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The "Wine" Trip


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After already having had four weeks scampering round Scandinavia, we decided that the second continental trip of the year should be a little more relaxed, and also more southwards in search of some late warm weather.


With three weeks available between family commitments, we decided we'd like to visit a few areas as yet untouched, and revisit a small number of places we hadn't been for some time. This time, France was firmly on the agenda, it having been neglected for some time, and a rough plan to head southwards through Champagne and Burgundy, into the Alsace, across to Freiburg and the Black Forest, and then

return via The Mosel began to form. It was beginning to look a bit like a wine trip, and as it happens, it became even more so.


There follows, in instalments, a log of our trip.


We were originally planning to set off towards the end of August, but family (again) got in the way, and by the time we'd freed ourselves and were going, at short notice, to book an early ferry from Dover to Calais, it happened to coincide with the day of the planned French demonstration at Calais, with the potential for hold-ups either side of the Channel. Already being later than we wanted, the thought of

queuing to get into France wasn't attractive, so we switched our allegiance to the Hull - Zeebrugge ferry, at a higher cost, but certainly more convenient for us, and set off on Tuesday 6th Sept.


Hull is a relatively easy drive for us, and as the ferries "lay-over" at each end during the day, they load you at almost any time you arrive (within reason) without a dockside wait. No reason not to arrive early then, and this makes it fairly easy to allow for contingencies (and as there is only the one boat per day this is important). So, we set off for Hull (little over an hour away) with almost two hours spare in hand. Assoon as we hit the A1 however, and with nowhere to exit, the whole road was closed due to an accident some 10 miles further North. We crawled for an age until we were finally able to exit and go across country (with half the other vehicles), finally making the ferry terminal in a sweat with 10 minutes to spare. Ironic, given our choice of this route to avoid potential delays. (As they load early, the boats also often sail before advertised departure time, and not long after final reporting time - I asked the woman on check-in whether they closed spot on time, and she replied that it depended entirely on the captain).


We've used the Rotterdam ferry from Hull before, but this was the first time to Zeebrugge, and, as this boat is docked in a "wet", or impounded dock, not the river, the departure is somewhat time consuming, as it must both turn and manoeuvre out through a set of lock gates with little clearance - quite fascinating seeing the amount of control that can be applied to such a large boat.


An uneventful night followed (the ship was sparsely populated given there were no bus tours on board) and we disembarked at Zeebrugge not long after 9 o'clock on Wednesday morning. Given our original outline itinerary, the arrival at Zeebrugge gave us the chance to drop down through the Ardennes, and head in the general direction of Charleville-Mezieres before continuing towards Champagne. We've used the municipal campsite at C-M several times many years ago, and this, or the aire, would be our fallback option, but we wanted to "manage" the amount of travelling between stops, and so were permanently on the look-out for any stops (campsites or aires/stellplätze) that appealed.


Apart from a few roadworks in the Brugge area, exit from Zeebrugge was a doddle, and we were quickly onto the Belgian motorway towards Mons, and then a cross-country route to the finger of France around the Meuse above C-M. It wasn't particularly fast (or slow) but it was pleasant to have a different route South from our usual French or German excursions; and it was how we came to test the Aire at the

side of the Meuse at the small French town of Haybes.


We'd decided we would start to examine single-night stopping options as soon as we re-entered France near Givet and travelled down the Meuse. I'd looked a few options up, but by the time we got there, they'd rather merged into one in my mind. Givet looked quite attractive, but the main aire is somewhat out of town, and the quayside parking looked "rammed" from the view we had from the other side of the river.


20km further upstream (but South) at Haybes, we could see a few 'vans parked in the dedicated motorhome area on the riverside next to the boat mooring, and so crossed the river to look. It being sunny, shortly after 2 o'clock, and looking very attractive, we decided that would do.


Now, this aire won't be for everyone; it is roadside (though the road is dead-end and quiet) and there are no services, though at this point in the holiday we didn't need them (the parking is, however, exclusively and officially designated for Camping-Cars). It is on the riverside, with enough grass to sit out. If you want to fish from your 'van, a guy next to us caught a ginormous carp whilst we were watching (though I don't know if a licence is required). The Meuse cycleway goes immediately past (and provides a bit of a walk as well). There is some road noise from the other side of the river, and similarly the (passenger) railway, though both were reasonably quiet at night through to around 7 in the morning.


Haybes could be the epitome of the declining small French town, though there is a grocers, a few bars, a decent looking hotel/restaurant, and a boulangerie (and a large monument to a first world war massacre, which appears to be Haybes main, and possibly only, claim to fame).


This is simply a reasonable place on a nice day to have a short stopover and stretch your legs before heading on; for free; though do buy some bread or have a drink in one of the bars to put something back into the community. By late evening, all the designated space was full.


(Incidentally, though there are no services, they are supposedly available at the municipal campsite a short drive away, though they would appear to be inside the site, and thus probably chargeable. There are, however, acceptably clean public toilets within a hundred yards or so of the aire. The campsite itself also looks fine for a stopover, or possibly a longer session if you wanted to bike the Meuse in either or both directions, and would appear to be very good value - just don't expect too much of note in Haybes).


..to be continued



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So, after a free night, up reasonable time the following morning and off southwards towards Champagne with the temperature rising towards 30C. We only envisaged a shortish stopover here (not having been over-fond of the countryside on previous passes through) before heading to Burgundy, our first target for slowing down a bit. So we found ourselves using a selection of less-than-main roads heading towards Vertus (a Champagne hot-spot on about the half-distance mark), and finally selected a potential aire in a small village not far away, in the back-yard of a Champagne "proprietaire-recoltant", where we arrived early afternoon.


