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May 2016
 

The Bellinghman
Date: 2008-07-11 12:32
Subject: A week ago #2
Security: Public
4th July

Today, we awoke in our room in the Campanile hotel, and had a light breakfast (partly because we didn't spot the hot food availability until we were paying our bill). The breakfast room was almost empty: just us and a large American family (mother, father and son).

We were soon on the road, before 10:00, and heading off towards our next country - Luxembourg.

The route from Brugge to there is mostly a straight line, with a bit of a bulge to go round the Brussels ring road. Traffic is quite heavy and naturally mostly composed of Belgian drivers. We now begin to realise why Belgian plates comprise red lettering on a white background: red for danger. (This is something that I will find confirmed over the next few days, though I'll also start wincing when seeing a German Offenburg plate.) It's also Friday today, a beautiful sunny one, and the traffic levels are high which probably makes it worse.

The Brussels ring road is particularly heavy, but we pass by, and head off for Luxembourg and then Luxembourg. Away from the coast, Brussels is quite hilly, and as we enter Luxembourg, we are now into a much nicer region, thick forests and hills that are almost mountains. This certainly isn't the Low Countries landscape, and we can understand why the Germans didn't want to send their tank forces through here in WWII: the motorway spends much of its time either on viaducts or in cuttings. We're beginning to look for a filling station, because the tank is getting empty, when we finally reach the border and enter Luxembourg.

(If you've been confused, it's because there are two Luxembourgs: one the Belgian province, and the other (about half the size) being the more famous Grand Duchy. I've visited both before, having driven this road before, but bellinghwoman hasn't.)

Entering Luxembourg, we quickly find a service station. We need petrol, and WCs, and lunch would be nice, but not necessary. On entering, we encounter quite incredible queues for the pumps, half a dozen cars for each pump, so we decide to do the WCs first and come back for petrol.

Mistake: once you've passed the filling station part, you can't get back again. So having relieved ourselves, we get in the car and head off to the next services. Which will be the other side of Europe's largest traffic jam. By the time we will reach them, our tank will be pretty close to empty, and I'll have the highest miles-per-tank reading from this car that I ever expect to see.

Somewhat more relieved at getting the tank filled again, we will decide to skip lunch and head off. Our SatNav has decided that today's route will cut across a corner of France, so we'll cross the Luxembourg-France border and then the Franco-German border for the first times in my life (at least at ground level). Down to Metz, across to Strasbourg, cross the Rhine into Germany, and then turn right to zip down the A5 towards Basel (it's the Frankfurt-Basel autobahn: Freiburg is a relatively small side turning). Somewhere in Alsace, we'll stop for lunch. Again, it'll still be Friday, and the traffic will still be heavy on the autobahn, though it will have been delightfully light in France. Or rather, on the autoroute in France. Which is a péage - a toll-motorway.

(We'll have looked for an ATM at both Luxembourgian services, and at the French one where we have lunch, but will fail to find one. We'll be a little short of € notes by this point, having blown most of our cash on petrol. Oh, and the reason for the huge queues at the pumps at both Luxembourgian services? The prices are somewhere between 20 and 30 cents per litre lower.)

Eventually, we will arrive in Freiburg, about two hours later than the SatNav expected, because of the traffic jams and the multiple stops. We'll fail to find the car park we wanted to use, but stash the car in one that's not too far from the hotel. Then, we'll go out for an early supper at the Martin's Brau, where I'll have a proper Schweinshaxe, and we'll drink their rather nice dunkel beer.

And after that, we'll wander over to the Munsterplatz and have our first few glasses of wine.
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