Day 86. Schweich - Schloss Thorn, 63 km.

It’s hard to say what was the highlight of this day. The breakfast was surprisingly good, lots of good stuff and nice bread.

Figure 1. Map day 86-91

Today I am going through Trier hoping to find the laundromat I found on the Internet. The bike path between Schweich and Trier is not very good, it’s narrow and full of bumps and obstacles.

I meet several big groups of what appears to be retired Dutch people, some ride wide and fast. One dropped his map he was reading and almost fell over when riding next to a fellow biker and meeting me. He could probably tell that a frontal collision with me would hurt.

In Trier it was quite easy to find the laundromat, I can park the bike outside the window. Washing is done in less than 2 hours and the cost is 8.50 Euro. There is a place to sit and free Wifi, what more could I ask for.

Figure 2. Laundromat

On the way out of Trier I visit a bike shop to see if they have some parts for my saddle that is still making strange noises. They didn’t have Brooks saddles so that was a quick stop.

In the afternoon the temperature on my handlebar reaches 37C, this is a bit to much for me. I try to stop for lunch. There were not many places to have lunch, most full with the Dutch people and their Kermit green bikes. One place insisted on that they only served food on the terrace in the sun and not in the restaurant where it actually was a bit cool.

Luxemburg is just on the other side of the river now, when I see a short bridge I can’t resist biking over and just cross in to Luxemburg. So 6 countries on the trip so far.

Figure 3. Luxemburg

The heat is immense, when I see the signs for Schloss Thorn B&B and Vinaria I can not resist going there for my last night in Germany. It’s just 300 meters up from the river, steep up, up, up. When I get there I ring a bell and the nice innkeeper comes and ask if I want to try some wine. I ask about the B&B and there is a room free and there is a nice breakfast also.

The B&B has 40-50 cm thick walls and it’s 20 degrees colder inside, so wonderful. After a cold shower and some rest I decide to take the offer to try some wine. I really like their 2012 Sauvignon Gris Auslese, very like a Muscat de Rivesaltes. I manage to buy a half bottle of their schlossabfüllung.

Schloss Thorn Vinaria
Figure 4. Schloss Thorn Vinaria

When I had a look in the kitchen of the B&B I saw that they had a washer and dryer that guests could use, just what I had been looking for the last week or so.

After a long day in painful heat I fall asleep early (maybe aided by the nice wine), it’s extremely quiet and there is absolutely no Internet or mobile coverage in the schloss.

Day 87. Schloss Thorn - Talange, 61 km.

After many hours of solid sleep in the cold room I wake up and feel ready for a new day starting with a massive breakfast.

I kept going south along the Mosel that soon would change name to Moselle, on my right was Luxemburg and to the south France. I passed some signs for the town Schengen in Luxemburg, and then I had crossed some magic line on a map. Everything was in French, no more Mosel Radweg but Chemin de la Moselle vers. THIONVILLE.

Mosel Radweg
Figure 5. Mosel Radweg

I kept going and the bike paths were better than I though they be, fewer signs, less overview maps, fewer cyclists. I kept going for a while and came to the first big town, Thionville. I had some things that needed to be sorted out ASAP. I wanted to get a French SIM for the phone and some maps for France.

When I biked along the river I saw a sign for city center so I turned there and after a while I saw a map of the town that I wanted to have a look at. Then I meet Rémi, a very enthusiastic young man on a BMX style bike that approaches me and speaks almost fluent English. He has been on a very long tour himself, if I understand it correctly he biked to Portugal and then flew to Mexico and biked to Argentina. He volunteers to help me find chez Bouygtel where a SIM can be found after this he shows me where the Tourist Information is and where I can buy the maps.

Figure 6. Thionville

After all of this is done he shows me the way back to the Radweg, sorry Chemin. Rémi probably saved me several hours of going around in circles. Thank you very much !

The road towards Metz it’s a bit so so, no major problems but sometimes the route just ends somewhere and wasn’t it for the GPS it would take some snooping around to get back on track. I see very few signs about tourist related businesses along the route, I am already starting to miss Germany.

The temperature again rises above 35C, so with relatively few kilometers done I decide to play it safe and go for a budget motel when I find one. It was a bit more expensive than I had hoped for but I didn’t feel adventurous enough to venture in to Metz this hot afternoon.

The Hotel manager gives me a room on the ground floor next to the emergency exit so that I can use that to get all my bags in. This feels great since all my rooms for the last weeks have been on the first or second floor.

Emergency exit
Figure 7. Emergency exit

Day 88. Talange – Commercy, 95 km.