This ( http://champagnelecleremassard.jimdo.com/aire-camping-car/ ) proved to be a good choice; round towards the side of the house, on level tarmac, quiet and full services, including electric, for €5 per night. There was room for around 4 'vans, and as there was no-one in we pitched in the best spot and had a very hot walk into Vertus along the road. Lots of Champagne houses, but, TBH, nothing overly special in the town, though the area round the church was ok and quite quaint.


On our return, the "matron" had just arrived, so we paid, and then bought a bottle of their premier cru Blancs de Blancs (no pressure, but it would have been churlish and impolite not to have done wouldn't it?, and as it came out of the fridge, and we were hot, it was quaffed there and then as an aperitif :-)).


Now Champagne isn't really my thing for day-to-day drinking, but it certainly tasted good to me, and at €14.50 a bottle was part of the experience................. and anyway, it had a "Camping Car" on the cap; who could resist that? :->


We were joined quite late by another 'van, who also left early (though I'm sure he paid). This was very good place for a one night stopover (especially if you fancy the Champagne, though a bit isolated for a longer stay unless you fancy doing, say, a bit of cycling).


....to be continued..





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Burgundy is a region we've often bypassed in heading South before, and having read some reasonable write-ups of the area, we had decided to "dip our toes" on this trip.


Semur-en-Auxois was to be the destination of choice, again, less than half a day's drive away, and we set off in continuing hot weather. We had decided to look at the municipal campsite, with a view to walking into the town later. Our route was on lesser-used roads again, and the countryside increased in attraction as we headed South. We approached through the town itself, Which reinforced the impression that it would be a good place to wander round, but the municipal was rather too far out for our liking, even though we don't mind a good walk (and though technically open, the office was shut and there were no apparent units on site).


Prior research had indicated that there was a free aire right on the edge of town, located opposite the hospital and sharing the car park of the town's sports grounds. As we'd liked the look of the centre, we set off to check the aire out, and decided that it would do for a night. (In fact, that is doing it a bit of a disservice; though very much a car park, there was little evidence of much use by cars, it was quietly located, had decent - all free - services, and wasn't much over 5 minutes walk from the centre. There were a number of 'vans in residence when we arrived).


So, we parked up, and headed for a good exploration of the town, which was attractively set, and with some very good "medieval" sights. At one point, heading along the river below the town, we passed two ladies conversing in French, and one asked if we were looking for something. When my wife responded, explaining we were English, the response came back (in slightly accented English) that she was herself English, but had moved to Semur years ago. Further conversation elicited that she knew exactly where we lived, as she had been a teacher in the next village before she retired; Small world!


Having exhausted the sights, we returned to the 'van for a rest, before heading back to the town centre for an evening meal. We used a small restaurant "en face" to the church, and it being a warm evening, sitting on the terrace for best part of two and a half hours was a good way to pass the time. (the bill, however, including a good bottle of Burgundy, reminded me of some of the reasons we've recently favoured Germany over France for our trips!). A short walk brought us back to the 'van and bed.


One night on the aire was enough, given we'd exhausted the immediate vicinity, but we decided we'd look around for somewhere to have a couple of nights close by, and having set off broadly eastwards, we soon crossed the Canal de Bourgougne (looking good for cycling), slipped into Venarey-les-Laumes and had a quick look at the municipal camping "Alesia", decided it would do, and resolved to return later after a bit of an explore in the 'van.


One of the motivations was the write-up that Noyers gets; a small, relatively unspoilt medieval (again) town not over far away. Accordingly, we set out in a circle to take this in, and return to the campsite in the afternoon. The weather was still very hot, the drive was through pleasant countryside, and Noyers proved worth the effort. (Though I suspect it might be a real tourist honey-trap, it was patently far from at its busiest, and the route I took through the narrow streets to park up would have been horrendous with any more traffic around). Incidentally, Noyers seems to have a very small municipal campsite right in the middle where you have to go and ask at the Marie for the key - no sign that it had been used for some time though.


After a relaxed stroll around, we set off back for our selected campsite, and, via a different approach, passed through Semur again. We had seen some preparations the previous day, but nothing had prepared us for the large horse fair/show which was taking place below the avenue of trees leading from the aire to the town centre. Literally hundreds of animals, seemingly all of the same breed, tethered in temporary "corrals".


So, in the mid afternoon we booked in to Camping Alesia for two nights.


....to be continued






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..so, we booked in with the friendly Guardien at Camping Alesia at Venarey-les-Laumes for two nights. The town itself is nothing much to write home about (it has a good, well-stocked supermarket, where, following our wine theme, we stocked up with an amount of Burgundy, and a friendly Tourist Information office). The campsite, however, had all the best attributes of a decent French Municipal, and more importantly, was a very short distance away from the Canal de Bourgogne, along which we intended to cycle the next day. The large-size, hedged emplacement cost us €15.10 per night with electric, and the campsite itself was down a quiet residential street, backing onto recreational space with a fishing lake.


We wandered off after dinner to look at the canal, and passing the lake we noted there were a few marquees up, and a 72-hour fishing competition was in progress. As this wasn't far from our pitch, we were concerned somewhat about overnight noise, but all was quiet by 10 o'clock.


