France to the sea

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 a medieval quarter and quarters of typical French boulevards down by the rivers, and all of this can be viewed either from the northern district of Canuts, or from the ruins of the Roman city of Lugdunum.

Further south along the Rhône are initially refineries and chemical plants, two nuclear power plants and a large nuclear processing factory in Marcoula. But then also Orange with Roman monuments, Avignon, with its famous bridge but also a massive and impressive papal castle, showing who had the power and money in here, or another Roman city in Arles. A bit to the west on the river Le Gardon, which is popular for canoying, is the famous Roman viaduct Pont du Gard.

In these places is the nature changing from Central European to Mediterranean: instead of forests only shrubs and those few trees that can withstand the drought, instead of songbirds there are cicadas, empty streams, but also no mosquitoes at all.

Then the valley of the Rhône, originally enclosed by hills and rocks, opens into a plain stretching from horizon to horizon and, after branching, flows into the sea. Beyond Salin-de-Giraud there is a strip of salt evaporation ponds, with rusting excavators and flamingos, stretching towards the sea in a strip more than 10 km wide. Beyond them I arrived to an exemplary bathing beach: with fine sand and a gradual slope of the bottom.