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The Eiffel Tour


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Apologies - yet another retrospective trip report, folks!


Since the last Continental trip of the late Spring/early Summer we've had little opportunity to use the 'van (a couple of short UK trips excepted), with family interruptions and a couple of 'van-free holidays intervening. With something under three weeks available to us, a shortish Continental trip was beckoning.


Given the time available, and a desire to to maximise the "outdoor" time by reducing the driving from our habitual distances, we resolved to head for Germany again, and, if the weather was kind, not head down as far as the Alps, where our usual "pull" emanates from.


In May, we had visited the Eiffel National Park not far South of Aachen, and, having enjoyed it despite the busy bank holiday which ultimately drove us onwards, we had resolved to return when it was quieter and do a little more walking. Accordingly, our sights were set on Nettersheim for a few days, where we had used the pleasant Stellplatz in May, and then Southwards and/or Westwards, (but not too far) in search of pastures new.


I know I've sung the praises of Germany before, but not only is it motorhome heaven (given the general acceptance of the pastime and the plethora of Stellplätze) it is also good value for money in food, drink and other areas (noticeably so amongst the nearer Continental countries). We've wandered relatively aimlessly in past years, and wherever we ended up always found attractive and relaxing stopovers. This time, we were planning to wander aimlessly again (unless one were to acknowledge that we had an aim to visit places that were new to us).


Recent Continental trips have involved the crossings from Hull, but these attract a cost premium and the convenience factor hasn't been quite as high as it might have been due to heavy traffic both sides of the North Sea. We were planning to leave the UK on a Sunday, and the price at a weekend compared to short sea was just too much to swallow, so, for only the third time, we booked the Chunnel in preference to Dover-Calais by sea. (previous experiences of the Chunnel have been bad, with long delays, one of which contributed to writing-off a 'van in Normandy!).


And so it was that, having booked a late-morning crossing, we left home well before sunrise on Sunday 24/9 and headed for Folkestone. None of our travelling contingency was required, traffic being light even for a Sunday, and we arrived well in advance of our booked crossing, to be told we couldn't depart earlier as they were busy. It certainly didn't appear that way, and when we eventually boarded our designated train, it left on time very lightly loaded.


Promptly off at Coquelles we headed off towards Belgium. Having had an early start, we wanted to get as far towards Germany as we could without over-egging it. The Stellplatz at Aachen was a familiar contingency from June, but it was probably about an hour too far (and we wouldn't much feel like walking into the centre when we got there anyway). Research had shown a few potential overnighting stops in Belgium just before the German border, and one of these was the prime target.


We had a remarkably good journey via the E40, round the North of Brussels, and then via the E314 (the Northern option) towards Aachen. The surfaces on the Belgian motorways, though still not perfect, are considerably better than they once were (unlike Belgian drivers), and the E314 is not a bad road at all.


Just short of the German border, and some miles North of Maastricht, we left the motorway and headed a mile or so South to the town of Rekem, where there is dedicated motorhome parking. Google had shown it to be a good possibility for an overnight stop, and so it proved. The Aire/Stellplatz is on the side of the canal, a few hundred yards walk from Rekem (or more correctly Oude Rekem, the old town, which proved quite an attractive little place, with a selection of pleasant eating/drinking places, all of which were enjoying brisk trade in the warm evening sunshine). A little further away is a small Delhaize supermarket and a very good bakery. There are no service facilities of any kind here, but that's no problem for a first night out.


There were a few 'vans sited when we arrived (including an imaginatively converted Citroen H-van, ostensibly with a leaky roof), but no-one arrived after us (around 17:00). The weather being very kind, we had a wander around the old town, and then headed out and back along the canal to stretch our legs. When we returned, I noted the Dutch 'van conversion next to us had the same Busbiker bike rack (albeit with some odd modifications) as mine, and indeed, the 'van itself had been supplied by Buscamper (the Busbiker company). Eventually, the occupants, a father and son, returned, and the strange modifications became clear. They had a tandem; not only a tandem, but a folding tandem; not only a folding tandem, but an electric folding tandem!! Apparently, it had been bought non-electric and then modified, it being considerably cheaper that way. It was in fact the father's bike, which he normally rode with his wife, but he was out for an outing with his (30's) son before the latter departed to take up a job in Birmingham (my lips were sealed ;-) ). For anyone who does cycle, it is apparently a pleasant 40 minute or so ride along the canal direct into the middle of Maastricht (which I am advised is worth a visit).


