Day 12 Charleville Mezziers to Doulcon Thursday 03/08/06
Just when I had finished packing the tent up from the previous nights camping, it decided to hammer it down, so my planned early start went out of the window as I cowered from the rain beneath an overhang near reception. I was about fifteen minutes waiting, and as it was the last major downpour (torrential type!) of the day, it was time well spent. Finding my way out of Charleville Mezziers proved to be no easy task, and convinced that I had gone wrong a long time before, I miraculously found myself on the right road. I love it when a plan comes together! My route towards Verdun followed all the back roads, and whilst this meant I barely saw a car all day, it did mean that I had to go up and down every hill in France! A little bit knackering. I got as far as Doulcon, which is 30kms short of Verdun, and a sign saying campsite lured me in. It's been my lowest spending day yet at 5 euros, and I also clocked up my fastest speed so far… 53.7 kmh!! I told you those hills were steep! The campsite was quite full, and I got the impression it could be the start of the French ‘grande vacance', when basically the whole country goes on holiday. This means that the shops will be shut even more than usual (is this possible?!?). And whilst talking about shops, I'd just like to comment on how useless the ones I seem to come across are. The concept of a general store has so far eluded the French in the towns I've been through! And that's ignoring the two hour lunch break, and the fact they don't open on Sundays. Apart from flower shops which appear to be open all the time. Which is a bonus. Still, I'll be in Germany soon, where hopefully, they have their act together!
Day 13 Doulcon to Verdun Friday 04/08/06
It rained a lot last night, and was still raining in the morning, so I decided on a bit of a lay in, and left at nine. There was only a 34km cycle ride to Verdun, so it was relatively easy, despite the hills and rain! Stocked up in a hypermarche (civilization! it did not close for lunch!) and then concentrated on eating, as I felt i needed too! The campsite was quite a good one, but why not put seats on the toilets? To sit on the throne is one of lifes pleasures!
Day 14 Verdun to Chateau Salins Sat 05/08/06
The first hour and a half of leaving Verdun, it was back to the hills again, and then … flat!! I had a good couple of hours cycling along at a fair pace before hitting some more hills and then rain, again. Joy. I passed through some pretty towns, and bought a quiche Lorraine.. I was in the Lorraine region! It was a struggle at times, but I eventually made it to Chateau Salins. Quite tired, I booked into a hotel and filled my belly. I made the most distqnce so far, and an incredible top speed of 63.2kmh. I must admit my arse was flapping at that speed, sitting on a wobbly bike steaming down hill in a light drizzle with the brakes barely working.
Day 15 Chateau Salins to Saverne Sunday 06/08/06
I left at 8.30, and it was a bright, sunny morning! The roads were good to me, and i covered 20kms in the first hour, before stopping off for my daily chocolate eclair. After that, it was just head down, and onto Saverne. There were a few steep, energy sapping climbs, and just before Saverne, I climbed up 420 metres and then rocketed down into the town below, which was great fun. Unfortunately, the campsite was back up another hill, so I had to climb another 200 metres… oh well. When I had set up in the campsite, I cycled back down into the town again for some supplies, and had a look around. It had some great, wooden fronted buildings which were quite pretty. The evenings culinary delight was pasta and tuna… for a change.
Day 16 Saverne to Strasbourg Monday 07/08/06
Another day with good weather to cycle in. I hit one of the major roads to get some miles under my belt, and then with 16kms to go to Strasbourg, I cut onto the minor roads. You could tell that I was getting close to the German border, as all the towns started to have German sounding names. The architecture of the buildings also changed, with more wooden fronted buildings of varying colours. The ride took me through picturesque villages and cornfields, until I arrived on the outskirts of the city. I made my way into the centre of Strasbourg, and found the campsite with my normal mixture of skill, blind luck, and the occasionally well placed road sign. Once i had set up camp, I showered and made my way back into the centre. In the centre, it took me about an hour to achieve my main goal of finding a McDonalds. Once that was done, all the secondary tasks such as finding a map of Germany so I can see where I am going next, buying gas cannisters for the stove, and food came easily. The centre of Strasbourg is quite nice, but I didnt bother to take any pictures as I dont think its that nice! On the way back to the campsite, two police officers were directing pedestrians around a newly filled body bag which was laying in the street. Strangely, French body bags are more like huge plastic bags which leave the feet sticking out. Back qt camp, I discovered that the washing machines were five euros, so it was back to washing pants in the shower again.