prevent that it stays warm inside our motorhome. After a shower in the evening (after all, we have a fresh and clean bed) and leaving all our windows wide open to let it further cool down, we lie awake for a long time in our warm Frankia. Only early morning the temperature drop to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
When we get up on Tuesday, September 14th, it is still 68 degrees and the temperature quickly rises again to 76 degrees. After dumping grey and black water, we drive to the Super U where we buy bread and have breakfast before continuing our trip through the beautiful hilly landscape. We are officially in the mountains because we drive over mountain-passes at an altitude of 2050 feet. The road is quiet and at 1.30 pm we arrive in the town of Saint Leonard de Noblat. Who wouldn’t want to visit a village with such a name?
There is a large parking next to the center and we have plenty of choice where we can park the Frankia. After of course a cup of coffee we walk into this old medieval town, through narrow winding streets with old buildings and of course a beautiful old church. After all, the town is on the road to the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. After two hours we explored the whole town, walked through all the streets and we return. Soon the sky is getting darker and at 5 pm the first raindrops fall. Gently at first, but soon it starts pouring rain and I’m afraid our levelers will be dragged out from under the Frankia.
Swelling rivers of water pass next and under our motorhome and just when I think it’s time to move, the rain stops and it dries up. It’s soggy and humid outside and we don’t want to go out for dinner, so we cook a simple meal, some sausages with leftover mashed potatoes and tomatoes. Late in the evening we see the last rays of the sun. They shine on the clouds who turn red.
Unfortunately, we have a small problem after showering on Wednesday morning. Our shower drain does not run through so the water remains in the shower tray. Not really good when you have to drive, so while I walk to the bakery, Dick scoops away the excess water. On our way in the Limoges, we stop at the first hardware store we see and buy a plunger and liquid for the drain and then drive on, to another medieval town: Chauvigny. The parking for motorhomes and busses is on top of the mountain and we drive around through very narrow streets towards it. I don’t think we’re on the right track, but our Hakuna doesn’t care about that. It continues to lead us through narrow alleys and only after turning around a few times, because we get stuck on dead-end roads, we arrive on the top of the mountain at the parking.
A Swiss bus just arrived (via a better road) and intend to have lunch here. We cannot park on the lot for RV’s as those places are really too short, but luckily there is still a free bus parking where we park the Frankia. While Dick empties the cleaning fluid into the drains of our shower and I make us a cup of coffee, we see a motorhome leaving. As this place is much longer, we move ours and park in this corner.
While the unblocking fluid hopefully does its job, we walk into town. This ancient medieval town is located on the hill and look beautiful. Its historic character is preserved well. The Cathedral of St. Pierre dates from the 12th century and is impressive with its white-red pillars. We stay inside for some time to look around.
Then we walk through the narrow roads that lead past old buildings with heavy walls and arrive at a fortress and even a real castle. This whole town looks and feels nice. I instantly fall in love with it. In the afternoon I walk the steep path to the valley (we climbed this path earlier) in search of a bakery and indeed I find one in the lower village.
Not so far away that we can’t get bread but it does require a steep descent down and a steep climb up. On my way back I also search two geocaches in the rock walls. They are not that easy to find but thanks to some spoiler pictures I find the caches. However, I have to pay for it with some serious scratches on my arms and legs because of the abundant blackberry bushes everywhere. When I’m home Dick got the shower drain working again and he found a nice restaurant near the castle.
At 7 pm we walk there and after a check of our QR code we may take a seat on the terrace. Once again, we are lucky with the weather. It’s a beautiful summer evening. The sun is still shining, it is 72 degrees and not cold. It is even more fun (and also fitting in this medieval town) when a Bald Eagle passes us. Of course, we (I) walk to the owner of this impressive bird and have a chat. The next time we are here, we will visit the bird-show. Unfortunately, that will take a while because after this month this show stops and will not be resumed until the end of spring. We feel very comfortable in this town and now we also discovered a restaurant with good food. My spinach lasagna with goat cheese and lettuce turns out to be the house specialty and is delicious and Dick’s sirloin steak also tastes good. After dinner we chat with a German couple who parked their RV at the campsite down the mountain.
We have a pleasant evening and late in the evening (Autumn is coming so it’s already dark) we walk through the small streets of this dead quiet and beautiful lit, medieval town, back to our motorhome. It feels great.