We ate in the 'van, and had a quiet night despite the proximity of roads and a small factory across the canal. (It was Sunday, of course).


The target for the morrow was a reasonably early start and drive the 90 miles or so to Nettersheim, an early arrival giving us chance for an afternoon and evening walk.


....to be continued



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The following morning dawned misty, but promising, and after a quick breakfast we set off back to the motorway for the 90-odd mile drive to Nettersheim. The quick route took us mostly on motorways, to the North and East of Aachen, then South, and we made good progress.


We needed to provision, having travelled from the UK light on food and drink, so, as we approached Nettersheim, we stopped at the REWE, which is at the opposite end of town from the Stellplatz, and uphill, to save time and effort later in the day. There also happens to be free wifi here. Then, down the hill, through the town, and to a Stellplatz which was much quieter than it had been in May.


This is an attractive place, fashioned from an old quarry, with dividing hedges, and a separate 'service bay' next door. Unlike Rekem, this location is chargeable, but at a reasonable price of €8.50 a night including Strom, there should be no complaints. Payment is by parking machine, but (other than EC cards) this takes only coins, so be prepared (as a tip, during its reasonably long opening hours, you can choose to pay at the National Park Info Centre nearer the town centre. We've begged change off other motorhomers, but, it's best to horde your coins because, if you use Stellplätze, you will need them, sometimes quite a few, for parking, water or electricity). Fresh water is chargeable here at €1 a fill. (This was dispensing free in May, but was now charging for what the incumbent van owners seemed to think was a very short period of delivery!)


We selected from a wealth of free positions, maximising the evening sunlight, had a quick light lunch, and then set off for one of the walks detailed in a leaflet obtained from the Info Centre. Last time here, we had done a long bike ride, also outlined in a leaflet, and it was our aim this time to do a couple of local walks. A pleasant afternoon was had, walking in hilly country between the trees (though the path markings deviated quite a lot from the leaflet - something rather unusual in our German experience). We then returned to the 'van for a quiet evening meal and read to recover from our previous day's travelling.


The next day again dawned bright and warm, excellent for a second day's walk. Again following a leaflet, we had a longer stroll out in the opposite direction, with a variety of views and villages. A pleasant day was rounded off by eating a simple but satisfying dinner in the local "Hof" in almost splendid isolation. (The area really was quiet). Incidentally, we ate out quite a lot this holiday, the bill for two drinks and two mains (invariably accompanied by a salad starter) was always in the region of €30-35 - and good value.


Nettersheim has a few places to eat and drink, a cafe and bakers, and a few other shops, all within short walking distance (much closer than the REWE) and is rail and bus connected (though the rail fares to the more interesting destinations didn't look cheap!). Scope for cycling and walking, or even just chillin', is ample.


We had a thoroughly enjoyable couple of days here, but that made four in the year, so time to move on. In accordance with our plans, this wasn't to be far, and we'd identified a Stellplatz at Gerolstein, close to the town centre, a mere 30 miles away, to investigate.


The drive was again (not to overuse a word) pleasant. Autumn was striking earlier in Germany than the UK, and colours were breaking out in the trees, the intensity of which would increase as we continued with the holiday. Gerolstein is bigger and busier than Nettersheim, though still in reality only a smallish town. The Stellplatz is on a dedicated parking lot next to the municipal swimming pool, where you can pay the €10 per night fee (inclusive of electricity) during opening hours, or you can visit the tourist office in the station (which we did, the swimming pool being unmanned on our arrival). The Gästekarte which is included in the payment allows free entry to the indoor and outdoor swimming pool.


The services here are good; water at €1 gives ample delivery for anyone, dumping is free. Whilst rather "Urban" this Stellplatz is tucked away, and was very quiet (though school "throwing out time" saw some pedestrian traffic). It is arranged in two areas, with one being more screened (but more claustrophobic) than the other. There was room for a good few 'vans, and there were 5 or 6 in residence when we arrived, and this was added to during the day.


