Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Austria 2013

Austria trip
Day 1. Aire at Dudelange 

We woke up at 6 am to get the ferry – the DFDS 8am sailing to Dunkirk. The boat was very quiet except for two men snoring nearby…I had a coffee and read yesterday’s papers. We bought some gin for the journey at £15 for a litre so that made Pete happy and we were soon off and on the road to Luxemburg via Lille. We stopped for lunch at a nice little aire near Mons. I programmed Mrs Hinny, the sat nav/nag to take us to a garage we’ve used before on the south side of Luxemburg at Bascharange. We filled up with fuel and got some Gordon’s gin at 15  euros a litre. Mrs Hinny then locked up at refused to work. This was a bit awkward as getting to the aire at Dudelange was going to be tricky with only a map and the back up Garmin decided that France doesn’t exist neither does Luxemburg! I pointed us in what I hoped was roughly the right direction and Mrs H decided to work again, stopping only when we were about half a mile from where we were going. We were looking a bit lost at a junction and a group of girls helpfully pointed out the direction. We saw a camper van on a sign and pulled in to the station car park but it didn’t feel right. I leaped out, waving the Bord Atlas at two men who had obviously seen our predicament and asked where the aire was. They answered in perfect English of course and told us that the aire was further on up a hill. We found it- it overlooks a skate park and a station, has a water emptying and filling point and it soon filled up with other vans. We had smoked haddock chowder for tea. I tried to sort the sat nav out- we’ll see tomorrow if it works. We played backgammon M3-P1

Day 2 Lech Camping Affing, Augsburg  

We emptied water out in a very full aire. The sat nav works but still cuts out. We stopped at an aire before Landau for lunch. We were plagued by traffic jams and roadworks all the way to Augsburg. The campsite is one we stayed in in 2005. It’s very nice, with a small lake and lots of things for children to do. There are bikes and go carts for them to play with and sails, boats and boards for the lake. The facilities are all spotless . We were met there by Katie and Stew who are on the Romantic Road…not a second honeymoon, but the German tourist board created route which has castles and lovely scenery. It was so nice to see them. I did some washing and got it dried too. Katie cooked salmon and I did potatoes, salad and raspberry yogurt ice cream. They showed us some pictures of their trip so far and we had a good ‘catch-up’.

Day 3 Lech Camping  Lech,Affing, Augsberg
Katie lent Pete her computer for a while to check on email. We got the number 301 bus from outside the campsite into the centre of Augsburg- 15.20 euros for a day pass. Augsburg centre was all dug up- roadworks! We had coffee in the lovely little market where the flower stalls were  beautiful with lovely little arrangements that you don’t get in England. The vegetables looked wonderful too. We had a look around the Dom- the main church square and a few shops before having another coffee. We got the bus back from Stand B at the bus station. We popped over to the Netto shop- just across the road. I cooked a chicken, chorizo and vegetable casserole with kritheraki ( little Greek pasta shapes like big rice) and Katie brought strawberries and cheese. A lovely day- but time to move on tomorrow.

Day 4 Stellplatz Liezen Austria.      Vignette or Go box?
We stopped off at Rasthof Samerburg for coffee where the car park was full of lorries – a Bank Holiday. We headed for Bad Ischel and saw our first snow capped mountains. As we got near to the border, we went to buy a go box – something you need if the motorhome is over 3.5 tons instead of a vignette for under 3.5. We stopped at a service station where there was a go box sign but they didn’t have any. The lady directed me to the next service area. We pulled in and went to a pay station but they only had vignettes. The lady there told us to go across to the petrol station. They didn’t have them and directed us to the lorry park. It was Bank Holiday and the guy at the desk was quite old and spoke no English and I spoke no German ( then) so it was difficult. I gave him our van documents and he asked me a question that I didn’t understand. Luckily a young man came in to buy an ice lolly and asked if he could help us. How kind. It transpired that the cashier was asking where we were going and when we told him, he said it would cost 120 euros. The young man recoiled in horror and told us not to pay it, it was too much. I’d worked out that around 70 euros would get us to Weiz and back on motorways so I told the cashier that I would ring  my friend and we left the shop without a go box with the young man who told us just to get a vignette as the van doesn’t look over 3.5 tons. We went back to the petrol station and got one but I was really anxious……We drove on the autobahn to Salzburg and on to Thalgau where we left  it and had a lovely drive through St Gilgen. We saw lots of people in national costume and a maypole. We even saw a guy in a wonderful Tyrolean hat on a bicycle carrying a huge tuba but I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo. We arrived in Liezen at the stellplatz next to a sports centre which looked quite new. There is space for three vans with a picnic table and tap and stunning views. We walked into the very quiet and closed town where there was one café open. Pete sat out in the evening sun with a beer.

