Total distance cycled so far: 960km
Distance since last post: 480km
Current location: Stuttgart
Well, we made it as far as Germany! Since we last wrote, we left Valenciennes and cycled for a further 4 days through France until reaching Saarbrucken in southwest Germany. The scenery improved significantly as we moved into the Ardennes region, however we struggled to appreciate it because the weather took a turn for the worse. The temperature dropped to around 5c during the day and 0c or less at night (on the one night we camped we woke up with frost on the tent!), it poured with rain and the wind continued to threaten to blow us over. Typical April weather admittedly, but not much fun when on a bike all day. Needless to say we ended up blowing the budget and staying in cheap hotels rather than camping (no youth hostels or any other type of cheap accommodation in sight). We figured this was a good time to have a day off the bikes – after all, we had by this stage cycled 300 miles in 6 days straight – and so spent a day holed up in a hotel in Charleville-de-Mezieres, doing laundry, sleeping, eating, and watching TV – heaven! The next day we pounded out a good 150km – helped by both fresh legs and a tailwind for the last 50km or so – but it took 10 hours and we were in the freezing rain all day, hard going. By the time we reached our destination (Thionville) we were both completely soaking and freezing cold, and so our original plan of camping to even out the budget was abandoned and we looked for a hotel. However the first hotel we tried took one look at us and announced they were full! Thankfully we got lucky with the second hotel, and I can safely say never have a hot shower, radiator and comfy bed been so welcome!
But what a difference a day can make. The next day we woke up to glorious sunshine and spent a lovely day coasting through the beautiful hills of the Moselle valley – definitely the sort of day that cycle touring is all about. The roads were smooth and fast and there was very little traffic. There were lots of killer uphills but equally lots of fantastic downhills – at one stage the cycle computer on Pete’s bike recorded 64.8 km/h, above the local speed limit of 50 km/h tut-tut! Almost a shame there wasn’t a speed camera to capture the big grins on our faces! Late in the afternoon we crossed into Germany, but with no fanfare – there wasn’t even a sign to take a photo of and the only way we knew we had crossed the border was because it was marked on the map. After leaving Saarbrucken, we had 2 very hot and sunny days – 30c in the sun at one point! Very pleasant, but cue the onset of comedy tan lines – my personal favourite are the ones on our faces from cycle helmet straps! After crossing the Rhine, we went across the black forest – very scenic but very hilly! In less than 24 hours our total ascent was over 1500m, that’s somewhat higher than Ben Nevis! By the time we got to Stuttgart, our current location, we were definitely ready for a rest day. Stuttgart is a pleasant and pretty city but there isn’t an awful lot for tourists to do beyond the Mercedes museum, which Pete visited today – having a very limited interested in cars, Christine went shopping instead. Stuttgart is the ‘home’ of Mercedes and clearly employs a lot of people – at least we assume that is why almost every other car is a Mercedes – either the company offers discounts to employees and family etc, or this town is more affluent than it appears!
Unfortunately we had some very sad news from home this week. Eric Henderson, a friend and ex-colleague of Pete’s, passed away from cancer shortly after we left. Eric was always cheerful as well as being full of life, and will be very sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his wife Margaret, their children, and the rest of the family.
Next we head down to Ulm where we pick up the Danube, which we will be following all the way until Belgrade. Christine’s parents will be joining us for a week from Passau to Vienna which we are very much looking forward to. Hope all is well with everyone at home.
ps We will be putting more photos up shortly.