20/7/18. The hills of the Neckar Valley end at Heidelberg and the river flows another 20 or 30 km across the Rhine valley floor to its confluence with its much larger and more famous cousin. It goes through a series of suburbs/dormitory towns of Mannheim before ensuring entering the city itself and the bike route becomes quite uninteresting – so much so that neither of us could be fussed to do the last 3 or 4 km. So we turned off through the centre towards the campsite on the banks of the Rhine to the south of the city and, once past the station, entered a very pleasant wooded area.
The campsite was excellent for one so close to the centre of a major city and was also convenient for the station from which we would be taking the train to Belgium the next day. There was a cafe next to the site and, when we went for a drink that evening, we were amazed at the number of people enjoying a pizza and a beer looking out over the river in the warmth of the setting sun.
On Friday we took a series of 6 trains from Mannheim via Mainz, Cologne, Aachen, Brussels and Ghent to de Panne – the last town on the Belgian coast before France. Because of bike restrictions (and also having bought the cheapest tickets) in Germany we were restricted to regional trains rather than the faster Inter City Expresses and so it was past 8 o’clock before we arrived at the campsite in de Panne, which was one we had used 2 years ago when riding home from Berlin along the Baltic and North Sea coasts.
In case you are wondering why we had chosen come to this obscure little town (!) it was because it is relatively convenient for the ferry from Dunkerque to Dover and meant that we could avoid French trains which are not very bike friendly and would have required us going via Paris with an inevitable change of stations and at far greater cost!
Tomorrow we have a 30 km ride to the ferry and then is back to Blighty!