We wandered off to look round the town, do a bit of light shopping, and to pay at the tourist office, and then back to the 'van for lunch. Whilst Gerolstein is less rural than Nettersheim, its surroundings, with rocky edges and volcanic outcrops, gives it a marvellous setting, and a leaflet from the tourist office described two decent walks in the environs, taking examples of these in. So, we spent an extended afternoon doing a medium distance walk around all the features, including a local castle, before dropping back to the Stellplatz. We then had a long and amusing conversation (including wry comments on Brexit) with the two Dutch guys who had rolled up next to us, both of my age, one the archetypal businessman, and the other very bohemian; the Odd Couple. Then off into town for dinner, which we partook at a Croatian restaurant (busy when we arrived, heaving when we left) and ran into our neighbours again.


A quiet night, other than fairly heavy rain, was followed by a drizzly morning. We had planned to do a further walking "loop", but our experience of the previous day indicatyed that this might be quite wet underfoot after rain, so we reluctantly decided to move on. (It later cleared up somewhat against prediction, and this influenced our approach to weather forecasts for the remainder of the holiday - largely for the better!.


Gerolstein was an OK destination; we'd quite happily return to this Stellplatz to complete our walking tour.


....to be continued






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One of the areas we wished to revisit (but avoid repeating the previously explored parts) was the Altmühltal, an attractive valley we'd happened on some years ago. That meant heading South and East, and a stopover on the Neckar somewhere beyond Heidelberg would maximise the use of a substandard day. So, we set off, .....and the weather improved somewhat. Not immediately great, but at least dry, and with little sign of further rain. One of the advantages of motorhoming then cut in - we simply changed plans in order to enjoy a day in the better-than-forecast weather (and also resolved to largely ignore the forecast for the remainder of the holiday!).


At the decision point we'd just hit the A61 to the West of the Rhein, and decided to drop onto the riverside to look for somewhere to stop for the remainder of the day (it was as yet only mid-morning with around 80 miles under our belt). Now, I think the Rhein Valley is unmissable; everyone should visit the area at least once, as it is quite a spectacle, BUT, it is busy, and with road and rail both sides, and the barges, it is also noisy. As such, having been there and done that a few times, it isn't now a prime target for us. Dropping down to Boppard and driving along the river (the road was strangely very quiet!) the campsites and Stellplätze we could see were all pretty full. We have a fall-back option at St Goar with a small and pleasant (and quiet!) campsite out of the main Valley which we've used a few times, but we were trying to avoid "repeats", so we continued along the river, with Bacharach being our last preferred option, though it being popular, we had some doubts on space being available. Accordingly, it was with some surprise that we drove past the Stellplatz to find there was quite a bit of space, and had to turn round to get ourselves pitched.


The newish Stellplatz at Bacharach is within very easy walking distance of the town, on the banks of the Rhein, and adjacent to the campsite. You actually book in at the campsite, and have use of the campsite facilities including toilets and showers. At €9 (+€2.50 for electricity) per night it is some euros cheaper than the campsite (though the latter gives you a bit of grass if you are lucky, and ditto slightly more space - though as we planned to move on after only one night, we weren't concerned with this). The location is between the road and the river, so gets some of the noise already mentioned. The, more desirable, riverside (marked) pitches were of course taken, but we easily got space in the second row, still well away from the road (with two more as yet unoccupied rows nearer to the road).


After a quick wander round, we had lunch at the 'van and then off to explore the town and surroundings. We've cycled through here before, but not done much local exploring, and as it was now warm (if somewhat overcast) it was easy to pass a long afternoon simply wandering. The views have been described by a friend as "beyond chocolatebox" and I'm not inclined to argue. Then, back to the'van, and a (shortish for 50¢) shower before heading out for dinner.


