1/8/17. We are back in Alsace, our favourite part of France – an area that Christine first visited more years ago than she cares to remember when she worked here for eight months while at university. It was also the site of our second cycling holiday together straight after we finished our accountancy exams in 19mumble,mumble.
It has become more French over the years that we have been visiting (it was part of Germany during the war and for 50 years until the end of WW1). When Christine worked here many of the old people still spoke Alsatian, a dialect of German, but that seems to have died out although it looks as though efforts are being made to preserve it with it being used on some road signs.
However, it looks more prosperous than much of rural France that we cycled across 2 years ago which appeared rather “ run down” and neglected. Alsace is more similar to Germany in this respect at least.
From Huningue we followed a cycle path parted from the Rhine or, rather, the wide canal used by barges by a large dyke. It was only after about 10 km that we found our way to the smaller, disused canal alongside which we had cycled previously. This was very busy with cyclists – both touring and recreational – and briefly forms part of three Eurovelo routes – EV5 from London to Rome, EV6 from the Atlantic to the Black Sea and EV15 along the Rhine from source to sea.
The heat of the sun must have got to Stephen because not long after lunch as we approached the town of Neuf Brisach where there were signs to two campsites he voted to stop for the night. His excuse was that he looked at his bike computer for the time. He saw the figures 16.30 and, because the next campsite was some way past the town, figured it was better to stop rather than have a really grumpy wife! About an hour later he realised his mistake when he again looked at the time and saw 15.25. The first time he had been looking at his average speed! (You will notice that Christine raised no objection to calling a halt to proceedings so early!)
However, the positive side was that it was a lovely little campsite run by a couple who took pride in offering a pretty and relaxing place for their guests with a large area for cycling campers complete with a large gazebo/tent with tables and chairs exclusively for their use. And all for an extremely reasonable €13.50. Bargain!
On Monday the route initially took us on paved farm tracks through large fields mainly filled with tall sweetcorn. It had been very sunny first thing but some high cloud blew in on the helpful tailwind which took the edge off the heat, thank goodness. Then we joined the towpath beside an almost dead straight canal which had long stretches under the shade of large trees.
We made excellent progress along the canal with the kilometres to Strasbourg on the many signposts coming down fast. With about 25 km to go we stopped for lunch and while munching, we heard a couple of rumbles of thunder from the direction of the Vosges mountains off to the west, the tips tops of which were in the dark clouds.
Soon the rain started and we dashed for cover under the eaves waves of a nearby building. We were joined by a French couple, Christine and Richard, out for a ride from Strasbourg, who were fascinated by the story of our adventures (or at least they were polite enough to appear fascinated!) It was interesting to see the look of shock on their faces when we told them we well will not receive our state pensions until we are 67. In France the retirement age is 62!
The rain did not last long and we made our way into Strasbourg. The last few kilometres seemed to drag even though they were mostly along the towpath. Perhaps we were not looking forward to being in a big city – even one with as attractive a centre as Strasbourg’s.
Stephen had reserved a room at a hotel recommended by Derek and Linda, the couple cycling to India and beyond who we meet in Waldshut. €48 for the night in a room with a small kitchen area and including breakfast 10 minutes walk from the cathedral was just our sort of place! The man on reception could found no trace of the booking and Stephen, when checking the confirmation email, noticed that he had booked it for the previous night! Oops! Luckily there was still “room at the inn”.
After showering, a little laundry and a quick blast on the internet we wandered into the centre where Christine was extremely disappointed to find we had faffed around too much so that we arrived at her favorite tea shop in the whole world (which offers about 10 different kinds of hot chocolate) just as it was closing at 6 o’clock!
It was nearly 11 by the time we left the next morning with Stephen having been on a shopping expedition to buy more gas for cooking while Christine had her “pill day”. We thrashed around a bit heading vaguely north east towards the “European Institutions” until we found the signs for EV15. These pointed us through a lovely wooded area on the Piste des Forts although we didn’t see a fort.
We spent most of the day on off road cycle paths with the on road sections being, strangely, mainly in towns and villages. It was all rather lovely. We have cycled the length of the Rhine, in stages, before but apart from the wooded area just after Strasbourg it did not look familiar. We decided that this was because previously we had been using a guide book which took us along the river bank whereas now (with the guide book collecting dust in our loft) we are following the cycle route signs which are not the same.