Liezen stellplatz

Day 5 Weiz, Austria
We decided for my sanity to stay off the autobahn which was tricky with the sat nav deciding to only work intermittently.Thank goodness for good maps. It was a scenic route  but we eventually got to Sylvia and Michael’s, our friends we first met in FInikounda in Greece. Their house is in a super place with lovely views. It was so good to see them. Michael had been cycling the evening before and fallen off his bike- he had a black eye and cuts and bruises and had been to hospital overnight.  They took us for a walk around the town and we spent a long time chatting with them and their children,Clemens and Martina.

Day 6  Weiz
We went to visit the Zotter chocolate factory. We watched a film about the making of organic fair trade chocolate then went round the factory tasting as we went along- lovely! ( and I am not a big fan of chocolate but this was great) We sat in the sunshine drinking elderberry cordial, apple juice and beer for Pete. We drove on to Reigersburg castle which stands on a volcanic plug and took a lift to the top. It was stunning.  When we got back, Sylvia cooked weiner schnitzel and we had apple strudel too. Michael had a text from his insurance company to tell him about a thunderstorm coming with possible hailstones. Michael and Pete climbed up on the van and covered it with old cloths to prevent damage from the hailstones and just after they got it covered, the hail stones started. The sheet lightning that came with the storm was very impressive and lit up the night while heavy rain thundered on the roof.
oooh chocolate!

Strange guys at the chocolate factory!

Michael and Pete - Reigersburg castle in background

Day 7 Weiz
We had a lovely long breakfast before going shopping to Hofer and Interspar where it was great to have our friends help us with the language. It certainly made shopping easier after that. I was surprised to see wild garlic being sold- why can’t we get it here? I can get it if I go and find some to pick. The area around Weiz produces apples but the trees are small columns, not big trees and the hillsides are covered in rows of trees. Sylvia told me that this area is called ‘the green heart of Austria’ and it’s easy to see why.  We had a barbecue but ate inside because the rain started. Over coffee and strudel, we chatted and chatted and talked about so many things. That’s the joy of visiting friends who can tell you so much about their country.

Day 8 Weiz
Sunshine! We had breakfast in the garden. Sylvia and Michael took us to a boggy area next to a lake up a mountain for a walk. It’s called Teichalm Moor and we walked along a wooden walkway over the marsh area. There is an enormous statue of a bull made from overlapping wooden slates there.  We had coffee and cake at a hutte on the mountain then went to a ‘summer ride’ – a metal toboggan run down the mountain. It was fast and fun. We drove to another lake which was busy with walkers, joggers, cyclists and roller bladers while overhead there were people hang gliding in the sunshine.

Day 9 Weiz
A little setback- Pete hurt his back getting out of the shower (!) Sylvia and Michael’s house was built in the 1930s but is very modern and has wonderful views. Because of backaches and awful weather, we stayed at home talking……then we went out for a meal in a local restaurant. We went for cocktails after dinner and a  sadness crept in as we said goodbye to Sylvia and the children in the evening as they would be at work and school when we left. More thunderstorms in the night kept up awake.

Day 10 Restaurant Stelplatz  Sachsenburg
We were invited to stay longer. Sylvia and Michael had been so kind and it was sad to leave. We went shopping and got diesel then travelled via Graz, Klagenfurt and Villach to Spittal an der Drau and Sachensburg. It was a very scenic drive with no motorway driving but I was glad when we eventually stopped at the restaurant. We had a meal watching fish in two enormous fish tanks behind us. Somehow we managed to order snitzel and goulash. We sat in the van watching the sunshine on the snow at the top of the mountains but it started raining again. It was free overnight parking and there was  free hook up but we didn't use it. I caught up with some diary writing.

