a bike ride from paris to prague

Publié le 12 Novembre 2011



April 27th 2011.  Compans 99 (Paris 19eme) - La Ferté sous Jouarre, 84km, 05h44, 13.9kph

Hot and sunny. First fight against the North-Easterly wind ! 


Paris 19eme, Bois de Vincennes, Joinville le Pont, Nogent, la Marne, Lagny, Chessy, Chalifert, Esbly, Quincy-Voisins, Villemareuil, Signy-Signets, Jouarre. Bivvy in La Ferté sous Jouarre in a children's holiday camp.




Daniel arrived yesterday, by TER train from Brittany. We locked the bikes together in the basement of our building, after removing all the bags and taking them upstairs.


Result: 8AM this morning: we took everything down again -along with my stuff- and filled the small back yard. Got the bikes out of the basement and started the loading exercise.

Having only done this once, the day before, it took me some time to get the whole lot organized and fitted in a proper way on both ends of my aluminium mule.

Getting through the front door of the building was the first test...


We had decided that we'd make a small change to the official itinerary (which follows the Ourcq Canal for a while) and follow the Marne river instead, the surroundings being a lot more pleasant along the river.

We finally got started at 09h30 pushing the mules to the top of our very steep street: no use killing ourselves the first morning !

Nothing particular to report until midday.




"Lunch" opposite the old Menier chocolate factory in Noisiel -now the HQ of Nestlé France-. First attempt at reorganizing my bags..(it will be a gradual exercise...).

Then, off along the river, to Lagny and Chalifert.

Another bike-pushing exercise up the hill into Chessy, just opposite the "Jardin de Statues de la Dhuys", a 'garden' packed with extremely weird monumental statues carved out of huge blocks of limestone that come from an old bridge.




Hot, sticky and thirsty weather !

Got lost in Esbly; had to ask our way. The young lady jogging along the towpath had a funny look on her face when she mentioned the hill in Quincy... No wonder: it was a steep, endless straight line, that seemed to have no end to it !

Swearing all the way to the top of the hill, we had no idea of what was awaiting us just after the last houses on the way out of town.


THE WIND !! 100% from the North East... (NON STOP, all the way to Prague !...), the price to pay for the exceptional Spring weather we were enjoying !!!


In Saint Fiacre, an old couple who had just arrived home in an immaculate Citroën DS 21 kindly gave us a water refill.

(we were having a hard time getting 25km to a bottle...)  

The road continued up and down, (more often up than down...), through villages and fields,  all the way to Jouarre.

I was beginning to think that I was totally stupid ! Why had I ever wanted to do this ?  Why would anyone in his right mind want to cart a 50kg loaded bike over 1, 600km... up and down hills, against the wind ?  

Anyhow, it was too late to turn back now; should have thought about all this before...


La Ferté sous Jouarre, 5.30PM: the Tourist Bureau was already closed ! (had it ever been open ?)

The city employee in 'La Mairie' was useless: too busy keeping an eye on the clock to help a couple of crazy cyclists find the city camp ground. (after a bit of checking we found out that it no longer existed...) 

On our way into town, Daniel had spotted an area near the river. It looked like some sort of amusement park; turned out to be a children's holiday camp, getting ready for an upcoming vacation period.

After a few words with the young people in charge, Daniel got an OK to stay there overnight. Bikes and bags sheltered in an Indian tipi ! To avoid getting them into trouble, we promised to be off early in the morning. 




The whole camp was ours, including a fully equipped kitchen with water and gas ! No showers though -and no lignts in the toilets-... The five camp supervisors lived in a small house near the entrance. Super people !


Set up the tent, write a few words in the travel diary, inhale a couple of beers re-hashing the day, 'cook' dinner, do 'the dishes', organize for the following morning... go to 'bed': the ritual would be the same most evenings for the next three weeks. Same order, same food, with beer steadily improving as we headed East.


Slept in Morse code; but only in dots ! (had forgotten how hard the ground could be...)

Very testing first day.. I hadn't done any cycling during April due to other committments... The heat, the 50kg to haul, the wind, the hills, the 1,600 km ahead of us nearly beat me. But I had spent so many months studying the maps, exchanging with Daniel, preparing for the trip and dreaming of the "Praha" city sign that there was no turning back now... and being two of us, one with lots of experience, quickly took care of any doubts I had !  




