Rising the following morning to continuing hot weather, we got the bikes out and resolved to cycle South, up the canal, (having seen some of the scenery the other way in our toting the day before), seeing how far we could get before returning. The obvious target was the summit of the canal at Pouilly-en-Auxois, where it disappears into a tunnel, but this would be a round-trip of well over 50 miles, on a hot day (though it would all be, gently, downhill on the way back).


Well, we did it, with a couple of refreshment stops; the riding being quiet despite it being a Sunday; and very enjoyable it was indeed. A distance of 54 miles, in picturesque surroundings, and something we would consider again. There were many locks to view on the way, and the tunnel entrance at Pouilly was quite impressive.


We considered staying and riding the other way the next day, but 54 miles had been enough, and we wanted to save something for subsequent visits, so, we resolved to find another stopover further East on our way to Alsace, and that's how we happened on another simple aire, just outside Langres.


....to be continued.




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As stated at the start of the thread, we planned to cross from France into Germany after (re-)visiting Alsace, but we liked Burgundy and around enough not to want to head on too far immediately. Looking for a place of interest to break the journey, we happened on Langres (which is actually back in Champagne-Ardennes, but broadly on our desired route), so we decided to have a look there to see if it was worth a bit of a dally.


We set off from Venarey, and again restricted ourselves to minor roads in order to maximise the sightseeing. We reached Langres before lunch and, arriving from the SW, it looked sort of alright, but not very inspiring. We circumnavigated the walls and dropped in to look at the free serviced aire (overnight parking is also tolerated in a couple of the town car-parks, but we prefer not to share with large numbers of cars). This was perfectly functional, but very uninspiring (you would get a better view from a prison cell ;-) ), so we decided against it. Eschewing the car parks, we decided to drop down the hill below the city, and have a brief look at a small aire next to the (different) Bourgogne-Champagne canal, about a mile out of town at the "Port de Plaisance".


As we dropped down the hill, the reason Langres was rated became much more obvious. It is set high on a vantage point, and the ramparts are pretty near complete. It looked very attractive (though climbing back up to it looked less so :-() and we started to hope the aire would be OK, so we could visit.


Without knowing about it, this aire would not have been easy to spot as it isn't signed from the main road, but there are three (possibly four) dedicated free motorhome places on the small car park next to the canal moorings. (just visible under the trees in the picture). As we arrived, there was a single, Spanish-registered 'van in situ, though it turned out they were British ex-pats returning to Spain after visiting family in Nottingham. There are no services here (albeit there is a non-too-clean toilet at the moorings, along with a small library of books, some of them even in English!), but it is peaceful, and sitting on the canal-side is a pleasant place to be. The services at the main aire in Langres are free, and are only two miles away at most.


After a break for lunch, we walked a back-road route up to the town (quite steeply uphill, and it was still very hot), did the complete circuit of the ramparts, and wandered around in the centre until we'd had enough (and a refreshment break, of course!). There was the odd sight of a railway coach perched on the edge of the ramparts, with a vestigal railway ramp leading up. It seems that the main railway station was originally built well down below the walls, and the locals didn't take long to decide the climb we had just done wasn't for them, and had built a rack and pinion line up to the town. It was removed quite some time ago, and the current display was a recent, non-working, restoration.


Dinner was taken back at the aire on a balmy evening, having set ourselves up on the bank. I got into conversation with a couple on a boat flying an odd flag that had arrived whilst we were up in town. Turned out they were Zimbabwean, and, having bought a boat in February were (very) slowly touring the French canal system, and enjoying every minute, though their batteries were knackerted, and they broke offf to fire up the generator - I was glad they were the other end of the moorings from us.


After a peaceful night, the next destination was to be Alsace (continuing the wine theme).


And as a bit of further info, what we had taken from below to be one of the car parks with some motorhomes in it turned out to be a campsite, just inside the ramparts. If we'd sussed this when we arrived, then we might well have gone to have a look at it, but the selected aire served perfectly well.


....to be continued





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We've visited Alsace intermittently over the years, but it has been a little while since we were last there. In many ways, this was planned simply as a stopover on the way to Freiburg, but we hoped to get some cycling (and a bit of wine-tasting) in.


Still in hot weather, we headed cross-country towards the Vosges, and had a quick look at the campsite at Turckheim, which would have been new to us, and was about where we wanted to be (not least because I'm partial to Gewürztraminer, for which it is well-known). It was, however, very full, and thus not an attractive proposition. Neither did the aire look the most inviting, so we headed on to the campsite at Riquewihr, which we have used once in the dim and distant past, and was a cycle-able distance from Turckheim, should we want to do it.


It is quite a pleasant site this, a little out of Riquewihr, but easily walkable on paths and back roads. We arrived shortly before the end of the lunchtime break, so queued in the designated lane behind a Swiss motorcaravan, and went for a wander around the pitches. When we returned, there was more of a queue behind us, and a French tugger had parked directly in front of the Barrier, he remained in the driving seat and Madame had muscled her way to the front of the queue! The driver of the Swiss van was having none of it, and when the receptionist turned up he pointed out that he was first in the queue, and pushed past Madame. I was going to do the same, but he turned round and said "and you are second, aren't you?", which was all the invitation I needed.