Day 11 Krimmfalle Hotel Krimml
There was more rain in the night. We woke to the sound of a guy chopping wood- there were lots of wooden statues outside the restaurant along with a tepee, totem pole and wooden animals.  We  drove up the Felbertaurn pass and stopped after a gallery for lunch sitting in bright sunshine surrounded by snow. It was so picturesque- we took lots of photos- far too many but it’s hard to stop when everywhere you look is so beautiful. We drove down to Mittersill where I missed a turn due to road works but we found the Krimml road. We found the stelplatz in the hotel grounds and went to pay but the hotel was closed. We had a walk around the little town and used the sparkling clean toilets. Everywhere seemed shut but it was early afternoon. We plugged into the electric but the water taps were turned off. It was hot so we slapped on the suncream and went for a walk to the Krimml waterfalls. There was a huge amount of water coming down and we could see one of the falls from our van window. It was late afternoon so we decided against going up the falls and instead walked round a small lake and along the river back to the still deserted town. We tried the hotel again to pay but we saw a notice about the hotel being closed for a week- how lucky! We had a free night with hook up. There were only two other vans there. There was some noise in the night that sounded like young people talking.
top of  Felbertauerrn Pass
Krimml falls

Day 12 Zell am See , Seecamp
The night noise had come from some young people camping in a tent nearby and they were up early so we were up and off too by eight o clock. The scenery when we opened the van blinds was perfect- white capped mountains, waterfalls, meadows and sunshine. A short drive got us to Zell am See and the lovely Seecamp site. We had a choice of pitches so we picked one with a lake view, not realising that there was another half of the site to choose from. Our neighbours moved off after we’d had a bacon sandwich with fresh rolls from reception even though it was a bank Holiday.  We sat a while in the sun and Pete cleaned the van then we cycled the eight miles around the lake heading left out of the site along the road. We stopped at the end of the lake and watched cyclists, walkers, skaters hang gliders, gliders, parachutists, small planes….a hive of activity. There were lots of people lying on the grass in swimwear but only a few children in the water. We had a drink in town which is quite a tourist spot. There were lots of really nice motorbikes about too. After cycling back we sat in the sun reading then got the awning out for some shade.  We played backgammon after tea then went for a walk to look at the lights sparkling on the lake. It had been a really lovely day.

Day 13 Zell am See
We woke to the familiar sound of rain on the roof. What a difference to yesterday. We walked in the rain with brollies to Zell am See and sat in the market square under a canopy for a coffee. There wasn’t much else to do in the rain. It was dismal. We had a soggy walk back and did some jobs around the van. I read a book I’d started yesterday- and finished it.  We had a depressing read of the weather forecasts.

Day 14 Panorama Camping Salzburg
It rained all night- time to move. It was an expensive stay at 67 euros for two nights but it included metered electricity which was eight euros eighty! How that could be right with one kettle and the fridge on. I’m not sure? Still we had one lovely day there. We stopped for coffee after an hour and found the flask had broken and in typical fashion, the sat nav stopped working in Salzburg where I hadn’t got  map detailed enough to get us to the campsite. This was when the kindle really became useful - I searched for the campsite on it and clicked open the map..result! We even saw a Hofer on the way so we stocked up. The campsite reception man was really friendly and we had a pitch overlooking Salzburg. The facilities are immaculately clean and tidy here. 

Our friend Gerd, who we met in Finikounda, Greece came round to the van to welcome us before collecting Gabi his wife and Alex his son and taking us into Salzburg and we went for a wet walk around the city. It was fascinating hearing about the city  from people who know it so well. In the Marketplatz in front of the church, there was a brass and wind festival being held and we listened to them playing- they were very good! We walked round to the Mozart statue then went back to listen again as they were playing ‘ Gabriella’s song’ from a film with a haunting melody. 

There were so many things to see from old shops signs above doors in the streets to the bridge where the railings are covered in padlocks. It has become a tradition for couples to write their names on a padlock, lock it to the bridge then throw the keys in the river. We saw the lovely marble staircase in the Schloss Mirabel before going to the Augustiner Brewery. What a place! Firstly, it’s very old and then it’s enormous and it’s got great beer! We sat in a huge hall with big pots of beer and Gabi got some food to share from the little shops in the brewery…my first Leberkase, a meat loaf. There was a really good atmosphere with people of all ages all sitting drinking and eating together, families and friends meeting up, - you could even take your own food. Gabi kindly took us back to a very quiet camp site.

