Alps

IMG 0249Drizzle and light rain on the M25 is a less than auspicious start to our trip down to Italy. Fortunately it does get better as the morning progresses although still a cool 11C.

The Clacket Lane services still has the same "freshly made" sandwich shop selling day old (or more?) products. On this occasion however Mary challenged the staff who really did not get it that fresh does not mean made yesterday. The shopkeepers' line "if you go to Tesco......." just did not cut any ice with Mary. Anyway a nice young man was persuaded to go and make a fresh sandwich. Sometimes they will do the right thing just to get rid of you.

We've not been on the Euro Tunnel before and have to say it compares most favourably with the ferry. Mostly it's simply less waiting and much quicker. The view however is rubbish.

IMG 0250The other side of the Channel is somewhat warmer and certainly drier and a couple of hours takes us to Ghent and the pre booked Grand Hotel Reylof on a special 2 night "deal".

Mary writes: "our trip to Gent was very civilised. Left FC at 9.30 am in drizzle which turned to rain on M25. Some very slow traffic and then down M20 still in drizzle. Got to terminal and they put us on the early train. No wait and off we went with a 30 min train trip to eat our sandwich bought at Clacket Lane from the sandwich place that states in BIG letters We make fresh for you. I picked up a boxed sandwich and it was made yesterday according to date on box. Being a bit wet and cold I was in no mood for this. I said to the bloke this is not fresh and he started to tell me that is fresh and that if I went to Tescos I..... It was at that point I lost it. I told him he should take down his sign as it was a lie. In NZ where they know what the meaning of the word fresh is. I asked him to tell me what the meaning of the word was and asked everyone in the queue if they thought this was right. At this point a very nice chap with dreadlocks came out from the place where they make the sandwiches carrying a tray with, wait for it,fresh sandwiches. I asked if they were fresh, he said he had just made them. It wasn't what I fancied but he said he'd make me one of what I wanted. Right, this is the way to get a fresh sandwich at the services. Everyone in the queue put back there OLD sandwiches and ordered FRESH. Ironically there is a window where you can watch the FRESH sandwiches being made. Somehow through the wall they age a day. The whole cabinet had old sandwiches in, I checked."

Bit of a nasty turn when we got home as the meal at the Moroccan Sarabande restaurant had a rather dramatic effect on us both. Only the once luckily but a bit of a worry.

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG 0256The weather smiled on us for the most part and barring it being a little cold we had a splendid day in this charming town.

Excursions included St Michaels bridge and church, we climbed the bell tower (particularly good this), visited the very large St Baafsplein church, took a boat trip, ate a belgian waffle, looked around the market, visited the castle of the counts (including the horrid torture instrument display), ate a belgian ice cream, took a ride on a horse carriage and people watched by the canal.

Overall as the tuitle suggests we very much enjoyed our visit to Ghent and feel we could easily have done another day or two.

Dinner at Du Progress was very efficient and very nice.

 

 

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IMG 0258The hotel have some issues with their car park, in as much as there is no obvious way out . Fortunatly we were able to release the door mechanism before we expired due to the heat (we were well rugged up for the cool weather on the motorway and the garage seems to be heated).

Anyway a brief delay and we were on our way. All motorway with lengthy roadworks and more delay just outside of Antwerp. 

The ride to Den Boshe was uneventful apart from the normal motorway hazards and having found the right entrance to the station all proceeded according to plan. There's a lot of waiting involved, over four hours from arrival to the train actually departing.

Den Boshe is easy enough to find but the station proved as elusive as last time!  We are still sitting on the platform 3 hours after arrival, bikes packed on long since and no subsequent action and no sign of our train. Ho hum.

IMG 0260There is a sandwich shop at the station selling actual freshly made sandwiches, made in front of you and with a date/time stamp on the ones on the shelf showing when today they were made. hard to believe that the UK will tolerate such poor quality when doing it right is so simple.

A few pre dinner drinks on board but the meal is a bit of a mess up, quite unlike last time.