Unsurprisingly, when Dick bends over something, the next morning our shower drain works just fine again and I’m very pleased with him, especially when he also cooked an egg when I return from my expedition to the bakery. It really is a climb back up. When we take our bikes to cycle around in the area, the temperature turns out to be a bit disappointing. I didn’t notice that when I went down the mountain this morning and climbed up again but on our bikes the wind just feels cold on our legs. So, when we have cycled a few hundred yards we return to the motorhome to put on our long trousers. And then we cycle to a geocache round in the forests around Chauvigny.
These geocaches are all challenges and that means that you not only have to search this cache but also have to meet other conditions to be able to log these geocaches. One of the caches requires that for every year that geocaching exists (since the year 2000) you must have found one cache. Since we recently found the missing year 2000 in Belgium, near Bouillon, we now meet this requirement. The tour takes us through a forest with very uneven paths, very rocky, often very sloping slopes and with regularly fallen trees on the path and often we have to get off our bikes and lift the bike over the trees before we can continue our way. Dick is therefore “not amused” about my route choice.
But eventually we complete the entire route and arrive at an old railway line that we have to follow because we want to cross the river and cannot find another way to cross this river. We are not disappointed because, from this high railway line, we not only have a beautiful view over the medieval town of Chauvigny, we also can find two other caches that are hidden on this railway route. One of them requires some climbing under a high bridge, but Dick coaches me: “just put your feet on the beams”, “no you won’t fall”, “move more to the right then you have a better grip”, “don’t overreact, you can’t be crushed”, “stay calm”, “bend a little more and you can reach the geocache” and eventually we can also log this climbing cache.
In the afternoon we are back at the motorhome. That’s good because now we can grab a geocache at the castle. We already found it but it is hidden so high in the wall that we need stairs to get to it. So, armed with our folding stairs from the motorhome, we walk through town. You would say that is quite remarkable, but no.
Everyone is watching us but no one says anything, so we quickly storm the castle and log the cache. Back home we dump our gray and black water, do some administration (after all, we have to keep track of everything we do and spend) and Dick take the laptop to log our found caches. When we finished it is almost evening and again, we walk to restaurant “La Belle Epoque”, near the castle, to have dinner. Once again, our meal tastes excellent and again, we have a nice address to return to.
Unfortunately, Friday September 17th it is heavily clouded. But luckily it is still 63 degrees. Not really nice weather and so we decide to leave before breakfast and stop to have breakfast at the first bakery we come across. Of course, it takes a while before we find a bakery in this vast country, as always if you are looking for something. The road does not take us past shops but through fields, but after 7 miles, at a crossroad, we see a bakery with enough space to park. After our late breakfast, we continue our journey through the French countryside. Just before we reach our destination we are stopped because of a serious accident at an intersection. The road is fairly narrow and so we wait together with a row of trucks until we may drive on again. Fortunately, this is the case after half an hour and at 1 pm we arrive in Montreuil Bellay. Again, our Hakuna doesn’t really show us the right way to the parking for motorhomes, because a number of times we get stuck on too narrow roads, or roads forbidden for vehicles over 7725 lbs, but eventually we arrive at a large parking lot next to a campsite where the motorhome can be parked.
It is already busy with motorhomes but at this time of day there is always a spot to be found. As soon as the Frankia is parked to our satisfaction (sometimes that take some time) we walk into the town. Another town from the guide I found in July in Issoire, (France) and from which I compiled this route with all these beautiful towns. Montreuil Bellay is dominated by a huge castle and church on top of the mountain around which the narrow streets wind up and down.
Again, geocaches show us the way through town and bring us to all the places worth seeing. And it has warmed up again. The clouds have given way to blue skies and the sun is shining again. Montreuil Bellay is not really a big town so after two hours of wandering around (more climbing around) we have seen it and descend to the river where we are parked. After all those eat indulgences of the last few days, we are not going out for dinner tonight but cook ourselves. The mashed potatoes and cauliflower taste delicious, the steak is a bit less (and that’s not caused by Dick’s cooking). The meat is a tough and requires a lot of chewing. But according to Dick that is the case with all French beef. And the picture on the packaging of the meat looked so juicy and tender. It’s a good thing we arrived early here because when we’re finished our dinner around 7.30 pm, another endless stream of motorhomes arrives on this parking. Soon every possible spot in this parking is filled with a parked motorhome. It’s even busier than when we drove around France in the month of July.
