We left home on Friday 27th May to start off on our annual summer holiday. This time was a little different as first we made a detour to attend the wedding ceremony of Annette’s long standing friend Chris and her husband Dave, who live in Cooksbridge near Lewes. We stayed in Cooksbridge until Tuesday 31st May and then caught the 16.00hrs ferry to Calais. After a quick stop at Auchan to stock up with a few essentials and fuel we set off to get a few miles under our belt before stopping for the night.
We had chosen to stop at the Aire at Tournai however when we arrived the Aire was full with the local fair and carnival so we had to move on. It’s difficult to find places late at night and that particular area is not well covered, so we headed east on the motorway and finally pulled into a service area for the night. Not something we do normally but when there is little choice you have to make do. Anyway after an early start we arrived in Trier in the early afternoon.
Trier Roman Baths
Trier is a good place to start as it has lots of history with great river cycling/walking and a town centre that simply hums throughout the day. We spent 4 days here visiting the amphitheatre, the Roman baths, cathedral and the very famous Porta Negra – a 2000 year old building that was erected by the Romans without using any cement. Trier is also the centre of the asparagus (Spargel) growing region and the town square is well blessed with stalls run by local growers eager to sell the various types of asparagus. Prices appear to vary but on closer inspection the prices are pretty similar – its the weight of each bunch that varies. A typical price being around €3 to €4 per kilo – much cheaper than UK supermarkets.
This year we also cycled down to Krov – a village a few kms further up the Mosel river and is located where the Saar river joins the Mosel. There are several riverside cafe’s and a network of paths/bridges to accommodate walkers and cyclists alike. We cycled down the western bank of the Mosel, crossed the railway bridge (also with a cycle path) and cycled down the eastern bank back to the Stellplatz at Trier.
From Trier we drove a few kilometres down the river to another old favourite village – Mehring. Once again the Stellplatz is on the banks of the Mosel however in this case the Stellplatz is also a vineyeard and cherry orchard.
The owner holds wine tasting and sells wine by the glass/bottle or case. There are also clean showers and toilet block (€1 for the shower) Mehring is a good place to start off a holiday as you can stretch out and relax or cycle along the Mosel or even walk among the vines.
Moving on from Mehring we continued down the Mosel to the small wine town of Urzig. Yet again the Stellplatz is alongside the Mosel with a cycle track on both banks of the river. This time we decided to both walk and cycle up to the top of the hills along the river and spent three days walking and cycling along the top of the hills that run the length of the river with spectacular views for miles around. It was quite scary watching the wine growers pruning the vines along the very steep banks where in places the ground appeared almost vertical all without harnesses. Some growers had installed mono rail trains to ferry the workers up, down and along the vines. Berncastle is a cycle ride along the river so we took the opportunity to refresh our memories of this beautiful town with its numerous cellars, unique square and bustling river banks before moving off again.
From Urzig we moved across to the Rhine and made two stops first at Obervessel to visit St Goar and the Loreley Rock and then to Bingen to visit Rudesheim and the attractions in that area. From Obervessel there is a cycle track all the way along the Rhine north to Koblenz and we cycled from Obervessel to St Goar and walked it once.
Mermaid of Loreley
Between St Goar and Bingen there are numerous castles, river trips and of course the famous mermaid of Loreley, perched on her rock luring the sailors on to the rocks so bandits could rob the ships of their goods. In Bingen there are several monuments to visit, one being the tower in the centre of the town that now houses the town council offices and a museum. It stands high overlooking the area and is a good place to get orientated.
From Bingen there is a must do trip. Buy a round ticket from Bingen across the river to Rudesheim, then take the chair lift to the monument of Germania, walk along the path towards Assmannshausen and then the chairlift down into the village and finally catch the ferry up the river back to Bingen, A great day out all for the price of €11 (2011 prices)
Rhudeshiem is a stopping point for many of the river cruise ships that sail up and down the Rhine and is geared to tourism.
From here it was time to move into France and the Alsace region, being somewhat relieved to be able to buy fresh fruit and veg again. It was during our stay on the Mosel that the food poisoning ecoli scare broke out in Hamburg and each time we shopped we noticed that none of the locals were buying fresh produce and there was almost a stampede to buy tinned veg. The Alsace is another favourite of ours that we never tire of visiting. The villages are so distinct and charming. We based ourselves on the Aire at Kaysersberg being mindful of the time of year and the French French holiday season about to start. the Aire at Kaysersberg can accommodate around 100 campers so only at the weekends is there the likely hood of it being full. There are many others around but they are smaller and the campers can get mixed in with local cars. From the Aire you can see the stork nests perched on the top of the towers in the village and we managed to get a photo from the top of the castle ramparts of the young chicks.
Kayserberg town centre is well worth a look round with the Albert Shwietzer house and museum just up the main street. When visiting this area we always walk through the vines to the village of Riquewihr a lovely 2 hour walk and the village of Riquewhir is a very typical example of the Alsace – a unique blend of French and German culture.
