there is a scene in an episode of the itv crime series lewis where robbie lewis and his sidekick hathaway are standing at the door of a college dining room in the company of the college porter. just as they are about to enter to question a potential suspect, the entire room rises to say grace prior to the serving of lunch. being an educational establishment of no little repute, this is said in latin. as a non-academic, lewis asks hathaway if the words are in reference to items on the menu, at which point, the latter says "soup of the day, burger and chips and spotted dick..."
my father always used to repeat a similar form of humour when faced with an hotel menu written in french. pretending to have ordered one of the more obscure items, he'd then mimic the waiter saying "i'm sorry sir, that's what the band's playing this evening."
the premise of humour (such as it is) of such a fashion, rests entirely on the incomprehension of the subject under discussion, and those are but two examples of such. the humour of my having no earthly idea of the location of something identifying itself as the moselle cycle route is not lost on me, nor i should imagine on those of you reading this review. i have made it known on several separate occasions that i am extremly geographically challenged; my map drawing skills are reasonably well identified, but only if someone can place the locations prior to my commencing.
the moselle river, as everyone apart from yours truly is aware, begins its journey at source in the east french vosges mountains, wending its way through luxembourg and belgium, before joining the river rhine in germany. author and cyclist mike wells, in keeping with the format applied to almost all of the excellent cicerone guides, explains the moselle route in great detail, presaged by a brief history of the regions through which it travels. the latter is most helpful in identifying the heritage of many of the elderly buildings that can be seen along the way, and given the ideal travelling size of these guides, it's simplicity itself to pull the book out along the way to check prudent details.
of course, aside from the geographical and historical niceties that make the route worth pedalling in the first place, what most cyclists would wish to know at the outset is 'how long will it take?'. it's an answer that mr wells has had the decency to answer before elucidating other pertinent details such as an appropriate velocipedinal choice, how to get there in the first place and the level of accommodation that can be expected by the intrepid traveller travelling north.
wells has split the route into 14 discrete stages averaging 36km per day, allowing the fitter amongst us to double that daily distance and effectively complete the moselle cycle route in a mere seven days. however, should you wish to undertake a holiday incorporating a wealth of sightseeing, two weeks would seem the more leisurely option. and perhaps even more pertinent to even the average cyclist, what and where to eat and drink is covered in more than sufficient detail.
the book is well illustrated with landmarks, objects of interest and architecture to be seen along the way, and though my map reading leaves a great deal to be desired, those accompanying each and every chapter seem quite clear enough to me, unsullied by extraneous detail. as has been consistent in the majority of the cicerone guides i have been privileged to review, the moselle cycle route is every bit worth purchasing even by the armchair explorer. though the principal text is primarily functional, as is most sequential instructional material, the sidebars offer an insight into a part of the world with which not all of us will be familiar.
"Remiremont (pop. 8000) straddles the Moselle below the confluence of the Moselette and is surrounded by forest-clad hills. From 910, Remiremont Abbey (originally founded by Benedictines in 620) housed a chapter of noble-born 'canonesses' (nuns) and was the most renowned nunnery in Europe for its wealth and recruitment of canonesses, who had to show 200 years of royal or noble lineage (mostly, presumably, unmarriageable daughters).
should i ever be overcome by the wanderlust that seems to inhabit the minds of cicerone's authors, i have the ideal script to follow.
monday 15 september 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................