Saturday September 18th, we wake up because the raindrops are falling on the roof hatch. What a different weather. The sky is completely gray and no refraction is visible. Because it really starts to rain after we took a shower, I don’t walk to the bakery but we drive to the supermarket outside the old center where we buy bread and have a good breakfast in its parking lot before we continue our journey. We are lucky because soon the rain stops and it clears up, so, at the end of the morning, we drive into Brittany and have sun. On our way to Saint Malo, we stop in the town of Retiers where we dump and fill with water. After all, that is not possible in the parking lot in Saint Malo and we arrive at the coast at 2 pm.
Before we arrive at this parking at the coast, we first looked at some other car parks closer to the center of Saint Malo but there is either no space or the place is too small for us and so we park the Frankia again next to the beach, about 3 miles outside of Saint Malo. In contrast to last summer, the parking layout has changed.
Motorhomes are no longer allowed to park in the central area, but must park on the side. Although it is very busy, there are still a few spots available and we can park. The side of the parking is very sloping but when we use the levelers tonight, we will stand levelled again. Once we had a drink, we walk to the neighboring town of Rotheneuf. Here are rock sculptures. Already for some time I want to visit these sculptures and watch them but we never did it, so now it’s the day. After half an hour of walking we arrive at the entrance where we pay € 2,50 entrance and enter the coastal area with the famous rocks.
The priest L’Abbee Foure, who lived here in the 19th century, was also a painter and woodcarver, and when he developed a brain disease at the age of 55, which caused him to lose his hearing and speech, he decided to retire as a hermit in this old fishing village Rotheneuf where he worked on the granite rocks and cliffs for 13 years. The result is more than 300 images, faces and figures. As soon as we walk down the rocky path, we see the different carved statues. You are short of eyes in this sculpture garden and it is very special that despite heavy tidal waves and the influence of the sea wind, the carvings have not been affected. On the contrary they look even more lived through.
We walk around slowly. And with us many others because sometimes you have to wait a while to take a nice picture until the crowd is gone but finally, we have seen everything and walk back. However, via a detour because the beach lures and it is still “low tide” so we can walk a bit on the dried up sand beach. At 6 pm we are back at the parking lot.
Now there is no more parking space available so the new arriving motorhomes have to continue. For dinner we have carpaccio and salad Manhattan and that tastes fine. Unfortunately, the weather is very gloomy on Sunday morning. The sky is gray and there is a strong wind blowing. I cycle to the Carrefour to buy bread. Normally I do this on foot, but now that we will use our bicycles today (we will cycle to Saint Malo) this will go faster. After breakfast Dick also takes his bike and we drive to the old center of Saint Malo, lock our bikes with cables in front of the city wall and walk towards the beach.
It is getting low tide so now is the time to walk to the island of Grand Bé. At low tide, that island can be reached over the sandy beach. Although we did not look at the tide tables, we just see the water getting lower and lower and soon we descend the city walls and walk over the partly wet sand towards the island. The sky is less clouded, blue sky and sun are clearing these clouds so it’s a good time to make the crossing. Many others also have the same idea of walking towards the island of Grand Bé and it is quite busy on the beach. To reach the top of the island we have to climb up, but when we reach the top we are rewarded with a beautiful view over the town of Saint Malo and you can see the old city walls.
Unfortunately, we cannot walk to the second island: “Petit Bé”. The water is still too high for that and because the currents between the islands are strong, it is not wise to wade through the deep water. It is now 12.30 pm and time to walk to our favorite restaurant “La Bourse”. So, we return over the beach, climb the city walls again and walk over these massive walls to the Porte Dinan, where our favorite restaurant is located.
Still walking on the walls, Dick notices that there is one table available on the terrace and I run ahead. We are lucky and are able to take this table.
Of course, after our QR code is scanned. Without proof that you are vaccinated (or recently tested or recovered from Corona) you can’t do anything in this country. It’s weekend and we cannot order a menu so we limit ourselves to a main course and dessert. First, we take fish and chips, which tastes excellent. It can’t be otherwise because the cod comes directly from the sea. For dessert, we order Tiramisu and a Grand Café (coffee and some small pastries), also delicious. And meanwhile we enjoy the sun and look at all the tourists walking around here. To better digest the enormous amount of food and wine in our stomachs we also take a walk “intra muros”, through the narrow streets within the city walls. Wearing a mask is mandatory here. While this was still massively enforced in July, you saw policemen everywhere, now a number of people have had it and they no longer wear a mask when walking outside. Because it is very busy in the streets we leave the city, grab our bicycles and drive along the various ports.