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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague


Publié le 10 Novembre 2011


April 28th, 2011  La Ferté sous Jouarre - Epernay, 87km, 15.3 kph,   

                                   Champagne region !

Grey skies, rain at times.


Via Reuil en Brie, Luzancy, Méry, Crouttes, Charly, Nogent l'Arthaud, Essômes, Château Thierry, Gland, Jaulgonne, Trélou, Dormans, Mareuil le Pont, Nationale 3, La Chaussée, Damery, La Marne (canal), Cumières and Epernay camping ground.


As promised, we were up and on our way before 8 AM. Edouard, one of the young people running the camp was at the gate, waiting for us with a bowl ofclementines that we had to decline due to potential crushing in our bags. Instead, we stopped in a local café and had a quick coffee and croissant before heading East. The skies were low and grey, but the roads were still dry... Quite a change from yesterday ! The itinerary took us along the Marne river through a string of sad and desolate villages and towns.


Couple of pictures in Essômes, in particular of the 'Rue Staline' street sign... Quite surprising in 2011 ! 


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Lunch in Dormans: pork chop, pasta and chocolate pie... the horses were hungry !

After a while, we finally got to Mareuil-le-Port thinking that we had reached the place where the Marne river becomes a canal. Wrong road at an intersection and we ended up on Highway N° 3. The next 10km, all the way to La Chaussée, were a nightmare of rain and trucks. Finally, we turned off towards Damery and crossed over to the other side of the river.

 First test of my "rain clothes"... Didn't take long to realize that I'd have to do some changes in the packing...     No fun having to remove all the bags from the bike, in pouring rain, only to find that the nylon poncho was at the bottom of the last one !  

In Damery, an old gentleman told us how to find the 'Marne canal': "follow the D1 road out of the village until you see a huge pile of bark on the right side of the road; turn into the path. The canal starts at the end, after two, three hundred meters". From that point, it was straight along the towpath until the exit to Epernay. 


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At the camp ground in Epernay, went through the evening ritual once again: 

Tent installed, shower, shopping at the neighboring Leclerc, notes, beers and "dinner".




A walk around the grounds helped the food down before "retiring". Met an couple of elderly British hippies travelling in a psychedelic van. The alternator was shot and they were hoping to get it fixed the next morning. Good luck !


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Got serenaded by a bunch of Parisian kids on a river-sport outing... we were getting prepared for the worst... at 21.30 they were out for the count...

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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague


Publié le 9 Novembre 2011


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April 29th, 2011. Epernay - Brusson (Canal de la Marne au Rhin), 85km, 15kph

Grey skies and rain in the morning; sunny afternoon.


Via Dizy, Bisseuil, Condé sur Marne (beginning of the canal that runs alongside the Marne -Canal latéral de la Marne-, Châlons en Champagne, Omey, Soulanges, Couvrot, Vitry le François, Canal de la Marne au Rhin, Bivvy in Brusson, on the bank of the canal, below the lock.


Acceptable sleep but early wake-up due to birds and rain. Folding sleeping bag, etc, and packing everything on all fours inside my very small tent was quite an exercise !

But it's the only way to keep things dry ! Tent folded and packed still dripping !

Experience comes quick: just need to make sure that everything is in the right place the night before, just in case !... and no need to remove all the bags from the bike either: a tarp cover is quite enough.


Back to the canal for a long ride to Bisseuil.  Early morning mist hovering on the water, birds , flowers, reeds... and midges by the mouthful...


Second breakfast in Tours sur Marne.

Continuation on the D1 road, drenched all the way to Condé sur Marne. By the time we got there, the bikes, the bags and the riders were white from being sprayed by each truck that had overtaken us along the road.


In Condé we finally reached the "Canal Latéral de la Marne".  Long sections of excellent towpath that could sometimes get boring when too straight...


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Approaching Châlons en Champagne: time for the midday break. Weather improving !

Taking advantage of the dry weather we unpacked everything and spread clothes, tents and bags all over the grassy picnic area. Not very classy but every bit of sunshine counts ! 