Day 15 Panorama Camping Salzburg
It rained in the night and it was cold. Gerd came to take us back to the square where the music festival was being held and we  listened to an Austrian folk band  playing ( harp, Styrian harmonica, three trumpets and a tuba) The guys sang as well so although rain threatened, we sat in the sun with a beer and coffee watching all the people in national costume milling about in the square and listening to the music. The sun came out and it was lovely to see people smiling, singing, clapping  and tapping their feet to the music. Gerd once more was our tour guide and took us round some interesting places before going back to the camp site. After lunch, we went for a walk up the hillside towards a church but it started raining heavily so we rushed back to the van. Gerd arrived with chocolate cake for us.

Day 16 Panorama Camping Salzberg
We thought about cycling but then it rained so we walked the cycle route into Salzberg, following the river into the centre. We saw huge flood defence work going on along the Salzach river. ( It was needed as just after we got back, there was terrible flooding and where we’d sat by the river was under water) We took the big umbrella so we didn’t get too wet and somehow we found our way back to the brewery!  We had beers of course and warm ham  hock cut up served with mustard and big bread chunks. It was delicious. When we walked back, we took a shorter route via Itzling.  Gabi and Gerd came round later and brought us some local wine, beer, bacon, cheese and home made zirbenschnaps. ( pine needle liquer?) We chatted and laughed a lot. They said it would be cold in the night – and it was.

Day 17 Panorama Camping Salzburg
Sunshine! Wow – what a difference it makes to how things look and how you feel. The views from our windows were amazing! We sat outside and watched the comings and goings of tourists on the campsite. We watched hares running in the field next to us as the farmer cut the corn and watched a hawk hovering overhead.  Gabi and Gerd came and we went together to the restaurant close to the campsite for traditional Austrian food. We drank most- cider with the lovely food and the cook’s husband came over to play  music for us. Then Gerd played  and we had a wonderful evening which ended by us watching the stars over the mountains. Again, we were sad to be leaving lovely friends and such a lovely place.

taken from the campsite

Day 18 Camping Bannwaldsee , Schwangau, Germany.

We found a Lidl on the way out of Salzburg near Freilassing and stocked up. We bought lots of radishes- they are great here and I’d eaten them in the brewery and they go well with beer! We stopped at Chiemsee for coffee in a good parking area. We’d stopped here before on our way back from Slovenia and swans, geese and ducks all came over to see what we had for them to eat. ( nothing!)  We had a scenic drive on quiet roads but a road closure caused some difficulties as the diversion took us through a tiny village where a double articulated lorry and a bus were trying to get round a tight corner. Pete coolly reversed into a farm gate way- if I’d been driving I might have had a panic attack! We parked in the stelplatz on the outside of Camping Banwaldsee where we had a lake view. The pitches are marked, have a tap and drainage and electric hook up- perfect. We cycled into Schwangau but as it was nice and we felt like a cycle, we carried on into Fussen. We walked round the beautiful town with lovely buildings then went into the Netto shop – not that we needed anything- and cycled back to the site over an impossibly turquoise river. It’s very nice here with the mountains around and the fairy tale castle close by.

Day 19 Schwangau

Blue skies. The showers here are tricky- a three second flow from when you push the button- useless. It’s a different sort of stelplatz here- much more like being on a camp site and people go off for the day and return. There are quite a few hired vans overnight and we spotted a New Zealand flag in one. We cycled into Schwangau and stopped at what looked like a garden centre but inside it was a super supermarket. Then we found a brewery! It looked closed but it wasn’t- so we sat inside and I had coffee and Pete had  Dunkel beer from the Schloss Brauhaus which was a beautiful dark beer.  I had soup with pancake strips in and Pete had sausages- all shared of course. We went out into the sunshine on the terrace where I tried to use the free internet but it needed a connection to a link which my kindle can’t do. We went to the tourist office and got  a free map and cycled to look at the campsite at Brunnen before cycling back past the stelplatz to the end of the lake.  An eagle flew overhead as we cycled along. When we got back we talked to a Dutch couple sitting in the sun. We had to cycle back to the Brauhaus for an evening meal as the food was so good and the beer even better. The roast pork and red cabbage with knodel ( dumplings) was lovely. We sat in the evening light with views of the snow capped mountains and the spectacular castle. We caught up with internet needs and cycled back just as it was getting dark. 

Day 20 Friedrichshafen Bodensee.