We'd targeted a Winzer on the main street for our evening out. Licensed to sell (only) there own wines and provide simple meals, we've enjoyed our visits to various of these, and this was no different. It was warm enough to sit out in the alley to the side of the premises (along with a number of other diners) and we had a grand time with a bottle of best Riesling Trocken (a €3 mark-up on the €7.80 takeaway price) and Bauernschmaus (a large plate of meats, sausages, cheeses, bread, etc.). Whilst we were enjoying ourselves, the two ladies at the next table were readily outdoing us - starting with the (6-glass!) tasting selection of different wines, they moved on to individual large glasses, and some of the more substantial dishes available! As we sat, a very large dragonfly entered the alleyway and buzzed around for a bit before disappearing. Shortly afterwards there was a commotion in the kitchen, which said dragonfly had invaded and was causing chaos - it was eventually removed by trapping it against the ceiling in a large tub, sliding the lid over the top and releasing it outside, much to the amusement of the watching customers. Whilst observing this spectacle, I also noticed that my, standard, 750ml bottle of Riesling was labelled as 1000ml (which it certainly wasn't). On pointing it out to the owner, he did a bit of a double-take (I suspect he initially thought I was complaining about the wine) but the penny soon dropped when he realised I was smiling, and he quickly disappeared. When he next appeared he came over to say that the labeller must have had an off-day; they bottle in both capacities, and he had found a few more in stock with the wrong label. Whatever, the wine was excellent, and having eventually finished, we said our goodbyes to our now rather tipsy neighbours, and headed back to the 'van.


As ever on the Rhein, the noise intruded somewhat overnight, but mainly the boats, and not too disturbing, so all-in-all a sucessful change of plans.


Next day's destination was planned to be the Neckar, somewhere South of Heidelberg - another shortish (in our terms at least) hop of about 100 miles.


......to be continued




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A bit of research indicated that Mosbach might be a reasonable centre to explore from. Though nominally on the Neckar, the town is really slightly up a side valley, and there were indications of decent walking, as well as a long-distance cycle route up into the hills, utilising a disused railway track. Given that we hadn't had the bikes off the rack yet this holiday, the latter tipped the decision.


It was again an easy journey, though only because the satnav's rocketing prediction of arrival time warned of potential jams ahead on the motorway, and being prepared when we hit the back of the queue spot on a junction, were able to bale-out and go cross-country. (We've suffered regularly from "Stau" on the German motorways, but, despite a few satnav warnings this was the only apparently-significant one this holiday). Accordingly we arrived at Mosbach in the late morning. First impressions weren't great, as the approach to the town is on a newish wide and busy dual carriageway, and the suburbs (this was the biggest town of our holiday to date) rather more industrial than we might have expected. As it turned out, any apprehension quite rapidly dissolved.


The initial impressions weren't improved greatly by arriving at the Stellplatz, which was tucked away behind the rear portion of a small car park, with a temporary (obscured) fence at the back shielding a rough building site. It was, however, quiet and actually very well located for a short walk into town through the adjacent park. It was flat, paved, and would take 8-10 'vans (depending on size and parking) free, for a maximum stay of three nights. Electricity was €1 for 12 hours, with enough outlets for the nominal capacity; water was also €1, and black and grey dump were both free. There were 5 'vans there when we arrived, but subsequently during our stay, it was up to capacity, with people turning away.


I hooked up, and it was obvious that someone had "loaded" my electric output before leaving, as it worked without payment until nightfall. Even when it ran out, I put €1 in the slot, pressed 'my' button (which gave me electricity) and then it promptly returned my coin! There was another UK 'van (The only one we saw in our travels) next door but one, who had arrived shortly before us. They'd put a coin in for water, had two returned, and still had water delivered. That was the only freebie of our stay, though. After that, everything worked as it should. I suspect everything was tended by the local authority every day, as there were two small litter bins on site, and every morning, pre-breakfast, they had been emptied.


(Incidentally, for anyone not familiar, when electricity is supplied in return for coins (8 hours or 12 hours worth per coin) there is invariably a means of pre-buying more than one allowance at a time, thereby avoiding running out whilst away from the 'van, or overnight. The combination of coin insertion and button pushing varies, so it's best to have a bit of German, and, of course, it pays to time your initial payment so that you can pre-load at a convenient time).


With half a day ahead of us, we strolled into town, wandered around, visited the (yet again excellent) tourist info,and did a bit of supermarket shopping before returning to the 'van. It became obvious that the newish road that had depressed the impression on the way in was actually a real benefit, as it took all traffic away from the (attractive) old town centre. Our experience was also enhanced by the fact that it was Mosbach's turn for a travelling exhibition of lifelike figures, distributed all over the town, and carrying out all nature of everyday (and non-everyday) tasks. Around every corner was yet another surprise, and some of them were in such natural poses, a double-take sometimes ensued.


The weather being good, we had an afternoon walking in the wooded hills overlooking the town, and then returned to take dinner al fresco (not bad for the end of September) in a Greek restaurant in the old town square. Back at the 'van, we had a comfortable and quiet night.


