From Rastatt, Germany to Strasbourg, France - From Munich to Spain to France - CycleBlaze

April 26, 2024

From Rastatt, Germany to Strasbourg, France

Across the Rhine

Riding along and up the Rhine
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Last night: We're finally asleep in our Rastatt Ibis, jet-lagged and looking forward to our first semi-serious ride tomorrow. It's 2:00am, Jill wakes up, cannot fall back to sleep, and decides to do a little web surfing. The highlight for the first part of our trip will be riding through the Tarn Gorge which encompasses a lot of climbing coupled with great vistas as our reward for the effort. Jill checks the weather report for that area, at 2:00 in the morning, and is distressed to learn that the forecast is for rain, lots of rain (up to an inch of rain daily) and, oh yeah, strong winds with temperatures in the low 40s! Now we've learned that we can tolerate modest amounts of rain. We can deal with cooler temperatures. We will never enjoy wind but can deal with it too. Put those all together in conjunction with a difficult ride, and it becomes apparent to Jill that this is a formula for unnecessary discomfort and stress. She really wanted to wake me up and confer on our options but decides to let me sleep and wait for morning. You can only imagine how much sleep she had after her discovery.

When I finally woke from my own fitful night's sleep (jet lag can be pernicious) she broke the news to me about what's in store for us. She suggests that we abandon this signature ride through the gorge and hole up in Nimes for 4 nights, instead of our planned 2 nights.  When we again look at the weather forecast for the gorge, it was obvious to both of us that a plan B was needed. Jill tnrows together  a different route tobegin on Wednesday, May 1. We'd still get to ride a bit in the lower end of the gorge, missing the more iconic parts but which would still allow us to mostly stay on schedule. Unless the forecast changed dramatically in the next day, this was our most likely course of action.  It necessitated another train ride,  never desirable but doable. We would make the final call when we got to Nimes.

In the meantime, we needed to ride to Strasbourg. This entailed a 60KM ride up the Rhine which we'd cross to get into France. Our weather on this day was, well, OK, I guess. We dealt with strong head winds the whole way prompting me to remark that it reminded me of riding along the Swedish  coast. We endured a couple of rain squalls and we slammed face first into several swarms of gnats hatching along the river. Riding during the shoulder season is dicey.

We did enjoy excellent bike paths for 90% of the ride, only occasionally having to ride on 70 kph highways for short distances before getting back on to a dedicated bike path. 

The first part of our journey was pleasant.
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Laura ClarkI think those yellow flowers are mustard. Beautiful!
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3 weeks ago
A marker noting that the bridge we had just crossed was built in the 30s.
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After about 20K  we needed a break and coffee. We struck out in the first little town we visited where the local bakery wasn't going to open for a couple of hours. While we sat outside the bakery trying to decide where to try next, a guy walked by, his preschool boy in tow whom he had just picked up from school. He asked, in halting English, if we needed help. Turns out, this guy and his family were refugees from Albania. He said that nothing was available in this town, but that the Edka grocery store in the next town had a small coffee bar/bakery so we headed there.

Google maps took us on several "goat paths" to this next town which were questionable, but our bikes handle these conditions very well and we eventually arrived at the Edka. Jill went inside to see if we could sit down while I attended to the bikes. The woman at the counter spoke no English, but I was able to place an order and we sat alongside the produce section and enjoyed our coffees and a sweet roll. I took a stroll through the produce section and was impressed with the quality of the vegtables and fruits in such a small town in the middle of rural Germany.

Resting and refreshing in the Edka.
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 Our ride eventually took us along the bank of the Rhine which whose breadth was startling to us after so many kilometers riding along farm land. We suffered riding through a couple of gnat hatches here and given that we fully exposed to the elements, the headwind was more than a bit annoying. I started feeling a bit peckish and about 12Ks from Strasbourg we decided to stop and have the sandwich we prepared back in Rastatt. As you can see from the picture, our vista was a bit uninspiring although the huge BSW steel plan across the river did provide some interesting viewing. Those cranes were huge and traversed along tracks, picking up and depositing recycled metal materials onto conveyors which fed the maw of the gigantic main plant.

Our first view of the Rhine.
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Having lunch along the Rhine watching the steel plant in action.
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We traversed the Rhine for another 10K before crossing it into France. We were both amazed at the transformation from rural, industrial Germany into picturesque France. Suddenly the architecture became much more elegant and less severe. As we rode through the outskirts of Strasbourg, we were struck by how much more cosmopolitan and urbane the city was. We really enjoyed our ride through town and eventually came across our hotel, the Hotel Victoria, which Jill had chosen for its close proximity to the railroad station. We had a 6:45 departure the next day and wanted the commute to be as easy as possible. 

Crossing the Rhine in the rain.
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The hotel was situated on the main boulevard that leads to the station and it was packed with people heading to and from it. I waited outside while Jill went inside to check us in. The hotel was a bare bones place (Jill said it reminded her of the budget places she stayed during her first sabbatical 30 years prior) but they were very accommodating and let us keep our bikes on a stairway landing which partially hindered people coming down the stairs from the second floor rooms. Since we would be leaving at the crack of dawn the next day, Jill chose not to purchase their breakfast but the manager said that we could have something to go anyway for free.  Although a bit spartan and small, the room was clean and met our needs for our short stay.

Our hotel.
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The basic but comfortable room. Note: there was a very nice tub!
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Laura ClarkLike the floral wall mural behind the bed :)
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3 weeks ago
The house bunny which enjoyed full access to the lobby.
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 We walked the short distance to our restaurant and passed a very cool Norwegian outdoor store, Odlo, with which Jill was familiar. There was this nifty looking wind breaker/hoodie in the window that caught my eye so we went inside. I tried the jacket on and told the clerk, "Sold!" I was very proud of my 90 euro acquisition only to learn later over dinner when I looked at the receipt, that this very nice wind breaker didn't cost 90 euros but set us back 219 euros instead! Turns out, the price I originally saw in the window was for a pair of wind pants. Had I been more observant of the price tag, or had I even bothered to review my receipt at the store, I might have changed my mind about getting it. Good thing it is very warm and comfortable. I still smart a bit about my shopping carelessness! (Follow up note from Jill: Dave does have a bad habit of not looking at his credit card receipt when he is signing but in this case I am glad he bought the jacket.  He’s has worn it solidly for the last 3 days and it was a good purchase, however expensive). 

On the way to dinner.
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We enjoyed a lovely casual dinner at Corde le Linge, an Alstation themed restaurant. I had cod (every restaurant in this part of world features cod) and Jill ordered what turned out to be a humongous salad which featured tasty but cold, white sausages which are an Alsace specialty.

Typical cuisine from the Alsace.
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Today's ride: 60 km (37 miles)
Total: 96 km (60 miles)

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