Our sitting is late, 9pm instead of 8:30 and our selection (beef) is not available due to some kind of stuff up. We are also pretty much the last to be served and don't get out of the dinning car until midnight. After some complaint the wine is free but of course this leads us to have a bit too much.

The table on the other side of the car is something of a floor show with a Mr Know All pontificating to a pair of Germans(?) about all things English, monarchy (Prince Charles in particular), independent Scotland, house prices, in fact almost like Google but very one sided. The Germans took it all with surprisingly good grace we thought.

The bunks were comfortable but that didn't matter, we were out for the count.

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IMG 0259Morning arrived a bit soon and sadly shared and mobile toilets leave a little to be desired even if you have your own cabin! The train travels at high speed which makes the very small cubical somewhat animated.

Breakfast is a poor showing with many plastic packets of factory made components purporting to be bread, jam, cheese, pate, orange juice and so forth. All close to inedible.

The hours delay at Den Boshe translates to the far end and we expect to arrive at around 11:30

Our bikes are at the tail end of the train so an hour is wasted getting them off. Fortunately it's not as hot as last time, only around 20C which makes for more pleasant waiting and certainly nicer riding conditions than Holland.

Mr Know All has unfortunately had his (very, very, very expensive) car damaged in transit. We are pretty sure we saw him drive over the securing brackets despite being told to stop so that's his delay.

IMG 0265Our first night is booked (I used TripAdvisor) at the Hotel Simplon in Baveno on Lago Maggiore somewhat to the north east of Milan. We take backroads over the flat, flat plain (acres of what we think are rice paddies then into the hills and past Orta S Guilio, another lovely lake. Clearly land prices are quite high in these parts.

Getting fuel has been an issue as neither of our cards is being accepted in the automated gas stations. Fortunately they take notes so apart from having to decide how much we need in advance that should not be a problem - now we have been shown how to work the machines.

The hotel is a bit more upmarket than our usual and the deal through TripAdvisor has put it into our budget albeit at the top end. Fortunatly it is very pleasant with a large, airy and quiet room with an excellent and most welcome shower. Breakfast however is another €16 per head and internet access €5 per hour. We shall have none of either!

A walk to the waterfront for a beer and a very good menu dinner round off what has been a long day

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IMG 0263Breakfast on the Lake Maggiore waterfront next to an automatic laundry (my underwear is positively shining now) costs €7 with free internet access (another €7 for the laundry). Much better value I thought.

We took a ride up the western shore of the lake but were defeated in the end by a long traffic jam before we could head west and do a circuit through the hills. We wondered whether this was people queueing to get into Switzerland on a Sunday night or roadworks. We gave up and never found out. Be warned the road here is narrow.

As it turned out we were well served by this and took a single track back road up into the mountains. Lunch at a wayside cafe rejoiced in a fabulous view but was otherwise less than memorable. The road and views however were spectacular. Seriously even narrower then the lakeside track though!

IMG 0262Overall our impressions of the area are that it is fabulous but we suspect that the summer might be unacceptably busy.

Back at the Hotel Simplon we decide on a third night and we shall have a bikeless day tomorrow and catch the ferry out to the islands. We have a timetable!

The hotel Simplon has an amazing 'secret passage' connecting it with the neighbouring hotel Dino(?). Filled with copies of famous artworks it's mostly deserted but a good way to get between the two.

Anyway ack to our breakfast spot for a drink and more of their internet.

 

 

 

 

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IMG 0272The third night was the best choice. It poured during the night but luckily had cleared up this morning.
A wander down to the waterfront this morning for our usual breakfast then across to the ferry terminal. A bit of negotiation followed with the various water carriers and we were rewarded with a multi stop pass to the islands and to Stresa.

Overall this is a great day out, a walk along the opulent Stresa waterfront, up to the ski field (mottarone) on the cable car (x3), a run down the luge (scary), lunch at Piscatori (pizza), a walk around the Isola Bella gardens (this latter absolutely fantastic and I say this as a non garden aficionado) and several ferry rides.