Mosbach was growing on us and, encouraged by the quiet night and the morning dawning fair and bright, we resolved to stay yet another day, and explore the old railway track on our bikes. The tourist info had given us a leaflet on this, and the route exited town almost adjacent to the Stellplatz. It wasn't the lightest of undertakings, our target of Mudau being a 35 mile or so round trip up into the hills (though hopefully, given it was an old railway track, reasonably gently!). We had a good day; the majority of the route indeed being on a gently inclined old railway, but with the odd diversion into and out of the villages on the way. Well signposted, and with varied scenery it made for a good excursion. Our main issue was that, with the whole are being quiet, there was little opportunity for en-route refreshment. This was finally resolved by diverting into one of the villages on our return, where everything was closed with the exception of a very large bakery and cafe. Most unexpected, but also most welcome! Our excursion took much of the day, though we re-visited the town at the end of the day for provisions, and ate dinner at the 'van before a late evening stroll.


With the next day again proving promising, we decided Mosbach was good enough to stay yet another day, and have a rather longer walk over the hills for a view of the river. Given that there is a castle on the escarpment, we decided a circular walk taking that in (maybe 12 miles or so) would make for a good day. Following yet another leaflet from the tourist info, and waymarked paths, route-finding was easy (other than finding the way out of town onto the paths!). The aimed-for castle provided a good view and viewpoint, and we were lucky enough to find a bakery/cafe in the village below that was open (nothing else was, it being Sunday). Returning via a different route, on entering Mosbach we passed the local brewery, and just had to stop for a bier. (and, as they did food as well, that was a later revisit for dinner planned as well!).


Our third (and last-allowed) night again passed quietly, and, after a short walk to the bakery in the nearby Lidl, we were on our way in the direction of the Altmühltal, slightly over 100 miles away.


(I was surprised when I checked through my pictures to find I hadn't taken one of the Stellplatz - it certainly wasn't photogenic but was a good base for excursions (which didn't stop some people spending most of the day in chairs on the paving!) - but I usually take one "for the record". Here's a link to the town's webpage, however http://www.mosbach.de/Wohnmobilstellplaetze.html )


....to be continued




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A few years ago, whilst dawdling waiting for the weather to improve further South, we'd happened upon the Altmühltal and really enjoyed the portion of the valley's cycle track we'd ridden. On that occasion, we'd been planning to stay at Eichstätt, a small and attractive town, which is home to Germany's only Catholic University. There was a festival in progress, however, and the (largish) Stellplatz was in use for that, and so unavailable. We'd ended up on a campsite at Kipfenburg, further down the valley, and cycled upstream to Eichstätt and back on a day outing. This time we were somewhat later than the festival, and were initially intending to head for the Eichstätt Stellplatz.


Checking for potential alternatives threw up what looked like a viable alternative at Treuchtlingen, a slightly shorter drive, and a location that gave us the option of cycling to Eichstätt from the other end of the valley. So, we set off for Treuchtlingen, on the way passing an absolutely gigantic new factory at Neckarsulm which turned out to be an Audi car plant.


We arrived at the Stellplatz at Treuchtlingen around lunchtime to find it rather busy, with only two free emplacements visible (so we rapidly parked on one of those!). In reality, there was slightly more space than this, as there is a smaller, separate section on the other side of the access road whichis less obvious but also had a few spaces. There are roughly 60 places in all, and with its layout and spacing it might be easily taken for a basic Caravan Club site. It is on the edge of town (an easy walk away) and abutts a small park which had various outdoor art displays whilst we were there.


Booking in is at the Shell petrol station on the main road a few hundred yards away, and on doing so (comments were made on us being from the UK, indicating that it was a rare occurrence) we were given a key to the small (but immaculately clean) facilities block with (free) showers, toilets and a laundry. We also got a little "Besetzt" sign, with a padlock to lock it to the pitch number marker (great if you wanted to drive off during the day). It was €11 per night (plus €1 per 8 hours of electricity) and water was €1 per 100 litres (with a machine that dispensed pro-rata for smaller coin input). I expected to pay a deposit, but was simply told to pay when we left!


