Homeward Bound…. 19/7/19

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Metz is a beautiful town, sitting on the banks of the Mosel river, centralised around its cathedral which is apparently known for its stunning stained glass windows….needless to say we didn’t see them.

Although we had decided to stop in Metz for Bastille Day we didn’t realise that they also had a street festival over the weekend comprising of a mixture of theatre, acrobatics and music – similar to the festival we found in Epinal but not as large.

We headed out to stretch our legs and get our bearings on Friday, found the covered market and lots of beautiful buildings as well as fair number of interesting boutique shops…. mostly food related!! The town was lively and had a lovely atmosphere as it was a sunny Friday afternoon and people were just finishing work and happily filling up the bars.

Saturday morning was absorbed by the market – we have missed a good French market over the last couple of weeks – so managed to spend a small fortune re-stocking with lots of smelly cheese as well as fruit, vegetables and some meat for the BBQ… it all looked lovely and there was so much to choose from.

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After lunch we set off to take a look at the rest of the town and some of the street theatre and although we only managed to see three performances – they were all very good….. above was a musical farce which was followed by a bit of Jazz…

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Then  finally a bit of a mix of mime, acrobatics and I am not sure what… but he was quite amusing!

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Metz is a beautiful city and as part of the tourism set up they offer different walking trails to get to know it better …. we decided to do two on Sunday – the Street Art, which had a special guest taking prime position

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was a little disappointing though.  I think we have been well and truly spoilt by visiting Dunedin and seeing the spectacular street art there,  although there were a few interesting pieces that are worth a photo….

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The second trail we followed in the afternoon took us to see Art and Gardens and it is fair to say that there are lots of green areas in the city and by the time we had finished we had walked to every corner of Metz!

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We got back to Hattie mid afternoon to find that she had a new ‘beau’.  He was slightly intimidating to be honest – A German Concord Liner Plus…. all 11.5m with a car in the back, making Hattie look small with her 8.2m!

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There wasn’t a huge amount going on during the day – I would actually say it was quieter than normal although Sundays are normally fairly peaceful in France –  we were however honoured by a spectacular firework display which are the usual Bastille Day (14th July) celebrations.  Although we have only seen three in France – one in Bagnoles de L’Orne, one in Tain de l’hermitage and now Metz – we don’t have a huge amount to go on but this was certainly up there but I won’t bore you with lots of firework photos….

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Everything quietened down eventually at around 1am  – in addition to the fireworks and so many people being out in the town, Algeria also got through to the AFCON (Football…. for those of you who don’t know) and there is a huge Algerian presence in Metz so the horns were a honking – a lovely atmosphere!

Following a run and a bit of exercise, we sorted ourselves out and set off to find the River Meuse where we were hoping to do some walking. After a quick trip into Belgium by accident – we didn’t realise that vehicles over 3.5 tonnes need a tag for some non-motorway roads – we arrived at Stenay (GPS n 49.489899 e 5.18278 9.40 euro per night).  A lovely, reasonably new aire by a little marina on the canal…. unfortunately with a lack of walking paths.  The maps clearly highlight walking routes and a cycle path in both directions – we tried one way which ended up by the side of a sewage station and then disintegrated into very over-grown grass.  We then tried the opposite direction which just turned into a locked gate on a bridge …. very strange, first time we have come across this but needless to say we gave up, went to the supermarket and walked back to Hattie through town …. a little disappointed but what can you do?

Strangely, we didn’t stay a second night and instead moved on to Bogny-sur-Meuse (GPS n 49.858946 e 4.745107 4 euros a night) where we parked up in a brand new Aire right on the river Meuse…. very nice!

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The cycle path went in both directions along the river so we walked South on Tuesday afternoon and then ventured North on Wednesday.

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Both directions were lovely, tranquil walks passing through a couple of small towns/villages and locks along the way.  It is interesting to spend time on one large river after another – The Meuse is very different to the Mosel as the towns and villages are slightly larger as a whole and the hills that rise away from the river, smaller and further away …. and disappointedly no vine – but beautiful all the same!

We both went for a run before moving on Thursday morning and the river was like a mirror in parts – just beautiful. It is fair to say that the Ardennes are a beautiful part of France and well worth a visit, I don’t know why we haven’t passed through here before.

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We headed even further North, winding our way to the Parc Naturel Regional de l’Avesnois and a little town called Solre-le-Chateau where we found a brand new aire which is currently free of charge (GPS n 50.178645 e 4.090299).  The Aire was so new the tarmac still had that ‘newly laid’ smell and the areas in between the pitches were still just earth but it had everything we needed, is near to a greenway and was peaceful overnight.

We had a nice walk through the woods along the greenway on Thursday afternoon before getting back to the motorhome just before it started to rain for Keith to cook up a lovely Squash Dahl.

The rain fell on and off all night but had stopped by the morning which was good as it meant that our walk in the opposite direction was a good temperature and dry!

The town of Solre-le-chateau doesn’t appear to have a chateau from what we can see but it does have a rather impressive church with a wonky spire which made me smile ….

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Today is our last day in France for now as we have booked the train for tomorrow afternoon. Although we still have 200km to get to Calais we have stocked up on wine and are looking forwards to being back in the UK for the summer and already have a couple of little trips planned!

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