I have to say that Largo Maggiore is one of the few places in the world that equals New Zealand scenery IMG 0274and you can quite see why people would come to live or holiday here. I am sure that during the summer it would be grossly overcrowded but at the moment (early June) it's fine.

This is an expensive day out and a raid on the ATM was needed. A French lady had me assist her with the ATM (in Italian). A case of the blind leading the blind I thought but it worked.

Despite our best endeavours we only got back after 6, in time for drinks down at the waterfront and a very pleasant dinner at Posta in the square, best we have had but I conclude that I am not really a fan of freshwater fish. The one downside we have found here is that smoking is permitted outside IMG 0269restaurants and cafes and it is truly horrid. The smell is offensive to us both.

We were joined at dinner  by an old lady and her poodle who were eating alone (well together actually but you know what I mean). Sadly our Italian is not much chop

 

 

 

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IMG 0275We could have gone on the car ferry but why would you not ride around the southern half of the lake? Well partly because the southern tip has a lot of grotty development and the road is busy, narrow and windy but otherwise of course you would. If you did not you would miss the wonderful scenery and the fantastic villlas that the rich have built over the past several hundered years.

A truck tried to wipe Mary out, luckily unsuccessfully, we assume he saw a bike and did not take in the extra width.

Lunch (very nice) in Laveno, more or less opposite Baveno, and then on up the lake fefore turning right into Switzerland.

IMG 0276I have now been from the UK through France, belgium, Holland, Italy, Switzerland and back into Italy without showing my passport. Two questions occur to me, first how does anyone in the UK or Europe know what the nett migration figure is? Thousands, perhaps but if no one is counting can it be other than a guess?

The other question is what purpose is served by the stupid queues in South America?

Lake Lugano is in two halves and the Swiss part is very ugly, especially the city. Sad. The  Italien part is really much less developed and much prettier,.

We finally get to Tremezzo where the coast is very built up and full of tourists.

IMG 0277Our pre booked hotel, La Perla, is way up the hill and is glorious, more on this later, now a shower and down for a drink.

Later. There is a trattoria just a 100m down the road, luckily or we would have needed a taxi as we are at least a couple of km from the lake front. We were able to sit on the deck watching a huge thunderstorm make its way up the lake. Fantastic. At least until it arrived and we had to beat a retreat indoors. 

In one sense it was good as we were able to have a chat with our fellow diners who were also trapped until the storm eased. A german couple and their cute daughter (3ish) and honeymooners from Phildelphia.

 

 

 

 

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IMG 0283La Perla has an excellent breakfast and a shuttle down to the ferry. An all day concession on the ferry costs €15 each which we think excellent value. Sadly the day is overcast and rain is forecast but luckily this does not eventuate. Quite cool though.

The shock of the day is that one of what we take to be the owners has changed from blonde to brunette overnight and she no longer recognises us (like most here people seem to think we are french and so speak accordingly). Turns out she has a twin sister here in the hotel. They really are identical (apart of course from the hair).

First stop Bellagio in the centre of the lake. Top flight shops and restaurants in charming olde worlde surroundings. Again fortunately not as crowded as we suspect it gets in the summer. The Lonely Planet suggests that mid week off season we will have it to ourselves but this is perhaps a little optimistic.

A number of people (women) were wandering about in rather impractical shoes. We had a good laugh with these two as there was no way she was going to make it down the steps unaided. "bravo".

IMG 0285After Bellagio (and another excellent pizza - altogether too much food though) on to Varenna for an hour then Menaggio for a walk around. We found Bellagio and Varenna on the eastern shore to be much more to our taste than the western shore where the main(?) road is. You can see the hotel with the pool in the lake which perhaps gives you an idea of the western shore.

Finally back at 6pm to be picked up by the shuttle bus up to La Perla

Overall the day would have not been that expensive had there not been ladies shops!

 

 

 

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IMG 0290We were very sorry to leave La Perla, what a lovely hotel in such a lovely place. Hopefully we shall return. 

Before we leave we have to spend a useful half hour trying to find a hotel for the weekend. Everything is either full or stupidly expensive but we do work out a route for the next few days which is helpful.

