Into the Wild

Le Cateau-Cambrésis to Metz

After leaving Le Cateau-Cambrésis, we headed further South-East and cycled through a beautiful, hilly forest area for a couple of days, crossing into Belgium and then back into France. We had researched some campsites in advance and felt so good on the bikes that we covered our 60-75km per day quite easily, usually reaching camp in the early afternoon.||

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One day, we arrived in Mouzon and followed the signs to the campsite, only to end up at a dead end. We enquired and were soon informed the campsite had recently been transformed into an Aquatic centre. The next campsite was too far away to reach that night, so we headed for the hills to try out wild camping for the first time.

Unconvincingly hanging around an old 4WD track that looked like a good entry point to the woods, we made a run for it as soon as the traffic cleared. We hoped to not be seen so we would not be disturbed during our overnight stay.

After scoping out an area to lay the tent we settled for a lovely pitch higher up the hill with fantastic views of the valley below. Though a little more exposed to the passing traffic we couldn’t resist the views.

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As we still had a good 3 hours to kill until sunset we cooked up dinner and watched the sun go down. Just on dusk we set up the tent, had a quick baby wipe bath and feeling a little anxious that we might be watched from the odd passing car we pounced inside, soon to realise the hill was on quite an angle. As a result we spent most of the night sliding down to the bottom of the tent and scrambling back up, which was good in a way as it took our minds off the creaking and cracking of the forest around us.

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At 5am we were up, taking down the tent and admiring the views one last time, happy that we had survived our first wild camp experience albeit a little weary from a restless sleep.

We then cycled through the French countryside for the next 2 days. We didn’t see a single supermarket for the whole time, but luckily we found one bakery, which saved us from starvation when we bought up almost everything in the shop to the delight of the shop owner.

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This area of France has seen a lot of wartime fighting, and there are many war memorials and bunkers dotting the area, from the First and Second World Wars, as well as the Hundred Year’s War and several others. Every village has a memorial for its fallen soldiers, and there are many war cemeteries dedicated to the different nationalities that have fought here. For a while we cycled through the eerie forests of the Verdun area, past battlefields and villages that were destroyed in the First World War.

We emerged to arrive in Metz, a beautiful city that surpassed our expectations in every way. After 8 days of cycling continuously, we needed a rest day, and Metz was the perfect place for it. Through the Warmshowers website we had arranged to stay with Cathérine and Mathieu, a lovely couple that made us feel very welcome in their home. Cathérine loves bike touring, and it seems to run in her family, as her brothers and sisters, as well as children, nephews and nieces all seem to have an interest in their annual family bike tour, which takes place in a different country every time. Cathérine took us to the brand new Centre Pompidou, which has just opened in Metz and is a short bike ride from her home. She cooked us a delicious dinner, which we ate in the garden, enjoying the beautiful weather.

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The next morning, Cathérine and Mathieu had to leave to visit her parents, and we said goodbye to move on to a Hostel in the centre of Metz. We have spent the last 2 days here, doing the washing, planning our route ahead, catching up on emails and enjoying the cafés and parks that Metz has to offer. Tomorrow morning we will head off towards Strasbourg, and in a few days time we are already crossing into Germany.

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