La Roche en Ardennes - Vianden - The land of the Belgians and Luxembourgeois - CycleBlaze

March 17, 2011

La Roche en Ardennes - Vianden

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The previous day may have been a washout, but today was an exciting one: I had my longest day yet, over the hilliest terrain, and would cross into Luxembourg. In fact, my plan was actually to cross the tiny country, heading for the charming town of Vianden right on the Eastern border with Germany.

The weather was much improved, if a little overcast and initially misty, but that suited me fine - I knew there might be considerable distance between water stops. My route would take me towards Bertogne, around Bastogne and over the border.

Before I set off I had another explore around La Roche, with the benefit of lack of drizzle.

More of the castle in La Roche
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A big vault
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View over La Roche. It's still a bit misty but you can see a fair bit more
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Rather ornate park by the river in La Roche
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Commemoration of the liberation of La Roche during WWII
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Leaving La Roche I knew I had the most imposing climb of the tour - in 3km I'd need to climb up to 400m, and I'd continue climbing all the way to the border near Bastogne at 530m. It doesn't sound like much now, but I was quite proud of the way I pulled the heavy old bike up these slopes.

The country opened out as I gained height
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Leaving La Roche it was still somewhat hazy
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Interesting old spire. I had to deal with these sorts of gradients for most of the morning
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Disturbing...
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I cycled up here. Some of the roads weren't so minor, but they were all reasonably quiet
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As I pulled over the top near Bastogne, the countryside really opened out: I was leaving the Ardennes. The weather cleared, with only occasional dark clouds blowing across the sky.

As I got near the top of the watershed, the countryside opened out. There were some good dedicated cycle paths, and you can see this area catches the wind.
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Crossing over the highest point near Bastogne with great views down into the cropland
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Occasionally a dark cloud would pass over, making it look quite dramatic
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I took tiny country roads to the North of Bastogne, heading for Michamps and Longvilly, and the Luxembourg border. The roads were so tiny, in fact, that there was no traffic at all and I was somewhat concerned that there would be no indication I was crossing into Luxembourg. Fortunately there was an (extremely battered and shot-up) sign, for the requisite photo.

Crossing into Luxemberg: the Hawk (and I) made it!
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The countryside of Northern Luxembourg proved to be green, rolling and wooded: not as dramatic as the Ardennes, but very attractive. I proceeded towards Derenbach and Wilwerwiltz - the Germanic/Luxembourgish names immediately replaced the French ones.

Typical Luxembourgeois landscape
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Nice meadow
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Everything became really bright and green
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Unfortunately, as I was merrily counting up the kilometres, I hit a snag - a closed road. Now usually closed roads are navigable in one way or another to bikes - but it soon became clear that this was very closed indeed: in fact, the road simply wasn't there any more, the tarmac having been completely dug up. After ten minutes of pushing my bike through mud next to earth-moving equipment, I turned it around and sought another route further to the South.

This added a few more kilometres to my route, but more importantly seemed to be the source of my tyre problems. It wasn't long before I noticed the back one had become flat. I pulled the bike off the road and into the woods, and then began my incredibly inept attempts to fix it. This is probably something I should have been more familiar with before setting off: but at least I had come prepared with a number of replacement tubes, so I didn't have to patch it then and there.

Unfortunately, I was still very uncertain as to whether I had the right size tubes - and decided to check they would fit by partially inflating them and them comparing them to the diameter of the wheel. Of course, as anyone will tell you, an inner tube inflated without the constraint of being inside a tyre assumed enormous and comical proportions. I puzzled as to how I had managed to apparently buy tubes suitable for some kind of gigantic wheel twice the diameter of mine. As I fooled around with the tubes in this way, several villagers passed by, and I greeted them with a cheery "Moien!", the only Luxembourgish phrase I knew. It did seem to go down well though, and distracted from my comical situation.

After having distressed both my replacement tubes completely out of shape, and a lot of swearing, I resorted to patching the existing one. I didn't make a great job of it, as it still was slowly leaking air. Stopping to pump up the tyre every few kilometres, I rather more slowly progressed towards Vianden.

I popped out near the village of Holzthum
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Closing in on Vianden, with my leaking back tube
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The landscape remained very pretty
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The descent down to the valley of Vianden was both exhilarating - losing 300m in a couple of km - and picturesque, as I circled down past the huge chateau that towers over the town.

Vianden Chateau, with the battered Hawk
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A pretty fairy-tale castle
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I cruised down into the town, and found my hotel. They let me stow the poor battered Hawk in their garage, and I left the slow puncture to leak for this evening. I was quite worn out, but had a good meal and a couple of drinks in a strange empty bar that projected old films onto a cavernous space. 

Vianden Town
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Today's ride: 74 km (46 miles)
Total: 454 km (282 miles)

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