Day 33 : I could get used to this

Awake to another sunny day in France!

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Inside le petit château vert it’s jaune

I skipped breakfast at the campsite as I’ve now run out of gas for my stove. So I cycled a bit until I found an open café, and breakfast turned out to be a coffee and a packet of crisps.

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Café crème

I spotted this true French classic rotting in a field.

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2CV6 Special

I cycled past Sancerre with its large south-facing slopes filled with vines.

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I can’t remember where this was taken

Lunch was some pasta in a mushroom sauce which was just a supporting act for the star of the show:

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Lunch WIN

One area that I went through had been transformed with lots of art installations amongst the trees.

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Colourful

Cycling was pretty straightforward today, mainly following the river, and not straying from the Eurovelo route too often.

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The long and winding rue

Hay stacks here are the same as everywhere else and not the kind in Monet’s paintings.

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Hay bales, 2014.

I’m now in chateau country and have seen a few already this afternoon.

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Another château

I reached my destination town around 6pm, and headed what Google maps lead me to believe was a campsite but it turned out to be a shop. My plan B was a campsite 10km away, but as I started heading for that I stumbled across another much closer.

I checked in and set up the tent. There’s a small snack hut here which was open so I had dinner there. Also pleased to report this campsite has loos with toilet seats and toilet paper! Happy days.

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Tente-sur-Loire

Pouilly-sur-Loire to Sully-sur-Loire, 111 km. Total so far = 2,971 km.

Day 32 : Val de Loire

The campsite I stayed at managed to dodge the rain overnight. The crows made a bit of a racket, but all in all a good stay – great welcome by the staff and clean, modern facilities.

Whilst waiting for my campsite patisserie delivery I chatted to an Australian couple heading east on Eurovelo 6. They warned me the trail was pretty rough in the west, so that’s something I’ve got coming.

Good to be back on the proper cycle route, and it was an easy morning’s cycling.

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Pain chocolat – much tastier than porridge

The route was flat and followed a canal that had been built in the 1820s to provide a reliable transport system alongside the Loire.

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Here the canal crosses the Loire

I happened across a place to eat lunch at  lunchtime. Nice. Poached eggs for starters were pretty spectacular tasting! Main course was a salmon parcel with potatoes and ratatouille. And fromage blanc for dessert.

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Les oeufs with an oof

And then more cycling.

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I’ve seen lots of farm machinery on this trip. Old tractors look great.

There was a bit of a headwind but not too bad. Sunny blue skies again. It’s only when I stop that the heat bothers me, so as long as I stop in the shade things work out pretty well.

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La Loire – beautiful

The Loire is a wide gentle river, although there is plenty of capacity all along the route for lots more water, so I imagine it gets big in the springtime.

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I’ll stick with my Brompton, thanks

Tonight I am camping in Pouilly-sur-loire. The campsite is on the edge of a minor channel of la Loire. The camping season is pretty much over and there’s only a few others here. I’ve yet to find a French site that has toilet paper and toilet seats – it’s one or the other.

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Le petit château vert

I’m typing this on the river bank under a clear sky and the fullish moon is just making an appearance – it’s all very nice!

Decize to Pouilly-sur-loire, 101 km. Total so far = 2,860 km.

Day 31 : It’s hot out here

Packed up a dry tent, and set off to re-join the canal. I wasn’t sure where exactly the Eurovelo 6 route was but I made my way along the canal and used my GPS to get me to the destination town.

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Murky green canal

Around lunchtime I came across a cafe in a small village. I asked if I could get a small meal and got a ‘you must me crazy’ look, so we settled on a beer.

But I’ve reached la Loire. In fact today I just touched on it as the roads then took me on a course that was about 1km away from the river, but following its path.

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Ooh la loire

Lunch was at a place that pretended to be posh, but the food and service were average, but I’m glad I found somewhere that was open in time.

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Ah yes – the Citroën BX..

The afternoon was very hot, with clear blue skies, and it was a relief to find a campsite at Decize where they sold ice lollies and refrigerated cola at the reception.

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On the the small island at Decize

I put up the tent then cycled into the town centre to find a shop to buy something light to eat for dinner, and also found a nice bat to have a ‘biere supérieure’, which turned out to be Belgian.

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Une chouffe bière

Back to the campsite for my dinner and admiring  the big skies at sunset, which doesn’t translate to well to the camera.

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Big skies

A murder of crows decided to move a few hundred metres to find a new place to sit. They flew straight over head – I’ve never seen so many together in one place.

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Lots and lots of noisy crows

Shortly after an electrical storm started in the distance. Lightning flashes every minute and distant rumbles. I retired to the tent.

Digoin to Decize, 83 km. Total so far = 2,759 km.

Day 30 : Where is everybody?

The hotel I stayed in was pretty modern with things like an iPod dock and Nespresso coffee machine in the room. Interesting to note the non-Nestlé coffee capsules which made great tasting coffee.

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A French body has made Nestlé remove claims that Nespresso caps have to be used in its machines

I didn’t have any decent map of the Eurovelo 6 route and wasted a bit of time trying to find it – the online route I was looking at didn’t bear much resemblance to reality. So I chose my own route and set off.

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Old industrial works in Monceau

Lots of gentle hills through the countryside in the hot sun. I hardly saw a soul, and very little was open in the small towns I went through, until I reached Gueugnon where I came across one place that was open, and by good fortune, it was a restaurant. Midi served until 2pm it said outside – I checked the time and it was 1:35pm – very good! I ordered some spring rolls, a Thai curry and some white Burgundy. It was all very nice.

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Digoin – a little forlorn

I was heading to a camp site at Digoin which had got good reviews. Digoin was not like the other towns – it had quite a few dusty bars and restaurants open.

And when I had almost reached the campsite there were huge crowds at some kind of fayre.

I checked into the campsite and pitched my tent, then went back to investigate. Entry was free and it was a very large bizarre assemblage of craft sellers, people selling guttering, car manufacturers, sausages, cheeses, wines, wedding planning – you name it, it was here! I took the opportunity to get a snack so I wouldn’t have to make my own dinner, and bought a few craft beers.

I headed back to the campsite and did my laundry, and whilst waiting for the laundry I made good use of the small campsite pool.

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Doing the laundry. My feet have sandal stripes and I have a cyclist’s tan, which I’ve done my best to prevent with sunscreen

Montceau-les-Mines to Digoin, 58 km. Total so far = 2,676 km.

Day 29 : Running out of water

A good night’s sleep, but a clear night, so a tent wet with condensation. Made a coffee, packed up and hit the road.

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Bad choice for a place to sleep, snail

I stopped at a boulangerie and picked up a couple of pain au chocolats, here labelled ‘croissants chocolat’, and stuck them in my bag. The woman being served ahead of me ordered 30 baguettes!

Shortly after finding the boulangerie I found a cafe and had un petit café crème, then rejoined the canal path.

There’s a strange ticking noise coming from the bike and I can’t figure out what’s causing it. Approx one tick per wheel revolution but only when I’m riding so difficult to troubleshoot. The bike needs a good clean, but I think the issue might be from inside the rear hub as I can’t see anything causing any fouling.

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Two rivers become one

I ate my croissants at 12pm only to then 10 minutes later pass through a village with lots of open restaurants which I skipped as I was no longer hungry.

It wasn’t long until I realised I’d left the campsite having filled just one water bottle, having used the other for dinner the previous evening.

On a non-sunny day this wouldn’t have been a problem, but today the sun was out in full effect, and with no shops open I ran out of water an hour before reaching my ‘lunch’ town.

When I arrived at Chalon-sur-Saône, all I could find were diy superstores. It hadn’t yet got to the stage of knocking on someone’s door, but I did have that as an option. I headed for the town centre in search of somewhere that sold water. As I headed into town, so did a convoy of about 25 cars celebrating a wedding, beeping their horns. I had a splitting headache!