It was a grey morning and we couldn’t decide to stay or go. The low cloud
decided it, as we couldn’t see much. It cost 38 euros 80 on a fully serviced pitch for two nights. We drove down and parked next to the brewery so we could buy some bottles of beer. I went to the bank. We drove towards Bodensee along a bit of the Alpenstrasse and we had another diversion down a tiny lane and over a narrow stone bridge- breathe in! We got to the stellplatz at Lindau but we didn’t like it- it felt hemmed in and dark. The camp site looked nice but it was very busy and the weather was still grey so we drove around Lindau and picked up some diesel in Bregenz then drove to Friedrichshafen. We found the stellplatz easily- once again outside a campsite and 12 euros. We walked along the lakeside into the town. There were swans everywhere- and midges! We saw a band dressed in Victorian costume playing on an old boat outside the Zeppelin museum. It was expensive in the lakeside cafes so we walked along to the Schloss and back picking up a better map of Germany in a book shop.  We watched boats coming and going across to Konstanz in Switzerland. It brightened up as we walked back but it was still coat enough to need a coat on. The night was quite quiet considering we were next to a main road.

Day 21 Meersburg 

Sunshine. We tried the showers in the camp site but they needed tokens . Heading for Meersburg shouldn’t have taken long but the road was very busy and a broken down vehicle caused tailbacks.We found the stellplatz easily and parked up past the Fire Station next to a park. There’s electric points nearer to the main road and there’s loo emptying and water here for 8 euros. We cycled down into town though there is a bus. It’s a beautiful town with the old part build on a steep hill down to the lakeside. We looked at the little shops and the houses built in the  moat on the way down to the lake. We passed bars and cafes – all busy and we sat and watched the hustle and bustle and the boats crossing to Mainau.  As we sat, a zeppelin flew by doing a round trip. We had ice cream sitting under some ‘purple rain’ – wisteria flowers which seems to be everywhere. We cycled along the lake then back up via a supermarket after getting some lovely pumpkin seed rolls from a bakery. Loaded with salad, we cycled back up to the now busy stellplatz. After salad and chicken fajitas, we walked round the houses and up the hillside where we saw rows of vines growing up the slopes and  got a glimpse of people’s houses and gardens. It’s  a good time for flowers- there are lots of tulips and loads of wild flowers. We walked to the other stellplatz which is 12 euros . It has marked pitches and it was full too.

Day 22  Camping Bankenhof Titisee

We woke to the sound of rain on the roof again. We had breakfast and set off for our next stop which was to be Papiermuhle at Stockach. We found it next to a Caramobil shop which had hundreds of caravans for sale. We parked up ( opposite and English Autotrail) but as it was still raining and looking unlikely to stop, we moved on to our next choice, Loffingen which was only a half an hour’s drive. The stellplatz appeared to be outside a water park/activities centre. Two vans were in a chained off area and there was no-one around to ask so we had a coffee and a think. The area is heavily wooded and is clearly one that is usually busy with walkers etc but it was deserted.  We decided to drive on to Titisee. It was a lovely drive but the stellplatz outside Camping Bankenhof had no electricity thought the Bord Atlas said it had. We parked up and had lunch and saw an Alan Rogers camp site inspector’s van pull in. We cycled round the lake to Titisee which was pretty but awash with tourists of every nationality. The shops were full of tourist tat and we decided that it really wasn’t for us. We wheeled the bikes through the busy street through groups of tourists with guides and took the cycle track back to the camp site. We saw another stellplatz outside camping Sandbank which looked like it had electricity. It isn’t in the Bord Atlas. We bought two hours of internet so we could be lazy and watch the last game of the season  against West Bromwich and Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game as manager. We had to open one of the special beers from Schwangau too. I went for a shower in the rather dingy facilities of the campsite. The shower head was hanging at waist height and drooped down so you needed one hand to direct the flow. To operate the water, it was a push button so I had no hand spare to wash with …….I pushed the button constantly and got cold and not very wet! The music from next door’s van was very loud. I think they’d gone out and left it on for the dog. Having moaned- the site is pretty and next to a stream.