Repacked bags, reloaded bikes and off towards Châlons along a magnificent cycling path. The cathedral was closed (opens only week-ends, not enough business during the week). There, we came across Jean-Claude, walking from his home in the centre of France, all the way to Holland to see his son.  Good luck Jean Claude! 


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Continuation to Vitry le François where the canal splits. "Our canal" was the Canal de la Marne au Rhin, that we would be following all the way to Strasbourg. Got the water bottles filled on a construction site. The guys working there were a little surprised when we told them where we came from and where we were heading.

Drove our bikes into the local Leclerc supermarket where the guards agreed to look after them while we did our shopping for the evening.

Back over the bridge to the right side of the canal. A few more kilometers to Brusson where we decided to stop.  After checking with the owner, tents were erected on a grassy bank just below the lock.  The weather had steadily improved during the day and the tents were dry in a matter of minutes. Warm and pleasant evening.

After the usual ritual, we 'retired'to our respective tents for some well deserved sleep!


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Good day ! Nice location for a bivvy ! Evening mist now hovering over the canal that had taken on a pink hue.. all conditions seemed to be met for a super night of solid and powerful snoring..


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Alas... a stupid bird had decided that it would not be so and sang ALL NIGHT !!  

Too lazy and too whipped to get out of 'bed' and chase it away ! 

Result: awake at day break; cyclist tired; bird happy !

Heavy dew; once again, tent folded wet; quick breakfast and off at 07.40; a bit late.. !   









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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague


Publié le 8 Novembre 2011


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April 30th 2011. Brusson - Saint Joire, 82km, 5h29, 14.3 kph

Beautiful weather all day !


Via Canal de la Marne au Rhin, Pargny sur Saulx, Sermaize les Bains, Contrisson, Mussey, Val d'Ornain, Bar le Duc, Ligny en Barrois, Naix aux Forges. Bivvy on the Soccer field in Saint Joire.


We left Brusson at 7.40 AM. I was getting slightly better organized ! No problems following the Canal de la Marne au Rhin. Some sections were excellent, others pretty poor. Getting used to it was no big issue !

Morning stop for coffee and a second breakfast at the 'Ancre d'Or' Café in Pargny sur Saulx, right alongside the canal.

Taking pictures I got delayed and lost Daniel until we met again in Bar le Duc at the Media center, a beautiful Château that had been offered to the city by a very wealthy banker in the late 19th century/early 20th. The wood paneling, the stair-cases and ceilings in the building were superb, so was the park which becomes municipal camp ground in the Summer.


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The Renaissance section of the city is located up a steep winding hill, in the upper parts of town: we decided that we would forego the visit and look for a place to have lunch instead.

On the way out of town, we ended up in the 'restaurant' of the local "Auchan" super market. The girl at the cash desk was from Remungol, a small village located a few km away from Daniel's place: small world !

The food was awful and we were soon on our way to Ligny where we arrived mid afternoon.

Did some shopping for dinner in a small 'Carrefour Market'; locals somewhat surprised by our appearance: the two previous days without shaving nor a shower were beginning to show...

Another 15km along the canal and we got to Saint Joire where we had decided to stay overnight. Beautiful afternoon!


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A small fair was in full swing on the village grounds, near the soccer field. All 50 local inhabitants were there, captivated by "La Suzanne", a refurbished steam engine that was being carted from town to town on a low-bed, in hope of attracting funds to rebuild 4.2 km of proper tracks that would give her a second Life. 


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Daniel had a word with the Mayor who obligingly allowed us to set up the tents at the end of the soccer field.  We could also use the water tap that barely emerged from a lump of wet and filthy insulation material... Couldn't complain: as they say, it's the intention that counts ! The nets were well appreciated !

Tap too low on the ground and water too cold to consider washing... The shave and shower will have to wait till tomorrow !

Good day on the bike; Super bivvy, far from trees and birds ! Excellent meal !  

In 'bed' at 9.00PM (days are still not very long at the end of April...).  


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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague


Publié le 7 Novembre 2011


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May 1st, 2011  Saint Joire - Villey le Sec, 79 km, 5h38, 13.6kph

Excellent weather all day.