Incidentally, there is free WiFi here, but once we'd pitched we realised we didn't have the (required) user name and password. I went and enquired at the filling station, and as the guy went to pick up a little "Besetzt" sign, I thought he'd misunderstood my fluen ("cough") German. Instead, he turned it over, and there, embossed on the back, was a username and password!


The following day was the national holiday celebrating German reunification, which we thought might account for it being busy for a few days. As it happend, it just might have been implicated, but subsequent days were in fact, much quieter with people even leaving early on the holiday morning.


With an afternoon to kill, and the weather overcast, we set off to explore the town. In reality, Treuchtlingen had probably the 'best' Stellplatz, and the least interesting town centre of our holiday. It had a few interesting buildings, a castle to climb up to (mainly ruined, but it provided a viewpoint), and a marvellously preserved DB "Pacific" locomotive randomly placed on the grassy verge on the way into town. We struggled to find a supermarket (later discovering a Lidl tucked away, and even more later an Edeka, actually not far from the Stellplatz). After noting that the local bakeries were open on the morrow (despite it being a holiday) and partaking of Kaffee/Kuchen in one of them, we repaired to the 'van, for a rest, a shower, and dinner.


The tourist office had been shut by the time we decided we might vist, but the facilities block held some leaflets, including one detailing a set of walks, ranging from the short to the (very) long, and we thought we'd set out on one of those in the morning.


The morning turned out to be overcast and damp, and, despite it being a holiday, quite a few spaces were quickly vacated, and it remained like that for the rest of our stay. We considered moving on, but really did want to do our planned bike ride (possibly now the next day), so off for one of the longish walks we set. Without being spectacular (and making our own diversions at times, despite reasonable signposting) we had a good, if wet, day walking the surrounding fields and villages. Notable discoveries included an immaculate, beautifully sited and rather sobering WW2 cemetery/memorial, the remains of an attempted canal from the Main to the Donau (see more later) dating back to the 8th century, and an incredible field of sunflowers (which made for a moody photo-opportunity). We ended up walking most of the day, and were glad to retire to the 'van much like the previous evening, if a bit wetter.


It was still overcast the next day, but drier, and with a better forecast, so the bikes came off the rack, and we set off in misty conditions along the Altmühltal Radweg towards Eichstätt. This was, given the winding nature of the valley, a return journey of over 90km. We'd considered a rather shorter target, but decided we were up for it, as long as we didn't hang around long before turning round. The Radweg is largely on vehicle-free asphalt or well-surface hardcore track, with a bit of a diversion in and out of the villages. Upstream of Treuchtlingen is less attractive, but the downstream run to Eichstätt is varied, and rewarding. Passing castles, small villages, limestone outcrops, etc. the track meanders its way close to the river and is rewarding. Once again, the opportunities for refreshment on the way were, however, limited, and we were relieved to find a cafe in the museum at Dollnstein serving excellent Kaffee/Kuchen. We made Eichstätt in reasonable time, and had a short wander round (a first-time visit would merit longer exploration) before setting off back; the wether had steadily improved through the day. There weren't too many restaurants in Treuchtlingen, but we'd spotted a well-cared for Greek establishment when searching for the Aldi. After a welcome shower, we headed out there for dinner, and our choice was endorsed by the place becoming very busy as we ate (and by the food).


A quiet night (as were the preceding ones) back at the 'van, and it was time to move on again.


.....to be continued








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Treuchtlingen (despite its less than exciting ambience) had proved a good destination, and, building on our immediately prior experiences, we resolved to have a pretty short hop to our next destination. We fancied somewhere reasonably small again, with scope for sightseeing and walking and/or cycling, and selected Riedenburg, only around 40 miles away, and located on the Main/Donau canal. (Not to be confused with Riedenberg, which is somewhere completely different, and in the opposite direction).


This turned out to be an excellent choice, and has been filed away for a potential future return visit. The drive there was relaxed and easy, using the back roads from Treuchtlingen, and we arrived at the canalside Stellplatz well before midday. (whilst I use the term canalside, the waterway at this point is in fact the Altmühl river, complete with locks which accept pretty large vessels transiting from the Main to the Donau and vice versa. The canal is 171km long, and a major undertaking, unlike its vestigal 8th-century predecessor mentioned above under Treuchtlingen!). The Stellplatz is large and flat, a few hundred yards from the town centre, and I imagine it could be rather busy in season. There were, however, only around 10 'vans there during our stay, in an area that would take maybe seven times that.