Our first visit was out of our way to George Clooney's home a little to the south. Needless to say the villa is invisible from the street but we certainly found the right place. If he was in we have no way of knowing.

Reversing track we head north into the rather rough end of the lake. Lots of industry, motels, caravan parks, kebab shops and the like. A bit of a let down.

IMG 0289The road climbs and climbs and climbs turning back and forth in increasingly difficult hairpins. The pass is every bit as dramatic as the Lonely Planet suggests and tests us both. As you can see we have to get way into the snow line and the temperature drops to 7-8C. 

Over he top the road descends into the fantastic gorge of the Via Mala and a series of alpine meadows with spring flowers. Glorious.

Once again the border is unattended and has clearly been so for some years. So who's counting?

Finally the road drops down into Chur and Doreen takes us directly to our hotel, brilliant. 

Once established in our room I finally manage to make a booking in Lucerne for the weekend for a silly amount of money and we can relax and head into town (actually very small and quiet) for a drink and IMG 0288dinner - both of which are very good and rather expensive. I guess we may well not pass this way again.

Unfortunately dinner is marred by a loud party discussing internet business at the table next to us. Both sides seemed to be rather full of themselves imho.

One nice couple mistake us for "a typical Swiss couple". They must have left their white sticks at home.

Later: We stayed at the very excellent Ambient Hotel Freieck here in Chur.

We presume that the nearby bell tower was experimentally modified by the inventor of clockwork here in Switzerland. It now launches into a random cacophony of bells roughly every 15 minutes throughout the day and night.

This presumably only affects some rooms in the hotel, which while efficiently equipped with double glazing do not have air conditioning requiring the window to be open. Doubtless this will suit campanologists, the deaf, decendants of Parisian bell-ringers, horologists and those who can sleep regardless of events around them.

Sadly our ear plugs were not man enough for the task. Avoid the south side of the hotel.

 

 

 

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IMG 0296Curiously the breakfast eggs at the Ambient Hotel Freieck are under strict control. Only the overcooked ones are available and the freshly cooked ones are held prisoner by madame on the hotplate. Perhaps it is a system like the Clacket Lane sandwiches?

A brief wander around Chur convinced us that the one night stay was the right move, not that we could have taken another night of the frenzied bell banging. The old town is just that, with little to recommend it. The shops (like the hotels and restaurants) are wildly overpriced.

The ride up the Rhein valley to Walensee is likewise unremarkable. Lots of industry, picture book chalets, houses high on the mountain meadows etc etc. The towns/villages on the Walensee (a large lake) are better but still not a reason to come to here.

We had an excellent and huge and ruinously expensive kebab lunch in Mollis just to the south of the lake before moving on to the Klausenpass road.

IMG 0293To say the views are spectacular would be a gross understatement however we suspect that most of the motorcycle riders are not looking at the view, just going as fast as possible around the terrifying bends.

The predictable happened and on one bend we found a huge truck and trailer and a large camper van mated together, blocking the road. Eventually the truck ground forward with who knows what damage to the camper. we did not hang about or care.

An ice cream at Brunnen (we may have actually bought the shop rather than just the two cones I asked for) and the final run into Lucerne. On the basis of a weekend I spent here 45 years ago we've booked for 2 nights. Hopefully they have kept it as nice as it used to be.

Later: The Renaissance hotel was easy to find (we selected it because of it's senior discounts) and the attic room is an interesting design but I do have to watch my head.

IMG 0295After a bit of laundry and a needed shower (it got up to 29C this afternoon) we headed out to have a look around and get dinner. The hotel is near the station and university and friday night finds many out and about in the bars spilling out onto the street being noisy and messy. Generally a very unattractive look.

Restaurant Rossini on the river was at best ok but we struck up a conversation with a German biker at the next table (the tables are very close) who gave us some tips on where to go. After dinner we discovered a far better selection of restaurants on the other side of the river.

One disappointment is that the ancient Chapel Bridge had a fire 20 years ago and much of it was damaged including the 17th C paintings.

