CHARLEVILLE-MÉZIÈRES – LE CHESNE: 50 KM

It’s a short day, so we get up a bit later, take our time with breakfast and leave around 9h30. We get turned around leaving town, but once we find the right waterway we’re off. The weather is still stormy and windy and we’re expecting rain, but it’s a beautiful road along the Maas river. There’s birds everywhere, we even spot a marsh warbler singing its heart out in the reeds.

We follow the Maas until the Canal des Ardennes branches off it and follow the valley of the Bar river all the way to Le Chesne. We encounter a friterie just before noon, but optimistically decide to push on and find a bistro or bakery somewhere. However the villages we see along the road are tiny and Google Maps says they have no shops at all, so we eat an extra energy bar and skip lunch.

Both the GPS track and the alternative Google Maps track don’t know the difference between a grassy farmers road and an actual path, so we improvise a bit and follow the D roads between villages. We join the Canal des Ardennes again just as it disappears into a short tunnel. The waterway workers that happen to drive by indicate that the way through the tunnel is without a path, but that you can walk on the grassy banks of the canal and join the D road to the next village after a kilometer or so. The road around is asphalted, but much longer and includes apparently a very steep climb. We decide for adventure instead of work and follow the canal tunnel.

The canal behind it is very pretty and the grassy bank is not too difficult to cycle on, but further up it’s completely blocked by a fallen tree. We unload the bikes and lift everything piece by piece through the leafy branches without accident. We soon drive parallel the road we need to take, but are unable to reach it due to a ditch. We continue through the mud and grass until the next hamlet where we can cross to the comforts of asphalt. Driving through puddles and a rain squall remove most of the mud. There is still a strong head wind but the D roads are pretty quiet, we have a break and a snack by one of the many old roman churches in the area. We decide to take the smaller road via the Etang de Bairon, which turns out to lay in a dip of the land accessible by pretty steep roads. At the end we see the incline was 12%, so I don’t mind that I had to go up on foot.

Le Chesne is a small village, but we’ve reserved the room in the only hotel in the area. It’s still closed for siesta when we arrive around four and we read on a nearby bench until it opens at five. Arne goes to the one shop to get sandwich material: ham, cheese and a tomato and the bakery to get dessert. The room is extremely basic, with a shared toilet in the hallway, but the food in the restaurant is pretty decent.

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