Quietly located, with a charge of €6 per night (via parking ticket machine) and with electricity €1 for 8 hours, we really liked it here, and selected a position with a view over the canal. Though the installation was similar to Treuchtlingen, the protocol for pre-loading the electricity was different - coin, push button, coin, push button, rather than coin, coin, push button - which meant I wasted a euro, but I subsequently watched a German 'vanner do exactly the same before I could advise him, so felt vindicated. The "black" water drain was adequate, but basic (a "spoke" removed from the cast-iron grey water drain cover allowed you, just, to get the casette spout through - but there was adequate free rinsing water, (fresh water was the usual €1) and the dump was well away from the pitches, so no real issue).


We walked into the small, but perfectly formed, little town, visiting the bakery and the tourist office, before retreating to the van with our spoils for lunch. (The local supermarket is some way away, on the other side of the canal/river, and at the far edge of town). The river has formed a gorge here, and behind the Stellplatz were tall cliffs topped with both a ruined and a complete castle (the latter holding a , chargeable, bird of prey centre). Visiting both these (though not entering the bird centre) passed the afternoon in the fine and warm weather, complete with some spectacular views (we ignored some of the dire warnings to visit some of the better viewponts!). We slightly extended the return walk up a side valley where,on returning to town, serendipity provided a Biergarten (don't look a gift horse.....). Dinner was taken at the 'van, with a view to staying another night an exporing the canal by bike.


The next morning was a little more overcast, but, after walking into town for the bakery again (and to pick up a bit of small change at the tourist centre) we unloaded the bikes, and set off down the canal towards the obvious target of Kelheim. Another rewarding day's cycling, somewhere in the region of 25 miles return, led us through scenery which included the unlikely perch of Burg Prunn, and all the way along the canalside to Kelheim; then through the town to the Donau. (this is where the canal reaches the Donau at the end of its 171km). We had coffee and cakes in the town before returning and, as we were early, risking the slightly threatening clouds we did a return trip of some 15 miles or so in the opposite direction along the canal.


Return to the 'van saw us savouring a meal out, though on walking into the town centre the establishment we had favoured (one of three or four) was unexpectedly closed for the evening (it said the same on the door!). Fortunately, it also recommended an adjacent establishment (family connections I suspect!) and we had a decent meal with a view out over the square.


Then, back to the 'van for another quiet evening and night, and a bit of planning for the morning, as we had to start heading North in the direction of home.


....to be continued






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As we were beginning to run out of time before returning to the UK, we were rather constrained on the nature of our next few nights' stopovers. We were enjoying being beside rivers (it makes for good cycling, and a little bit of careful selection can add in some decent, ambulatory sightseeing). Needing to get some mileage under our belt, we selected the area around Wertheim, on the Main between Frankfurt and Würzburg, and some 150 miles or so back in the required direction.


Whilst we'd decided to look at the (or at least one of the two) Stellplatz at Wertheim, we weren't entirely convinced that being in one of the smaller, nearby towns wouldn't suit us better, so we were prepared to look around a little. This was especially so as our research had indicated there was a Stellplatz at Freudenberg, a little further on, which potentially seemed to meet our usual requirements.


Another mainly motorway (and also trouble-free) journey ensued, and we dropped into Wertheim and over the river to inspect the one Stellplatz of the two in the town we had selected (the other seemed to be in a shared car park, under a flyover, and "less than attractively" located). The one we went to look at was in fact at Kreuzwertheim, just across the river from the main town, and within easy walking distance across the bridge. It was on a large, hard-core car park (which by convention, if not by regulation seemed to be dedicated to motorhomes) and sloped slightly down to the river, with a view across to the town. It had all facilities except electricity, and frankly looked OK, but a bit large and impersonal.


We decided that on first impressions Wertheim was probably worth a visit, but that it would be possible by bike from our fall-back selection of Freudenberg, which was about 14 miles along the river, so we decided to go and check that out, with a view to returning if it wasn't viable.


