(With apologies to Simon & Garfunkel.)
The last two days (Saturday and Sunday) have been wonderful cycling and seen us into Alsace, a region of France that we have been to many times over the years. Indeed, Christine first came here as an Assistant as part of her languages degree more years ago than she cares to remember!
Saturday was overcast but warm as we set out from Besançon up the Doubs valley. If anything, the scenery was even more beautiful than the day before as the sides of the gorge got higher. The canal was increasingly sporadic and was sometimes only a lock gate to let boats past a weir.
Eventually the valley opened up and the countryside became more pastoral as we approached the night’s stop at the campsite in L’Isle-sur-le-Doubs.
We went looking for a church service for Christine for the next morning. In a town of 25,000 souls there was a Catholic church where there was a mass every other week (and we were there in the “off” week of course) and a protestant church with every sign of having been defunct for many years. It transpired that it was operational when we went past the next morning on the other aide of the canal but by then it was too late – we were under way.
The campsite was another one that was popular with cyclists, there being 6 sets including the young German family and an English couple who we had met in Decize. This was almost certainly because there no other sites for 20 or 30 km in either direction on the EV6.
Sunday dawned with barely a cloud in the sky and the forecast rain for the previous night had stayed away thankfully. Slapping on the suncream we set off continuing the gentle climb alongside the river/canal and enjoying the best weather of the trip so far.
Leaving the Doubs river which we had been following for more than 2 days but still beside the Rhône-Rhine canal we headed for Alsace. Christine was a little disappointed that the entry was low key – no marching bands or greetings from the local mayor, not even a sign saying “Welcome to Alsace”! But she soon perked up when she caught sight of the Vosges mountains and, a little later and even further away, the Black Forest.
We then started descending having crossed the watershed between the Rhône and the Rhine. As previously, the descent was much steeper than the ascent had been and we swiftly lost all the height we had gained earlier in the day (but it was only 90 metres! Not bad for more than 40 km of cycling.)
We soon reached the road where we were to leave the canal briefly to visit Altkirch, the town where Christine had spent 8 months teaching French school kids all those years ago. Unfortunately, it involved a bit of a climb, particularly as the campsite is situated on the hill above the town. Christine used her desire to rekindle memories as an explanation for her walking through the town. It had nothing to do with the upward slope of the road of course! Not surprisingly after ** years it all looks very different.
Tomorrow will be our last day of cycling in France as we will be heading to Basel and the Rhine. The campsite is (just) in France but all of the interesting stuff is on the Swiss side of the border. We are expecting to take another rest day although Swiss prices and the exchange rate after last December’s revaluation of the franc may cramp our style.