Via Demange aux Eaux, Baudignécourt (because of the Mauvages Tunnel), Houdelaincourt, Delouze-Rosières, Mauvages, Sauvoy (by road), Void-Vacon, Troussey, Pagny sur Meuse (along the canal), Lay to Foug (by road), Ecrouves, Toul, Chaudeney sur Moselle, Pierre la Treiche and finally, the camp ground in Villey le Sec.


Early start from Saint Joire. Me late as usual, Daniel champing at the bit on the towpath... Still need to make improvements !!

Super night: no birds near the soccer field but lots of dew. Tent soaked !

The first minutes along the canal were magic: mist hovering slowly between the banks, contre-jours, reflections..

Got help from a fish warden in finding the best/shortest way to avoid the Mauvages tunnel (the canal disappears for several km under a hill: no tow paths available). 

Only option was through Baudignécourt and Houdelaincourt; not very busy in the early hours of May 1st.

Next village along the road was Delouze-Rosières that we finally reached after two endless hills.

Mauvages was quite a surprise, especially the very kitch neo-Egyptian fountain in the middle of 'main street'. From then on, we chose to cycle along the D10 road all the way to Void-Vacon due to the non-existence or very poor condition of the towpaths.




The town was closed to traffic. It was the annual flea-market day: all the local associations had a stand, selling all types of junk, second hand clothes, home-made cakes and coffee, jams and honey etc...

 However, the main attraction was a live , working replica of the 'Fardier de Cugnot'.

The inventor of the World's first steam-powered vehicle, built in the 1700s, was a native of Void-Vacon. A local association had reproduced the Fardier and was about to power it. The monster consisted in a sturdy wood frame mounted on three wheels. 

A huge "pressure cooker" was installed at one end. The water inside was heated by a wood fire burning underneath. Billows of steam were coming out of various pipes and valves. The monster was hissing, whistling, panting and smoking, two bars short from blowing up, while members of the association were still stuffing the fire,  pulling levers, turning wheels, shouting instructions and other warnings in the hope the beast would move !


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Finally, in a deafening, clanging and blaring din, the enormous machine started reversing: pistons going back and forth, chains up and down and the huge wooden wheels slowly turning... Alleluia ! nobody had been hurt !

 Beyond Void-Vacon the quality of the towpath fluctuated.  We got lost in Lay saint Rémy because of another unexpected tunnel. Had to go to Foug by road. From there till Toul, back along the canal. The cathedral in Toul is quite surprising: looks like a crossbreed of a giant turtle and Saint Sophie in Istanbul. They probably ran out of money when it was time to build the spires. 

 Got lost once again on the way out of Toul due to the many waterways that run alongside each other in the area. The path was OK to start with but got gradually narrower and narrower, compelling us at one stage to pull the bikes up a bank and over an old railway track.




A narrow road on the other side of the track led us to Pierre la Treiche where a bunch of friendly cyclists gave us instructions to reach the camping ground in Villey le Sec.


Beautiful well-equipped camping ground ! The shower was a dream, especially after three days without !!  After having completed the evening rituals, we decided on steak and fries at the camp restaurant. It was well deserved.

Lights out at 9.30PM ! Cyclists kaput.


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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague


Publié le 6 Novembre 2011


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May 2nd, 2011. Villey le Sec - Moussey, 85km, 6h02, 13.5kph.

Sunshine and head wind.

 Via Canal de la Marne au Rhin: Maron, Sexey aux Forges, Pont Saint Vincent, Méréville, Ludres Industrial Estate, Laneuveville devant Nancy, La Madeleine, Varangéville, Dombasle sur Meurthe, Crevic, Maixe, Einville au Jard, Bauzemont, Parroy, Xures, Lagarde. Bivvy in Moussey.

On our way at 7.30AM. We had to cross over to the other side of the dam to follow the left bank of the Moselle river. All the way to Maron the path was incredibly smooth and beautiful, weaving among trees and ponds along the river. Swans, herons and all sorts of other water birds were busy with their ablutions or fishing for breakfast. Hovering mist, contre-jours, rays of early morning sun light through the trees: another superb morning !

