Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Along the coast I went towards Marseille. Much of Marseille left me with a dirty and dubious impression. This started already in the surroundings on arrival, where, in addition to other waste, I was passing burned cars and scooters thrown down the gorges, probably stolen. The area of the port in the city center is worth seeing though. My impression was much improved to the southeast of Marseille, where the jagged cliffs with subtropical vegetation and beautiful sea views in the natural reserve of Calanques look exactly as one would imagine a romantic Mediterranean landscape. I also passed through Toulon, where there is little left to see from the historic center, but there is a large naval and submarine base. Further on the inconspicuous town of Bormes-les-Mimosas offers…
France to the sea
Grand Est & Burgundy-Franche-Comté From Luxembourg I headed straight south. I used the roads and cycle paths along the banks of the rivers Moselle, le Coney, the Vosges canal and further around the Saône, passing the riverboats of German and Dutch pensioner-tourists sailing the canals in the opposite direction. I went straight south until I reached Besançon, with a massive fortress above the bend of the river Doubs. There I hesitated whether to continue through the tip of Switzerland or through the river valleys to the southwest. The weather forecast predicted a week of constant rain over the Swiss Jura, so the southwest won. Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes & Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Through a countryside full of ponds I got to the confluence of Saône and Rhône, to Lyon. In Lyon there is both…
Northern France and Luxembourg
Hauts de France & Grand Est Across the Belgium border appeared much more open landscapes, fields, pastures and forests. The landscape also got slightly hilly – but so far the hills have remained low. Exposed brick houses, which were typical around the coast, were in more remote villages increasingly being replaced by houses built of stone, as if cut from typical pictures of the French countryside. The river Meuse swirls through the landscape, at the moment it was full to the brim in most places, and along the river I continued to the southeast, in parallel with the border of Belgium. Due to proximity of this particuar border I was gradually more often spottig concrete bunkers in the fields. And then I got to the massive fortress from the Prussian-French…
Officially I wasn’t supposed to get to Belgium from the Netherlands because of a last minute Covid rules update – but since the border for example in the small town of Putte runs through the middle of the square, it was enough to mix among the pedestrians who were casually crossing the border for example to go home from shopping. Belgium proved to be far less picture-perfect than the Netherlands. Even in Brussels itself, only the central square is decorated and gilded, while all around are much less fashionable suburbs and large industrial zones. Instead of windmills I came across two power plants straight in the Brussels suburbs. And, for example, in Casteu I rode around a giant base of NATO’s European supreme headquarters, but there I rather did not…
This time I thought that after more than a year of Covid, symbolically ended by a tornado in Moravia, there was enough excitement already and it would be wise to choose as the holiday starting point a place generally considered non-exciting, even boring. Belgium, for instance. Into which I would get boringly via Germany by train. This nice resolution failed immediately at the start: the west of Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg were hit by one in a century floods.
- Other trips
The weather forecast for the extended summer weekend was uncertain, with the possibility of rain, but nevertheless I chose the destination of Velká Deštná (meaning “the Big Rainy Mountain”). And it paid off – except for a foggy view from Deštná itself, the weather stayed exemplary all three days. Route: from Hradec Králové following a pleasant, tree-shaded cycle path around the river Labe, to the Rozkoš dam, via Náchod, Dobrošov and Olešnice, from there over the ridge of the Orlické Mountains with a stop at the lookout tower on Velká Deštná, and then down from the mountains towards Žamberk, following rivers Orlice and Loučná to Pardubice, then around the river Cidlina to Poděbrady and following the river Labe back to Prague.