France - Alsace

Cycling in France

We crossed over the border to France from Burg to Lauterbourg. We had planned to follow the Rhine cycle route but it was closed for dyke repairs.

We plan to cycle to Strasbourg to stay with friends and then head West towards the Vosges and follow the Route des Vins cycle route. The Rhine Rhone canal South of Strasbourg is a more direct route to Basel - but it is straight with very little diversion for the children - so we have changed our plans a little.

The transition between cycling in Germany and cycling in France is as marked as that from the Netherlands to Germany. Less cycles routes, less signposting and more intolerant drivers (maybe it was a one off!). The French also seem to go for the diversions from the rhine route in a big way. In the 100km from the border to Strasbourg 60 km of the Rhine route was officially closed.

For our route to Alsace please follow this link to Germany


27th June - Leimersheim - Lauterbourg - 37km - Rainy day to France

The day finished by dropping into Lauterbourg in France. Suddenly everything was much easier to understand (for Isa and Louis).

We had been warned by a South African couple in St Goar to be aware of thieves and robbers in France. We did not expect to become victims quite so quickly. We had been in France for less than an hour when an intruder got into our tent a rummaged around before Isa chased him off. The small highland terrier ripped our food bag and made off with our valuable German sausages. We complained about the wild dog to the campsite owners (who turned out to be in charge of the dog for the day) and she returned with a plateful of White Sausages for us to cook. No one seems to know what the ingredients of a white sausage are - the general consensus is "everybody knows, but nobody asks"

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The first signs to Switzerland

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The lovely delta de la Sauer. We wisely ignored the "closed due to flooding" signs.

Plan d'eau

Lauterbourg Plan d'eau

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Lauterbourg - German cars waiting to be delivered to their new owners across France by road transport. No more train or ship transport in France.

28th June - Lauterburg - Roeschwoog - 33km - Another Swimming Stop

We cycled gently into France, following the Rhine route. There are many pretty villages with typical timbre-framed Alsace houses and we spotted a few storks. In the evening, we stopped at another campsite with outdoor swimming in an old gravel pit.

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Another plan d'eau - but no swimming this time after the thermal shock of the previous day

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Our first view of a weir on the Rhine - after about 750 km

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The rhine route is flat - but some of the ramps up the dykes can be touching 20%

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A rainy start to the day - luckily the tent is big enough to occupy the kids and provide room for playing cars

29th June - Roeschwoog - Hoerdt - 33km - Rainy day to stay with Friends

It was an absolutely miserable, wet start to the day. We sat in the tent eating breakfast and moping around until about 11am. We then decided to brave the wet weather to head South to stay with friends in Hoerdt, North of Strasbourg.

Alsace House

A typical Alsace House

Plan d'eau

Max - ready for a rainy start

30th June & 1st July - Hoerdt - Staying with Friends and visiting Strasbourg

Isa's friends Jerome and Noelle welcomed us for three nights and showed us around Strasbourg. We visited the fabulous Le Vaisseau, which is a science museum for children, and the European parliament, which is open to the public on Sundays. The concept of Europe is proving difficult to explain to young children, especially the bit about what Europe does exactly but the idea of a union of countries is slowly sinking in...

The following day was spent visiting Strasbourg on our own (the astronomical clock and the cathedral) but mainly tracking some "essence blanche" (white fuel) for our primus stove, unfortunately without success.

The main highlight of our stay for the children was playing with Margot, Noe and Anais and their amazing collection of Lego toys. Louis has often asked "Where are the other children?" during the trip and he and Max were clearly delighted to find some playmates other than their own parents.

Alsace House

Max and Louis at our friends' house and six massive tubs of lego. This provided two full days of entertainment (and not only for the children)!

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Louis at Le Vaisseau Museum - demonstrating the speed of travel by bike

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Max at the European Parliament - demonstrating the speed he would like to see decisions made

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Max and Louis building in Le Vaisseau (photo copyright Margot Carreyrou)

European Parliament

With the Carreyrou Family in the European Parliament

1st July - Hoerdt - Molsheim - 50km - Lost in Strasbourg

A late start and 50 km to cycle to our campsite in Molsheim. We got a bit lost in Strasbourg trying to find the start of the Canal de la Bruche - but once found it was a lovely ride along a disused canal. It was a great change from the large routes alongside the Rhine. The well surfaced path twisted and turned it ways to Molsheim past small waterfalls (removed lock gates) and old lock keepers cottages.

We finished the day at Molsheim after 50 km - our furthest in one day on the trip. To cool us down the campsite had its own open-air swimming pool. Next door to the camp site was the best children's play area we have found on our trip so far (the best in France according to the Carreyrou's). It was called "le paradis des enfants" (children's paradise) and it truly was. Another notable thing about Molsheim is that the Bugatti family set up their car factory there in the 1920's and the fabulous (and expensive) Bugatti Veyron is still built there.

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Alongside the canal de la Bruche - a very popular route

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Max at the splashpad Strasbourg style

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Disused lock and cottage on the canal de la Bruche

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Part of the impressive Molsheim "Paradis des enfants"

2nd July - Molsheim - Barr - 25km (1000km) - With the Carreyrou's

The morning was an unexpected washout - rain, rain, rain. We had breakfast in the tent and thought our arranged rendez-vous with the Carreyrou family wouldn't happen - but they turned up in their high-viz jackets (compulsory for cyclists in France in rainy weather or at night time) just as the rain stopped. We spent a pleasant afternoon riding together until the Carreyrous took a train to return to Hoert.