 

 

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IMG 0304A huge day walking the town today. It started with breakfast at the Movenpick over the street 8SFr rather than 60SFr in the hotel. The hotel is nuts.

On the river we found a street market in full swing after which we walked over the 14thC bridge to explore the old city wall, part of which is unfortunately under restoration. The steps inside the towers seem quite rickety especially when parties of tourists take to them but there are some fabulous old clocks still working in there.

This was pretty early and the choice of clothing was well inappropriate as today turned into a 30C day

From the wall on to a lion carved into a cliff. Apparently famous. Then onto what was the highlight of the day, the Swiss Transport Museum. This is just great with so many interactive exhibits for kids (and some IMG 0300adults) a hangar full of trains, another boats and yet another planes, including a good old Piper Cub.

Also included were a collection of antique cars which could be extracted for exhibition purposes by a very clever machine. Some may recognise the red VW Golf being exhibited.

Finally we took the ferry back to town, quite enough walking in the heat for one day. It was amazing how many of the Lucernians had come out to be by the lake on a nice Saturday. Great fun but we do feel we have "done" Lucerne. Funny but I only remember the bridge!

 Later: A first rate dinner at "Stern". Probaly the best we have had on this trip with first rate service. The trick here is to avoid the waterfront which is full of drunks and noisy parties eating at suasage and chip joints. It costs no more but is a huge improvement.

 

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IMG 0307A very exciting day! Headed south from Lucerne bright and early (9:30 ish) and bought breakfast and lunch sandwiches at a bakers on the outskirts of town.

Our plan was to take in a loop on the way to Brig over the Sustenpass and back over the famous Furkapass then continue down the valley of the Rotten Rhone.

The plan worked out well but we were gob smacked at the number of motorcycles doing the same thing. We saw literally hundreds if not thousands of them some being ridden in race track mode and others just badly. We fully expected to see piles of them at the various corners but astoundingly not.

As you can see there is snow still at the top of the passes, slushy but definitely snow.

IMG 0308What we did see was a rally of old cars ranging from Model T's to much more modern stuff including a favorite of mine,  the MGA. No VW Golfs though, I presume they are too rare. There were again dozens of others, perhaps 100, in gleaming order. Just great fun. We stopped and watched for a while.

By mid afternoon the day was pretty hot and about 20km before Brig the car in front of me veered into the rock wall and flipped. Fortunately nobody else was involved and we were able to quickly extract the occupants and give some first aid. Both had minor scratches and bruises. Others called the police and ambulance crews and we were only held up 30-40 minutes while the ambulance arrived.

The wife said the driver had fallen asleep! What was worse is he crawled back into the car to retieve her bag and would not be disuaded. We think he had had a lingering lucnh somewhere. Cretin. 

IMG 0309What did astound us was how many stood back and were happy to let a pair of foreigners take charge. We did slip away before the police arrived though as being a witness might have involved questions and still further delay.

The hotel in Brig had rather hidden itself but we managed to find it by 4pm and were glad to get out of the gear. The bikes claimed 34C and we believed them.

A welcome shower at the hotel and drinks and a simple dinner at Matza on their terrace surrounded by the old town and huge mountains. Splendid.

 

 

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IMG 0311A short run today first to Sion, marred by a visit into my jacket by some sort of bitey bug, then on to Villars via Aigle.

It very quickly got very hot this morning and by Sion we were very warm (temperature 33-34C) and we stopped at a Coop store (a sort of supermarket) with a restaurant below. Not bad and we were able to buy bottled water for a sensible price in the supermarket.

Today is apparently a public holiday here which explains some of the getting a room issues we have had and the motorcycle hoards we have encountered. The scenery is very pretty but the heat is draining.

We plan to leave Switzerland for France tomorrow but the question is how far can we go without melting.

Having settled in our hotel, with a good shower, we wandered over the road to the station and took the train up to Bretaye, one of the funny railways with a cog as the driving wheel, followed by a walk down to the town bridge. Both of which were very pleasant.