I start the day early with breakfast at 06:30, imagine that I had to go to France to be able to have breakfast before 8.

By 8 I am on the road again, it was fog during the night so everything is wet. I continue towards Metz on the Chemin. The bike road is not great but OK, just before Metz it just stops in front of IKEA’s central depot. There is a sign that informs me that the road is dangerous and full of heavy trucks

Figure 8. Ikea

Metz was a real metz to navigate, but soon I am out of town and ride through some narrow islands in what looks like a river delta. At Ars-sur-moselle my journey along the Mosel ends and it spits me out on a normal road.

The road is not so bad, in general the speed is crazy, people drive way faster than their own and their vehicles ability. But that is the way it’s going to be for a while now. It’s still flat until Arnaville where I turn right and the hills start, it’s up and up and up. I see lots of cyclists on road bikes, seems like this stretch of road is popular to ride.

There are no facilities for tourists, I can’t even find a bench to sit on. And as usual when I am in France I am always in a place at the wrong time. Lunch is always in 1-2 hours or it’s closed today. Shops close in the middle of the day or in the afternoon.

French people are in general very friendly and helpful. Contrary to what most people think, most French people my age or younger speak some English. In most cases they speak far better English than I speak French.

Since the early 1990′s I have been to France more than 30 times, so I know what I am in for, but France as a whole is a hostile entity, it’s system that requires severe adjusting to and sometimes I wonder if there really is a system.

In the afternoon the temperature reaches above 30C again, I start to look for accommodation early since I do not want to be stranded in the French countryside.

I find a Gite which is on Google maps as a B&B, when I get to the tiny village I see the house and there are several signs outside saying it’s a B&B. Just as I park my bike a man comes outside and after some Bon Jour-ing he starts to speak English and tells me the place is closed.

I see some small stickers on their sign saying that they were members of the Gite club in 2006. He looks at my route on my map and says that there is one Gite in a town 20 km away and that there are many accommodations in Commercy that also is 20 km away but not on my route.

When leaving the village I am thinking why didn’t they remove the signs from the house if they stopped being a B&B in 2006?

Well, I still have some kilometers before I have to decide for Commercy or not. I decide to try Commercy since the other place just had one Gite, and if that is full or closed there would be another 15 km to Commercy. So I detour from Jean-Francois carefully planned route and instantly I get punished by looooong steeep uphills and other fun things.

Eventually I get to Commercy and start to look for Hotels, there are two of them, Google says that one is closed so I start with the other one. When I get closer it looks great and there are plenty of empty parking’s around it. So it must be a big hotel that is empty. I park my bike outside and go inside, the reception is unmanned and there are some keys with small notes on laying on the desk.

There is a button to ring for service. So I ring it, nothing happens, I ring it again and again and again. Still nothing. I start to walk around to look for the staff, I find an open room that is in the process of being cleaned. In the room is the counterpart of the reception desk bell. It looks like someone was cleaning the room and just walked out and went away. Very strange.

I call the number listed on the price list, no answer, I already have 95 hard kilometers today so I am not tempted by going to the next hotel so after the fifth time I call the number someone answers. I declare that I am looking for a room, she asks if I am at the Hotel and says she will be there in 5 minutes.

Once she gets there I pay the very expensive room, 53 Euros, I opted out of the 15 Euro breakfast since I had some stuff in my bags. I ask for a room on the ground floor since I am tired of carrying my bags around. She says I can bring the bike in to the room, that saves lots of time. I wonder if she was being nice or if one more stain on the carpets wouldn’t matter. The hotel was severely outdated and worn down. The Internet connection was very good.

Dirty hotel
Figure 9. Dirty hotel

Day 89. Commercy – St Dizier, 66 km.

The day starts with rain as I leave the hotel and head for the supermarket. Today is Saturday and everything will be closed on Sunday so I have to buy lots of stuff to eat just in case. I have decided to take a rest day tomorrow as I feel as worn out as the hotel was.

The supermarkets seem to open 8:30 or 8:45 or 9:00, must be the crazy French 35 hour per week laws that are behind these weird hours. I have decided to take a shortcut to get back on the track, I am hoping that there wont be any major hills or traffic. My shortcut works out pretty good, there are some very long uphills but the downhills are as long.

Today the temperature is 20-25 degrees below what it has been for the last couple of weeks. It’s cold but it feels quite good after the tropical heat. I can’t find any place that serves or sells food in all day. I stop to have some food from my morning shopping. All the small villages are empty, I see less than one person per hour.

