Vosges Voie Verte Loop

Into the Moselle valley, in the Vosges Mountains

When one thinks of the mountains of France; you may be forgiven for thinking only of the Alps and Pyrenees. Yet if you head due east out of Paris towards Germany. You will encounter the natural border of the Vosges mountains. Running in a north to north east direction in the region of Alsace. The beautiful Vosges mountains are relatively low compared to their neighbouring Alps. Rising to just 1,424 metres (4,672 ft) at their highest point; the peak of: The Grand Ballon.

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In the valleys of the Vosges; the Moselle river rises before taking a 339 mile (546 km) course. Running north towards its confluence with the Rhine in Germany. Making use of the wide and flat valley floor in the Moselle and neighbouring valley of the Moselotte tributary. Two railway lines were built to serve the farming communities. Now no longer needed; the railways have been resurfaced into superb traffic free cycle paths. Known as ‘Voie Verte’ in French, or greenways; these two paths join near the town of Remiremont. I realised that if I could cycle over the Col de Rochelotte; I could make a circular route.

Up the Moselle valley

On the banks of the Moselle

I was staying at the very peaceful Camping de Maxonchamp; situated right on the banks of the Moselle. Where I could sit every morning and evening and watch the lazy river run just below my tent pitch. To find out more; see here: https://www.camping-vosges-88.com/.

After dining on a classic French breakfast of coffee, chocolate bread and croissants; I cycled out of the campsite at a leisurely pace. The first section of the railway cycle path was just across the river. Yet I had to take care crossing a main road. When I reached the cycle path; I steadily built up to a good pace. Only having to slow for road crossings and pedestrians. Although I was actually cycling up the Moselle valley; the smooth tarmac surface made it feel effortless.

A memorial to local men of Ramonchamp that fell in the two World Wars

Passing through the outskirts of the town of Ramonchamp; a huge display of the French tricolore caught my eye. Turning my bike around; I passed through a hedge and was met with a war memorial. Sadly, the war memorial was so huge for the sad fact that so many local men had lost their lives. Taking a moment to appreciate their efforts for my freedom. I said a silent prayer and then started riding as fast as I could on such a beautiful summers day. For if they had one more day on this earth; I am sure they would want to do the same. Enjoy the liberty in nature and this one life.

The climb begins…

The only way is up in the Vosges!

I cycled on along the cycle path until I saw a sign for the town of Fresse-sur-Moselle. Turning to the left; I crossed the Moselle and the main road once more. I did not need signposts; for I knew the hills in front of me were the right direction. Yet a helpful signed waypoint was the Chapelle Des Vés.

Leaving the small town behind; I turned left onto a side road that immediately began to climb. The mid morning air was still fresh as a wind blew down of the hills in front of me. The gradients were steep here; yet I felt strong and very much alive.

Chapelle Des Vés

The Chapelle Des Vés rolling in to view.

Turning a corner; a small chapel began to appear on the horizon. As I cycled nearer; the chapel grew in size. Then the view beyond opened up and the chapel stayed the same. After a series of brutal gradients; I had arrived to a serene plateau on a ridge between two valleys.

The Chapelle Des Vés was originally constructed in 1863 by local farmers; using materials from the old town church. Severely damaged in the Second World War; it was carefully reconstructed. Then in the 1990’s; it was renovated again to resemble its original state in 1863. It is now used as an emergency shelter for hikers. As well as a place of peace, contemplation and prayer; for any passing soul.

Paying my respects as one more of many a weary traveller
The interior of the chapel
The steep gradients to the Chapelle Des Vés

For more information on the Chapelle Des Vés and other historical places of interest; please see the local tourism website: https://www.tourisme.vosges.fr/

Higher and higher

Looking up from the chapel.

After taking a moment to quietly contemplate; I turned to face the mountains once more. I see mountains as natural chapels. The effort and focus that is required to climb a mountain; causes me to lose connection with all that is negative or stressful in the life. Summiting a mountain also feels like summiting the clarity and peace in my mind.

At the crossroads by the chapel I took the narrow lane that climbed up to the forested ridge above me. The gradients were easier now so I soon climbed to the ridge.

Crossing the ridge at the Col de Rochelotte

In to the cloud forests

The smooth tarmac lane ended as I reached a deep pine forest. So here I took the left fork as the surface turned to rough gravel. The gradient levelled out and I caught glimpses of the next valley between the trees and distant clouds.

After a while; the path climbed once again. Be careful here if your bike tyres are thin or fragile because there are many sharp stones. In this forest there are many junctions; some with several unmarked ways leading off into the woods. Studying my map several times; I carefully took each turn.

I passed hikers enjoying a picnic in the shade of a tree; I passed a lone woodcutter with a machine that could fell a tree in less than a minute; I passed many trees that stood tall and strong. Maybe I was getting high on oxygen; being surrounded by these silent wonders of nature. Yet I really felt alive now as I rode on through these green avenues of light.

Going skiing on a bike!

Off (season) piste!

The path finally arrived to the edge of the forest. As I left the shade of the last pine trees behind; the view opened up in front of me. I was now in the beautiful valley of the Moselotte.

Below me was the ski station of Ventron and far below that was village in the valley floor. I knew I could take a gravel road on my left; down to the ski station. Yet to the right was a gentle ski piste; bare of snow but still covered in lush green grass…

Throwing any sense of the ‘de rigueur’ out of my mind; I laughed out loud as I rocketed down the piste. My chain and derailleur filled with grass as I went as fast I dared. Hidden rocks and holes were obstacles; yet I laughed like a child. I was free; I had found liberté in France.

Reaching the ski station; I bid two left maintenance men a ‘bonjour’. Yet they could only reply with a glum look; as they concentrated on their work. I crossed the ski station car park; then turned off to the left on a right hand bend. This way I could enjoy another off road track below the trees for about 400 metres. I then reached a single track road by a large chalet. Turning right and following this road down; I soon arrived to the town of Ventron.

Back around the mountain

The town of Ventron

Although I was on the main road in Ventron; the traffic was light on a early summers day. After a few kilometres; I turned right and followed a quieter residential road. Again, I went as fast I dared; as gravity pulled me down and down.

Reaching the smooth ‘voie verte’ cycle path of the Moselotte valley. I knew that all I had to do now; is pedal as hard as I liked to cycle back around the mountains and to my campsite. In places, a strong wind would build against me across the wide valley floor. Yet I enjoyed the wind for the fresh air that it is. I felt tired; yet full of energy from being in such a beautiful place.

Returning to the campsite; I laid down on the banks of the Moselle and drank a celebratory beer. By making a small effort to travel and spending a little money; I had really made the most of a perfect day.
Please come and see for yourself. Here or anywhere; I hope you too can find a route to relax.

The ‘Voie Verte’ of the Moselotte valley

For more cycling routes in France; please see here: Routes in France
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