Maastricht to Paris and back

From 27/04/2012 to 06/06/2012

This is a special year for us, it is our 25th anniversary and we wanted to do something special. So after some brainstorming we decided on cycling to Paris. It’s roughly 450kms from Maastricht. In Paris we will meetup with some of our family, and together we’ll check out this beautiful city for several days, before cycling back home.

Day 1 – Maastricht to Deulin, Belgium – 100kms

Got up at 07:00 and were on the road by 08:30. We had a gray sky and a good head wind for the first 25kms or so to Liege, Belgium. We thought of continuing along the river Maas but decided instead to take the smaller river Ourthe just to get out of the strong headwind. The Ourthe being a much smaller and twisting river shielded us from the headwinds and later on the sun even came out. There were a couple stiff hills to get over after the 70km mark and without any training whatsoever they were difficult. The whole ride in general was very good.
The camping here is good, the owners are nice, it has a pretty good kitchen and ice cold Jupiler beer, a perfect combination for a couple of tired cyclists.

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Our traditional first tour picture in front of the house.

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Cycling South along the Albert canal after Vise, Belgium.

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Great cycling paths along the river Ourthe.

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One of the difficult hills after Hamoir, Belgium.

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The long downhill through the woods before Durbuy, Belgium.

Day 2 – Deulin, Belgium to Marienbourg, Belgium – 86kms

We were up at 07:00 and on the road by 08:00. It had rained all night long and we were glad to see our new tent passed the test with flying colors.
After the morning sun burned off all the mist it began to get real nice. Today started with a lot of little hills, nothing difficult but after a couple dozen it began to get tiring. Looking at our map we noticed that there were several green-ways (converted train tracks) in the area and found one heading in the general direction we wanted to go. It was a great ride but it finished in a horseshoe valley and we had a difficult climb to get out off. But again with the uphill comes the downhill and we had a very nice and fast one down to the river Maas at Givet, France.
At Givet we got some supplies and found another green-ways route that goes all the way to Marienbourg, Belgium. I do have to say if anyone finds these types of routes to not pass them up, they are great to ride on.
The camping at Marienbourg is really bad and expensive, *DO NOT GO THERE*, find other accommodations.

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This is the first time we’re using our new tent the Jack Wolfskin Tundra III 2011 model. We were lucky to have found one, as of 2012 they have discontinued it.
Details on our equipment page.

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Taking a breather on one of those long hills.

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Great riding along these empty rural roads. Click to view larger.

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The first green-ways route started just below this chateau.

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We rode next to rivers.

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Through tunnels.

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And after Givet, through wooded areas.

Days 3 – Marienbourg, Belgium to Bosmont sur Serre, France – 90kms

We woke up to a very cold and foggy morning. We just couldn’t get ourselves out of our sleeping bags and finally after two hours we got on the road at 08:30. Our first stop was Gouvin for some supplies than we continued westward along rural roads. By the time we reached Baileux the sky opened along with a strong headwind. The rain only last about an hour but it was enough to soak us through and through. But the wind persisted and as the day progressed it got worst.
Cycling through the Bois de Chimay gave us a little relief from the wind but as soon as we got to open ground it was really bad. When we got to Laon we checked out the train schedule but found it was a two hour wait so we pushed on. Right after Vervins we tried to get on the D51 that goes right into Laon and we found ourselves going over this extremely difficult hill, and about 15kms later we were totally spent.
At Bosmont sur Serre we saw this family leaving their house so asked if there was a place to stay in the village and they said the nearest would be in Laon. So Monique asked if we could pitch our tent in their back yard. They refused but said they owned a field about 200 meter back the way we came and we were welcomed to use it. After checking it out we agreed and we had our first free camping. About an hour later the father came along with a couple of beers some soda water and a Jerry can of water to wash with. That was really nice of him.

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Somewhere between Couvin and Chimay, Belgium.

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Somewhere between Couvin and Chimay, Belgium.

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Entering France on the D34 after Cendron, Belgium.

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On the D741 after Saint Michel, France.

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Having lunch in Bucilly.

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On the D51 between Burelles and Bosmont-sur-Serre.

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On the D51 between Burelles and Bosmont-sur-Serre. The smell from these rapeseed fields was amazing. Click to view larger.

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On the D51 between Burelles and Bosmont-sur-Serre.

Day 4 – Bosmont-sur-Serre to Villers-Cotterets – 100kms

We had a good nights sleep, even though I woke up haring something outside the tent. I didn’t bother to go out and look , probably some animal foraging.
The day started out good. We passed by the house to return the Jerry can, leave a thank you note and a small wooden clog (Dutch shoe). We carry a few to give away as a token of our appreciation.
The weather was a bit calmer today and we made good time into Laon for some supplies. But after Laon the hills started again. Our goal for the day was to get to the river Marne about 120kms but fell short again. In the afternoon the wind and rain returned which made cycling very difficult. So seeing we wouldn’t be making our goal, at the village of Corcy we turned West and headed for Villers-Cotterets where we hoped there would be a camping or hotel.
Well there wasn’t a camping so we ended up at this nice hotel and ended cooking some noodles for diner.