Then, the predictable happened; as Madame was getting more and more animated, someone who was already booked in turned up and wanted to enter the site, but couldn't because the entrance was blocked. Madame was told in no uncertain terms that they would have to move; backwards. After consulting with the driver, and much Gallic shrugging, she returned to say, "he can't reverse it", which elicited the curt reply (in French) "shouldn't be driving it then; move it!". Finally, the unit was reversed, and had to join the back of the (now increased in length) queue, to (not very) restrained cheers from the audience. We booked in with the pleasant young lady and were left to select our own pitch and return to notify the number. 2 nights with electric cost €38, and the facilites are modern and clean.


We then went for an afternoon stroll into and around Riquewihr. It's a very attractive little town, but rather "touristy", and somewhat better and quieter in the evenings. Lots of places to eat and drink (and undertake tastings of the excellent local wines). The aire is not to be recommended, however; it shares one of the local car-parks, has tight spaces with no motorhome dedication, and a 24-hour stop is not going to cost much less than the campsite, (though 18:00 to 09:00 is a bit cheaper if you're only overnighting).


We returned to the 'van for a break before heading back in for dinner, and that's when we were visited by the stork (no, not in that way, that would be a miracle!). Obviously quite tame, and presumably having been previously fed, the bird was circling the pitches looking for food. You see quite a few around the area, but I've not seen one this tame. Then, back into town for dinner and some wine-tasting off the main drag at a pleasant little restaurant.


The following day was a bike ride of around 25 miles to Turckheim and back through the vineyards and via Kayserberg and other small villages; all pretty attractive, the quieter ones more so. After a hot day out, it was back for dinner at the 'van in warm evening sunlight. A further late evening wander around town completed the day.


Tomorrow, after a bit of a top up on the wine front, would be the short hop across the border to Freiburg.


....to be continued





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...so, across the Rhine, into Germany, and on to Freiburg; a short hop of under 50 miles.


We'd visited Freiburg once before; briefly and many moons ago. We'd liked the look of the place, and had resolved to come back for a longer look some time, but until now had never got round to it. We were planning spending much of our time walking round the city, and research indicated that there was a Stellplatz only some 10 minutes walk from the centre, which looked like a reasonable prospect, and so we headed there.


Arriving around lunchtime to plenty of space, the on-site reception was closed, but there was a self book-in system consisting of form-filling and putting money in an envelope. It's the first time I've seen a Stellplatz charged by size of pitch, but ours just fitted nicely on the smallest, 7m, yellow delineated space, so we chose a nice quiet one, pitched and booked in. The weather was changing, with a threat of showers or even longer rain, so we booked for one night, with the intention of staying a second if it suited. Pitches are €9, 10 or 11 depending on size, and water and disposal are included, but electricity, if required is chargeable and "metered" (coin in the slot) - outlets were relatively well distributed, but we would have struggled to reach one at our chosen spot, and didn't need electric anyway. Wifi was available for €1 per 24 hours.


Having had a quick lunch at the 'van, we set off for the centre, which was indeed a flat 10 minutes or so walk away, in a straight line with just a small "dog-leg" to get over the railway. Freiburg is a relatively compact city of trams and bikes (and students), with some good sights and architecture, and an awful lot of building work going on (which intruded slightly on some of the sightseeing). So, we spent an enjoyable afternoon exploring the Altstadt around the Münster (surrounded as it was by market stalls selling everything under the sun), culminating in a vertigo-inducing climb up the church tower - one section in particular being very narrow, very open, and suspended outwards from the main fabric. SWMBO was not impressed.


We then headed back to the 'van for a short rest, before returning to the Altstadt for dinner. Decent wine selection by the glass, and a rather cheaper final bill than France made this an enjoyable session, and we mooched around the centre in the twilight before retiring to the 'van and bed. The Stellplatz had filled somewhat in the interim, but there were still spaces available.


The following morning, the weather (and forecast) were little different, but we decided we still had sights to see, so we returned to the centre, climbed into the hills adjoining, and did a circular walk of maybe 4 or 5 miles amongst the trees, every now and then happening on a view point over the city or surrounding countryside. Following some more exploration of the centre, we returned to the 'van for a slightly longer rest than the previous day, and again went back into the centre for dinner.


Both choices of venue for dinner were good, but this second one, though cheaper, was one of only two places the whole holiday that didn't take credit card. (not a problem, as we always carry enough cash for such eventualities).


We enjoyed our stay in Freiburg, (just watch out for the bikes and trams!) assisted by the ease of access from the Stellplatz. We returned to the 'van to plan our next move (which was a bit of a gap in our decision making), and staying in the Black Forest area won out (quite easily, as we like it), which is how we managed to find yet another excellent, and highly-recommended, Stellplatz.


...to be continued






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The next move was largely dictated by our desire to visit part of the Schwarzwald as yet untrodden (by us, at least), and the deteriorating weather forecast, which indicated that the morrow, Saturday, was "iffy", and Sunday decidedly more so (an outlook that was once described to me in German as "sheiss, überall" ;-) ). Accordingly, we wished to make the most of the Saturday with but a short hop, making the best of the Sunday if/as required.


The Stellplatz at Unterkirnach seemed to fit the bill, it being well-reviewed and not much more than an hour's drive away. We set off thence, with a brief diversion to check out Titisee, which (despite many good opinions) didn't really seem our sort of place, and arrived at Unterkirnach in the late morning.


Now this was a really good find. Unterkirnach is a pleasant, if largely unremarkable, village, with a decent small supermarket, a baker, a smattering of eating places and a cafe, etc. with access to good walking, and a featured swimming pool. The centrally located Stellplatz is, however, outstanding, with hardstanding pitches well spaced in a "star" fashion, excellent services on an adjacent integral "roundabout", and 16 amp electricity to each pitch; all for €11 per night. This includes the Konus card (free public transport throughout the Black Forest area), and free access to the swimming complex. Book-in is via the nearby and friendly tourist information office (during opening hours), or the swimming pool which has longer hours, or honesty box if neither of these options works (though the latter obviously won't deliver the Konus card or swimming pool access).


