….before my eyes shut while typing the previous post last night.
Much of yesterday’s route was dotted with remnants from the Second World War; lots of pillar boxes and a couple of monuments. The number of names of American soldiers who were either killed or lost in action was shocking on the monument just south of Sedan. I suppose the pillar boxes were the start of the ill-fated Maginot line that was supposed to keep the Germans out (they simply went through Belgium instead).
Predictably the road surfaces took a turn for the worse as I entered Belgium for the third and final time of the trip and the towns just as shabby as elsewhere compared to pristine France. The landscape had returned to being the pretty, undulating stuff I had become accustomed to before my meeting with the Meuse on Thursday.
I have been trying to keep to the minor or at least secondary roads as much as I can (the White and yellow ones on the Michelin map), but occasionally it’s necessary to take the red ones; this was the case as I entered Belgium as I approached Virton but also as I prepared to leave the country and enter Luxembourg. Three countries meet at Aubange in Belgium and the area was full of industry which, even on a Saturday afternoon equated with lots of traffic. At times it felt like a two or even one lane motorway and I did question whether I should have been on the roads in the first place. The occasional concession to cyclists with a short piste cyclable told me that I was not breaking the law but it didn’t make for the most pleasant of journeys.
Things improved dramatically as I entered Luxembourg. The road surfaces were even better than in France – silky smooth – and although there were no encouraging cycling signs until entering the capital itself, most roads had an unmarked band of tarmac next to the road which was a de-facto cycling lane. The country is clearly one of money as the cars and houses told their own story of financial success. If anything, it was a bit like Disneyland; very colourful, very neat, very clean. The long, straightish N5 was my route into the capital itself and was predominantly an uphill slog. I seem to remember reading that the place had been built on top on a plateau. There were however some nice long downhill sections every now and again and at the bottom of one of these was a posse of Luxembourg police people with a speed gun. To my relief they smiled as I whizzed by; it’s amazing how fast I go with the weight of my bags on a good downhill section….
I wandered around the city for half an hour or so trying to find my bearings eventually plonking myself down for a welcome beer at a bar conveniently next to the tourist office in Place Guillaume II. A very Germanic place with lots of languages being spoken, not just by the tourists. That said, French prevails.
I found the hotel via the tourist office, booked in, had a shower, cut a chunk out of my foot while slipping on the wet shower floor, eventually stemmed the flow of blood courtesy of one of the beautiful white towels supplied, drank some more beer, ate a bag of nuts and fell asleep. I slept very well indeed!
At one point yesterday – in France I think – I did 63 kms / hr; it must has happenned….
My grandfather fought in the so called “Battle of the Bulge” (or the Ardennes Offensive) so It’ll be nice to have some significant connection on my journey as I cycle through this region.
I’m glad you commented on the Michelin maps because I bought a couple and was wondering if you can cycle on the “red lines” if no white or yellow is available. It’s also nice to hear of a seperate path for cyclers through belgium/luxembourg
The 1:200,000 Michelin maps are a good compromise between sufficient detail and portability. I’m not sure what defines the different colors on the map (I should look at they key but I have cut them all off!!) but very often you can’t tell the difference.
When I talk about separate cycle paths, don’t get too excited; they are sporadic and even where they do appear, they are often next to roaring traffic. The only place so far where I have been able to escape traffic altogether is the “voie verte” that ran along the side of the Meuse. I’m hoping for something similar tomorrow as I make my way from Schengen to Metz along the Moselle.
I’m bored of hotels now; want to get back on the road!