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The field were we camped last night. Near the trees on the left side.

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More rapeseed in full bloom before Laon.

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Laon can just be seen in the distance, center of picture.

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Taking another breather.

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Laon.

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Laon cathedral, zoomed in.

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On the D173 near Ploisy, south of Soissons.

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Bombed/burned out church in Corcy. Must have been impressive before the disaster.

Day 5 – Villers-Cotterets to Paris – 21kms cycled.

We had a bad nights sleep. Don’t know why, the room was comfortable, we just couldn’t get more the 2 hours straight sleep. We just kept waking up every so often.
The rest of the day was perfect though. Overnight we had decided that it would be better if we took the train from here to Paris. It was only 10kms but it wouldn’t be nice to meet up with the rest of the family all worn out.
This morning the hotel receptionist looked up the train schedule for us and found a train that accepts bicycles leaving in one hour. The train ride to Paris Gare du Nord couldn’t go any smoother and from there we cycled the 21kms along the river to the camping were we had rented a chalet a couple of months earlier. It turned out to be the best plan.

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Can’t come to Paris and not take a picture in front of the Eifel tower.

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Drying and airing out our equipment at the camping.

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Having a cold one with our daughter Femke.

Day’s 6, 7 and 8 – Paris

Doing the tourist thing, you know Eifel tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Basilica, Catacombs, Le Pere Lachaise (biggest cemetery in Paris and a few other places.

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Second day in Paris and the weather changed again. But luckily there wasn’t any rain. Femke and her boyfriend Jordy.

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The brave men that took the hard way to the top of the Eifel tower.

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Notre Dome.

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The chalet we rented.

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Had to post one picture of the Louvre.

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Shopping on the Av. des Champs-Elysees.

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Lunch at the Grand Bassin Rond.

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Sacre Coeur.

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In the catacombs.

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Very creepy.

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Le pere Lachaise, Jim Morrison.

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Edith Piaf.

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Maria Callas

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Somewhere in the Bois de Boulogne, between the camping and the metro station.

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Thirsty work being a tourist.

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Really parched.

Day 9 – Paris to Charleville-Meziers – 16kms

Got up just before 07:00. It seems sometime yesterday we caught a bug and this morning we were feeling pretty much under the weather. We were not in any mood to cycle through Paris in this condition. So we changed plans once more. We will take the train to Charleville-Meziers, camp there for the night and we’ll see how we feel tomorrow.
We said our goodbyes to the rest of the gang and headed for the train station at Paris d’ Elst. The train ride to Charleville-Meziers was over 4 hours and cost €70 for the two of us including bikes.
The camping in here is very nice, clean and cheap.

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Leaving beautiful Paris. But not for the last time. Next visit we plan with just the two of us.

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On the way to the train station we passed through this rough looking area where we saw this.

Cay 10 – Charleville-Meziers to Namur, Belgium – 53kms.

Woke up this morning to more rain, actually it rained all night long. Our colds were not getting any better and we felt pretty rough. So we rode back to the train station and got a couple of tickets to Givet which is the last town in France. From there we rode the 50 or so kilometers to Namur and found a room at the Ibis hotel. We had stayed here before on the last night of our 2010 tour.
At night we went out to celebrate our 25th anniversary to a nice restaurant near the hotel. We figured a warm room and a good meal will set us right for tomorrows ride home.

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Along the Maas on the N96 after the border into Belgium.

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On the N96 near Dinant.

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On the N96 near Godinne.

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Our room at the Isis hotel. Highly recommended.

Day 11 – Namur, Belgium to Maastricht – 100kms

We got on the very cold and foggy road by 08:00. We did feel a little bit better this morning. We knew which way to go as we’ve done this ride a couple of times.
The ride along the river Maas to Huy, about 30kms from Namur was nice, flat and car free, but the next 25 or so kilometers, it became a nightmare. We were optimistic that the Belgians would have made some sort of bicycle track through this area but no luck. The next 25kms or so we rode on gravel, next to old and dilapidated factories, got lost in some neighborhoods and just before Liege ended up on a dual carriage way.
Anyone going this way please take the train. From Liege to Maastricht it was OK again.

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Cold and foggy morning just North of Namur.

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Just before Huy.

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By the time we reached Liege and stopped for lunch the sun came out

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On the Albert canal. The white bridge ahead goes to Vise, Belgium.

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Just north of Eijsden, The Netherlands.

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Entering Maastricht.

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Finally home.

Even though the weather wasn’t with us, and we did menage to catch a good cold halfway on this tour, it still was a great ride.
We really enjoyed Paris, and we will definitely go there again, hopefully on our bikes.