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Europe 2013 - Belgium Luxembourg and Eastern France

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Belgium Luxembourg and Eastern France

After arriving at Zeebrugge in the early morning we discovered it was a bank holiday so the roads weren't very busy. We stayed on the main ring road around Bruges and then on a minor road to Kortrijk and on to Tournai (Doornik) for a lunch stop, parking by the canal. After a wander around the old town centre with its attractive main square we drove to the outskirts and our first campsite which we had luckily pre-booked as it was virtually full. The next day we continued south west on the motorway to Mons and across country to Dinant where we found it impossible to park except at the citadel overlooking the town so we just stopped for lunch before heading east to our destination at Durbuy, a popular tourist village with an amazing topiary garden (and an expensive motorhome aire). 

Tournai canal
Canal at Tounai
Topiary garden at Durbuy
Durbuy topiary garden
Durbuy topiary garden


Topiary figures at Durbuy

Hoscheid sonorous instrument
Hoscheid sound device

The next morning we walked around the village and garden then set off on back roads through pleasant hilly farmland to the Luxembourg border where we topped up with cheap fuel and on through smart villages to ACSI campsite in the small town of Troisvierges. The next day was overcast as we took minor roads and a long diversion around Clervaux due to a cycling event, eventually picking up the main road down to Hoscheid where there was a waymarked "sonorous "walk with various musical instruments set up along the paths. The walk turned out to be rather longer and steeper than we expected  through a wooded valley but it was good to get some exercise after three days of driving. We then cut across on minor lanes to Vianden with its imposing chateau overlooking the town centre. We found the rather wet ACSI campsite alongside the river in the town and discovered a free wifi hotspot so were able to catch up on our mail. As the next day was a Monday and most of the town's shops were closed, we drove to the larger regional centre of Diekirch where motorhome parking was restricted except at an aire with paying daytime and overnight parking so we continued via Larochette to Echternach where we found a large car park by the river. Again most of the town was closed but there was a pleasant walk though the riverside gardens where we heard music playing. We discovered it came from a school where they were practicing for the huge procession with thousands of dancers which was due to take place the following Whitsunday weekend. We returned to Vianden for a second night and some route planning for the next few days.
As the weather was still dull we decided to head south into France to do some shopping before reaching Metz. We bypassed Luxembourg city and took the toll free autoroute to Thionville where we found an E Leclerc hypermarket in the large centre commercial. This part of France is built up and industrial so we stayed on the busy autoroute to Metz where we eventually found the aire outside the riverside municipal campsite. As it was full and in a busy carpark we went in to the campsite and paid for a grass pitch, then discovered they had a tarmac motorhome overnight parking area inside the site for almost half the price! Unfortunately the whole of the city centre was being dug up for a new guided trolleybus system so it was rather chaotic. Our intention was to visit the new Pompidou-Metz arts centre which was situated a fair distance across the town in a regeneration area. After visiting the Gothic  cathedral we eventually reached it in warm sunny weather (at last) and found it was closed as it was between exhibitions.

Metz cable chaos
Metz roadworks - cable chaos
Returning to the campsite via the chaos of the city centre we agreed we don't usually do cities so were glad to move on south the next morning when the rain had returned. We headed for a two star sight marked on our old 2010 Michelin road atlas, the Butte de Montsec, overlooking the Lac de Madine. This turned out to be a prominent American War memorial set on a low but strategically important hill where there was a significant battle during the First World War. We hadn't realised that so many US troops had been involved in that war. After a peaceful couple of hours apart from the ever present grass cutter who follows us all around Europe, we drove down through the rural Meuse Valley passing through Domrémy la Pucelle, the birthplace of Jean d'Arc with a large basilica on the hillside and a peaceful overnight stop at the small aire at Certilleux.  Another wet day followed as we drove across the mostly agricultural landscape stopping overnight at the appropriately named industrial town of Gray (but with an old town hall) and then via the small spa town of Salins les Bains to Champagnole and on through hilly and wooded countryside to the Pic de l'Aigle, a rocky viewpoint in the Haut Jura regional park for a lunch stop before reaching the ACSI campsite at La Tour du Meix on the Lac de Voughans to catch up on doing the washing and other domestic chores. The next day took us down the attractive Vallee d'Ain with high cliffs to reach the town of Poncin then on busier roads to Amberieu en Bugey which turned out to be an industrial town and within commuting distance of Lyon, to top up our LPG at the Intermarché hypermarket rather busy as it was a Saturday morning. We continued through several busy built-up areas in the Rhone valley heading for the distant snow topped Chartreuse Massive and after passing more industrial areas around Les Echelles drove up a winding narrow road through the Gorges du Guiers Mort and three tunnels with a 3.8 metre height limit to reach the virtually deserted mountain resort of St Pierre de Chartreuse and a free aire for the night.

Vianden Luxembourg
Vianden Luxembourg 

Metz cathedral
Metz cathedral

Metz Pompidou Centre
Pompidou Metz art centre

Butte de Montsec US war memorial
US WW1 memorial at the Butte de Montsec

Gray Hotel de Ville
Hotel de Ville at Gray

Pic de l'Aigle view from orientation table
Pic de l'Aigle, Haut Jura - view from table d'orientation

 St Pierre de Chartreuse
St Pierre de Chartreuse


Arcabas art gallery St Hugues de Chartreuse       statue St Hugues gallery      Arcabas window St Hugues gallery      Arcabas painting St Hugues
 Museum of Contemporary Religious Art by Arcabas at St Hugues de Chartreuse
The next morning we drove a short distance to St Hugues de Chartreuse to visit the amazing Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, full of strange modern paintings and sculptures by the artist Arcabas. We then drove through dark forests and down a very long and winding road to arrive at Grenoble accompanied by the distinct smell of overheated brakes. The roads here were also being dug up for a new tram system - we came across plenty of public high capital cost projects in France this year. Eventually we found our route south on a short section of free autoroute then across the hills to Gap and Sisteron heading for the Alps and Provence.