When Things Don’t Go Smoothly on a DIY Cycling Trip: Wissembourg to Strasbourg

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Wissembourg in Alsace, France

For those following our do-it-yourself (DIY) cycling trip in Germany/France you’ll know that things have gone very smoothly. We managed to find fantastic last minute accommodations and arrive in towns just in time for local wine festivals; we never got lost and didn’t have even the slightest too-much-travel-time-together-blowup. Well, that all changed just as we entered France (not the country’s fault). The roughly 100 km stretch between the lovely cites of Wissembourg and Strasbourg had us struggling to find the cycle path and a place to sleep. There were tears and angry outbursts—not our finest hours. In the end, all turned out OK. It taught us some lessons and reinforced that the kindness of strangers is alive and well.

Lesson #1: Go to tourist information before lingering over tarte flambée

From the Deutsche Weinstrasse, where we had spent the previous evening partying at a wine festival in Oberotterbach, we cycle a mere 10 km before stopping in Wissembourg, a pretty Alsatian town just across the French border. It’s Saturday and the weekend market is in full swing. We buy fruit, we sip coffee in the sunshine, we wander along the flower-lined canals, we eat tarte flambée (a marvellous pizza-like concoction made with crème fraîche) and we lose track of time. When we go to tourist information, just after 2 pm to inquire about cycle routes and maps for this leg of the trip, it has closed for the day.

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Wissembourg, northern Alsace, France

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Wandering along the canals in Wissembourg

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Cafés line Wissembourg’s market square with Église Saints-Pierre-et-Paul towering above.

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Oblivious to the time, eating tarte flambée in Wissembourg

Lesson #2: You’re on the same team—play nice

Our plan is to ride about halfway to Strasbourg. How difficult could it be? We ride off looking for signs. I want to go one way, Mike wants to go the other way. We’re both on edge now, realizing we’ve started out late and have nothing booked for the night. We argue and second guess ourselves and each other; it’s not a pretty scene. We ask people for directions. They’re all very kind and try to be helpful with “make a rechts (right) here, a links (left) there,” but they don’t sound confident. I’m feeling the pressure of being the German speaker who has to remember the convoluted instructions while Mike just stands there. Thankfully, many folks speak German in this part of France. None of the instructions pan out, or I choose not to follow them, which irks Mike to no end.

Lesson #3: Trust the Lycra-clad guy, he knows the bike routes

We spot a guy in Lycra bike garb. Surely he’d know. Finally, after an hour of false starts, we ride out of Wissembourg, east to Lauterbourg and onto the EuroVelo 15, a long-distance, mostly car-free cycle route along the Rhine River Valley. We have no photos of this part of the journey. We are still cranky, and the scenery, while pleasant enough is not inspiring me.

 

 

Lesson #4: Know the local holidays and prebook if you want a room in the inn

The bike path travels through flat, agricultural land; towns are small and few. We decide to veer up to regional road D468 where there might be more accommodations. We ride from one sleepy town to the next. They all looked deserted but every guesthouse we stop at is completely booked. By 6:30 we’re really panicy. In the village of Roppenheim we stop at a cute-looking auberge/restaurant that is packed to the rafters and smells divine. They have no vacancy but the owner tells us to try two neighbouring places. I’m already getting excited about returning for dinner.

Nathalie, the owner of Hotel La Boheme, just across the street from the yummy smelling restaurant, sees the stress on my face. She explains that Saturday night is always busy and especially today when German visitors are taking extra vacation time around the German Reunification Day holiday (October 3). She kindly offers to phone a few places for us. I’m so grateful. She strikes out at three places in neighbouring villages. Finally, on the fifth call, she finds one available room in the town of Sessenheim, about 10 km away. I’m elated and gush out mercis, danke schönes and thank yous.