Day 23 Breisach Germany

Next door’s music was full blast at 7.30am. It rained heavily in the night. Pete went to brave the showers while I made toast. It was a very long downhill drive through the Black Forest where there was still snow on the tops. And it took less than an hour to reach the stellplatz at Breisach and a spot right by the river Rhine. We’d seen this spot last year but there’s no electricity and  we  thought we’d need electricity for the fridge which wasn’t working but it didn’t work on electric either. I messed up with the ticket machine not changing how many days I needed but the ticket showed that I paid 10 euros which was right for two days.  It was very cold and windy so we didn’t bother taking the bikes off. Pete made me two cups of coffee in honour of having a lovely spot with a river view.  We walked to town and were stopped by two people ,British Australians, who had emigrated to Australia, came back to England but still have a house there.
They were lovely people and we chatted for a good while.  We went up to the church and tower. It was still cold and windy and the town was very closed. It’s a Bank Holiday and only the coffee shops and restaurants were busy with tourists from the Rhine cruises boats. We came back to the van for lunch then walked again to the old fort and over the bridge into France. My hips were aching which was a pity as I wanted to walk more. We spent time looking at the Bord Atlas trying to decide a route and stops on the  way back to the ferry- we have so many choices. I cooked bolognaise sauce for tomorrow and made some burgers with the other half of the mince. We marked our route out on the atlas and it’s a sort of figure eight. We were very content in our river view spot despite the weather.

Day 24 Breisach

We hoped for sunshine but it wasn’t to be. We went into town for bread and Pete had a chat to the bakery lady. We walked up to the Old Town again and looked round some of the places- the old Rathaus and an amazing treadle wheel that plays bells, a Montessori school and we had lovely views over the river. It’s quite high up.  We’d planned a cycle and a picnic but it started to rain. There were loads of swans on the river and the barge that had pumping something all day left. We walked north along the river but it was very industrial that way so we walked up to the Old Fort which also had marvellous views. It brightened up a bit and we sat outside the railway station in a beer garden in the feeble sunshine. There was a little market going on- about five stalls, of which one was a sausage and hot dog stall. After we’d showered, we saw a guy come round on a bike to check the parking tickets. Two German vans across the car park didn’t seem to have tickets and a heated argument went on. Both couples came out of their vans and starting shouting at the parking guy. They all went over to where the site rules are posted but they didn’t get a ticket. Then it all went quiet again so we went back to looking at campsites and the route back.

Day 25 Nordrach Black Forest.

Rain again. We drove to Ettenheim where we parked at a stellplatz outside an Ernst caravan/motorhome sales place.  We bought a new sun brolly ( daft thing to do as it was raining). There is electricity there on a meter and an emptying point 1 euro. We drove on to Lahr where we did a spot of Lidling ( shopping in Lidl) We drove up in to the Black Forest again to Nordrach where it was raining of course. It’s a nice stellplatz which cost 1 euro for six hours electricity and free parking. So everything went on charge- computer, bike batteries, e books and we went walking. We had a wet walk to the Rathaus then up the hill, past the Doll museum and lovely gardens.I left Pete to walk more while I went back to the van. I found a wifi hotspot and signed on 5 euros for 24 hours. There wasn’t much to do there in the rain so I lost myself in the internet. We had a nice meal then browsed the evening away punctuated by the sound of hourly bells. Nordrach is a very pretty place and I imagine it’s lovely in summer.

Day 26 Camping Municipal Pierre De Coubertin, Ribeauville, Alsace , France

We had a very quiet night and we snuggled under the quilt. The church bells started at eight so we got up to blue skies and made bacon sandwiches. We set off for Ribeauville in France which was about an hour and a half away over the Rhine.  The route was interesting passing alongside the Rihine canal and huge hydro electric works. We deviated from route and went into Selestat to see what diesel prices were like as they’d been up to 1.48 euros in Germany. We saw a big LeClerc so bought our usual French treats- prawns, rillettes, baguettes, cheese with figs and nuts , not forgetting my favourite- a raspberry tart. We got to the Ribeauville  camp site around 1.30 pm and it was closed for lunch so we waited- just having a bit of baguette and rillettes to pass the time!  The reception lady was very nice and we got a good pitch with electric and a tap for 12 euros plus 3.80 for electric. The wifi was free. It’s quite ‘Caravan Club’- hedged pitched and very neat. It has two resident storks who looked a bit muddy and bedraggled but happy to stalk about. The reception lady told us  the cycle route to E LeClerc and town which was useful. We wlked into town in the rain with a big brolly. We found the aire there but we were ready for a campsite and a ‘luxury’ stay. The very pretty town was very busy and there were lots of older students heading for coaches. The town is quite amazing- a bit like York but multi-coloured instead of stone. There’s lots of Alsacienne tourist stuff featuring storks etc but it was lovely to walk through the narrow streets and beautiful old buildings. It was fascinating to look at the dates on the buildings. We just kept walking and walking till we came to the higher part of the town and we went up a lane by the ramparts away from people. The sun came out and we walked by vineyards around the outskirts of town. We came back down again to find the tourists had mostly gone and went back to the site. I fed one of the storks (who had a missing toe ) with damp bread and he caught every piece in his beak. We sat in the sun until another rain cloud decided to drop its contents- still , two gin and tonics can make you find the cloud’s silver lining. We ate prawns and salad and had a bottle of champagne just to celebrate life. We went over for long hot showers- there are lots of showers and loos- and though they were push button, they were very good and had ‘waterfall’ drenching shower heads- super. I liked the floor level lighting around the camp too as it wasn’t too bright , but you could see your way around.

