Day 13 – Douzy to Givet – 80 miles

Encouraged by finding a new way north I left the campsite and went to find the Meuse river. I didn’t find a path until I got to Sedan. Being Sunday I wondered if that would increase or decrease the folk I found using the path: I knew it would make finding food more tricky.

Some cyclists to follow and keep their pace

It was nice to stay in the same gear for a period of time and look around as I kept up a decent pace (12.7mph). There was quite a selection of wildlife beside the river (including a Yorkshireman).

A portrait of an artist beneath a bridge
You’re kidding?
They were very tame and came up to the fence
They often left large ‘presents’ on the path to steer around

The weather was kind and the going easy. I saw a variety of people on bikes: elderly couples, families with trailers pulling their smallest family member, sleek lycra warriors on top of the range road bikes and a lot of electric bikes.

Purpose built infrastructure. It was common to have to switch to the other bank.
The river remained consistent, to me, at an altitude of 140m but it must have fallen due to regular locks

I saw few boats on the water, maybe a few cabin cruisers but like most European waterways they are now given over to tourism with few barges. The sad reality is that the consumption of fossil fuels by barges and the slow speed of transportation has left this solution obsolete as cost effective. I think the only chance it has of being competitive is the movement of aggregates or other exceptionally bulky material.

By the middle of the day I was famished but after drawing a blank in most places I found some sustenance in Bogny-sur-Meuse. It was now very hot and I managed to find a corner of a table out of the sun!

Just along from here I heard another crack. Another spoke broke on the back wheel. From never having had this problem before to now have two in short succession was troubling. Fortunately the wheel didn’t bow as badly this time and would roll. As I’m inspecting my problem a man above me worked out what had befallen me and wanted to help.

He was above me because he was sat in his garden looking out onto the river. He went to fetch some pliers to cut off the flapping broken spoke. After doing the task he was joined by another neighbour who started chatting about whatever. They fell into a conversation and so without any profuse thanks or swapping home addresses I just threw my leg over the top tube and pedalled off. This type of no fuss (or interest) about the French is an admirable quality.

I took out one of the rear brake blocks to aid the rotation. I now just hoped it could see me until the next bike shop. As always there were campsites dotted along the length of the river and I had one in mind near Givet, on the Belgian border. After 80 miles this small site, that appeared to be like someone’s front garden, came into view. It’d do at €7.50 for the night. I cleaned up and then cycled a mile into the centre of Givet for some lamb shoulder and couscous.

The route was windy and despite the 80 miles ridden I hadn’t gone that far north. Despite that situation then if you’re thinking about cycling in Europe for the first time and heading from Belgium or Holland to France this route will take a lot of beating.

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