Buses go from the village to Villingen (about 5 miles away) which is rated as an attractive visit and provides a transport hub. We were given the Konus card, but, since the Sunday service was few and far between (and you also needed to phone for bus access on Sundays) we had little prospect of using it the next day. In the week, travel possibilities are pretty widespread and easy.


We selected one of the hard-standing "star" positions away from existing occupants, booked in at the tourist information for a couple of nights, had a quick lunch, and set out for an enjoyable (but less-well signposted than it should have been) afternoon's walk in better weather than had been forecast. On our return, we found a German 'van had occupied the position next to us, but, avoiding the obvious, well-spaced hardstanding position, had parked on the grass parallel and as close to us as possible - hard against the post in the picture, not reversed fully back into the pitch (since his back end was up against the picnic table), and thus presented us with a view of nothing but a motorhome side, with the SOG outlet only a couple of feet from our side door. Most odd! It didn't take long before I broke and moved one position round to improve the outlook.

(Given that, on booking in, you were given a large "sign" to display demonstrating payment, the lack of such, plus the early departure the next day led me to believe they were "bilking").


Anyway, we were much happier in our new position, and had a set of conversations with our German neighbour on the other side, who was an ex-English teacher, and historic (very) attendee of Leeds University! The pitches filled somewhat by evening, but there were spaces all the time we were there.


After a very quiet night, the next day brought heavy rain as forecast. We spent the day walking under umbrellas, one outing being round a signposted path taking in all the local water infrastructure. It was actually much better than it might sound, in pleasant countryside and the various display boards and "games" would have been very amusing for any younger contingent (we, of course, didn't bother playing with any of the toy boats, etc. Oh no......)


This is somewhere we may well return - preferably midweek when the transport use should be more simple - there is also more local walking to interest us.


Time to move slowly North again, and having had a few nights on Stellplätze, the relative luxury of a campsite beckoned. We thus decided that an old stomping-ground, near Fredenstadt further North in the Schwarzwald, would be our fall-back, but we decided to check out a couple of possible Stellplätze just in case (and to do a bit of 'van sightseeing).


....to be continued



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We'd more or less set our sights on Camping Langenwald a mile or so out of Freudenstadt, but having used this a few times over the years (though not recently), in keeping with our desire to "break new ground", we resolved to check out alternatives on the way.


I had links to a Stellplatz on the shores of the Nagoldtalsperre reservoir, to the North West of Freudenstadt, so we set out to check it out. The drive there was quite attractive, but the place itself was in a large car park on the opposite side of the road to the water. It did have a very clean public toilet block, and disposal facilities (and was absolutely deserted), but, though it would make an adequate overnight stop, it wasn't the sort of place you'd want to park for a day or two. So we had our lunch, then set off back towards Freudenstadt, via Baiersbronn to look at the Stellplatz there.


Baiersbronn looked OK, and the Stellplatz, a small car park with dedicated spaces just off the town centre, was the type that just borders on the acceptable (for us), but the small amount of space was busy, it wasn't the quietest, and we knew we could do much better with our fall-back.


So, off to Camping Langenwald at Freudenstadt. The first time I used this site was 33 years ago, in passage on a climbing trip to Austria. As a family, we must have used it three times since, and each time improvements have been made. In season, this wouldn't be the cheapest of campsites, but in the now off-season, there was an all-in offer at €24 per night for two (excluding electricity, charged at €0.6 per kWH). As it happens, by using my "Camping Key Europe" card, which is (amost) the same as the ADAC card, I somehow got the ACSI rate at €21.80 per night, including taxes, and an initial allowance of electricity that covered all our consumption during our stay.


A combination of previous visits, and unforseen circumstances outlined later, meant that we have few pictures from our two days there, but this campsite is around a couple of miles (of easily walkable or cycle-able forest tracks) out of Freudenstadt. It has a good few pitches, separated into different areas in the trees, and (dedicated to the area we chose to pitch in) the best campsite facilities I've ever used. In the bottom and most attractive part of the site, there is a slightly older small toilet block, and a separate new building housing three enormous "wet rooms", luxuriously fitted out with counter-top washbasin, toilet and walk-in shower. Ideal for using "à deux", as most couples on site were obviously doing (stop sniggering at the back there!). Seriously, these rooms were so big that it was easy for one to have a (relatively private) shower whilst the other waited elsewhere in the room. Swapping over during dressing time made very efficient use of time, and no worries about losing one's turn ;-).


We arrived at lunchtime, and the office, though closed, had an invitation to pitch and book in later (the electricity is charged on meter self-reading at start and end, so no waiting for hook-up). We then made the pleasant trip into Freudenstadt, beneath the trees, and indulged in "Kaffee Kuchen" fairly late in the afternoon. Freudenstadt has an attractive centre, good transport links, and there is very good walking and cycling to be had, of just about any standard. We returned to the 'van for dinner in the twilight, and the night was colder than we had been accustomed to, partially because of the altitude.