Day 27 Ribeauville

We woke to the sound of kids playing football- not rain. There’s a school next door to the site. We’d had a comfortable quiet night- somehow it feels different on a campsite as on a stellplatz/aire. We walked along the South Ramparts by the river. Unlike yesterday, it was deserted. We hid under the brolly and a tree by an old tower until a heavy shower eased a bit and we did ‘snicklepaths and ginnels’ ( old names for little lanes and alleyways) seeing things we hadn’t seen the day before. We got some sausage and Tutiac wine but had to cook it inside instead of out.

Day 28  Charmes France
It was a beautiful sunny morning . We set off through Kaysersberg – our usual route from Greece to home- and over the Col du Bonhomme where it was snowing at the top! Strange weather. We stopped at a bakery in Fraize and I had a conversation with the lady in the shop who was wearing thick wool clothes and long boots …and there was me in a sun dress and flip flops. I bought bread and two of the lovely rolls cooked with cheese and ham in-they are amazing. We cut off the usual route and went via Gerardmer where we stopped before the town  at a picnic spot and  had coffee. It’s a very picturesque area and even in the showers we saw lots of cyclists up and down the mountains. Gerardmer  looks like a good place to stay on the lake – very scenic. It got brighter over by Epinal.When we got to Charmes we parked by the river near the where people were playing boules. The grass and ground were wet so we were careful to park where we could easily get off.  We noticed a English van that we had seen before at Titisee parked opposite. We went for a short walk but came back to watch the people playing boules. We sat out, then sat in, then sat out as the weather continued to play games too. We had chicken wings and drank a lovely German white wine. I sope to the English guy and invited him over for a drink and a chat.  He was glad of the company and we had a nice evening. 

Day 29 Saarburg, Germany.

It was a grey morning and after another chat and coffee, we emptied out at the easy access point and set off in the rain. It’s a good aire with 6 amp electric and toilets for 6 euros with showers available by purchasing a 1.50 euro jeton from the guy who collects the money in the evening. There is work going on now to install a barrier and ticket machine. It’s between the Moselle  canal and river and you can get free internet up at the library/ culture centre.  There’s a pizza man who comes round on his bike to get orders then delivers the pizza later. We drove in heavy rain past Nancy and Metz. We stopped at a motorway aire for a sandwich and it was really busy with lorries everywhere. We went to Pont a Mousson where we were going to stop but there was some sort of festival on and the aire was impossible to get to. We drove around but decided to leave and head for Saarburg.  The stellplatz was neat and very soggy! We tried parking in one place but couldn’t get level and the ground was so soft. We moved to another pitch and went across to the wooden hut that is reception. We found it was also a mini café and pub and two people with a dog chatted to us. We paid 8 euros then had tea and cake in the van. After that welcome drink we walked along the river into Saarburg. We crossed over the bridge into the castle and old town area. It was lovely. Pete went right up to the castle while I waited. We went to the waterfall which was heavy with water and very spectacular. We looked for somewhere to eat but ended up coming back to the van. The electric on site was 50 cents per kilowatt hour and lasted three and a half hours. It was cold so we had an early night reading in bed.

Day 30 Schwebsingen, Port du Plaisance, Luxemburg.

We had a lazy start to the day. There’s only one ladies’ loo and one gents on this site. They were very clean and had electric points in both. Places can be reserved on this stellplatz. We headed into town to do some shopping then a half an hour drive got us back to the motorway where we drove a little way then arrived near Remich at the Port du Plaisance. We went  to the right and into the yacht club where we paid 9 euros  and 2 euros for electric. We parked up in brilliant sunshine looking over the river and marina. We had lunch sitting outside on the grass and stayed there relaxing in the sun till 5pm when we cycled the flat route along the Moselle to Remich. It was lovely- families with picnics on the grass, people walking, cycling, rollerblading, while the swans postured, preened and posed for the camera. It was such a nice evening. Pete cooked outside and we sat out enjoying the warmth. It was light till past nine o clock.