When I finally arrive in St Dizier it seems they are rebuilding the bridge I had planned to cross so I have to ride along the river for many kilometers extra. The hotels I have spied are in a commercial area with lots of big shops. I somehow manage to get in to that area by crossing a very small bridge. People seems to be very unused to cyclists in this area that has 15-20 small roundabouts so I ride in the middle of the lane and take up plenty of space in order to avoid being squeezed.

The hotel Balladins is part of a chain and this hotel looks very promising, it’s new and seems to deliver lots of value for a quite high price. At the reception desk I find out that they indeed have a room for 2 nights and that I can park the bike in their linen storage area next to the reception.

Nice Hotel
Figure 10. Nice Hotel

There are two big chain restaurants across the street and as a hotel guest I get a discount, this sounds great.

Accommodation in Germany was in general between 30-40 Euro including breakfast and Internet. Internet mostly sucked in Germany. In France it seems accommodation will be at least 40-50 Euro without breakfast (another 5-15 Euro). Internet has been OK so far in France. I guess I will have to live with this until I crack the secret code to get a private room or bed&breakfast in France.

Day 90. St Dizier – St Dizier, 0 km.

Today is rest day. I have breakfast at 8 and I am the only one there - great stuff. The Internet connection is excellent, I spend lots of time on Google trying to find accommodation and other things along the route. The quality of Google data for France is horrible, when I search for campings I get car garages and DIY shops. When I search for hotel more than half of the hits are the town hall. I find some candidates for the next stop on the journey but beyond that it’s hopeless to try to find something.

Since it’s Sunday all the big shops are closed, so probably 300000 m2 of shops are locked and empty. I wonder what all the French and Germans are doing on Sundays.

I have lunch at La Boucherie, totally overpriced and a great disappointment. I order a burger with 2×110 gram meat. When the burger arrives the 110gr meat looks like a slice of banana or an Oreo cookie, apparently they use so fine ingredients in their food that the meat looses half it’s weight during preparation. Bollocks. I should have gone to McDonalds instead.

I have dinner at the other restaurant, it’s some kind of “Italian” restaurant, I have a pizza and it’s OK but expensive. It was the same price as Peters Grillteller which is the new benchmark for food.

Peters grillteller
Figure 11. Peters grillteller

When I collect my bottles from the bike I see that there are about 15 road bikes parked there as well. It seems Balladins indeed is a bike friendly hotel. Since the Internet is quite fast I can make a complete backup of my photos and documents to my server at home.

I go to bed early, the bed is really nice and comfy and I sleep well.

Day 91. St Dizier - Le Chêne, 74 km.

I woke up before the alarm, fully rested. When I went down to have breakfast the room was full and all the other cyclists were there in their spandex outfits. I went back to my room and packed my bags. Thirty minutes later the breakfast room was empty and I could have a nice and long breakfast.

I was in no hurry since the supermarket I wanted to go to didn’t open until 9, it felt a bit sad to leave this great hotel and for a moment I thought about staying one more day. The weather has not been great for the past days and the forecast for this week doesn’t look great either. The night temperatures in south of France is going down towards 5C. The autumn is coming, I better keep on moving south. I have been looking in to going a bit by train in case there is bad weather along the Atlantic coast, it seems possible to go by train from Nantes to for example Bordeaux.

So this day started out cold but with sunshine, according to the forecast there were some bad weather coming in from the west. Today I actually found a restaurant just before noon, they had a plat du jour and everything looked great. The only problem was that they were closed on Mondays.

Perfect but closed
Figure 12. Perfect but closed

With nothing to sit on I ended up eating lunch standing next to my bike on a great open field. I could see the rain coming so I suited up well before it started raining.

The route I am following is really great, I haven’t had any nasty hills today. I were aiming for Arcis- sur-Aube where I had spotted 3 different accommodations that might exist and might be open.

As the rain increased I tried to pedal on as hard as I could to keep warm, that wind from the Atlantic was really cold. When there are only a few kilometers to go I pass through le Chêne, and I spot one of the magic signs for bed&breakfast.

Magic sign
Figure 13. Magic sign

I stop to have a look and a woman approaches me from inside the yard, there is a room free and it’s 35 Euro including breakfast! Great I think as I park the bike in the garage. It turns out that I also can have dinner for 18 Euros, I think that’s a bit expensive but decide to give it a try. So dinner for 18 euro turns out to be a full 3 course meal with a bottle of wine and a digestif.

B&B Room
Figure 14. B&B Room

I eat the dinner while listening to the hard wind and rain outside, good thing I found this so I didn’t have to pedal on for a couple of more hours. This was really great, price vs. performance almost like in Germany. I am hoping that these little signs will occur when I need them.