I came across a vending machine and got a large cold coke which went down very nicely. I then found a place to get lunch, but the kitchens were closed. I got a beer instead. I found somewhere that sold sandwiches and stuck it in my bag for later use and headed off. Feeling better I also picked up another coke and a large bottle of water.

I’m not interested in coming back to this town! I couldn’t see any campsites nearby and my attempt at a warm showers night drew no response, so I booked a discounted hotel at Montceau-les-Mines and set off for that.

It took a while to find a suitable route to get out of the town as my original route suggested by google and garmin tried to take me down a busy road which I don’t think was suitable for a bike.

All morning the landscape had been flat, but in the afternoon this changed to hills. This is the Bourgogne region and the land I cycled through was filled with 3 feet high vineyards.

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Vines to the horizon

The hills were hard work!

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The long and winding road

No time to check out the town, I headed straight for the hotel.

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Had to stop to take a picture of these yellows at sunset! Moon is in the pic too..

Once I’d checked in and had a shower I went back down to the restaurant. It was a tough day so I had starter, main and cheese courses 🙂

Too tired to explore the town on foot I headed back to my room to discover a Stones documentary I hadn’t seen was being shown in English with French subtitles, so that was a good end to the day.

Saint-Usage to Montceau-les-Mines, 141 km. Total so far = 2,618 km.

Day 28 : Heading Ouest

A comfy night’s rest and up earlyish. Sent on my way with a couple of organic cereal bars and a fruit juice. And borrowed their track pump to get my tyres up to ‘hard boiled’.

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Ai, 50% of my fab hosting team

Besançon is a really interesting town, so I spent a bit of time wandering around. I started by finding a cafe to have a small coffee at the counter, local style!

They’ve only very recently introduced trams. Here’s one going past the cafe I was at.

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One of the new trams. The previous day someone had got hit by one of them.

It has a citadel at the top of the town.

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The citadel is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site

Film buffs may recognise the town as being the birthplace of the Lumière brothers. In fact they were born in this house:

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Birthplace of the Lumière brothers

And just half a century earlier, 20 meters away on the other side of the square, Victor Hugo was born in this house:

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Birthplace of the excellent Victor Hugo

It’s a large and interesting town. I reckon I could spend some holiday time here very happily. I’d never heard of it before and it’s a great discovery for me.

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A tiny part of Besançon

Then back onto the river path. I had lunch at a small village restaurant. Pâté starter, fish in white sauce with ratatouille and rice, then a cheese course. Served with a small carafe of wine and a bottle of chilled water for €13.

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Another river picture. Nice though, ain’t it..

I cycled on in very nice weather until I felt I’d done enough miles and spotted a campsite.

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No doubting which swan is in charge here

The campsite was pretty basic again – a place to pitch my tent, and use of the shower block and outdoor sinks. Although this one had toilet seats and toilet paper in the cubicle, which was a nice touch..

I got attacked by mosquitoes whilst bending all my tent pegs trying to get more than an inch of peg in the ground before hitting rock. Some mossies paid attention to the Jungle Formula repellant, the others were sadly terminated upon detection.

For dinner I cooked the mozzarella ravioli that had been sitting in my bag for a day. Early night, but due to a covers band playing an outdoor gig 500m away along the river I didn’t get to sleep until late. The bit at the end of Roxanne which repeats ‘put on the red light’ was very amusing as the timing was completely off. There wasn’t any clapping or cheering at the end of any of the songs. More practice perhaps.

Saw a big snake today. Ran away before I could take a pic, soz!

And I’m heading west to the Atlantic coast, because, why not?

Besançon to Saint-Usage, 97 km. Total so far = 2,477 km.

Day 27 : Taking a warm shower

There was no condensation on the tent in the morning, so I had the satisfaction of packing away a dry tent today.

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Getting ready to leave

The campsite was right next to the canal path so it didn’t take long to re-join the Eurovelo 6 route heading west.

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Painted lines on the cycle path – very organised

The path is straight and well-maintained which made for quick progress. There weren’t many boats on the he canal – possibly because there are so many locks – which also meant I was going uphill.

Lunchtime approached as I approached Montbéliard. I saw it as no coincidence, so headed into the town centre to find something substantial to eat.

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Big lunch – lots of kms to go

The path switched over to following the river ‘Le Doubs’ – a slow, meandering river which cut its way through the hills that were now appearing.

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I saw lots of fish in the clear river

Another fine day. The scenery reminded me of Scotland in terms of how clear everything looks.

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Big hills! Luckily I was following the river.

For my evening’s accommodation, I used the warm showers website to find board for the night, as kindly recommended by a reader of this blog. Yesterday I searched the area Besançon to find a host, got in touch and arranged my arrival time.

I had a very pleasant evening with my really nice hosts, Adrien and Ai, who are passionate about cycling, and are experienced tourers. They even have a Brompton in their bicycle arsenal. They also very kindly made me dinner. A huge thanks to them and a big thumbs up for the warm showers concept!

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Poppies I cycled past today

Mulhouse to Besançon, 155 km. Total so far = 2,380 km.

Day 26 : Je suis arrivé en France

Leaving the campsite earlyish I followed the Rhein cycle path which closely followed the river.

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Some grebes on the Rhein

The Rhein has a nice green colour and has small eddies and whirlpools all the way along.

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Swirlpools

This old covered wooden bridge was one of the many bridges (over to Switzerland) along the way. It had a nice old wooden smell to it!

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Wooden bridge – would probably float if it broke

And I spotted another building with chevron shutters. It must mean something.

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Chevrons

A large section of the path was sponsored by an energy company who had placed  ‘learning spots’ along the river. The building below for example housed a turbine from an old hydro electric dam over the river.

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Turbine house

At one stage my bike developed a problem. All of a sudden I was unable to turn the pedals round. I coasted to a halt and propped the bike against a lamp-post to take a look.

The chain had come across too far on the derailleur and was jammed against the pannier rack support:

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Yes, it needs a clean

I got out my tools and levered the chain back out. All was well and no damage done.

Pedalling on I soon came across some Roman sights in Switzerland:

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Under floor heating system

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Mosaics

Later on I arrived in Basel. I saw a poster that claimed ‘One Basel’, but I saw several. As I rode in it seemed quite nice and arty, which then soon turned into upmarket high street shopping. After I crossed a bridge it was markedly less well off. The spike in the river marks the spot that Germany, Switzerland and France meet:

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Undramatic meeting of countries

When I crossed the river into France, things at once seemed elegant and relaxed so I took the opportunity to get acquainted with the cuisine.

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A taste of France

I then joined Eurovelo 6 cycle route which happened to be going my way along the Rhone canal.

One long (30 min cycle) section of the path had the solar system bodies placed proportionally apart which was nice I thought.

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Neptune (at the top)

The canal path was easy cycling.

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Rhone canal path

I headed for a campsite in Mulhouse. Mulhouse itself seemed OK. I’m pretty sure I was the only tourist in the town centre though.

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Mulhouse town hall

No restaurant at the campsite, so a 5 min pot noodke and cheese sandwich for dinner.

Waldshut-Tiengen to Mulhouse, 119 km. Total so far = 2,225 km.

Day 25 : Do I smell yet?

I’ve got a bit of a routine going with the camping thing now. Had my shower, porridge and coffee, chatted to the caravaners in Germglish and packed up my wet tent and set out at 9am.

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The packing up process

Weather started off grey but had long sunny periods later.

I’m now heading west, bound for France.

I am wearing regular sandals for this trip. They may be less efficient than clipless shoes, but I’m not trying to set any records here and when I get off the bike it’s nice to be in normal footwear. Also when it rains, my feet get a wash, and the sandals dry out pretty quickly.

I mention this as they have started to smell a bit. All the constant wet and dry action I bet. So I took a quick look online and people recommend wearing socks with sandals. I know! So today, whilst still in Germany, I gave it a go. To be honest I don’t see what the fuss is about, and missed the sight of my toes which have never known such freedom as on this tour.

Anyhow heading west meant I crossed over into Switzerland a few times. The cycle routes weren’t as well signposted, and there were less German cars, but other than that things were pretty much the same.

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Heading into Switzerland! Most border crossings were not this dramatic

I also encountered and followed the Rhein on and off. It’s a big, beautiful river.

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The Rhein – a very nice colour which doesn’t show in this pic. Soz.

I took a detour to visit the Rheinfalls, an impressive waterfall.

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Rheinfalls. You can get to one of the islands in the middle if you don’t have a bike.

And one more painted fire hydrant for my collection:

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Bizarre open jacket and brown crop top

My route was a bit snakey, no longer having a proper cycle path to follow. Anyhow it took me to a small town, Klettgau. I headed for the church because I fancied a sit down (churches always provide benches as well as, in Germany, telling the time), and the church was a modern design, built in 1964, but done really nicely in my humble opinion.

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Nice.

Here’s the detail of the door handles.

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Not garish and tacky in real life

Also spotted on route, this novel use for 6 bales of hay:

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Enough to scare the crows

Headed to a campsite in Germany for the night (so I can pay in Euros). It’s right on the Rhein. I also managed to find a supermarket so I had a meal on my stove, and now am free to finish my Zeppelin mag!

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View of the Rhein from the campsite

Wahlwies to Waldshut-Tiengen, 109km. Total so far = 2,106 km.

Day 24 : Along the Bodensee coast road

I saw this picture in the hotel yesterday from times when one could land one’s plane in Lindau harbour. Looks like he’s just landed as he’s still in the cockpit. Also note the car heading out to sea.

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Snow day

I’m pleased to report that the rain stopped sometime during the night and I awoke to a bright day. I made the most of the continental breakfast at the hotel then pootled around the island, before taking the coast road out.

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View across Bodensee – that will be Switzerland in the distance

I found a bike shop and picked up a cheap pair of gloves. Not as much padding as the ones I had, but they will do. Even from just one day with no gloves my hands are sore. So gloves, for me at least, are an essential piece of kit.

Bodensee is famous for its apples. I cycled past lots of apple, pear and plum orchards today. I bought a kilo of local apples from a roadside kiosk, which will come in handy I’m sure.

It’s quite compelling to grab small opportunities like this when they arise. I have to travel light and enjoy taking the odd serviette, complimentary hotel toiletries etc for the journey ahead.

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Apple orchard

I stopped off at a backerei in Friedrichshafen at lunchtime for a sandwich and coffee. Friedrichshafen houses a Zeppelin museum, since the original Zeppelin airships were developed here. Count Zeppelin is from Constance – a big town on the other side of Bodensee, which also gives it its English name Lake Constance.

Despite being very interested in visiting, I didn’t fancy leaving the bike and my tour belongings outside whilst I disappeared for three hours, so instead I popped into the museum shop and bought the comprehensive guide in English, which is tonight’s reading.

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Zeppelin museum and child’s playground

The Zeppelin is referenced everywhere here from sculptures:

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Zeppelin water feature

Through blimps..

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The blimp is on the right. My thumb is on the left.

To guesthouses.. Graf Zeppelin aka LZ 127 circumnavigated the world (can you tell I’ve been reading the guidebook?)..

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Sadly no references to the band anywhere

Navigation was easy today. I just followed the signs and kept the lake to my left. I happened across this mermaid painted hydrant which is a good match for the one last week.

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Mermaid fire hydrant

Also grown here are grapes for wine, a glass of which I had last night with my dinner 🙂

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A cool photo of a vineyard huh

At an appropriate point in the afternoon I set my satnav to find a campsite and left the coastal path. Navigation immediately took me up a long and steep hill, then onto what I think were logging roads through forest for about 3km. Tracks were rough going in places. Thanks Garmin!

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This bit of track was OK. The last bit was downhill over very rough track and I was barely able to stop the bike. In equal measures enjoyable and terrifying.

Campsite just had enough room for a small tent fortunately. They didn’t have a shop, but they did offer pizza, which, after 80km of pushing my heavy bike around was once again very welcome.

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House pizza

Lindau to Wahlwies, 82 km. Total so far = 1,997 km.