June 2008

This is our second major excursion in the Flair and in keeping with last year we don’t want to be away too long as the garden gets overgrown so easily during the summer months and it takes a while to catch up.  This year we want to explore the Mosel as it has been many many years since we last visited that area.  We had a good run down to Dover and arrived a couple of hours early so parked on the eastern end of the cliffs in the National Trust car park and spent a couple of hours walking the dog and looking out over the channel at France and the shipping passing up and down.  We caught an early evening ferry and spent the night in the P&O car park at Calais to heavy rain, having left bright sunshine in Dover.

Aire outside Luxembourg

After an early start we set off in rain for Luxembourg and the rain just got worse and worse.  Even when we parked at the Aire in Dudelange, just south of Luxembourg city it was still raining heavily.  Luxembourg is a good route to take when travelling east or south east as the fuel is much cheaper than other countries in Europe and the motorways are free making it possible to travel all the way from Calais, through Belgium, Luxembourg and into Germany toll free.  We didn’t explore the possibilities of Luxembourg city as that would need much more time so we left it for another time and left the following morning for the short drive into Trier.

Porta Negra at Trier

Trier is a great starting point for visitors to the Mosel region as it has lots to offer with its excellent square, Roman ruins and traditional German atmosphere.  From the Stellplatz we cycled into the city in the afternoon to explore and get a sense of prioritising the list of “to do’s”  including the Cathedral, Electoral Palace, Porta Negra, Roman baths and Amphitheatre.  We headed back for evening meal then walked back into the city centre just to sit in the main square and watch the world go by.  The Stellplatz in Germany are a little better organised than some other places and they have the baker delivering bread, croissants etc. to your camper door each morning – simply place your order at the kiosk the night before, leave a carrier on your door mirror and it gets delivered first thing.  The following morning after breakfast we got the cycles out again and cycled along the banks of the Mosel in a circular journey of around 18kms.

Trittenheim from the cafe veiwpoint

Next day we moved on to Trittenheim a village on the inner bank where the Mosel doubles back on itself.  Cross the bridge and walk up the hill to the beer garden at the top of the hill and look out over the area where you can see for miles the Mosel meandering on its way to the Rhine.  There is another viewpoint on the Trittenheim side of the river that consits of a walk up through the vines to the Laurentious Chapel, a little church at the top of the river banks that also has great views of the Mosel and surrounding area.

Bernkastel Square

The following morning we were woken to the sound of a horn and another baker selling his products.  We moved on another few miles to the Bernkastel/Kues twin villages, parking in the carpark at Kues.  Walked over the bridge into Bernkastel and into what must be one of the most beautiful squares in the whole of Germany.  The square was decorated with flowers, magnificant wood carvings all among truly magnificent houses dating back hundreds of years.  The entire town is overlooked by the Landshut Castle – well worth the climb up to see the views.

Kues from the castle

We moved on a few miles to spend the night at the Stellplatz in Urzig, another place right on the banks of the Mosel.  The scenery around this region is fabulous, with each village contributing something a little different yet all part of the same Mosel wine region.  The following morning we solved one mystery – how the vines were tended on the almost vertical slopes – they are trimmed using a mono rail to carry the workers up through the vines and the vines are sprayed using a crop spraying helicopter.  all clever stuff.  Urzig is a quiet village where almost the entire population works on or is involved with growing vines and that is reflected when walking through the village.

  Valwig

Having solved the mystery we moved on through Ernst and into Cochem and decided to park at the small village of Valwig on the opposite side of the river, some 2 kms away from Cochem.  We cycled into the town of Cochem that afternoon and chained the bikes up to the bike racks provided and explored the town.

 Cochem Castle

The water front of Cochem is one of the better fronts along the river with its abundance of flowers, gardens and neatly kept lawns.  Cochem Castle is a must as it is fully furnished and open to the public.  Unfortunately they don’t allow dogs in so we couldn’t go inside but didn’t regret climbing up the hill to the entrance as the views are worth the effort.  Cochem also boasts a cable car and numerous pleasure boats that take you either way up or down the river from Trier to Koblenz.  The square is another great place to people watch with lots of outside setaing cafe’s and restaurants though it does get very busy at lunch times with dozens of buses bringing in tourists by the hundred.

