When we left the charming and characterful F1 Hotel in Coquelles, I asked Jane (as I call the TomTom, from the rather strict and posh Head Girl voice that is my favourite, mmmm) to take us to Nancy. The plan was to get some serious road miles done on the first day, and then amble back though Germany and Belgium at a more leisurely pace. Jane asked me if I was happy to pay a toll to take her 'fastest' route. I told her not to be so silly. After all, the French autoroutes are all built next to the N roads that they replace, non? Many times I have bowled along an almost deserted route nationale for nothing, while the frantic autoroute traffic screamed by a kilometre to one side. OK, she said, I will take you there. Follow Lille.
So I did. We must have been going a couple of hours when I realised that the cars all had Belgian plates, and all the place names were strangely ... Belgian. I stopped and checked the route, only to find that the 'fastest' route to Nancy avoiding the péage took us to Namur in Belgium, then down through Luxembourg and back into France close to Strasbourg. As we were almost in Namur by this point, we pressed on and had lunch there, in order to reconsider.
And I had a dago. Yes indeed. We ended up at a sandwich-bar kind of place, where all that was on offer were dagos. I asked what they were (in French - luckily this wasn't a part of Belgium where this is a criminal offence) and discovered that a dago is an 18" baguette with a ham (or similar) filling. Un jambon, then. We had one of these each with a drink, and decided that as we were getting pretty close to Aachen - a potential end-point of the trip - we would simply reverse the direction, go clockwise, and head for Aachen that night.
Aachen is lovely. We found a cheapish hotel opposite the station (thank you, Rough Guide) and made enquiries. The owner was charming and helpful, and suggested - without my asking - that I should park the bike on the pavement outside Reception, where it would be in view all night. That sold it to me. The rooms were a bit more expensive than we had hoped for, so we opted to share a twin room. I had anticipated this as being a potential problem. She is my little girl and we are family, so of course we can share a room. But she is also 24 and has a life of her own, and I wanted to respect her privacy. But finances demanded that we shared that night, and it didn't cause any problems.
|Bahnhof Hotel, Aachen (cheap rooms round the corner)|
|Massive, just massive. And tasty.|
|This is just a cake shop. A proper cake shop.|
|D2 snaps the Rathaus|
We went to bed early, ready for a early start, for tomorrow was scheduled for the Rhine Gorge, which promised to be a spectacular run.
|Apparently, there was some kind of football match on|