Day 31  Le Catillon France

Pete used the lovely showers in the caravan site ( just on the left of the entrance). They have a huge central shower rose in the ceiling and a washbasin in each shower. It was a lovely sunny morning. We planned to head for Montherme north of Charlesville Mezieres . We turned right out of the site and into Remich and then took a left turn towards Luxemburg. There were about seven garages along that stretch of road. We went in a Total garage and it was like a huge supermarket stocking drinks, cigarettes and more coffee than I’ve ever seen in one place before. We filled the tank at 1.18 euros a litre. We headed on up the motorway past Luxemburg but it got cloudy so we changed plans again. We attempted a stay in Charlesville Mezieres but missed a turn so just carried on to Le Nouvion where to Pete’s delight, the friterie was open in what we call ‘Chippie Woods’. Possibly the best chips in the world were stuffed into a baguette we’d bought and savoured slowly……..
Onwards then- maybe to Bavay? No, we stopped at Le Catillon  by the canal where we’ve tried to stop before but it has always been busy. We pulled in opposite and a kind French guy helped us reverse in and showed us where the electric and water was. He liked the sweets I gave him. W parked u and connected up then went for a walk around the village and to the other side of the canal where a rough piece of ground has been tidied up, fenced and had hedges planted for motorhome parking. There’s no electric or water that we could see but it’s a nice place to park. You can dump water and wc just outside the aire on the other side of the road. We carried on walking around but there isn’t much to see at all. It started raining so we went back for a cup of tea and sat watching a chap fishing. Two British vans arrived and pulled in- very close- too close in fact. We had a lovely walk along the canal and back. We smelled new grass, hedgerows and flowers and saw lots of wildlife including a vole. It was a very quiet night.

Day 33 camping Des Dunes, Fort Philippe, Dunkirk

Cuckoos woke us up! Then we had an amusing time watching the English vans trying to extricate themselves without falling in the canal. At first it was sunny and we rolled through Le Cateau – home of the Matisse exhibition. I missed a turn in Cambrai and went through it instead of round it as we usually do. Hmmm- ring roads are good!  We were heading towards Lille and came across a huge traffic jam so I took us round Carvin and Seclin to miss it.Others did that route too.  When we got onto the A25/E42, we stopped at a busy services for lunch. Rain and gloom descended. We went to find the aire at a windmill in Hondeschoote, It was nice but in pouring rain everything looks grim. We found the Leclerc in Bergues and had a look around the shop but there was nothing to get excited about though we bought some wine. We fuelled up and then came to a tricky bit…looking for the aire at  Gravelines with no address and only a vague idea where it was. Not good. We drove through the centre of Dunkirk which looked nice but we were tired and a bit cross. We got the last parking spot by the Marina ( 6 euros) but the van next to us was running a very noisy generator and we couldn’t stand the noise. We decided to try for an aire outside a campsite but when we got to Camping Des Dunes, the nice guy, Len, explained that they don’t do that anymore. We thought we should just stay there. Len took us to a pitch that was wet grass and sloping down so we would likely get stuck trying to get off. He took us to another one which was fine except the electric didn’t work Pete plugged us into another pitch which was vacant. We had a beer and then went to look at the sea through the drizzle. There was a lone jogger but nothing else much to see so we came back to the nice warm van. I went for a shower using a system I’d never seen before. You buy the card at reception and it gives you minutes of water. The water wasn’t very hot.  We enjoyed our prawns and salad for tea and we had a quiet night.

Day 33 Home
We were woken by blackbirds and a cuckoo. We got up at 8am and it was raining. We emptied out most of our water and len at reception gave me a map of Gravelines.  The ferry is around Loon Plage  and we got there in time to be put on an earlier ferry with no extra charge. We had an uneventful trip back taking the M11 towards Cambridge and coming up the A1.
We’d had a great trip and learnt lots of new things and my knowledge of German has improved greatly…even if it’s only words for food and drink!

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic trip so far. And such spectacular scenery. Looking forward to reading more.