Sexey, Méréville... Had to make sure to follow the right direction due to several canals intersecting in the area.

 We did see the sign but never saw any 'turbine powered bikes'.




'Our' canal passed by Ludres. A shameless heron was standing on the bank, staring at the crystal water slowly flowing by, gauging an unsuspecting fish. Didn't even move when we cycled by...


Morning coffee in Laneuveville. First double lock. The towpath gradually shrank to a single lane of thickening grass. We decided to follow the D2 road instead.

In Varangéville, quick stop at a panel beater's to ask for some air. They'd never seen bicycles in their work shop... We'd lost close to 2 bars pressure since we'd started off ! Daniel even got his chain greased.




Thanks for your help, Gentlemen! 

 The road we followed was flanked by large factories producing salt, chemicals and cement. Not very pretty sights; but the sun cheered everything up... and we were only passing through...

Shopping at a Carrefour Market for a sunny lunch on the bank of the canal just outside Dombasle sur Meurthe.

That's when we learned that Mr Bin Laden had run into problems... A second major political event was to occur a couple of weeks later...

Continuation on the towpath. When it got too grassy: on the adjacent roads. No fun pedaling on soft ground with 5 bars pressure in the tyres.


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Came across an unusual situation at the Bauzemont lock. A boat had entered the lock, heading down-stream. When the rear gates closed, a large branch had got caught between them, preventing them from closing properly.

Result: water was coming in too fast from the rear to allow the front gates to open and the 'sailors' were stuck !!  To make matters worse, there was no help to be expected from the lock keepers: they were on strike! We advised them to call the police for help and finally had to leave.

The countryside was starting to become hilly. Many large fields of yellow rape-seed. Non-stop up and down. All the speeds on the bike were put to use. It was hot ! Both bottles empty. In Einville, a man watering his garden gave us a refill.

We continued our way on the D2 road through Parroy where the Mayor stamped our travel logs. New stop in Lagarde for another refill... It was a very hot day indeed !!!

That's where we met Bernard, self proclaimed 'wood-splitter' for widows, collector of flags and pennants, owner of an authentic and spotless 27-year old orange Mobylette !


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Hardly two minutes after meeting the man, we were summoned to his kitchen to fill the bottles. Within no time he  proceded to pull out his collection of odds and ends: a log with a WWII German machine-gun bullet stuck in it (his chain saw just missed it...), the Algerian and Australian flags he had just bought at a neigboring village fair, his piles of split wood, ranging from logs to asparagus-size kindling, all of it neatly arranged in his barn and marked with the dates the job had been done ! 

We had to insist to leave and asked him how to get to Moussey where we had decided to stop for the night...


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No problem: he put on his helmet, gunned-up his Mobylette and led us to a bridge on the outskirts of town. Slightly eccentric but endearing old guy !

The local grocer had quite another opinion of the man... but as far as we were concerned, he had welcomed us, given us water and made sure we wouldn't get lost... in a region, (Lorraine), where people are rather reserved. Thanks again Bernard !   

A few more kilometers to Moussey on a flat road in the late afternoon sun. There, the owners of a lodge let us set up our tents in magic surroundings and told us we could use the facilities... Were they being generous by caution ? Do cyclo-tourists have such a bad reputation ? Whatever the reason, their generosity was appreciated...  and Rock 'n ' Roll spent the night in a shed, well protected from the elements !


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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague


Publié le 5 Novembre 2011


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May 3rd, 2011.  Moussey - Waltenheim sur Zorn, 95km, 13.5 kph.

Beautiful Weather !


Via Réchicourt le Château, Gondrexange, Canal Marne au Rhin, Heming, Xouaxange, Hesse, Niderviller, Arzviller (by road due to tunnel), Saint Louis, Lutzelbourg, Stambach, Saverne. Bivvy in an orchard in Waltenheim sur Zorn.

Up at 6.15 AM due to 6°C outdoor temperature. Breakfast in the farm yard.

Mr. Jung, didn't want us to mix our Muesli & milk with the nettle and thistle chemicals he was spaying in his field right next to the picnic table. He told us that it was bad for the stomach !

