The trip was going well so far, even if we had done a little less riding and not got as far into Germany as we had hoped. Amusingly our enjoyable final breakfast in Trier was served by a convincing if unintentional Shania Twain look alike! But all too soon it was time to hit the road.
Day 7 – We Under-estimated an Entire Country
This morning we were leaving Germany and heading for France on roads that gently meandered through Luxembourg. I have always thought of Luxembourg as just a city and little else, and while it is a small country it does boast some open countryside. Lovely rolling hills, lined with forests; the place has a relaxed air to it, lightly trafficked so our pace was pretty gentle to be honest. At one point we pulled up just to have a break and take it all in. There was a forest track right next to us and but for a gate blocking their way I suspect our two BMW riders might have gone for it!
The wide open spaces of…Luxembourg? Who knew?
We picked our way through several sleepy villages as we crossed the border over into Belgium and had a lunch halt in the pretty, but bustling little town of Neufchateu (literally Newcastle). The sun and heat were building up by now, in stark contrast to some of the earlier days on our trip. Typically British; the weather is never right for us…now it was too hot. So it was with some relief that we tucked into a baguette and an ice cold drink. We watched the world go by, the towns square filled with the sound of children at play from a traditional small school backing right onto the market square.
Goes Well for a Veteran
The roads became a little more challenging after lunch and I was enjoying myself throwing the 600 about. It goes so well for such an old bike, it will be 19 years old next birthday! After a hundred klicks or so we came across the pretty little Belgian village of Bullion. It nestles on the Semois River and is watched over by a medieval castle. Quite a spot to park up in for a while.
Semois River guarded over by the hill top fort, looks quite stunning on a day like this…
The Heat of the Moment
It was here that we had the only unfortunate incident of the trip with the bikes: Geeg, as he pulled in to park up, his Thundercat ‘fainted’ in the heat and toppled over. He was briefly trapped underneath his bike, but Matt sped to the rescue whilst I stared gormlessly at the unfolding situation. Luckily no harm done to bike or rider. We all needed to cool down for a while, so was good to have a break. I was pretty well bar-be-qued by now and found a local chemist and bought huge bottles of wildly expensive sun cream and after-sun to cool my burning brow. I swear to God it literally sizzled as I applied it!
High Speed Curves to Farm Tracks
Once we had cooled down a bit we re-mounted the bikes and were soon on some fabulous roads, amongst the best of the trip. However it was still baking hot and I wasn’t fully on the ball to really enjoy them to the max. One long, long seemingly never ending right-hander sticks in the memory. Later Andy was filled with glee when the sat-nav took us down a full on track. We did have to turn back and find tarmac, but I am sure the BMW boys would have loved to have pressed on!
By the time we got to our destination for the day, Charleville-Mezieres I was really fully over heated as temperatures hit the mid 30’s. I was getting a bit wound up as we looked for our hotel on the initially baffling one-way system. Yes, I finally had my ‘blue sparkly dress’ moment and threw a proper strop. However once we found the hotel and parked in the cool underground car park I was fine. Especially when we were greeted by a particularly stunning and charming receptionist. I am sure she was just as smitten with me: Who can the resist the allure of a short fat 50 year old bloke standing in a pool of his own sweat?
We dumped our stuff in our (excellent) rooms, freshened up and headed into the centre of town. Wow, what a stunning place, truly magnificent. Dominated by the Place Ducale, a square of quite massive proportions with each of the four sides lined with the most beautiful of buildings.
Pretty impressive you have to agree
The choice of eateries was almost too great so we asked a very friendly local plod who pointed in the direction of his personal favourite. It was a good call! The food was fantastic, the beer strong . We enjoyed watching the world go by as we ate and the square seemed to be the focal point for all the local posers: They enjoyed tearing around in ‘souped-up’ hatchbacks and mopeds with screaming exhausts.
The local plod pointed us in the right direction. Thanks!
We were soon down to business and Matt was happy despite his appearance to the contrary!
Today was the day of the Brexit vote back home and it was ironic that we were sat here, four Brits abroad. In fact once back at the hotel we got into a interesting debate with a local gentleman. How much he wanted us to stay part of the project was quite touching. Europe had been torn apart once before he said, he didn’t want it to happen again. Let’s see what the morning would bring…
Day 8 – Independence Day!
We awoke to the news that UK had voted out. I must admit I was a little shocked. This was probably the biggest event politically in Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, or the even the end of WW2 perhaps. But down at breakfast all seemed normal! Funny old world sometimes. All the locals were still talking to us. Andy was moaning that he had a bit of headache, apparently brought on by a lack of water… The small part that several strong lagers consumed the night before had played in this scenario was conveniently overlooked! An excellent breakfast seemed to aid his recovery as did the time we spent planning the next stop. We struggled to get a room for the next over night halt, but got sorted in the end after one place initially took our booking and called back to say they were actually full. Deep joy!
Today we enjoyed a cracking days riding as headed along some great tarmac in and around the Ardennes Forest. This area has so often been pivotal in the history of Europe: The Battle of the Bulge of late 1944 perhaps the most famous occasion. Then Nazi Germany made its last big counter-attack in WW2. Somehow you could sense that history, it is odd but true. The place has a haunting atmosphere. I can’t put my figure on how, but it really does.
Just good to be on a bike on day like this, with this kind of countryside to play in
There was a good mix of roads again. During the afternoon things really opened out and some points we were flying along, especially Geeg; he was really motoring. I am pretty sure this was his best day on the bike of the whole trip. The roads through the Ardennes Forest were pretty spooky in places and we came across a preserved ‘Armoured House’ that had been in the path of the German advance of 1940. It looked like it had taken a bit of a battering!
We enjoyed lunch in a pretty little Belgian town of Bohan on the River Semois as our day saw us hoping over the border a couple of times.
Pretty little place, ideal for a lunch halt
Andy seems to be enjoying his GS
The Armoured House, complete with a shell hole courtesy of a Panzer II or III in 1940!
The Forest had a sense of history about it, this is the road the German Army advanced along in 1940, a route they had used before WW2
Geeg in particular enjoyed the blast today
Back at the Hotel another larger group of British lads on bikes rolled in. We exchanged a bit of banter with them and tipped them off about the restaurant we had used the night before. As for us we wound up back in the same square ourselves having had a wonder around the slightly less spectacular side streets. Here we enjoyed another super meal in the next restaurant up from the one we ate in the first night.
He had earned this one….
It was a good night: Matt even managed to save a young child from running under the wheels of one the cars posing around the square. The evening rounded off back in the hotel lobby enjoying a few more beers with an older British couple. They were not bikers, but enjoyed our tales about the places we had been. Sadly our trip was entering its’ final fling and in the morning we would be turning for home.
Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly
The educational bits: