Cycling the Eurovelo along the Rhine (1/2)

This year was different. All travel plans were impacted, and so were ours. So what is more flexible then not planning anything, except for packing your bags and putting them on your bicycle?

With the Eurovelo network of long distance cycling routes in mind we could go any possible direction depending on the weather and the number of covid cases. We started on the Eurovelo 3 from Eupen until we reached the Rhine river after a big day of cycling. From there we followed Eurovelo 15 for multiple days, all the way to Karlsruhe.

Arrival in Mehlem, where Eurovelo 3 joins Eurovelo 15

Figure that for many of our Belgian grandparents, a trip to the Rhine was their first holiday destination. Tourism around the Rhine started as early as 1830.

We followed Eurovelo 3 until Mehlem, and from there we followed Eurovelo 15 for 6 days:

  • Eupen (start)
  • Heimbach
  • Mehlem
  • Koblenz
  • Boppard
  • Oberwesel
  • Mainz
  • Worms
  • Speyer
  • Karlsruhe

We mixed sleeping in campgrounds, camping in the wild and staying in hotels to have a little comfort. The first night we took a camping in the neigborhood of Heimbach, next to a lake. From there we just took on the following rhythm: cycle until we see something interesting or we want to chill. No clear daily goals in mind. Whenever we get tired we either pitch our tent in the bushes or search the internet for a hotel or a campground.

Mehlem with Eurovelo 15 next to the Rhine
One of the many small ferry’s over the Rhine

With so many historic villages, nature reserves and wineries there’s always something to visit or to do wherever you are.

Side branch of the Rhine in Bad Honef

It was incredibly hot almost every day. Whenever we felt like it, we parked the bikes and swam in the Rhine to cool down. We were quite surprised to find proper sand beaches in many places, including naked sunbathers.

In an other occasion, we pitched our tent on the side of a lake. We went swimming in the evening before going to bed, and swam again the next morning to wake up.

We packed our cycling bags with camping gear, some clothes and a good bag of food: nuts, granola, fruits, canned fish, crackers, boiled eggs,… Whenever we passed a restaurant at lunch or dinner time, we would opt for a terrace and a good meal, but whenever there was nothing around we would always have our backup food with us.

Since there’s lots of vineyards along the Rhine, all restaurants have good local wines on the menu.

Most of the route was in nature or passing along smaller villages next to the Rhine, but once in a while we had to cross a big city worth visiting. Koblenz was one of them. Worms, Speyer and Karlsruhe were also totally worth spending a full day, doing some culture and enjoying a decent restaurant. On those days we would only cycle about 2 hours and hit the road in the late afternoon.

Koblenz view from the Ehrenbreitstein fortress

Whenever we were sick of cycling we would lock our bike, leave our bags in a hotel (or tent on a camping) and start walking. In Koblenz the hike up to the Ehrenbreitstein fortress is worth the detour. If you’re lucky you can enjoy one of the concerts with impressive views in the background. If you want to keep it cheap you can also stay in the hostel inside this fortress.

WormsOne of the oldest cities in North-Europe with pre-Roman foundations
Speyer – Another city with Roman history

Since the Eurovelo 15 passes both nature and some interesting historic cities along the Rhine, it allows for a very diverse holiday. If you want to cycle more, you just skip more cities and cruise straight to Switzerland. If you need more relaxing, you go slower and can easily have an interesting place to visit every hour or two.

After a full week of cycling around the Rhine, we chose to change the rhythm and dive into the Black Forest for some cycling in hilly nature. You can read all about it in part 2, the next blogpost.

Culture trip to Marseille by direct train

At the end of September we took the direct train from Brussels to Marseille. In six hours we got from rainy Belgium to this lovely port city. We spent 3 days walking, cycling visiting some museums and hanging around.

Marseille is a Mediterranean city full of different influences. A port city with a rough edge. It feels a bit like Brussels but with better weather. A port city with all of its colourfull aspects: diverse cultures, incredible architecture, beaches, restaurants. We could live here!

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Day 1

On our first day we arrived around lunch and registered for the Velib bike sharing system. It only costs 1 euro for seven days. (30 min for free, same bikes as in Brussels, same way of unlocking etc.)

The direct train we took from Brussels to Marseille was rather pricy at our time of the year, so we paid more than 200 EUR per person going and back. The comfort on the other hand is great: you step into the train in Brussels-Midi with a coffee and a nice breakfast, and you arrive in the center of Marseille by noon.

We checked-in in our Airbnb and started discovering at the Escaliers du Cours Julien. Colourful stairs lead to an arty neighbourhood with nice terraces around a fountain where we had Aperol’s at L’escalié.

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In the meantime we joined the local Youth for Climate strike at L’Ombrière to take some photos of their protest and continued our visit of Marseille.

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Afterwards we spent some time around the Vieux Port, the old harbour. It’s a nice walking neighbourhood, but hotels and restaurants around here tend to be touristy (and more pricy).

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For dinner we just strolled into the backstreets around our airbnb and for convenience picked out a good looking Brasserie (similar to the ones you find all over Paris).

Day 2

A piece of impressive architecture of Le Corbusier is the Cité Radieuse. A very special apartment block designed in 1952 that is still inhabited today, mainly by architecture and art lovers.

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When you visit the inside you can observe how different functions were integrated into one building: a supermarket, bookshop, doctor, school, library, … The apartments are duplex’es that are puzzled as Tetris blocks into the building.

After an extensive visit we took a big cycling and hiking tour: From Cité Radieuse to the (foggy) views from the Notre Dame de La Garde, to the MuCem and to Corniche Kennedy.

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For dinner we went to a place next to the sea at Corniche Kennedy. There is quite some restaurants to pick from, but some tend to be very pricy. We went to Le petit Pavillon – nothing fancy, but views on the sea and good seafood without frills: oysters, grilled fish etc.

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Day 3

Our third day we had breakfast in a nice arty airbnb at La Maison du Petit Canard in the Panier neighbourhood. The location is quite good, so this could be a good option to stay for your full weekend.

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We strolled around the Panier neighbourhood, visited the Cathedral La Major and went to MuCEM for the complete rest of the day: the museum of European and Mediterranean civilisation offers on its own is already worth a trip to Marseille. It has a very diverse range of expositions with art, history and science, multiple restaurants and terraces to read a book, a fortress with gardens and a watchtower with views on the old harbour.

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As in Paris, every first Sunday of the month entrance to the museums is free of charge. We visited multiple expositions, joined for part of a tour in the fortress and had a really good buffet lunch in the restaurant on the top floor.

… and from Marseille we travelled on to Corsica with the night boat of Corsica linea.

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After spending multiple days discovering Marseille we felt we could live there. So who knows in a couple of months or years you can come visit us here in Marseille!

The Sahara in Belgium

Lommel has a piece of nature that has been expanding like a desert and thus  looks like (a tiny piece of) the Sahara. Surrounded by Bosland it is a heaven for cycling or mountainbiking, hiking, horseback riding and hanging around. And if we’re this amazed with cloudy weather, a bit of sun would make it shine even more!

This bit of desert originally appeared in the early 1900’s after sand extraction and a neighboring zinc production plant that made almost all vegetation disappear. The woods were planted afterwerds to stop this piece of desert from expanding. Now it’s a nature park with lots of wildlife.

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Lommel is a 1.5 hour train ride away from Brussels, but the Sahara park is another 15min by bike from the railway station… so taking your bike along certainly makes life easier.

It’s perfect for a weekend away…but camping seems illegal there, so we still need to find a solution for that. You can easily spend a day walking around in the nature park of Sahara and another day cycling around Bosland.

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It’s not all sand. A bridge crosses the canal into different kinds of “Heide” fields, so the hike does not get boring at all.

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The whole Bosland is equiped with cycling lanes like the one below (but also off-road and hiking trails)… so it’s accessible to all, including wheelchairs.

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The watchtower in the Sahara is a must do. We were there in the afternoon on a cloudy day, but next time we want to stay there for sunset. Assured impressive colors and views.

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The artist Will Beckers made multiple installations throughout the woods of Bosland. His purpose is to create art that blends perfectly into nature without using conflicting colors or materials.

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In bosland we did not follow a specific route but started by using the impressively nice cycling lanes through the woods, then ended up on one of the mountainbike parcours… and eventually crossing the woods off-road.

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