Up reasonably early the next morning, with a good day's bike ride in mind. It was very misty (and cold) but with signs that the sun might break through. We decided to head up the forest tracks towards Kniebis, and then follow our noses through the forest, until we had had enough. It was cold all the way uphill (offset not entirely by the exercise) and we passed through Kniebis and out onto a viewing platform looking North across vast tracts of forest. We decided we could do a tour of the forest tracks, dropping slowly to Baiersbronn (for refreshment) and then making our way back up the valley to Freudenstadt, and the campsite.


We found ourselves drawn more and more onto remote tracks, following a mountain biking route (on which our "hybrid" style bikes were just viable). I then noticed that SWMBO was riding on a completely flat front tyre; on rough ground; fast; downhill...... It says much for the quality of the suspension forks that she hadn't noticed (an alternative view is that it says much about her complete lack of mechanical empathy - you might think that, b]I[/b] couldn't possibly comment).


So, there we were, deep in the forest, with no spare tube, but a puncture repair kit and tools. By intermittently pumping the tyre up, we managed to complete some miles downhill to Baiersbronn, where I found a nice bench seat by the river, and removed the wheel and tyre. I lost count of the number of people passing who stopped to gawp, and asked "Haben sie ein Platt?", to which I wanted to reply "No, it's just some little game called 'hunt the innertube' that we crazy Brits like to play every time we go for a cycle ride", but being not in the best of humour, my translation skills failed me. (The reply I actually wanted to use was much shorter and ruder, and one I most certainly could deliver in German - but I refrained)


With the help of the river, I managed to locate and seal the puncture, but after several attempts at refitting the tyre, I finally worked out why I couldn't. The wire bead had inverted itself on one side, and all but amalgamated to the tyre wall in that inverted position (probably the effect of riding with it flat). It took an awful amount of time and force to uninvert it all the way round the rim, but then it all went together swimmingly.


So, down to the adjacent cafe to avail myself of their washroom (Oh....and Kaffe/Kuchen of course....) then a ride back to Freudenstadt and the large cycle dealer to buy an innertube (just in case, as there were no signs the patch wasn't holding), and back to the campsite for a rest and dinner after a somewhat different day to that expected. We still managed well over 20 miles, though.


The following morning, time to move on again, further on our return path and following the decent weather forecast. Langenwald really is an excellent spot, but the idea had been growing of visiting the Pfälzerwald, another wine-growing area, and one we had missed out on over our years of visiting Germany. We set out with only a rough idea of our final destination, and found a real gem of a Stellplatz.


....to be continued




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Away reasonable time in the morning, instead of using the Autobahn via Karlsruhe, we decided to take the scenic route to Baden-Baden and then across the Rhine to cut the corner of France before re-entering Germany below the Pfälz. We got caught out slightly by roadworks, and had to take an 'Umleitung' which made quite a difference of route, but wasn't ultimately unpleasant. We took the opportunity to stop at a Supermarket in France and take on lunch and other supplies (actually, it was really to augment the take-home supplies of French wine ;-) )


We knew nothing much about the Pfälz, but research indicated that it was a major wine-growing area, it had hills and forests (the Pfälzerwald) rising from the plains, had castles, and not many campsites but lots of Stellplätze, many on wine-growers premises - what's not to like?


The plan was to enter from the South and head North following the Südliche Weinstraße until we found somewhere we liked. We wanted to avoid being on the plain, but to skirt the bottom of the forest such that we got easy opportunities for walking. Guided by research, we first went to look at a Stellplatz at Annweiler. The location attracted, since it would appear to have direct access to tracks leading up to Burg Trifels, one of the main castle attractions. It looked from the description, however, that it might be "on the margins" of our acceptability. In reality, we could have done a night on the large car park, as there were services, a few 'vans, and absolutely no cars (and it looked as though it would be quiet overnight). It was, however, quite inclined, permanently in the shade, and Annweiler was less attractive than we wanted; we decided we could do better.


Onwards, further North in lovely weather passing through villages on the Weinstraße, we saw a few potential places, but all the better ones were small, vineyard type plots, and largely occupied. As we passed below Gleisweiler, which is off and above the main road, we saw one 'van in an elevated position in a vinenyard in the distance, coinciding with a POI for a Stellplatz. We carried on to the next village, but decided it would be quite a good position if we could find it, so turned round and headed through Gleisweiler and up the hill into the vines. As it happens, when we reached the approximate location, we couldn't see the 'van, but we could see a hardstanding and grass plot to the rear of the Winzer's premises with a motorhome sign on it. We walked down to enquire, and a sneeky look round the front revealed the 'van we could see from the road. There was room for probably three 'vans at the front, but the one there had taken the only flat spot, so we chose the back, which had less of a distant view, but was much nicer ground, especially as we nicked the grass plot!




So, we went to book in, and were met initially very warmly, and told to make ourselves at home. I said we would probably drop in later for a bottle, to be met with the response "you will buy it now!". Now, I interpreted this as "you're not pitching on my ground if you don't first buy a bottle", (which wouldn't have surprised me, but it was a bit abrupt!) and things got "confused" for a short while. In reality, it being late in the afternnon, they had interpreted that I wanted a bottle for the evening, they were almost immediately going out, and wouldn't be back until late, so I should buy now. Confusion over, I ended up with a litre bottle of Riesling for €4.30, straight from the fridge, and when I offered to pay, it was waved away, and left to settle up when we left. It was immediately sampled on return to the 'van.