The day was also notable for the 1000km mark being passed and Isa's internal gear cable failure after more than 20,000 km and eight years (they should be changed every 10,000km).

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Terry enjoying the Molsheim park

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Some make it look easier than others

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Getting a little help

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Jerome getting in some practice before the Carreyrou Family African trip next year!

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Refuelling after the rain, paradis des enfants and the 15 km cycle ride

3rd July - Barr - Kintzheim - 26km - Route des Vins

Another late start as Terry spent a couple of hours with a watchmaker's precision mending Isa's gear cable in the campsite. The rest of the day following the cycling path along "La route des vins" was one of the most scenic part of our trip, together with the middle Rhine valley in Germany and all its castles. Each timber framed village is entirely dedicated to wine with plenty of inviting signs to taste wine.

The road was certainly rolling, but nothing too strenuous. We managed 220m climb in the afternoon another record for us.

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There can be a lot of rules in France

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The route was a little more challenging than alongside the Rhine

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The children hardly noticed the Alsace architecture - there were emergency vehicles to play with.

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An unexpected diversion through the vines to avoid the road works

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Along the Route des Vins

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Skirting around the edge of the Vosges mountains

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In amongst the Vines (with the farmer's permission). Terry nearly crashed - all to avoid a 15 k detour because of roadworks.

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Vineyards and chateaux along the Routes des Vins

4th July - Kintzheim - Monkey Mountain and Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg

We wanted to visit "la montagne des singes" and the restored castle of the Haut-Koenisbourg to give a break to the children and our legs. Unfortunately for us both sites are on the top of Les Vosges mountains... Kintzheim was quickly selected because a bus takes visitors up to the top of the mountain from there.

Louis and Max loved feeding the Macaques monkeys pop-corn and watching the young babies trying to climb twigs (and failing!). The Haut-Koenisbourg castle was equally a success and we enjoyed viewing the Alsace plain from the castles highest tower (500m above the plain), especially since we did not have to cycle all the way up there.

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Inmates at Monkey Mountain

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Haut-Koenigsbourg from the plain

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Riding through the wine villages - Iterswiller

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Louis feeding the monkeys

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The impressive view across the plain from Haut-Koenigsbourg

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Eguisheim

5th July - Kintzheim - Rouffach - 42km - Route des Vins - Accidental Highest Point

The day's dilemma was whether to cycle through Colmar to Neuf-Brisach, an old fortified town, or whether to cycle to Mulhouse to visit its automobile museum. Since we were enjoying cycling along the wine route, we decided to carry on to Mulhouse and to take in a few more villages and wine along the way. One of them was Eguisheim, which was voted "France favorite village" this year and was well worth a detour.

What followed on after lunch was rather unexpected: we ended up leaving Eguisheim on a steep road that led to Husseren Les Chateaux. This was a sweaty, painful mistake: it turned out to be the highest point of the Route des Vins. We climbed (crawled, stopped, ached and swore) our way to the top before it plunged straight back down to the next village. More careful studying of the maps is required.

Eguishiem

The climb up to Husseren Les Chateaux took us 45 minutes - the best time on Strava is 7 minutes. It was too hot and too steep (about 11% at it's steepest).

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Typical Alsace decorations

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The "Point Culminant" of the Route des vins d'Alsace. The climb wasn't helped by the fumes from a vintage tractor rally taking place

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The Maison du pain d'epice

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Old beer advert

6th July - Rouffach - Mulhouse - 43km - Cite de l'Automobile

As the weather got hotter, we decided to leave early and to spend the afternoon sheltered inside the Cite de l'Automobile in Mulhouse. The morning ride was fast as we had tail-wind and we sadly turned our backs on the Vosges mountains. The ride was mainly amongst flat corn fields and not so pretty villages.

The Automobile Museum in Mulhouse was well worth a visit though. It contains the largest and most comprehensive collection of Bugatti motor vehicles in the world as well as more than 600 other vehicles, the oldest dating from 1892.

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Through the Maize fields

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Louis - overwhelmed by the number of racing cars

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The children's car collection was a real winner

7th July - Mulhouse - Basel - 40km - Across the Border

A pretty route along the Grand canal d'Alsace and the canal of Hussingue. It was hot and as the holiday season has started in France, there were children jumping in the canal. At Hussingue, we met the Rhine once again (the first time since before Strasbourg). We were surprised to see that people were also swimming in the Rhine at Basel, or rather were swept in it, as the current was still very strong and the river high. It consisted of people hanging on to a small buoyancy aid for a quick half a mile before being "caught" and taken to the bank.

Basel seemed to be a pretty town but Isa had eyes for the tram tracks only. They were sometimes close enough to the pavement for the trailer wheels to get stuck in it, which was quite stressful when the tram could be heard coming closer. No accident but a close miss.

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Jumping into the pool in their underpants - French rules forbid shorts (and jumping)

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The lovely route along the Canal d'Hussingue

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Alongside the Canal Rhone / Rhine. The route from Mulhouse to Basel was alongside canals all day

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Everyone impressed by the Swiss, German, French border in the middle of the Rhine

For details of our onward journey please follow this link Switzerland.