Dressed in winter cycling gear we took off towards Gondrexange on a forest road. Didn't trust our ability to make our way there via the lakes and didn't need to add any unnecessary kms to what was already going to be a long day.


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Short stop at a memorial where several US airmen had been shot on the ground by the enemy during WWII. The road wove through a cold, misty and dark pine forest, finally emerging in misty meadows above Gondrexange. 

Quick stop for coffee. Cash from an ATM at Crédit Mutuel, then back to the canal for a long stretch over a rather poorly maintained towpath that even drove us through the yard of a Holcim cement plant...

A woman tractor driver, busy towing a heavy-duty mower, told us that things would get better down the road... Turned out to be a rather subjective encouragement.

In Niderviller we had to leave the canal that continued through two tunnels and make our way to Artzviller by road, climbing over a rather long and painful succession of hills.


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Back alongside the canal, the towpath had now become a flat, smooth boulevard ! 

It was going to be several kilometers of pure pedaling pleasure.... until we hit the closed gate at the end, right next to the monumental barge-lift in Saint Louis. 

The striking lock-keepers, barbecueing hot-dogs on the other side of the canal, had made sure they wouldn't be disturbed... Daniel let them have it in all sorts of non-savoury words and expressions...

We pedaled back several kilometers until we found a very steep path leading down to the road below. 

Although this incident added several unnecessary kms to our trip, it gave us the opportunity to discover the Lehrer Cristal factory and shop, located a few hundred meters from the base area of the barge-lift. Several company glass-blowers were having lunch in their small cafeteria and joyfully invited us to join them with our sandwiches. Thanks !

After a couple of beers to wash down some rather dry tuna fish, we were back on the track, heading towards Lutzelbourg (in Alsace) on a super asphalt path. Several boats were stuck along the canal, waiting for the comrades to go back to work... An ecstatic experience, at € 1,800 per week ! 


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We got to Saverne mid-afternoon. Saw some very interesting buildings, especially along the main street. Massive Château.

The Tourist office made arrangements for us to stay at a B&B located in Waltenhein sur Zorn. The day had been long and hot but the thought of a shower, bed, beers and evening meal provided us with the strength to fight another battle against the wind. At the turn-off we got mixed upin our directions and ended up in Mommenheim, 2km from Waltenheim sur Zorn.

Finally, when we reached the B&B, we found out that there had been some confusion in the booking: we could only eat there: they were fully booked !!! ...but we could set up the tents in their orchard at the top of the hill, anywhere we wanted.


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The orchard was on a hill-side making things rather difficult but after some walking around in the tall grass we found a couple of places that seemed flat enough.

Once the tents were up, the two cyclists took off for the ritual evening beers.

Nothing in Waltenheim, wrong day of the week...so off, once again, to Mommenheim where all the pubs were closed too... except for a Turkish kebab take-away with a well stacked fridge.

The food served at the B&B was excellent; so was the night spent in the orchard in our billion star hotel !  






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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague


Publié le 4 Novembre 2011

May 4th 2011, my birthday !! Waltenheim sur Zorn - Freistett, Germany, 66km, 4h25, 14.4kph

Beautiful weather, hot and windy (from the North/North-East...)


Via Canal de la Marne au Rhin, Souffelweyersheim... European Parliament, Strasbourg city center, Petite France, Pont de l'Europe, Kehl (Germany), The Rhine cycle path, Auenheim, a section of road 36 near Rheinau; Gasthaus in Freistett.

Excellent night. Wake-up at 5.00AM; out of "bed" at 6.00AM; on our way at 7.15AM.

After a super down-hill ride from our orchard-bivvy we were back along the canal.

Barges in the morning mist.. probably the first ones since Vitry le François.. 


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One of them was called 'Hope' (Espérance). Was it a cheeky hint at all the obstacles we would have to overcome to reach our goal ? Was it an encouragement... or a subtle suggestion made to me to spend some time thinking about the future, on my 62nd birthday ? 

It was too cold to think !

The towpath was flat and pleasant, switching from one side of the canal to the other.

Morning coffee at the 'Raisin d'Or' a nice little café run by Madame Huberschwiller and located on the outskirts of Souffelweyersheim (bless you...).


