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  1. #1
    Velocipedic Practitioner
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    Ardennes Tour Report

    I recently returned from a solo tour in Europe, primarily in the Ardennes region of Belgium and Luxembourg and thought I would share a brief summary of my experience should anyone here be contemplating something similar.

    Most of you probably know the Ardennes was the scene of bitter fighting during the winter of 1944/45 as the Germans launched a winter offensive which came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. My father was a combat infantryman at the time and a veteran of that battle. He rarely spoke of his combat experiences and generally politely deflected my childhood inquiries about what he did in the war. He began to open up a little during the last years of his life, but I never truly sensed he shared everything. But what he did share helped me understand why he never seemed keen on reliving it.

    For this year's tour, I decided to explore the Ardennes region and visit some of the battle's more notable sites with a focus on those particular areas where my dad participated. This tour was largely one where I spent a lot of time off the bike and exploring museums, battlefields and villages. In other words, this was a learning experience with a bike ride thrown in on the side. On most days, my mileage was under 50 miles to allow me the time I needed for these off bike experiences.

    From a bicycle touring perspective, the Ardennes is a lovely region. There was an abundance of scenic vistas. Much of my self selected route was along bike only paths or very low traffic rural roads amid lush green forest and farmsteads. There were a few difficult climbs, but they were more than made up for with incredibly beautiful scenery. I never had any difficulty locating a place to stay the night, though prices seem a little steep. Of course, this is a vacation area and it was early summer, so I guess the pricing is to be expected. I received a very friendly welcome everywhere I stayed and they were all accommodating in finding a place to keep my bike safe and dry at night.

    I eventually made my way to Luxembourg City where I stayed a couple of days. Luxembourg City is simply beautiful and I highly recommend it for a stay. While I was there, they kicked off the Tour of Luxembourg with the time trial prologue. It was a thrill seeing some of the teams and riders I've often associated with the Tour de France, including Mr. Armstrong himself.

    It is much easier to return home from Paris than Luxembourg, so I made arrangements to visit Paris for a couple of days prior to my flight back to the States. The TGV high-speed train that runs between Luxembourg and Paris is one of the most recently established routes. Unlike many TGV routes where taking a bike can be difficult, the Luxembourg route accepts unboxed bikes. One of the passenger carriages is divided into first and second class accommodations. The second class section occupies about 1/3 of the carriage and it is here where bikes are stored for the trip. There are tie downs in the carriage to secure your bike and your reserved seat will be almost within arms reach of your bike. Be aware that you MUST have advance reservations for your bike. There are only a few spaces available, but I made my arrangements on the Tuesday afternoon prior to my Thursday morning departure and had no problems.

    In Paris, I visited an english speaking bike shop and had them box my bike. The cost was 20euros, which I considered a bargain since I was able to spend my limited time enjoying the city instead of looking for a box and doing the packing myself.

    The airport experience at Charles De Gaulle was not too bad. I had no problem with the boxed bike. It cost $100 but I was aware of that ahead of time so the fee came as no surprise. However, it took 20 minutes and four airline staff people to try and determine how much to charge for the full pannier I was checking separately. No one could agree on anything so they finally let me on the plane without charging for the pannier.

    That's it in a nutshell. If anyone would like extra detail, feel free to send me a pm and I'll respond at the first opportunity.
    Other forms of transportation grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart. - Iris Murdoch

  2. #2
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    Thank you very much for your report. I'd be very intererested in seeing a general map of your route if you could post it online (or pm me if you'd like).

    Two of my dream tours are to (1) follow the Western Front of WWI from Flanders through northern France all the way to Verdun and (2) the Ardennes region that you visited (my father in law served in the area in WWII).

    There is plenty of information available online on how to tour the historic sites in these regions by car, but not much by bike (at least in English); I think most bike tourists head for regions further south. I have a "DIY" bike tour of the Western front about 1/2 planned, but still searching for time to do it....I see a lot of online advice (directed at Americans, largely) that advises avoiding northern France for a bike tour but when I've driven through by car a couple of times I remember it as reasonably pleasant countryside -- rolling hills, nice little towns, etc. The Champagne region, in particular, is close to where many of the American WWI sites are and I recall it as pretty nice.