While at Valwig we discovered another first – mobile wine tasting.    The local grower came round each evening, opened the boot of his estate car and proceeded to offer cooled wines for tasting with no obligation to buy.  On the second day we did buy a couple of bottles as we really did like the ones we tasted.

  Bilstein

On this second day we cycled from Valwig to Bilstein, a gorgeous village used by a number of film crews as back drops for a variety of productions and it became very popular at lunch time when the whole of the village streets were turned into a series of dining areas.  From Bilstein we cycled to the nearby ferry, crossed the river and cycled up the opposite bank into Cochem, then over the bridge and down the other side back into Valwig.  It was a lovely cycle ride of some 20kms.

We set off again and this time detoured to the N+B factory for some parts that I needed as we wanted to modify the sleeping area in the front of the camper.  We had lunch at Kobern-Gondorf Stellplatz then got thrown when we couldn’t find the Koblenz Stellplatz, went to the Winningen campsite, decided it was too far to cycle into Koblenz and in a fit of temper decided to give Koblenz a miss and continue down to Oberwessel on the Rhine.

  Oberwessel

Unfortunately we could only stay one night at Oberwessel as the site was fully booked and as we had arrived late afternoon we didn’t have much chance to explore.  Oh well – off we went this time we went a fair way down to Baden Baden and parked at the Stellplatz there.  BB surprised us really as it could be described as an “upmarket spa town – large traffic free centre with designer shops, theatre, fountains and opera house”  It also has a pump house, thermal baths, spas and a casino.  However for us the real joy was their enormous Black Forest Gateau – a real sight to see – we couldn’t resist one.   We sat in the grounds of the casino listening to the band playing to the crowds that milled around the casino and cafe’s.  The Casino had provided settee’s and lounge chairs to sit on.

  Baden Baden

Baden Baden was a pleasant surprise and is well worth a trip and any traveller could find plenty to occupy them for several days, however we were now on a mission and wanted to sample more of the Black Forest region.  We drove along the B500 known as the High Road and climbed up through the mountains to Hummelsee, a small lake along the way.  We stopped for coffee and walked around the lake.  Sadly the local hotel had recently caught fire so was closed up however the smell of burning still lingered.

  Stellplatz at Baiersbronn

We carried on along the B500 towards Freudenstadt and stopped at a wonderful Stellplatz at Baiersbronn.  The local Tourist Office employee comes around to collect the fees and presnts everyone with an information pack of all the attractions in the area – all very professional.  The village was a quite sleepy village but still had lots to offer if you looked around.

  Village Square

There was a small market selling Spargel and different berries all very reasonably priced.  The square was quite modern yet had all the ingredients to make it functional and the flowers were magnificent.  We walked along one of the many hikers paths that started in the village and were surprised to discover a chair lift that took us to the top of the hill – they even stopped the lift to allow Chase to sit with us on the trip – a little scarey but Chase didn’t seem to mind.

  Chase enjoys his ride

There was a cafe/restaurant at the top with a viewing point giving spectacular views around the area.  The walk back down was brilliant with a new view at every turn.  This is highly recommended and not to be missed, especially for those who like the Austrian or Swiss walking paths.

We stayed here 3 days as there were so many things to do.  we cycled uphill to Freudenstadt, another very pleasant place with an unusual water fountain display in the main square that the local children just loved.  This area is also a ski area and had several chairlifts.  At least cycling back was all downhill and took a quarter of the time even allowing for another coffee stop.  On the third night we had a thunderstorm to end all thunderstorms and Chase hid in his usual place – the shower tray.  The following morning was back to clear skies and sunshine and a lot less humid.  We had arranged to meet up with friends at Colmar so we set off to Fessenheim so we would not have far the travel the following day.

