If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 22 June 2012

BEF12 Day Two

I am a cheapskate.  This landed me with an interesting conundrum at the start of the trip.  For one, as I was taking a satnav I didn't think I needed detailed maps.  I had a 'planner' map of Europe, which covers Donegal to Sankt Petersburg and Nordkapp to Sardinia on one sheet, and I invested less than a fiver in an A5 spiral bound road atlas for keeping in the map pocket of the tankbag.  First mistake.  Secondly, I don't like paying road tolls, especially at the start of a holiday when you don't know how your Euros are going to last.

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)
We spent a very pleasant evening in Aachen itself, wandering round the sights and stopping at a pavement restaurant for some beers and a pizza the size of a dustbin lid.  

Massive, just massive.  And tasty.

This is just a cake shop.  A proper cake shop.

D2 snaps the Rathaus
Afterwards, we wandered around some more and ended up - funny, that - at a place that appeared to sell ice-cream 24/7.  I'm not a great fan of ice-cream (unless at the beach on a hot day), but D2 persuaded me that it would be a fitting end to a fabulous evening, so we indulged.  I can now inform my readers that my favourite food in the world is Bitterschokoladen Eis - ice-cream flavoured with dark, bitter chocolate which does a dance on your tongue and then caresses your taste buds to a petit mort of exquisite delicacy.  Forget your Rum 'n' Raisin, your Pistachio, your MintChocChip.  This stuff was unlike any ice-cream I have ever tasted.

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


  1. Mrs 20 is half-Dutch. I am amazed at the sleeping arrangements they get up to -mother and son in a bed, brother and sister in a bed, father and daughter in a bed, father and son in a bed.

    I am from Australia, and anyone who sleeps in my room is asking for trouble!

    Aachen is lovely, hope you made it to my favourite city, Strassburg.

  2. Yes we did, and it was great, although we didn't have much time to explore.

    When I was married to D2's Mum, we had all kinds of random sleeping arrangements too. Never a problem. But as I have been apart from my girls (in a day-to-day sense) for so long, it's difficult to slip back into the old ways. Good fences make good neighbours, and all that.

  3. Sounds like you wer eoff to a good start even with the hiccup with Nancy. Happy accident perhaps - since you had a great dinner and tasty ice cream.

  4. Satnavs are still very much a mixed blessing, I find, especially on a bike. Hellish convenient, having all of Europe in a box 3" across, but a nightmare to get anything more complicated than 'fastest/cheapest A to B route' out of. I've had to put in upwards of 20 waypoints in 200km to force mine to produce 'A to B via the most interesting biking roads' and still had it try to drag me on to peages at every available opportunity. I guess they still only really work for people who care about the destination rather than the journey...kinda the exact opposite of bikers, in fact.

    Nice that it all worked out well, despite that. It always amazes me how much more welcoming and considerate of bikes the rest of Europe is when compared to the UK.

    And it's good to hear you and D2 can work things out easily and sensibly. After all, getting to that point was part of the whole idea of the trip...it's very 'Zen and the Art...' in some ways, evidently without the need to go a bit mad first.

  5. I assume you already know about Tyre, which lets you plot a route in Google Maps and then load it up to the satnav? I've used that successfully a few times, identifying a good-looking route and then loading it as an itinerary. Slightly clunky, but works well when you are used to it. Point is that you tweak the route on the computer first, and download it once to the satnav, no messing with waypoints. Downside, of course, is that once it is there you can't edit it unless you bring a laptop along. Hmmm.

    Trob, yes, a happy accident. These things are meant, sometimes.

    We both appreciated the better attitude over there. Being able to park on a free bit of road/pavement without worrying about a uniformed revenue-man coming along and spoiling it all. And even the posher hotels (all things being relative) welcomed us as if we were 'normal'.

    1. Yes, I have Tyre - I think you steered me on to it in a previous recommendation. I'm not sure whether it was the app being designed primarily for TomTom, or something with my particular Garmin, but either way, it wasn't very good at transferring route files between the two. I'd end up pulling down the waypoints as favourites, then using them to set the route on the satnav itself...which was still easier than setting everything up on the Garmin but led to some unpredictable results!

      There's a significantly newer version available now and it looks much improved for both platforms, so I'll be giving that a try later today.

    2. I didn't know about a newer version - thanks for that.

      I think the key with Tyre is setting enough waypoints. All it does is create a set of waypoints, and if you don't specify in enough detail where you want to go, the satnav will still try to give you its optimum route between them. More waypoints will constrain it to your wishes.

      I'm pretty keen on getting a 'proper' bike unit before the next trip, though. Denmark and this trip have certainly proved the concept.

  6. Aachen is a place to avoid on motorways - last time I went through there were road works everywhere!

  7. Aachen was fine. Now, about the Antwerp ring road ...

    1. True...but at Lille 2 motorways cross - literally


Comment is free, according to C P Scott, so go for it. Word verification is turned off for the time being. Play nicely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...