So, we got a very attractive level grass plot, next to an orchard behind the buildings, a grand view of the vineyard, all for €6 per night. I was asked if I wanted electricity, but I declined - there were two outlets easily reachable from our position - from conversation, I believe it would have been at additional cost. The various guides have this Stellplatz as having no disposal point, but, when the guy from the 'van at the front of the house wandered round late in the day, I had a long conversation with him in German (he was a regular visitor), and then asked where the fresh water was. He told me it was in the courtyard (which it was), and then demonstrated that I could lift a heavy manhole cover and use it for grey and black water disposal. There was a tool for doing this next to the water supply, but you would need a bucket or similar for grey water disposal, as it was inaccessible for a vehicle. (I confirmed with the owner the next day that it was OK for disposal of both grey and black).


We had an afternoon and early evening walk to the villages in either direction, eating back at the 'van as the setting and weather were so pleasant. We'd been joined by another 'van early evening, and a further small van snuck in late. Our stroll had indicated that access up into the hills was easy, and the trails plentiful, so we resolved (weather permitting) to have another day and explore further.


Up decently early the next day, we headed down to say we were staying another day. The lady of the house was very relaxed about that, but excitedly told me I must go up to the vineyard, where "The Machine" was being used to pick grapes. So, we headed a couple of hundred yards upward to join our host watching an extraordinary machine picking his red grapes. Having no helpers locally (family often carry out the function) his picking was contracted out to a man and machine that toured the local vineyards. It was fascinating to watch, straddling each row of vines in turn, and shaking them to dislodge and catch the ripe grapes. We spent some time watching and having the whole thing explained, before it came to a halt, we were shown the picked grapes, and then invited for a drink in the evening.


We spent the day walking in the hills, from viewpoint to viewpoint, and after some 20km returned rather tired. We headed down to the house, both to pay, and to buy a few more bottles of wine. After a liberal "tasting" session ("well, you are not driving", "I am tomorrow"), we wandered off with another litre of Riesling, a bottle of Spätburgunder Spätlese, and a bottle of Blauer Portugieser, the latter two having passed the tasting test, and none of them costing much (the two nights and four bottles of wine cost us little over €30). In the interim we had been regaled with tales of smuggling bottles past the UK customs on the way to selling them in Ireland, and other strange deeds.


This really was a fantastic, friendly little place. Gleisweiler itself was the most attractive of the local villages we visited, and I've little doubt that the Stellplatz was one of the best. Whilst there is a baker in the village, places to eat have rather "sparse" opening times, so a bit of forward planning is required. We shall return!


We even considered staying another night, but as we were nearing the end of our holiday, that would have meant at least one long drive, or a single night stop the following day, and the weather forecast North was good, so we set our sights on the Mosel.


....to be continued






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Accordingly, the next morning we set off towards the Mosel, somewhere in the order of 100 miles away. Anyone who has read my previous journey descriptions will know we like the Stellplatz at Wintrich, and tend to use this as a fall-back option, but in keeping with our desire for pastures new, we were intending to look elsewhere, probably Brauneberg or Minnheim.


Heading Northwards, and at the top of a long, straight steady descent, I noticed a number of people hanging around the roadside well ahead, and a suspiciously green and white VW Transporter. "Is that a speed trap?" I said - well, it soon became apparent it was. I was pretty sure I was under the speed limit, but the words exchanged at the "tasting" session the previous evening about not driving started going round in my head. (Well, you can't help feeling guilty about something, can you?) Sure enough, out steps a Polizist and waves me into the lay-by with his red, roundel baton!


He very politely asked me if I spoke German, to which I replied "a little",and then he explained that he wanted to see the vehicle papers and driving licences. The first was easy, but the licences were hidden away in the safe, and it took a bit of time to recover them. TBH, he didn't seem very interested in the papers, instead rather intently studying the inside of the 'van...... Then "I've got one of these, you know - it's a Livingstone and the layout is different, can I have a look round?" So we invited him in, and he had a good look round (in a non-Polizist way). Having then asked us where we were going, he advised us both that Brauneberg had its wine fest that weekend, and that the main road ahead was shut, and that we would need to divert (and a better route than the signposted diversion was suggested). He then wished us a good journey, and off we went. (They'd pulled a foreign registered lorry in behind us, and I suspect they were going through the motions with all foreign vehicles; I was still feeling guilty - of something undefined - though ;-) ).


So, as we wanted somewhere reasonably relaxed, Brauneberg looked out of the question again. I suspected Wintrich would be similar (since it is close by, and they tend to lay on buses to the festivals from nearby Stellplätze). Well, Wintrich was full, Minnheim was full, Piesport was full, so we headed up to Trittenheim.


We've used the Stellplatz here once before for a short overnight when we hit the Wine Fest at Wintrich. It has the disadvantage of being more (but not entirely) like a car park than the others already mentioned, but this is offset by the fact that it is usually easy to find space, Trittemheim is a well-rated wine village, and it has a good number of eating and drinking outlets nearby (as the Stellplatz is just on the village boundary). It also had the potential for a bike ride to Trier and back, the distance just about achievable.


So, we headed to Trittenheim, and with a few of the hard-standing pitches coned off, we positioned ourselves on the grass area (but still in reach of the "Strom"). It is €6.50 per night here, with electricity being an extra €3. There is black and grey waste disposal, and water is €0.50 for a timed fill which would give you around 100 litres by hose, or just about two (quick) visits with a container. the "Platzwart" visits in the evening and the early morning to collect fees, and the baker also visits in the morning. The riverside pitches have a large grass area in front of them, and are much in demand; games of "musical 'vans" taking place whenever one is vacated. Given that we weren't intending spending much daylight there, we weren't inclined to join in.