Finally, we are back at our parking outside town at the end of the afternoon. The wind is quite cool so we stay inside. I only walk to the beach at sunset. It is now completely deserted, no wonder because with the strong wind and high water there is hardly any beach left and the temperature has dropped to 57 degrees. You will not be surprised that again we sleep like roses after so much fresh air and sea breeze.
Monday, September 20th we get up at 8 am and after a shower and get dressed we leave this parking. Unfortunately, both our Hakuna’s do not want to take the road along the coast (I have no idea why) so we drive inland to the town of Pontorson, only 32 miles away and after an hour we arrive already in the parking lot behind the supermarket Carrefour. There I buy a fresh baguette and we enjoy breakfast (again with a boiled egg, Yammie).
After that, our day program starts. Dick helps me to find all our laundry, get an empty shopping cart and has money ready to put in the washing-machines, and soon I’m on my way to the laverie (laundromat) where it’s busy with people doing their laundry. All Frenchmen from this area. Fortunately, the first machine is available after about 10 minutes, but I have to wait almost half an hour for the second machine. Oh, it’s not a problem. I’m glad we can do our laundry.
At 2 pm everything is clean, stowed away and we have a fresh cover on our bed and we decide to cycle a bit around. Not all the way to Mont St. Michel but a couple of miles in that direction and we find our way through the meadows. In Beauvoir, with a view of the Mont, we turn back. The weather is beautiful but there is a strong wind blowing. However, on the way back we don’t feel this wind because it blows in our back. When we are back home (yes, our Frankia feels like home) Dick sits behind his laptop again to log our found caches and I am strolling around in the Carrefour. I have to, because we cook tonight in the motorhome and all the ingredients for our meal still have to be purchased. But when the green beans with chicken and mashed potatoes stay on the table in the evening (yes again), Dick doesn’t complain.
Despite the fact that the parking in St Malo was overcrowded and the road to Pontorson was very busy with passing motorhomes, this supermarket parking remains very quiet. We spend the night with only 3 others, all French. Because we didn’t go to the meeting in Bad Durrheim, Germany, we still have one day left and so we decide to leave for Cherbourg on Tuesday September 21st. Also, one of our favorite places in France. Because this place at the coast is very pleasant to stay.
We were supposed to leave Pontorson early, so yesterday I bought survival bread, but during the night our French propane tank is running out of propane, so we don’t bother to get up early. When the supermarket opens at 8.45 am we want to exchange our propane-tank for a full one and also buy a fresh baguette. The question is whether there is propane. An employee did not return the empty propane tanks upside down in the storage place, so the store does not dare to give out tanks, because they don’t know or the tanks are filled or not.
But Dick knows what to look for and shows the “store lady” the seal of the full tanks and now we can exchange and connect a new propane tank. I am very happy that this summer we bought a French tank.
After breakfast, a little later than usual, we drive into Normandy. Or maybe we were already there because we (I) are still not sure whether Le Mont St. Michel is in Brittany or in Normandy. Everywhere on the way to the north are roadblocks so we regularly have to make a detour but finally we arrive in Cherbourg at 3 pm. The sun is shining even though there are quite a few clouds. There is only one spot on the parking where we park the Frankia, it’s on the side of the lot (I like that) and with a view over the harbor. Later on, other spots also become available, so we definitely had a place to sleep.
After a coffee we walk around, first along the harbor area, heavily secured by concertinas because the ferry to England leaves from here and then straight through the narrow streets to the foot of the rocky hill where bunkers were built near the top from which you have a 360 degree view over the city and the sea. From our own experience we know that an excursion there is definitely worth it. Maybe we have to return there but then with a guided tour in English. When we visited this area earlier, we were the only visitors and everything was explained in rattling French and we couldn’t let our attention slip for a moment.
Finally, we arrive at the large shopping center along the fishing harbor and I want to take a look inside. Dick walked enough through the streets of Cherbourg and after a coffee and cake on a terrace, he slowly returns to the motorhome, while I go around the shops.
At 6.30 pm we walk, with down jackets in our backpacks, to the center of town and look for a place on a terrace around the fishing harbor. Unfortunately, the terrace is in the shade, but because it is completely shielded with plastic, it is also a good place to be without a jacket and after our “Pass Sanitaire” is scanned, we take a seat.
