Just look at how blue it is and how fluffy the clouds are…. The town itself is less beautiful although my hotel – the building on the photo – has the same interior designer as the boudoirs at the Moulin Rouge. The story of the day? Here goes…
I can’t start with the statistics of my ride as I have left the little computer back in my hotel room but it was around 110 kilometres.
Leaving Alain’s cousin at around 8.30 be both headed towards the city centre; he for a meeting and me for a coffee in the main square. I was in the process of considering my day and in which direction to head when who appeared? Alain of course. Ok. We had said our farewells about 10 minutes previously so it was strange cranking up the conversation again. We decided to cycle off together and then at some point he would head east to Belgium and I would head south to… somewhere. I still had to make the decision. We eventually separated after having lunch together in a small town called Conde (with an accent on the end – Zoe: have you worked out how to do them on the iPhone yet?) although I am half expecting him to turn up in the bar where I am sitting 🙂
I still wasn’t 100% sure where I wanted to be at the end of the afternoon but I knew that Maubeuge was the town bang on one third of the way from Lille to Luxembourg. I was open to changing my mind if a different, more suitable town or village appeared in roughly the right area with a nice little campsite. It didn’t.
There isn’t a direct road from Conde (with an accent) to Maubeuge so I picked my way across the countryside ticking off unsuitable stopping places as I went. This included a quick excursion into Belgium. Every time I have been to Belgium I wonder if it exists to make British feel a little less ashamed that they live in a run down, scruffy country. But at least we have the English Channel to help us forget memories of our unkempt and litter-strewn towns. When you cycle from France to Belgium it is immediately evident and you do think that the Belgians would make a special effort in those areas at least. I cycled through the border town of Quievrain thinking I’d been teleported to the wild west. Or Blackpool on a bad day. Even the residents immediately seemed more “earthy” with the majority of the men between 17 and 25 passing me in shiny black, souped up, tinted windowed….. errr… Twingos. The look is not good. The roads were equally as bad and one section was slabs on concrete like that section of the M1 in Yorkshire. Horrible to cycle on and it is no surprise that my rattles returned. Both Reggie and myself sighed with relief on re-entering France.
I arrived in Maubeuge at about 5pm and made the decision that it probably doesn’t have a campsite but after three nights of free accommodation, the budget can afford a night at the Moulin Rouge, sorry Le Grand Hotel.
Perhaps I do the town a disservice. It is bland and very 1960s but it’s clean, well-kept and (so far) friendly. I can, however, see why it doesn’t get a Mention in the Rough Guide.
Tomorrow, following Mark’s remarks in the previous post, I’ll aim for Charleville-Mezieres (lots of accents!) which does have a campsite and an entry in the Rough Guide. Anyone been there?