The weather was not kind to us in the Alsace and we experienced our first really heavy downpour of the holiday accompanied by thunder and lightening. The inclement weather dogged us for the next few days so we decided to move into a new (to us) area – the Vosges region some 40 miles to the west.
Gerardmer became our next base. This small town is located in the hills alongside a lake and at the foot of the ski slopes. It benefits from good summers with lots of cycling and walking trails while the lake is centre for numerous water activities, including trips around the lake by pleasure boat, speed boat, pedalo or wind surfer.
We were fortunate when at Gerardmer as it was the summer solstice and the town celebrated with a music festival. This consisted of several groups of musicians of all sorts playing well into the night, turning the main street into an outdoor street party. In winter it has a fair cross country ski area and a small downhill area. We walked up to the ski area however it was pretty quiet with most places closed until the winter season. There are two Aires at Gerardmer one just behind the Tourist Information Office, where we stayed and one at the bottom of the ski lift area. Both are fairly large however only the town centre Aire has any facilities. After 5 days here we decided it was time to move further south so that we would reach the Annecy area in time to meet up with our family.
We couldn’t resist stopping for a couple of nights at Chavanne L’Etang – a lovely peaceful Aire near to the canal with a superb cafe/Boulangerie right next door with an all weather covered outdoor seating area where you can choose your breakfast and sit outside smelling the lovely freshly baked breads. In fact there are two superb Aires in this area, the other one being Montreaux Chateau with its individual plots, surrounded by flowers and shrubs and a picnic area all alongside the canal banks. Instead of our usual movement of a few miles we hit the road and travelled some 200 miles finally deciding to spend the night at the lakeside of La Mercantine in the Jura region.
The temperature by now was in the low 30’s and not a breath of wind. The Aire was full so we moved two hundred meters to the wild camping spot used by many French camping carists. There are no facilities here but as I said it was only a few meters away from the official Aire that did have full facilities – all free. The water in the lake was the clearest blue I’ve seen in a long time and we spent a few hours just drinking beer and coffee at the nearby cafe/restaurant watching the water skiers and sailors trying to sail their craft in the still air. We spent a very enjoyable couple of days in this area before heading south again, first stopping off at Nantua. Nantua is another town alongside a lake and the Aire is just 2 meters away from the waters edge. We cycled and walked around the lake and was greatful for the little shade provided by the trees around the edge of the lake.
From here it was a 50 mile hop to the lower end of lake Annecy where we found a great little private Aire some 300 mtrs back from the lakeside near the village of Lathuile. The Aire is part of an organic farm that sells fruit and veg in season. There are full facilities here including EHU and two service points and a camper washing facility. Here we got out Peggy and decided use the two spare days to reconoitre the area before the family arrived. First we drove into Annecy, some 12 kms to see if anything had changed since our last visit here some 20 years ago.
Old Annecy always reminds us of Venice with its canals running through the old streets. Anncey was bustling with all the pavement cafe’s and restaurants in full swing. In the evening the walkways became packed with street artists, musicians and entertainers all contributing to a marvelous atmosphere in the evening sun. Day two saw us drive up to the top of the Col du Forclaz some 1100mtrs above lake Annecy. Any visitor to this area must make this a number one priority as the views from the top over the lake and surrounding area is just out of this world. There are opportunities for the adventurous to try out paragliding or piloting a microlite and we spent a couple of hours sitting at the picnic tables just watching the various groups launching themselves off the top of the ramp. While we were there we saw families take off with two year old children fastened in front of them. There was even a middle aged woman, paralized and in a wheel chair launch herself off having a whale of a time. Finally we left Lathuile and drove the 3 kms towards Annecy to spend a week with our family at the exotic campsite of Europa.
The week simply flew by at Europa spending time in the various pools and slides with the grandkids. It was relaxing and great fun to watch our son creating new dishes and marinades for the BBQ. Cooking is one of his hobbies and he creates some wonderful dishes including vegitarian. We took the kids on a trip round the lake, visited Annecy for ice creams (and beer). We dined at one of the canalside restaurants, played in the park by the lake.
Grand Children love Peggy
We went to one of the local markets and bought fresh fruit and veg from the street vendors, walked and cycled along the lake side. All in all a very enjoyable end to our holiday. On the Saturday morning we had a long breakfast, cleared up and prepared for the trip home.
Having fun in the Pool
Having said goodbye to the family I made the error of taking the road back into Annecy to join the Autoroute north but got caught up in the annual French exodus taking one and a half hours to reach Annecy some 9 kms away. We took two days to drive back home but were quite keen to get home as once the family had left it became empty and we were deflated. Still we look forward to September when we will head south again and meet up with the family for a few days in October.
Time away: 43 days Distance Travelled 1798 miles Cost of ferry: £62 Cost of fuel: £439.44 Cost of LPG: £0.00 Cost of Tolls: £177.34 Cost of campsites £395.50 Fuel cost for Peggy £10.55
Exchange rate: £1 = €1.12