Thursday, 6 September 2012

European Trip 2012 : Essex (ENG) - Basel (SWI) : Overview

The Proposed Trip
Every year for the last 4 years (apart from 2011) I have usually arranged a short weekend trip to somewhere in Europe around my birthday, which happens to fall around the August bank holiday. Normally this involves riding to somewhere (straight forward route usually) and then seeing the local sites and taking in the culture. In the past this has meant fairly easily accessible locations for a short trip, namely Brugge, Brussels, Antwerp and Gent in Belgium and a one off trip to Amsterdam. This year was going to be no different. A quick stint to Luxembourg over the course of perhaps 5 days. However, once I realised that to amble over to the Black Forest in Germany wasn't a huge feat, the trip soon extended to 7 and a half days (as well as the budget!).

So the dates for the trip were originally set for the 27th August until the 2nd September. However, in order to have a day in Luxembourg (which after all was the original purpose of the trip) we needed to leave on the 26th. Only problem was that my band were playing on that day. Luckily, it was an all day festival so we were finishing early which meant we could at least use the rest of the day to get across to Europe. So the final 8 day plan worked out as roughly this:

Day 1: UK -  Brugge, Belgium
Day 2: Brugge, Belgium - Steinfort, Luxembourg
Day 3: Spend day in Luxembourg City
Day 4: Steinfort, Luxembourg -  Ostwald, France
Day 5: Ostwald, France - Basel, Switzerland (including Black Forest)
Day 6: Basel, Switzerland - Mosel Valley, Germany
Day 7: Mosel Valley, Germany - Durnal, Belgium
Day 8: Durnal, Belgium - UK

Due to having little time to actually plan this trip, and attempting to keep the costs down as much as possible, this became a mixture of hostels, guest houses and camping. If we had more time to plan the trip then I imagine we would have done the whole thing by camping. However, some places in Europe will not allow bikes so its good practice to find out before you agree on a destination. I used a website that shows a list of campsites willing to accept motorcycles in various European locations, but unfortunately I can not find it now :(. There were only 2 listed on this particular website and we decided to book those for 3 nights of the trip, 2 in Steinfort and 1 in Durnal. For the hostels we used and to find them but contacted them directly for booking. For the other night we stayed in an English speaking guest house in Mosel Valley, found via the SV org. Below is a break down of where we stayed.

Passage (Brugge, Belgium)

Located right in the centre of Brugge, only a couple of minutes walk from the main square. We stayed in a private room using shared facilities. We had a sink in our room, but it was a shared toilet and showers (although we never found the showers!). The building itself was an old townhouse with many stairs, large windows and the rooms had ample room. We were on the second floor so shifting all our gear was a bit of an issue. As you can expect, pretty basic but comfortable with a large bed and a place to hang your clothes. The cost for this was €52 / £41 (at the current exchange rate of 1.24). If you are just looking for somewhere to lay your head (which is all we needed the entire trip) then you can't fault the location of this hostel to get yourself about the town.

Camping Steinfort (Steinfort, Luxembourg)


If you want to tour as cheaply as possible (and do not mind carting a few bits with you) camping is definitely the way to do it. We stayed here for 2 nights and only paid €25.50 / £20 in total as it was just out of season. The receptionist was really friendly and we were allowed to pick our own plot. The campsite is about 15km (just under 10 miles) to the city, which takes around 20 minutes to ride in. If you look at their website there are a few things to see in Steinfort itself and the country itself is stunning - although I will get to the routes later!

Mister Bed Strasbourg (Ostwald, France)

[Left image from:] [Right image: Google Maps Screenshot]

This hostel isn't strictly in Strasbourg (it's about 8km south) but it is within a 20 minute walk to the quaint town of Ostwald. One night here was €32.40 / £26 and the accommodation, 
although very basic, does the job. It isn't the nicest venue with odd swaying doors and an unattractive colour scheme (plus if I remember it didn't smell that good either!) but the rooms were fine. The bathroom is tightly compact so that might be something to think about but at least it did have its own shower. Another thing to note is the language barrier could be a little bit of a problem if you don't know much French, however we did manage to get by.

YMCA Hostel Basel (Basel, Switzerland)


[Screenshots from:]

Quite an expensive option at 88 CHF / £58 for the one night (plus a 10 CHF refundable fee for the room card) but had some great facilities and really was the epitome of what a hostel should offer. The cooking facilities were great, there was a big social area and the rooms were clean and tidy. If you are interested, the hostel is pretty much in the centre of the city centre, although we didn't have time to explore as we were using it as an overnight for the Black Forest trip. It also sits on the river Rhein and I have been told there are some great walks near by.

River Valley Guest House (Mosel Valley, Germany)

After posting on the SV forum for recommended places to stay, a reply was posted by the Scotsman who owned this guest house in the Mosel Valley. We were looking for a place to stay near Trier as a stop over en-route to the UK and this wasn't too far from it. We are so glad we did however, as it's a gorgeous area to go riding around. The valley is beautiful and the cost was only €36 / £29 including breakfast (our first overnight of the trip that included breakfast!). Plus it was quite nice to have some English speaking company after several days without! Definitely recommended if you are near it.

Camping de Durnal (Durnal, Belgium)


Last stop over before the last slog home. Campsite is in a really nice part of Belgium, in the Namur region. Not too far from Dinant (perhaps 10 km) which is also worth a visit. Cost us €20 / £16 for the one night without any electrics. If you are planning to camp throughout your tour then this would be a nice stop over either on the way to Germany, Luxembourg or the eastern side of France and Switzerland as well as before heading back home.

[Next Up: General Information About Riding Over In Europe]

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