IMG 0312The sky clouded over and we just managed to get back to the hotel before the Heavens opened for an evening thunderstorm. This limited our evening meal choices even more than the public hoilday and we headed across the road to La Gourmondine, TripAdvisors number 6 ranked cafe here.

Sadly La Gourmondine is anything but and offered a "big Burger" where the patties are Birds Eye frozen. Disgusting but not cheap. A new low for Swiss cuisine.

 

 

 

 

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IMG 0316A very pleasant night at the Alp Fleurie. The people are charming and the breakfast first class. Proper boiled eggs, yum!

After a wee skirmish finding the old school we headed north through the Col de la Croix and up through Gstaad and on to Gruyeres, once noted for the cheese but now for an army of tea rooms and cafes. It's still very pretty though but unseasonably hot (30C again) and the armies of elderly tourists  are struggling to get up the hill. We rode up to the sign and dumped the bikes in front of it in the manner of French persons. No comments from anyone.

From Gruyeres we rode cross country and found a more reasonably priced tea room at Romont for lunch and to get rid of the last of our Swiss Francs (very easy to do). The poppies are in bloom in the hills and it all looks gorgious.

IMG 0317We finally arrived with the afternoon thunderstorm at an Ibis in Pontarlier. The tempreture dropped by 10C with the onset of the storm but luckily we were just able to get into the hotel before the rain got us too wet.

Sadly the Ibis is a way out of town so we can't look around but what we saw looked ok and that's the hotel that there was!

Tonight looks like we shall be eating in the hotel :(

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG 0323

Dinner at the Ibis was ok but breakfast was a little unsatisfactory. Basically it is a travellers hotel and that's that.

Something of a mystery tour today. We are just off the to the west of both the Switzerland and Germany maps I bought and did not think to bring the French one. Dolt!

Worse was that Doreen, our faithful GPS, packed something of a sad and refused to co-operate pretending that buttons were being pressed by fingers other than mine. Eventually she was coerced into working properly but I suspect she may have reached her use by date. She can be replaced - but not yet!

Interim solution? Simple - go back into Switzerland and take the glorious rural back roads to La Chaux de Fonds then back across into France to Altkirch where we found a cracker little 'salon de the' for a late lunch with cake and chocolate mousse in my case. Oh La La!.

The open meadows don't have a lot of fencing and there is a great urge to head off across them on the bike like some kind of Steve McQueen in the Great Escape. Not much traffic either!

IMG 0324

Once again the border posts are empty and the roads clear. Only the old signs and empty border guard buildings remain as silent witnesses to the stupidity of controlling the movement of commerce and the public at large. Why anyone would wish to return to the old days bewilders us.

The photo is of an enterprising bird that has taken up residence in a high vantage point on one of the many churches.

Luckily the morning was not too hot, around 25C which is perfect biking weather but it did warm up later in the day and hit 34C by Colmar. The last 60km from Mulhouse was on the motorway as we both were very keen to see the hotel by this point and miss the dark, towering thunderheads that were forming all around.

Our plan is for two nights here and a look around "little Venice". Our base for this is Le Colombier which is right in the old part of town.

Dinner last night was at the No 2 ranked L'Epicurien, superb. Fois Gras is a local delicacy. More Yum!

 

 

 

 

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IMG 0326A nice breakfast at Le Colombier and off around the very twee old town. 

Turns out it's market day in Colmar as a bonus.

There are several museums of which we took in two, the Unterlinden (medieval art) and the Bartholdi (creator of the Statue of Liberty).

A sandwich lunch with what I am assured was a fabulous smoothie with proper home made ice cream. Just so good.

I have to buy another T shirt as tthe two I bought are starting to hum. A charming couple in an olde world shoppe have one apparently in my size so I bought one. A miracle of sartorial elegance me. 

It's another hot day here fortunatly the narrow streets provide ample shade and although we can hear the IMG 0327afternoon thunder no rain appears. Late afternoon has us back at the hotel for a well earned sit down and clean up.

