Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A hike through Southern Europe: Metz to GR 7

Metz cathedral
 I have enjoyed Metz a lot and I am so grateful to Werner for pointing me to that fantastic campsite because otherwise I would probably have bypassed Metz. Instead I spent a fabulous day in the city of churches (because Metz does not only have the famous cathedral but dozens of other interesting  churches). I even visited the free modern art museum that featured an exhibition of feminist art which began with hundreds of raw eggs lying in the courtyard. No wonder the museum was watching every approaching visitor very closely as any misstep led to a broken egg and a mess to be cleaned up. (I didn't break any, by the way...)

Mosel canal
Next morning the weather was as bad as predicted and I even contemplated another day off but that wouldn't have helped: the forecast for the whole next week was pretty bad. So after a last warm shower I left the beloved campsite and headed back onto the GR 5F. Despite the drizzle my way out of Metz was quite pleasant as it follows the canal of the river Mosel for several kms. I love canal walks: Flat, easy and straightforward. Like most of the canal walks I had done in Britain this one took me into a little world of its own. Although you walk right through a city you feel far away from it. I realised how close I was to civilisation when I took a brief detour to  Decathlon to buy a new gas canister. Only 5 minutes walk away from the quiet canal I was suddenly confronted with a busy national road and a huge suburban shopping area where I felt totally out of place in my hiking clothes. I was glad to be back on the GR soon.

The river Mosel accompanied me as far as Toul which was my next resupply stop. I hiked a 37 km day to get in and out of the city before sunset which shows that I am finally getting into hiker shape again. Actually I have hiked 30 km and more every day since I left Metz and I am slowly overcoming all my aches and pains. Toul does not only boast 2 Lidl, but although an otherworldly cathedral. It looks totally out of place in the otherwise rather ugly and modern city. The cathedral is so built-in and surrounded by other buildings that it is actually quite difficult to take a picture of it.

Jean d'Arc
I was now on the GR 703 and then the GR 714 - and in Jean d'Arc country. She was everywhere: statues, inscriptions, churches and monasteries she had visited and even the trail was called "Sentier de Jean d'Arc", open to hikers, riders and mountain bikers. The whole Jean d'Arc craze culminated in Domremy la Pucelle, her birth place. I skipped to visit the house she was born in which is now a museum and charges entry but I visited the neogothic cathedral dedicated to her - and for me a very welcome place to get out of the rain and recharge my cell phone whereas most French tourists headed straight for the Jean d'Arc restaurant. I must say that the constant rain is slowly getting to me. Since Metz it has been raining every day and I forgot how a dry tent feels. Although my Tarptent Rainbow handles rain fairly well it rained so hard one night that I woke up with a huge poodle of water inside it. The rain has also converted the trail into one big mud slide and my shoes are a total mess every night. To make things worse the farmers are cutting wood in the forests and their cars and trailers erode the trail even more.

Today I have finally reached the GR 7 at Contrexeville, a rather rundown spa town (although they are already building a Lidl there.) But for the time being I still had to shop at Leclerc which at least had some very nice bathrooms for cleaning myself up a bit. Unfortunately, the drinking hall with the famous spa water was closed over lunch and I had to fill up with tap water only. At least I could sit in the entrance hall to the spa and have lunch out of the rain chatting with the cleaning woman who had a lot of pity with me poor hiker.

The weather forecast for tonight was especially bad: Lots of rain, high winds and cold. I was praying to find some shelter tonight and my prayers were heard. Right on time one hour before sunset I saw two trailers next to the forest edge. One was locked, but the other one open and clean. It looks like a hunting shelter and I decided to stay. So now I am sitting inside (relatively) warm and dry on a bench and can hear the rain pounding on the metal roof. According to the forecast tomorrow is going to be the last day of rain before a long sunny spell....

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