Sunday, 28 October 2012

Black Forest 2012: Day 3 - Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Day 3: Luxembourg City, Luxembourg - 28/08/2012
Miles: 100 appx.

After our first night in the new tent we got up, sorted ourselves out with the obligatory cup of tea, a couple of cereal bars and packed up for our day out. As we were staying at the campsite for two nights there was no need to carry all of our stuff with us other than documents and valuables. We were positioned within a very short walk to the facilities although the ground was very solid which made it difficult to pitch our tent the night before. We also made friends with a grasshopper but unfortunately it didn't fancy coming with us to the city centre :(.

So after a very short 15 or so kilometres we made it to the city centre. Motorcycle parking was right next to Luxembourg's iconic "Golden Lady" and also bang in front of the beautiful valley. I set about locking the two bikes together with the cable lock I had brought with me and we then heading down into the valley. However, Emma did her famous trick of leaving the key in her bike so we had to walk all the way back up to the top to retrieve it. Once that was sorted we decided to tackle the valley later in the day and so went to walk about the city centre for a bit. The city itself isn't all that large and seems to work on a grid like system. There are a few fashion shops, the typical McDonald's, sandwich shops and cafes. I managed to stumble across an unlocked wi-fi connection and so sent an email back home just to let everyone know we were safe and had made it this far.

We returned to one of the sandwich shops where we ordered a couple of ham and cheese baguettes (probably because it was the only thing I could ask for in French!) and went for a sit down to plan what we were going to see. The lady at the campsite was very friendly as I went to pay in the morning and handed out some maps and guides with recommended walks and sights. Our main stops were the history museum and the underground bock casemates. 

The underground tunnels were impressive, holding around 30,000 people in times when the city needed to defend itself. There were so many steep steps, low-height ceilings and awkward passage ways that I was exhausted by the end. There are also lots of places to see out of and appreciate the valley too. We then went searching for the "Corniche" which is meant to be Europe's most beautiful balcony. I think we are still quite unsure which part was the Corniche as there were stunning views from many points. After then spending quite a bit of time in the history museum and understanding Luxembourg's place in Europe (and also seeing a strange swing, lit up by lights all on its own in a kind of exhibition room) we then took on one of the recommended walks through the valley. I strongly believe that if you visit a place (and in particular if you are quite limited on time) you should at least visit their history museum. It is nice to find out about where you are, how it started out and how it became what it is today.

It is probably also worth noting that there is a train that goes round the valley, although I am not sure how much this costs (see left). We are used to walking and quite like taking things in at our own pace so we opted for that instead. Our walk took us back through the valley, past a miniature railway track, under the Adolphe bridge and all the way back up to near where our bikes were parked. As we were doing this trip on a shoe string budget we grabbed a bite at McDonald's before heading out for our ride round Luxembourg. Before leaving the city however, I made sure we rode over all three bridges that we saw (purely because I could) and then got out to the more rural parts of the country.

Below is the route we took round the country before heading back to the campsite. Again, if you would like the Garmin files to any of these then please leave a comment below.

As you can see from the map, our route took us back north towards Belgium before heading west and then south again to the campsite. The N (national) roads in Luxembourg are really scenic, although some of the bends can be challenging (although not as much as the Black Forest but we'll come to that later!). It was a lovely sunny evening and despite the Garmin trying its best to get us lost (it sent us down a 6 mile stretch of road in both directions before deciding on the correct route) we managed to get back before it got too dark.
As we got closer to the campsite our surroundings became more enclosed as we rode through mountains and other valleys. Unfortunately though I don't have any pictures of these. 

We also ended up through small villages with cobbled-paved roads that went up hills and round tight corners. We did see some interesting buildings along the way too.

[Next Up: Day 4: Steinfort, Luxembourg - Ostwald, France]

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Black Forest 2012: Day 2 - Bruges, Belgium - Steinfort, Luxembourg

Day 2: Bruges, Belgium - Steinfort, Luxembourg - 27/08/2012
Miles: 233 appx.

Today was made up of spending the morning in Bruges followed by a scenic journey to the camping site in Steinfort. After feeding ourselves with cereal bars we went for a wander around the city. Our main activities were taking in the surroundings, such as the main square, the Belfry and the canal and visiting the chocolate museum.

If you are interested at all, I took a picture of an ancient recipe for spiced chocolate whilst in the museum which you can see to the left.