We (I) think the birds with the huge high nests are storks. They definately have long legs and big beaks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG 0330We knew that this would be a long day running through from Colmar to Luxembourg City however we also know that we could shorten it by jumping onto the motorways. The first couple of hours (after the customary late start) were through more glorious countryside on the "route de Vins d'Alsace".

We found a bakery and bought a picnic and ate by the side of a shady river in a town somewhere. All very nice but there were new knocks coming from the Spyder and just before we left after lunch I chanced to shake the rear mudguard.

Oh dear! Same problem as before the vibration has shaken the b****dy thing off and ruined the fixings. Fortunately the town was open and a very kind Renault dealer gave us access to his box of washers (huge it has to be said there must be a lot of Renaults with missing washers).

IMG 0331Anyway there must be better ways to spend an hour than fitting washers onto bolts in the tiniest space available.  Dirty hands, sweaty (another 30C day) and generaly p'd off.

We finally arrived about 5:30 and had a very welcome shower. Much angst about parking the bikes and we decided the €29 per bike per day was way excessive for parking so we did the French thing and dumped them on the pavement.

An excellent dinner at the nearest resturant.

 

 

 

 

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IMG 0332Magnificent breakfast at the Sofitel although we could not get the a/c to cool the room properly overnight.

Anyway the tour of the town was great. We started with the double decker bus tour around the city and then walked back to the bits we thought interesting.  Much cooler today though.

Overall the old fortifications have been the work of over 1000 years, Super to see.

There are lots of options for the next couple of days before we return to UK but finding a hotel for the night, in a place we wanted to be, rather than just a large random town. The internet is wonderful but so time consuming.

Anyway off to the hotel bar for a beer!

 

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IMG 0340Somewhere in Belgium.

Doreen, our faithless garmin GPS finally parted company with sanity and became mostly unusable. The phantom fingers press her buttons causing unexpected route variations, changes of screen and random acts of confusion. 

On previous occasions when she has warmed up all has been well but today? Not so much.

Depending on the Michelin map is unfamiliar.

IMG 0339Anyway a nice and much cooler day threading our way though the backroads of Luxembourg, Belgium and France (passports at the ready but no one to show them to) . The border town between Luxembourg and Belgium boasts no few than 13 petrol stations. Presumably fuel is much cheaper in one of them than the other. Not needing any we never found out which.

Our night stop in Chimay is easy to find albeit that the rooms are cluttered and very quirky. Dinner at a very nice cafe (La Chimassiette) in the square. All in French, no one has any English so things some parts of the meal are a little surprising.

 

 

 

 

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IMG 0337The B&B Le Petit Chapitre was not really that comfortable, we found our room small acluuered and none too clean. Overall not a good night.

You might think that getting a map of France in France should be straight forward. I can state from personal experience that it is not so.

We spent the best part of the morning trying to find a map and/or get sense out of Doreen in both Chimay and the nearby modest French town of Avesnes. By 1pm I was ready to tear out what little hair I have left.

In the end we sound a detailed map of NE France in a tobacconist (of course)  and we plotted a course for the nearest town to our booked hotel. Overall you get very casual with the GPS, especially in towns, we had a number of odd excursions to parts places we would not have visited normally.

Eventually we arrived at our hotel around 6pm.  Phew. A new GPS is a definite requirement.

Later: Dinner at Chateau Cocove is as good as always and a a pair of Parisens staying confirm it as a "top choice". Only 30 mins to Calais is a bonus.

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IMG 0342A bit of a problem with getting our booking number from the travel agent who made the channel tunnel booking. Despite several emails and phone calls it seems that we only have the earlier number. Fortunately the Tunnel people are more efficient and are able to find our reservation and we are through and straight on to the train.

It must be the quickest crossing on record as there was no waiting, straight onto the train and doors shut behind us and off. A slight delay at the other end as we were at the end, last on, last off.

Another first was the trip back on the M20-M25. No rain!  

We dropped into Clackett Lane services to have a break and get a photo of the "fresh" sandwich place. Actually there are two halves to the services and the sandwich making part seems to be on the south bound side. 

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