The rest day comes with chores as well as, hopefully, lazing about. However, first it was breakfast! It’s was a great spread and I tried to eat as much of it as possible!
Next, I wanted to get to Rotterdam faster than I originally planned and I thought I’d start the following day with a train ride north, to Sedan. When on arrival I’d cycle north along the Meuse River. There may be a way to buy a ticket on online but a visit to la gare seemed a way of ensuring I got the correct ticket. I ambled down and was greeted on arrival by a sign advising they won’t be opening the ticket office until 10am. As a consequence a queue is forming, I join it.
One member of staff appears and mans one window. The first in line comes and goes quickly, the second in line takes 25 minutes! What the hell is taking so long? I imagine he’s set the clerk the challenge of finding out how much it costs for a train through France to Tintagel where he’d like to make a further connection to Fort William over a Bank Holiday weekend in 2027. In true French style two people push in to the front of the line claiming they have extenuating circumstances demanding priority.
Walking back to the centre of town I look at the large war memorial. It covers a number of conflicts including WW2, the Algerian conflict, Afghanistan and Indo China. Movingly they list civilians who died.
The next task is laundry and a laundrette is found. All the instructions to get the damn machines to work are in French and I’m struggling. It seems that it all magically happens remote to the machines. A chap tries to help. He speaks no English (yes, I know I said the French all speak English) but eventually by lots of pointing and gesticulating we coax the beasts into life.
Later I have a wonderful Caesar Salad, enjoy a walk in the park and watch some of the Commonwealth Games back in my hotel room. It is a beautiful city and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Châlons-en-Champagne to Sedan by train
Sedan to Haybes 59 miles and 223 metres climbing
The booked train is early in the morning and whilst breakfast is available at the hotel I’m surprisingly not very hungry to do justice to the feast! Instead I made some sandwiches for later. At the station there are several platforms and getting to the right one involves using a lift to move my bike. As a consolation to the onerous station logistics I’m impressed that taking my bike costs no premium. All in all it comes to a total of €30. I have to change in Reims and that involved more lifts but the trains are quiet, comfortable and clean. On arrival at Sedan I’m only a stone’s throw from the station to the Meuse cycle path.
The path is quiet with few other walkers, runners or cyclists for mile after mile. The path is perfect tar macadam. If anyone wants a beginners route for cycling in Europe then this is compelling. I roll along at a good pace on the flat in beautiful weather. The route is windy as it runs beside the river.
There are literally no boats on the water. The river has the role of being an ornament with no purpose other than looking nice. Gone are the climbs and trucks and the only things to pass me are electric bikes where the riders barely touch the pedals but ease past me at speed. At Haybes I find a campsite on the side of the river.
The check in requires me to cycle half a mile to another office to pay my €6.70, get a receipt to confirm payment to the receptionist, and then pitch my tent. The receptionist knows this arrangement is stupid and the words she utters included ‘desole’ and ‘scheizer’. However whilst at the office I got a beer and so that was a consolation. The cycle back was delayed as I watched a cavalcade of cars go past tooting their horns. This is the way the guests to a wedding proceed, very French. I make my dinner, do my washing and phone home. On the next pitch a Dutch woman is reading, in English, aloud to her husband in a voice like the Queen! I tell her this later for her to tell me she got her accent from living in Oxford. The receptionist floats around the campers asking if they want to order bread and croissants for the morning? I certainly do.