It remains special that no one here grumbles when you have to show a “Pass Sanitaire” before you can eat or drink something. But opponents of this policy will not be found on a terrace or in a restaurant. The meal tastes good. My double hamburger is even of excellent quality, and Dicks steak also tastes good. When dusk sets in, we walk back to the Frankia. For a while we look at the reflection of the lights in the water of the harbor and then quickly fall asleep.
Wednesday morning, we eat survival bread. The bakery whose oven was broken in July is now on Congee (vacance) so I can’t buy bread there and I don’t like to walk to the shopping center. Before leaving we want to fill up with water, but the tap on this parking lot runs so slowly that we will need at least half an hour to fill our water-tank and because we drive to the town of Honfleur and there are fast-running taps, we decide to leave and fill up there. It is busy on the road, especially around Rennes where we are not allowed to drive our car over the bridge and after a huge traffic jam, we finally arrive over back roads not far from the center of Honfleur. Here we are urged to take the toll road. Other roads are blocked for vehicles heavier than 7725 LB. And surely with our obligatory Angles Mort stickers (for heavy cars) we can’t take such roads. It is very busy at the parking for motorhomes in Honfleur. In July, at this time of the morning, there was still plenty of room, now we really have to look for a spot.
Luckily a motorhome just drives away so we park on a spacious place. After I paid for the parking (it’s an expensive one because it’s 11 euro) I first fill up our tank with the watering can while Dick prepares a cup of coffee and then we walk into town.
From our parked motorhome we have a view over the water, the town of Honfleur and its fishing harbor where scattered nets are drying. The fishermen use them to retrieve the different types of fish and everywhere are people to buy fish directly from the arriving ships. As the harbor is shielded from the sea by a system of ship locks that take some time. The weather is beautiful. Thanks to the merging of two high-pressure areas, there is little wind and the temperature rises to 72 degrees.
Because of the beautiful weather we decide to take a look at the beach of Honfleur. It is located at the mouth of the river Seine and we have never walked that far. First, we visit the “Jardins des Personalites” at the end of town where we look for a cache that we couldn’t find a few years ago, but now we can and then we walk on to the beach.
It is low tide so there is a lot of beaches and in the wonderful warm sun we take a leisurely walk on the moist sand. At the lighthouse we leave the beach again and we climb over the hills to return to the center of Honfleur. There we walk along another picturesque harbour
, visit the completely wooden Sainte Catherina church (the largest wooden church in France) and wander through the narrow, cozy streets before returning to the parking lot where it has become even busier.
Every spot where a motorhome can park is now occupied and new arriving cars are still trying to find a place by double parking. In the evening I pick up a meal (kebab, chicken, fries and salad) at the eatery “Gyros” and we enjoy our food.
Thursday September 23rd we get up at 8 am. It is only 53 degrees but there is practically no wind and soon the temperature rises because when I walk in the sun to the bakery, it feels warmer. After breakfast we drive to Le Havre on the other side of the Seine.
However, our Hakuna indicates that we have to drive 83 miles because to avoid toll we have to make a detour via Rouen. But when we take the toll bridge “Pont de Normandie” and pay € 6.40, we already arrive in Le Havre after 16 miles. And that could have been even less when we didn’t drive wrong in the maze of highways in Le Havre. There is still one spot on the parking lot where we park our Frankia. Because this parking is not far away from heavy industry, the place is situated high on a slope above the Seine and the wind is wrong, the outside smells strongly of refineries and we keep our windows closed.
Dick gets the bikes out of the garage and we prepare them for our trip. There is a series of challenges right at the foot of the Pont de Normandie and I came up with the idea to cycle there from our parking.
At least we don’t have to cycle over the high bridge Pont de Normandy with its heavy traffic. So armed with maps and GPS codes we set off. We are parked high up on a hill and low below us is our goal. That means that we immediately have an endless steep descent over very narrow streets with often sharp hairpin bends, where I regularly slip. But eventually we arrive at the bottom, almost unscathed, and then the misery starts in finding our way across an industrial area where we, cyclists, are absolutely not welcome.