Once out of the museum we consumed the obligatory Belgian waffle before heading off to Steinfort. One thing I am gutted about is that we never took pictures of the 6 or so hour route we took there as it was stunning and the weather was really kind to us. I do however have a screenshot of the route as taken from map source. If you would like the Garmin file for any of the routes we took please leave a comment below and I will upload them somewhere for you to download. All routes have been made up by checking those put on and adapting for our own journey.

For a more detailed view of the roads we took you will need to take a look at the Garmin file, but above is a general outline of the route we did. If you click on it you should be able to see a larger image.

We finally got to Luxembourg (which I acknowledged with a fist in the air - I was possibly a bit excited) and filled up. We also had a quick drink and a few snacks, plus the mandatory toilet break. It was starting to get a bit dark by this point, I think it was something like 7 or 8pm local time, so our stop was relatively brief. We made our way to Steinfort, getting slightly lost in the process (a few diversions were in place) and set up camp. We had a fairly late night dinner (consisting of the mug shots we brought with us plus a much needed cup of tea) and headed off to bed - ready for the day out in the capital the next day.

[Next Up: Day 3: Visiting Luxembourg]

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Black Forest 2012: Day 1 - Essex, UK - Bruges, Belgium

Day 1: Essex, UK - Bruges, Belgium - 26/08/2012
Miles: 163 appx.

Not a lot to mention really. The first day was all about getting down into Europe, using Bruges as a gateway to the rest of the trip. As I was playing on this day we packed up the bikes prior to the concert ready for when we got back. As you can see in the picture we did not have much in the way of luggage racks, panniers and top boxes but that didn't matter. Emma packed up high while I added a Renntec rack and packed across. We also took tank bags with food and essentials, as well as valuables. Our stuff was tied down with cargo nets, bungees and initially a ratchet strap (but this proved to be more dangerous than useful!). We also used PacSafe security meshes to secure the luggage, mainly for convenience whist on the ferry.

Heading down to Dover we went via the M25 (over the Queen Elizbabeth II Bridge, Dartford), followed by the M20 as advised by Google maps. However, in hindsight I would say that going via the M2 is quicker after heading back from Dover this way.
View Larger Map

It took just over an hour and a half getting to Dover via the M20. We stopped at the BP garage for fuel as we approached the ferry terminals. As we started to head off, Emma's SV failed to start. This highlighted the beginning of the troubles we were to face with her bike for the majority of the trip. Fortunately, Emma brought her jump leads with her (Motorcycle jump leads available from Halfords, although they do not seem to have them on their website, so for an idea visit:, so off came the side panels, then the seats, and jumped the bike - which luckily enough started first time.

We got to the terminals early enough but due to a medical emergency on the French side were delayed by about an hour. Got chatting to a Dutch couple who were heading home. He had this huge old-style bike carrying most of the stuff whilst she had something reminicent of a 1960s bike you'd expect to see at the Ace Cafe. Once on the ferry, we locked the lids to the mesh via padlocks and put on the large ratchet straps they give you to go over the seats. They can be quite tricky to do and often get stuck so bear that in mind. Also, if like me you have an air seat then you can't put the ratchet over this as you'll burst it. I removed the seat and reattached to the straps once I got to Bruges, but you can just about slide the ratchet pad under the air seat, which saves taking it off (which I did on the way home). We went with P&O ferries and although a bit expensive (we paid about £78 each for flexi return tickets) you do get the shops, restaurants and bars. As the crossing only takes about an hour we just about had time to get something to eat for dinner before getting across to France. The food isn't all that good and definitely pricey for what it is - but if you want convenience then it suffices. There are usually first class restaurants and brasseries on board but I do not know how much they cost or how good they are.

Once on the other side (and running late). We headed to Bruges. Its a nice easy ride east of Calais and you just follow the A16/E40, takes about an hour and a half.

View Larger Map

We arrived at the Hostel Passage at about 10:30pm local time and were confronted with an envelop addressed to me on the reception door. It felt a little bit creepy seeing as it was late at night, really quiet and we were in another country. Inside was a telephone number to call. We spoke to a lovely lady who gave us the access codes to the door and the safety deposit box which held the key to our room.

After letting ourselves into the main building we discovered that the room we were in was up two flights of stairs. This was an old characteristic town house, with high ceilings and long stairways and so dragging all our stuff up to the room really took it out of us (which is another reason we may consider just camping for the next trip)! As said in my earlier post though, the location was right in the centre of Bruges and really convenient seeing as we only had the following morning to take a look around.

[Next Up: Day 2: Bruges, Belgium - Steinfort, Luxembourg]