    In any case, in the process of planning my little Western Front tour I realized I could just head north from Verdun into the Ardennes and I'd have a whole 'nother area to explore, which is why your post caught my eye...

    I liked your post because I've often thought that touring these areas by bike would be perfect. We visited the Normandy area by car several years ago and there is so much to see that you just can't stop everywhere you want to when traveling by car. Somehow traveling by bike I imagine it's quicker/easier to hop off the bike and read the roadside markers and plaques, or just duck into a little village museum you would blow by in a car.

  3. #3
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Never good at planning.
    91 landed at AMS, rode to Zandvoort, camped there, and jet lag went away next AM headed south across the delta Works to Brugge .
    Met someone at YH there who told me about Ypres Cat Festival , and as I was biking she was Back packing ,

    we met up again at Kortrijk YH [Belgian and NL hostels have beer served in house] there we met a fellow who lived in Ypres,
    and worked at Landscape maintenance for the British War graves Commission, and he put us both up in his house .

    Ypres a major city in the middle ages, was leveled in 'the great war', so the whole thing is largely a reconstruction.

    spent some time in the Passendale sites, and took a excursion with my new friend to Kimmel near the border

    Ghent Wevelgem race takes a double helping of the Kimmelberg at the end miles of the race route.

    after going out to the North Sea shore 1st. the Kimmelberg is like a peaked roof of rounded stones.

    at the end of a long loop through Britain, southern Norway Denmark Poland CZ Austria Germany
    reentered Belgium via Strasbourg and Luxembourg ..

    Happened to have a route that took me down the finish line of the Spa-Francorchamp GP course

    should , in retrospect have gone around the whole thing , in the rest of the weeks it's public roads.

    Dropped in to Ypres to say Hello again , then went thru a shortcut Kortrijk/Wevelgem, there is a Navigational canal connecting Ghent a casual afternoon ride , and on to Antwerp. then back to AMS and fly out.

    AMS/Shiphol is a great arrival point, as the people who work at the airport use the fietspads to get to work
    and so a ride away from the airport when the bike is reassembled is easy.
    KLM has a wheels [racks mudguards etc.] on sized box to sell you to pack your bike into for departure .

    Want to take the train to the start of your trip? , It's in the lower level directly beneath the airport building.

  4. #4
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    Cycling along the Western Front of World War I

    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    ... (1) follow the Western Front of WWI from Flanders through northern France all the way to Verdun ...
    You've seen already this Battle Map in four languages at 14,95 euro?
    Battle Map / Frontkaart / Carte du Front / Frontkarte 1914-1918 and it's web application? It covers only the Belgian part of the Western Front Zone but to be honest, if you want to see all of it, you need a few days at least!
    If interested in staying close to canals and old railway tracks, this is a track that brings you from Comines/Wervik to Ypres, Veurne, Diksmuide and Nieuwpoort along the Yser, the Ieperlee Canal, the Palingbeek, the Nieuwpoort-Dunkirk Canal, the Lovaart and the railway track between Nieuwpoort and Diksmuide: http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path...rne-Nieuwpoort
    59 cycle tracks along towpaths of rivers and canals and on former railway tracks in Belgium, and along the border regions of France, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg with Belgium>> http://www.bikely.com/listpaths/by/fietslogies

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietslogies View Post
    You've seen already this Battle Map in four languages at 14,95 euro?
    Battle Map / Frontkaart / Carte du Front / Frontkarte 1914-1918 and it's web application? It covers only the Belgian part of the Western Front Zone but to be honest, if you want to see all of it, you need a few days at least!
    If interested in staying close to canals and old railway tracks, this is a track that brings you from Comines/Wervik to Ypres, Veurne, Diksmuide and Nieuwpoort along the Yser, the Ieperlee Canal, the Palingbeek, the Nieuwpoort-Dunkirk Canal, the Lovaart and the railway track between Nieuwpoort and Diksmuide: http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path...rne-Nieuwpoort
    thanks! these are helpful.

    My original plan was to do this in 2 weeks. Fly to Paris, take the TGV to Lille, unbox the bike and ride to Ypres. From there down to the Somme, across to Chateau-Terry, Reims, and then Verdun. As I recall it was about 400 miles in total, but a fair amount more if I wandered around to every place I wanted to see. I have a stack of books and Michelin maps in a box, but still no time to do this...

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