Lesson #5: All is forgotten and forgiven over tarte flambée (and more riesling)

2009_jtht_517_hqWe arrive at the Hotel Croix d’Or after dark. A menacing German Shepard on a thick metal chain bounds toward us as we try and park our bikes. The human reception is more friendly and we’re ushered up an old staircase to a room that is in dire need of an update—but who cares, we’re happy just to have a bed. The whole place looks worn out so it’s a shock when we open the door to the attached restaurant. The bright, cavernous room is packed and buzzing with energy. Locals and visitors are here for tarte flambée night (the only thing on the Saturday menu). The owner has kindly set aside a small table for us. It’s not a hardship having tarte flambée twice in a day. The kitchen is cranking them out at dizzying speeds—there’s plain, ham, mushroom and even a dessert variety with apples and cinnamon.  It’s amazing how quickly our stress disappears.

Lesson #6: Take photos when things don’t go smoothly—it will improve your blog post 

rhine cycle route 2The morning gets off to a poor start when Mike and I have an argument about the best route to Strasbourg. Clearly, yesterday’s lesson #2 has not sunk in. Mike wants to use an app he’s downloaded, I want to follow the main road and the hotel owner is giving us another set of directions to get back on EuroVelo15. To keep the peace, I grudgingly agree to follow the app. It takes us on quiet roads below the Rhine dykes (we rarely see the river). All is well until there’s a fence. The app tells us to keep going. We haul our bikes up an embankment and through a break in the fence.  Things are well again until the road changes to rough gravel. The app tells us to keep going. We rattle our way across the challenging surface. I’m not amused but I take solace in knowing that with the Rhine to our left we’re still going the right direction. Thinking back at it, the whole thing was pretty funny. Why didn’t I take photos!? Finally, we reconnect with the EuroVelo 15 and have a pleasant ride the remainder of the way to Strasbourg. We have made reservations there. At least we’ve learned something!

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Cycling into beautiful Strasbourg

Strasbourg is glorious. I love it. It’s going to get a post of its own.

PS: Don’t let this post scare you off cycling the EuroVelo 15. The majority of people don’t have any route finding difficulties. One post I read stated, “it’s almost impossible to get lost.” That’s embarrassing. I think we’ll just blame it on the complacency instilled by our luck and ease in the previous three weeks, and perhaps a wee bit too much wine.

Posts on previous cycling segments:

The Rhine from Bingen to Koblenz

The Mosel from Koblenz to Trier

The Saar from Trier to Saarbrücken

The Deutsche Weinstraße

 

Categories: Activities, Biking, Germany | Tags: , , , , | 31 Comments

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31 thoughts on “When Things Don’t Go Smoothly on a DIY Cycling Trip: Wissembourg to Strasbourg

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  3. Well, you definitely made the best of a stressful situation. I can see why the tarte flambee lifted your spirits! Also, I think I would linger too long in those cute villages too; I can’t get over the architecture and the flowers!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh it’s beautiful! Last summer I cycled from north to south of France and was perpetually lost!! Katie

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’d say you made it pretty far into the trip before the matrimonial route-planning argument! We sometimes get to that point on the way to dinner in our home city! 🙂 Then, like you, we allow some good food and a nice beer or wine sand that edge back off! I loved this post; it’s funny, relatable and well-written. Lest you think I have only focused on the mishaps, I’ll also rave about the photos you did take – the street and canal shots in Wissembourg are utterly charming.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Lexie! I’m glad that most of our arguments can be diffused with food and drink. I’m afraid that with the light-hearted narrative focussed on our difficulties, I short-changed this region a bit. Wissembourg is indeed a charming town and far less touristy than towns further south on the Alsatian Wine Route.In retrospect, we should have explored the Vosges du Nord Park west of Wissembourg and then taken the train to Strasbourg. Live and learn!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Brian Foster

      Agree. Beautifully written. Beautifully photographed. Wonderfully relatable.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Caroline, I smiled at your comment that it wasn’t France’s fault that things didn’t go well when you and Mike crossed over from Germany. And I’m glad the arguing didn’t last too long and you eventually found a place to sleep that night. The other day Bama asked me out of the blue if I remembered what we were arguing about on our six-month trip back in 2015. Reading his earlier comment, I now know why!

    I don’t recall the specifics, but it came at the absolute low point when we were both sick and sleep-deprived (the latter because of a host who didn’t allow either of us to use the A/C even though it was hot and humid). We were, at my father’s behest, staying with a retired colleague of his who turned out to be an angry, toxic, and racist man who made many snide comments directed at Bama. Things got so bad Bama actually threatened (without raising his voice) to fly back to Jakarta and end the trip right then and there – even though we were only halfway through. Hearing that shocked me so much I immediately climbed down and acquiesced to whatever it was that he was arguing for. In hindsight, I guess it was pretty remarkable that we only argued that one time in Sri Lanka and another time in India. Otherwise our stays in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Nepal were all pretty smooth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing this story James. I totally get how unpleasant travel situations like being sick, sleep deprived and then having to deal with a horrible person can ignite arguments. It takes much less than this for Mike and me 😂! I’m surprised that Bama was able to hold it together and not raise his voice. You assessed the situation well. If you hadn’t acquiesced things might have turned out very differently. It appears that you both have calm, rational demeanors that undoubtedly serve you well while traveling (and other times). I’m glad that you guys were able to weather this and enjoy the rest of your trip.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ha ha ha. Travel can be hard work and it looks like it can be even tougher on bikes. Great photos. Entertaining post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mike Hohmann

    I too have similar stories… Or should I say, we too have similar stories… as do others as witnessed above. It’s common, and I find it reassuring… we’re not the only ones experiencing difficulties on a trip or two. Arguments and forgotten reasons in hindsight! Thanks for sharing, Caroline.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think it’s inevitable to have an argument with your travel partner at one point of a travel, especially if it’s a long one. I remember having a very serious argument with James when we were doing the six-month trip across Southeast and South Asia in 2015. I don’t remember what it was all about, though. I’m glad things worked out well for you in the end!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You just made me think of my own six month SE Asia trip with my sister and a good friend from Switzerland. With so much time together, little things just became annoying sometimes. We split apart a few times to travel on our own for short stints and that helped. Thankfully we have remained best of buddies. Good to hear you guys weathered the brief storm too.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Love this post Caroline. It made me smile. Oh not at your difficulties, which I have no doubt were very stressful at the time, but about how Don and I can do the same kind of thing – arguing about the best way to go. And smiling also at the bit about remembering to take photos for the blog. Chuckle. If only I could forget from time to time. Still, as always you guys found your way, found good food, good wine, a bed for the night, and a good story to tell afterwards. And overall this cycling trip sounds as if it was really amazing despite a couple of difficult times.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad I gave you a chuckle Alison. As Bama mentioned above, I think these difficulties are inevitable when you travel. Our bike trip was absolutely amazing and a good learning/letting-go experience, especially for me who usually tends toward over-planning. I’m quite hard on myself when things don’t go smoothly. It’s reassuring to hear that you and Don also argue about the best way to go!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sounds familiar!! Great, entertaining story.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Anonymous

    What a fantastic story. Can place ourselves in every bit other than the bicycling part; substitute walking/public transport. I tend to get neurotic about arranging details before hand which affects the joy of spontaneity but reduces the paranoia elements. All travellers have walked in your path at some stage but haven’t described it with the humour and insight you have. Going through some of it ourselves right now in Indonesia. Where’s the tarte flambé and reisling?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Brian! I’m still trying to find that perfect balance between planning and spontaneity. Like you, I tend towards being a detail person when it comes to travel planning. This trip was a perfect opportunity for me to “practice” spontaneity…an easy place to travel with good infrastructure where I know the language. Bottom line, I think you just have to travel in a way that’s comfortable for you and perhaps challenge yourself a bit here and there. I look forward to hearing about your adventures in Indonesia. We’re off to Sri Lanka in March.

      Like

      • Brian Foster

        Haven’t been there but Barb’s brother and wife have and loved it. Will look forward to your take. Where have you been in India? They say Sri is quite different from there. More peaceful.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Never been to India, but would love to go (maybe next year). I’m more keen than Mike.

          Like

          • Brian Foster

            Been twice. North and south are completely different. He’ d probably love the south but not the north. Our one trip remains our favourite of all our trips. At one stage if you like we can talk. I’ll try to be persuasive to Mike on your behalf; nod nod, wink wink.

            Liked by 1 person

  13. Uncool Cycling Club

    It’s reassuring to also read about when things aren’t perfect 😎

    Liked by 2 people

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