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A few more kilometers and we ended up in front of the European Parliament,  a huge steel and glass cylindrical building looking like a gasworks, cold, empty and uninteresting.. Quick visit to the central patio, a few pictures of the flags in front.. Disappointed that we could not get our Travel logs stamped in this highly symbolic place, stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Our first impression of this European capital was rapidly swept away when we arrived in the old town... Extraordinary rows of old half-timbered houses, streets full of life, trams, beautiful parks; incredible cathedral made from red sandstone with unique astronomical clock and organ... Will have to come back one day !


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Had to go to FNAC to buy a new compact camera. The battery on my old one had given up and replacements were not available... an eight-year old digital camera is an antique nowadays...

Tour through the historic parts of the city, La Petite France, the canals, the narrow streets... and off to the 'Pont de l'Europe', mythical bridge staddling the Rhine river between France and Germany.


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Kehl city center for our first German meal: A grilled Bratwurst with potato salad, washed down with excellent beer, sitting in the sun on one of the many pedestrian streets ! 

Travel logs stamped at the Tourist Büro and first taste of the Rhine cycle-path, heading North, against the wind... 


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Near Rheinau, the track veered away from the Rhine. Result: we got lost on road 36, before ending up at Gasthaus Zum Waldhorn in Freistett, after a long ride through woods and fields.

It was hot and dusty and we had had it.  After hanging the tents to dry on laundry racks in the backyard, parking the bikes in a locked shed, doing some laundry and enjoying a well deserved shave and shower, we were ready for another beer !


The evening meal was delicious and the wine we had with it was the cherry on the cake of this 4th of May !


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No fairy tales needed. Lights were out at 10.00PM. Serious snoring could begin !






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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague


Publié le 3 Novembre 2011

May 5th, 2011. Freistett - Durlach, 76km, 5h31, 13.9 kph
Excellent weather
Via Memprechtshofen (on Road 36), Helmlingen, Rhine cycle path, Greffern, past Söllingen, Iffezheim, Rastatt; then due to error: Otigheim, past Muggensturm, Road no. 3, Ettlingen and camp ground in Durlach.
A few kilometers by road to Helmlingen, then back on the Rhine cycle path all the way to Iffezheim. Cycle path along Road 36 till Rastatt.
Beautiful town with a red stone château and many interesting buildings. 
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On the way out of town we got lost (once again), and  ended up in Steinmauern, then Otighem after a ride through some woods where we met a couple who put us on the right track again...
In the end, it turned out that their directions were as bad as ours.
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The other side of Otigheim we followed Road 36, then Road 3 where we stopped at an intersection, for a picnic near a lake.
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Road 3 then took us, against the wind, to Ettlingen: lovely town that happens to be twinned with Epernay !
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The two young guys at the tourist office were super helpful. We were supplied with various maps, with a list of camp grounds and with other goodies, including of course, a new stamp in our Travel Logs. Thanks Guys !
The cycle path along Road 3 continued all the way to Karlsrühe/Durlach.
In the suburbs of the city, we did our usual afternoon shopping for dinner at a super hard discount store.
Not easy to pedal with bags dangling from the handle bar, but I was getting used to it...  Breaking the bottles was the biggest fear !! 
While I was asking a tram driver if he knew where the camp ground was, I lost sight of Daniel who had continued on his way.
After a while, I finally got there. Daniel had just arrived, by another road.
The place was perfect: we had a choice of sunny or shaded areas, the grass was short and level and there was a large, clean, sheltered picnic table... Within 5 minutes the tents were up and the cyclists in the SHOWER !
Half of the day had been spent riding through meadows, forests and asparagus fields in the hot sun (and against the wind)...
It was interesting to see how the asparagus were picked: the rows were covered with wide strips of dark plastic to prevent the stems from turning green in the sun. As the pickers moved along, a specially designed sleigh raised the plastic in front of them and dropped it back onto the row behind them. 
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The country side, the cities and the cycle paths were spotless: no paper wrappers, no plastic bottles, nothing littering the roads !!... Felt good !
Rastatt and Ettlingen would have deserved a few more hours, however, the beauty of the bike is to be able to see a lot more than on foot, when available time is limited, while still not rushing around like mad. 
People were very helpful when they sensed we had got lost.  In Rastatt, a gentleman even took us all the way to the Rathaus so we could get the coveted stamp in our Travel logs !
'Paper-work' and dinner were taken care of on the picnic table allocated to the tent section... 
Was it the Lidl 'porc and beans', simmering on our gas stoves -or the bottle of French wine- that drove the two young Germans away ? ...or was it the reeking Camembert that Daniel extracted from his bags ? We'll never know ! 
Within minutes, the whole table was ours....
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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague


Publié le 3 Novembre 2011

May 6th, 2011. Durlach - Heidelberg, 86km, 13.5 kph

Beautiful Weather


Via cycle path along Road 3, Weingarten, Untergrombach, Bruchsal, Ubstadt, Bad Schönborn, Leimen, Heidelberg along "US Army Avenue". Camping at "Heidelberg" camp ground.


Super night in spite of Deutsche Bahn and several main roads passing nearby.

Off at 7.15AM Northbound, through the towns mentioned above. Arrival in Heidelberg around 1.00PM.

On leaving the camp we met a cyclist on a home made bike, complete with cowlings that looked as if they had been cut out of an old laundry boiler. He probably hoped to gain a few extra kph but had a better chance of getting his head chopped off on the first "unplanned encounter" with oncoming traffic...


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Further along the road, 3 Japanese tourists were busy studying a map: had they missed the bus for Le Mont St Michel ??

We decided to stick to Road 3 instead of following the Radweg through Speyer. This way we saved a few km, (so we had thought) for extra time in Heidelberg.

The cycle path ran along Road 3 but sometimes took off through neighbouring villages, forests etc... Not sure we made the right choice, but it was too late now. 

Approaching Heidelberg was a nightmare. The cycle paths  gradually disappeared. The roads became extremely busy. Had to ride along "shared side-walks" that called for twice as much attention due to pedestrians, children, dogs etc...

The South end of town belongs to the Americans. The US Armed Forces European HQ spreads along both sides of a long and wide avenue leading to the city center. It's a town within the town, with living quarters, schools, sports grounds, play grounds, etc...

The main entrance on the left is interesting as far as its architecture is concerned.

Having to wait for the lights to turn green at an intersection, I decided to take a picture. Two seconds later I heard a loud "Hey you !" coming from the guard house on the other side of the avenue. "Me ?"; "Yes, You !!" was their answer.

They called me across the road, told me I was not allowed -for security reasons- to take pictures of their barracks and demanded that I destroy the picture in front of them... Having never done it on the new compact, they took it from me and did it themselves... At that moment, my only fear was that they would erase all the pix taken since we'd left Strasbourg. But they didn't.. 

You don't mess around with the Army, even though the whole base is shown in full detail on Google Earth...   

Daniel, who had not seen the scene, had moved on and was starting to get worried. When we met again, I told him what had happened.. Wasn't surprised, had had the same experience in France !


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A quick lunch at a Turkish place, a stamp in the Travel log at the Tourist Büro outside the HauptBahnhof and a leisurly visit of the old city took care of the rest of the afternoon.

There was no way we were going to climb up to the Castle with the bikes. It was covered with scaffoldings and the road to the front gate was really too steep. (There would be lots of opportunities for bike-pushing up steep hills ahead of us...).


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We stopped at the first camp ground along the river Neckar, just outside Heidelberg.

It was OK but definitely below standards compared to the city we had just been through. (had we known, we would have continued a few more kms to Neckargemünd.. next time !).

Tents, showers, the usual ritual... and off to the Aldi shop on the other side of the river, over a narrow cycle/foot bridge overlooking a huge lock. 


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Beautiful day except for the Army episode. Acacias and horse chestnut trees in full bloom, meadows full of white and yellow daisies, birds, sun, wind...

During the day, we had come across a few "Besenwirtschaften", 'broom taverns' (winegrowers who open their business to visitors for a short period during the year). They were signaled by a birch broom tied to their sign.


Pity we could not have planned a stop !


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Rédigé par johnsbikingtrips

Publié dans #A bike ride from Paris to Prague