There are no bicycle paths nor a decent roadside along the narrow roads and all around us are heavy trucks racing back and forth. Their drivers are also absolutely “not amused” to avoid us, cyclists. Since Dick’s GPS always follows small roads and paths and there are only major roads around us, the GPS cannot no longer find a way. And when we cycle back again to find an accessible bridge over one of the many canals in this industrial area and cycle again through a for cyclists and hikers forbidden territory, we stop under the smoke of the huge ship Brittany. Again, we see a water barrier, another huge harbor. Until now we already cycled 10 miles and we still have at least 5 miles to go, so we decide to stop this (now dangerous) trip and return to the motorhome. It stinks here, it is dangerous for cyclists and after 2.5 hours we are back, disillusioned. Of course, again, after climbing the hill over many, many hairpins. While Dick stores the bikes again, I quickly dump our gray and black water and then we leave. Next time we will come back here, we either drive with our motorhome to the geocaches or we look for them from the town of Honfleur, cycling over the Pont de Normandie. 38 Miles further to the east, we stop in Doudeville at a small square in town. It’s not a special village, but it’s quiet and the air smells nice.
Dick quickly takes out our bicycles and we explore the area. Our bike ride takes us over narrow farm roads and past a neighboring castle which, although deserted, also looks quite impressive, as are the old and sizable trees all around this castle.
During the afternoon the dark clouds, present everywhere in Le Havre, dissolve and we enjoy the sun. Now a strong wind is blowing, but the temperature is still 63 degrees. Our intention was to have a salad for dinner but after the cycling we want to have a warm meal and again we have cauliflower with chicken and mashed potatoes. In the evening we watch TV, but we no longer hear the clock striking 10 pm.
On Friday September 24th we don’t wake up until 8.30 am. The supermarket is not even 650 feet away, so we have breakfast with fresh baguettes before we drive on. Unfortunately, the weather changed, the sky is gray and its drizzly weather. Sunday, we have to be home because early Monday morning the Frankia camper has an inspection (MOT) so today, we drive to the town of Laon.
Another town that regularly returns on our route because it is pleasant to stay here and the food is good. Because we have to drive 162 miles and we follow only back roads, we arrive in Laon at 2.30 pm. We are surprised that only one other motorhome is parked under the city wall so it is no problem to park ours.
The clouds disappear and the sun comes out and we take a walk through town.
No punishment because now we can make reservations for tonight in restaurant Agora.
Unfortunately, the restaurant is closed and doesn’t open until 7pm tonight. It is clear that now less people sit on the terrace because only a few tables are left outside.
The narrow shopping street are fun to walk through, we admire the medieval paintings and we search and find a cache at a lavoir (a washing place from earlier times).
After 2 hours we are back at the Frankia where I take the laptop. Again, I need to write something and Dick picks up his book “The Journey” by James A. Mitchener, which tells of a trip to the gold fields in the Klondike and is very intriguing. Just before 7 pm we walk again along the city walls to the center. There is actually a table available in the restaurant. We order the menu and a carafe of Cotes du Rhone. Once again, the food tastes excellent and we agree that the detour via Laon is worth it. We will definitely return to this restaurant. Unfortunately, in winter the opening times are restricted to the weekend.
Under a dark sky we walk back and admire the cathedral for a while, which looks great with its blue illuminated towers.
Saturday morning, we wake up early and because we eat survival bread, we leave early. We first have to refuel downhill, but then we drive quickly to the border with Belgium via inland roads. It’s very foggy. Although on the mountain in Laon the sun came out early this morning, here on the lower plains we cannot look further than 260 feet. When we arrive at the Belgian border, the sun has more power and the clouds disappear. With a shining sun we continue our way through Belgium. Due to road closures we have to make a detour after Antwerp so we arrive in Bergen op Zoom, in the southern part of the Netherlands, at 2.30 pm. There is one spot on the boulevard where we park our Frankia. In the afternoon all clouds disappear and the temperature climbs to 74 degrees. There is no wind and I walk around the mini-libraries to exchange our books.
Meanwhile Dick can write something for the member-meeting of our diving club that will take place next week. In the evening we buy Chinese food, enjoy a beautiful sunset and read our books. Watching TV is not possible here because there are too many huge trees.
Early Sunday morning we hit the road early and so already at 10 am we park behind our house. The rest of the day we are busy getting everything out of the motorhome and of course clean it thoroughly in- and outside. After the inspection of the engine tomorrow, we will bring our motorhome to Raema, our RV dealer in Nederweert. There, among other things, they will make moisture measurements and so it is wise when the motorhome is delivered empty. All day we are lucky with the weather, the sun is shining and it is nice and warm, so at the end of the afternoon the Frankia is empty and cleaned, our house is a mess and we look back on another wonderful journey.
When the alarm clock rings at 6 am on Monday morning, that is a bit disappointing. It’s been a long time since we went out in the dark. But we are on time at the truck garage in Utrecht.