  Fessenheim

Fessenheim Aire was supposed to be by the banks of the Rhine but something got lost in translation as it was quite a distance away from the river with a power station in between.  The village itself was very quiet and deserted almost.  Still we would not have far to travel to Colmar.  Another phone call firmed up the actual meeting point and so we headed out for Turckheim and booked into the municipal site there.

  Storks nesting at Turchheim

The site has a great view of the storks nesting on the roof tops in the town and at first I thought how clever these stoks were until I realised that the nests are built around man made metal frames – bit of a fix really.  We met up with Dave and Betiwyn late in the afternoon and spent the remainder of the day catching up with news over a few drinks and a BBQ.  The following day Dave used their camper to take us all to Eguisheim to see the village built around a circle.

  Eguisheim

I must say it was really interesting – the church was in the centre and each street was a circle around the church extending to the outskirts of the village.  All the villages in the Alsace and Black Forest regions looked great at this time of year as the numerous flower tubs, boxes, gardens and hanging baskets were in full bloom.  On our return to Turckheim we decided to try out the local restaurant for an evening dinner and had a really good meal.  On the third day we bad farewell to Dave and Bet and they left for Germany and we continued along the Alsace wine route.

From Turckheim we moved to Kaysersberg a lovely village full of atmosphere all among the vines.  The Aire at Kaysersberg is very conveniently located in the centre of the village and is large enough to cater for most vans – there are even two service points.  It was here that we discovered a cycle ride into Riquaweir – a distance through the vines of around 6kms.  From kaysersberg we ambled north following the wine route calling at Ribeauville, Hunawhir and into Bergheim.

  Ribeauville

We found a lovely farmers camping place in Bergheim so decided to stay a couple of days.  Bergheim is yet another village in the Alsace and if they removed all the village names you wouldn’t be able to tell one from the other.  We did discover a whole network of cycle paths in the area and spent one whole day cycling from one place to another covering over 25kms – while not exatly Tour de France stuff it was a fair trip for any folks not used to cycling or only using them a couple of weeks a year.

We had discovered a problem with the awning – the material was splitting and as it was under warranty we decided to call into the Omnistor factory to see if we could get it repaired as we had visions of the problems trying to post an 8mtr 75kg parcel from UK to Belgium.  We arrived at the factory and found an Aire nearby at Warneton so spent the night there.  Warneton is right on the Belgian /French border and a pleasant little village on the canal with good walks up and down the canal – Chase loved it.  The following morning we presented ourselves at the factory gates and were surprised at the service we got.  We were asked to take the camper around to their fitting area where a man came out with a portable scaffolding, removed the awning and replaced it with a brand new one.  he also commented on why dealers and manufacturers always position awnings over the centre of windows instead of aligned to windows.  What he said made sense and while we were getting ready to move off he came back and handed us a new section of awning rail that would allow us to re-position the awning correctly – all FOC.

We left Omnistor and headed up towards Calais as now we had to get Chase’s passport stamped.  We have been using the Vet at Gravelines but his fees have made us think of looking elsewhere in future – €60 for a 5 minute visit, pill and stamps- – up by €25 from two years earlier.  We spent the night at the campsite at Escalles just to the south of Calais as we had to wait 24 hrs before we could return to UK.  Escalles is a good finishing point for travellers returning to UK as it is less than 20 mins drive to the ferry terminal or 10 minutes to the Eurotunnel station.  From the site you can look over the cliffs and see the white cliffs of Dover and the ferry boats entering and leaving the docks.  Fabulous sunsets.  We caught the ferry the following morning and arrived home in the afternoon.  All in all a very pleasant holiday, good weather, lovely places and a relaxing time.

Trip Statistics:

Time Away:             22 days                                                Distance Travelled:   1300miles

Cost of Ferry:          £91                                                       Cost of Fuel:               £380

Cost of LPG:           £15.50                                                  Cost of Tolls:              £0.00

Cost of Aires           £88.00                                                Vet Fees                      £50

Exchange rate:   £1 =€1.22

 

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