Shortly after we'd pitched, a large 'A' class joined us on our door side, but the nearby Strom outlets were now all occupied, and we left him scratching his head as to where he was going to hook-up, and headed out for a stroll round and dinner. The latter was taken on the terrace (it being a warm evening) at a wine grower's restaurant, with a bit of tasting, and decent food. Subsequently, a few bottles of Riesling were bought to take home, and this was only the second outlet on our holiday that didn't take credit card. Back to the 'van, to find the new neighbour had disappeared, and that the adjacent pitch had been "coned", a situation maintained until we left, two mornings later - so we kept our clear aspect throughout, and a nice bit of grass to sit out on! ( I never did get to understand the cone system, though the Platzwart removed that one on the morning we left!).


Up the next morning, we prepared to ride up-river, to see if we could get to Trier. We've done a lot of the Mosel on bikes, including a little of the day's planned route, but had never been all the way to Trier. As usual, we decided to "mix and match" the banks, out one side and back the other as far as possible, but choosing the North to set off wasn't a good idea, as there was quite a long stretch on the road (and we made a fruitless diversion to try to get off it). It was a cool and misty start, but the day warmed up and, in the end, mainly following the signposts, and diverting through the villages for a bit of sightseeing (and the odd refreshment stop) we made it all the way to the Porta Negra in the centre of Trier. Not having much time to spare, we set off back, avoiding the road stretches this time, and judging we would have tight turn-round to get back to Trittenheim, change and eat out, we stopped for a "Winzersteack un Pommes" (and a much-needed large beer) at a pleasant riverside establishment in Detzem on the way back.


With over 55 miles under our belts, we took a bit of a break on our return to the 'van, though at 8 o'clock we went for a stroll round town, and a glass of very nice wine at the nearest Winzer; sat on the terrace; in the twilight.


So, with only one night left before the Ferry, the next morning (Sunday) we headed further North, and back to the Meuse, towards the same stopover at Haybes we had used on the way out.


...to be concluded (hurrah!)





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The return to Haybes was motivated partially by a desire to remain off our habitual route to and from the Mosel, and partially by the fact that it provided a stopover which was almost exactly halfway to the Ferry, and which we knew would be an easy drive onwards.


The Satnav conveniently ignored the motorway round Luxembourg city, taking us towards the centre, and, it being Sunday, us having plenty of time, and wanting to take the opportunity to fill up with cheap fuel, we let it have its way. The traverse was no problem at all, there being little traffic, but, since there were tram works all along the route, I doubt it would have been the same on a weekday.


Suitably (and cheaply) refuelled, we made Haybes for a late lunch, and there was plenty of parking space (though, again, the aire was full by late evening). We lunched watching a Kingfisher darting around over the river, and then set off for a (longish) stroll out and back along the river bank, followed by dinner at the 'van, a stroll around town (retreating from the threatening clouds) and a quiet evening and night.


Then, the following morning, it was onwards to Zeebrugge and the ferry, with an easy drive to make the last reporting time at 17:30. We stopped at the supermarket just up the valley for daily provisions (and a final top-up of the vin stocks ;-) ), and since the aire at Haybes has no services, we detoured very slightly in Givet to look at the service point outside the campsite. Electricity and water are chargeable here, but grey and black water disposal are free and easily accessible, so we availed ourselves of these (this availability makes Haybes an even more viable stopover if heading back to the coast), and dawdled our way to Zeebrugge.


We've had problems before in dawdling across Belgium. We normally like to use up spare time with a set of coffee breaks or a long lunch break, but in Belgium in particular, we've always found that this is difficult. There are[ motorway aires, but the Belgian motorways are pretty boring, and you don't exactly dawdle on them. Reverting to non-motorway routes, however, almost invariably leads to passing through towns with the route between them consisting of unbroken ribbon-development (miles and miles of it!) with absolutely nowhere to stop. On this particular occasion we pulled off the main road and parked up in a quieter part of a small town - acceptable, but not ideal.


In heading North from Tournai through Kortrijk on the 'N' route (as opposed to the motorway), we were intrigued by a huge number (enough to elicit remarks) of "Casinos" and seedy looking "night clubs" along the road. I was intrigued enough to do some research on the web on returning home, but apart from a possible link with on-line gambling in Belgium being legal, but requiring a bricks and mortar presence, I didn't come up with much to explain it.


Due to lack of decent parking on the way, we arrived early at Zeebrugge, and were booked in immediately, but had to queue for loading. Contract security staff were checking every vehicle thoroughly (boots opened and rummaged) and we got the same treatment. The journey back to Hull was uneventful (though the Pride of York looks like it needs a refit more than the Pride of Brugge it was quite acceptable), and we, as expected, took an age to dock at Hull given the need to negotiate the dock gates. The detailed vehicle inspection was repeated by Border Control staff, and we were on our way and home 90 minutes later.


And that's broadly the end.




At just over 1300 miles on the continent, this was a much lower mileage and more-relaxed trip than our Scandinavian one (of necessity) was. The trip meter was showing 35.3mpg overall, which is slightly optimistic, but not bad. We'd largely met our objective as regards the outline route plan, very much met our objective of seeing some different places, enjoyed all our stops, and been very lucky with the weather.


A good holiday, and I hope the write-up has given some ideas to others for possible touring (especially any wine-lovers ;- ) )


...and the final picture (taken in the Pfalz) is of something I've not seen in Europe before.





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