Once again, we struck lucky. Freudenberg is a relatively small town straddling the Main, with a (mainly ruined) castle, a few interesting buildings, and some good walking up into the hills adjacent to the river. The Stellplatz is at the edge of the old part of town on the South bank of the river, overlooking the latter, and separated by just enough distance from the road that runs along the valley (there is a minor lane between it and the road, which makes it better than might appear on one of the pictures). Situated mainly on block paving (with a little gravel hardstanding) there is space (and electricity) for around 10 'vans, and a separate, well-maintained service area. The charge was €6 per night (or €8 including electricity) with water being the normal €1. The fee was collected by the pleasant Platzwart in the early evening.


Having pitched and lunched, and it being Saturday afternoon and therefore quiet, we climbed into the hills and had a cloudy afternoon's stroll investigating the surroundings, the castle, and then, before dinner back in the 'van, along the river to the nearest lock, across that, and back on the other side. It became obvious that the, increasingly common, 30km speed limit through the town was protected by a (also increasingly common) well-disguised speed camera. Whilst I was pretty sure I'd transited the town earlier at below that speed (which *does* seem slow) I must admit I had a niggling doubt.


Despite (or possibly because) of it being a Saturday, we had a quiet night with little, if any accompanying road noise (indeed the passing river traffic was slightly more noisy).


The forecast for the following day, Sunday, wasn't outstanding, but we fancied the bike ride to Wertheim and back, and our immediately prior experience of the forecast led to us ignoring it and going with our plan. We nearly made it!


The return ride along the river was something over 30 miles, and interesting with the river traffic and the odd ruined castle, and passing a small, quiet Stellplatz near Collenburg. Without facilities (but with a very clean toilet block adjoining) this was free, and looked like a good overnight stopover. One to remember. Wertheim was quiet, and though it was Sunday we fairly easily found a bakery for coffee and cakes.


As the cloud was increasing, after a bit of a wander round we decided we'd better set off back, and nearly made it before the heavens opened. We eventually sought out shelter whilst the brief, but very sharp shower passed, but still, for the first time in the holiday, got rather wet. When we got back to the 'van, the weather improved quite a bit, and we briefly considered setting off in the other direction, but common sense prevailed.


After stumping up for another night, we had dinner out in the nearby Amtshaus restaurant, (the only nearby choice which was open) which was very quiet, very quaint, very friendly, and the food was good. They served "Faust" beer; I think someone must have been listening earlier in the day when I'd said "I'd give anything for a beer". ;-)


Back to the 'van for a slightly less quiet night (a bit more road noise, especially the next morning, but nothing over-excessive), and then we had to move a bit further North again. We'd quite happily visit Freudenberg again, there being decent scope for more exploring.


.....to be continued.






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With only two more nights to pass before returning for an early evening Chunnel crossing, we needed to be heading further back in the direction of home. We'd decided that we'd rather like to spend our final evening at Rekem (our first overnight stop on the way out) as it was the right distance from the Chunnel, and had a good few eating establishments to choose from for a final evening's meal.


It made sense, therefore to look for somewhere about halfway towards Rekem, and there was an obvious choice of area. We've often travelled South across Germany (both in the 'van, and to visit friends who used to live in Frankfurt), glancing at the Taunus, North of Frankfurt, and propsing to visit some time. This was that time, it being just under half way to Rekem.


The weather forecast was fair, if not outstanding (light cloud cover, and a little sun), so we looked at the options, and settled on Weilburg. This got a good write-up, with a becastled old town set in a loop of the Lahn river. It also had a large Stellplatz on the edge of the old town, so we set off for the journey of around 100 miles. It was quite an interesting drive, but as we arrived at, and set off into the hills of the Taunus, the weather closed in. (and remained rather worse than the forecast for the rest of the day!).


We dropped through the outskirts of Weilburg (which seemed to hold most of the main commercial outlets), and round the old town to the very large, and almost deserted Stellplatz that sits at the foot of the hill on which the old town stands. The weather made the Stellplatz (which is effectively a very large gravel car park entirely dedicated to motorhomes) look fairly grey and forbidding, but there were a few other occupants, it was certainly handy for the town (via steps immediately opposite), so we decided to stay and explore.


The charge was €6 per night (or €8 with electricity). The grey dump was readily available at the entrance, but fresh water and black dump were locked away in a hut adjacent. A key to access this could be obtained for a €15 deposit, and this key was also a requirement if you needed electricity, as the well-distributed electric points were all locked. You could wait for the Platzwart, who reputedly visited in the morning and evening, or pay (and obtain a key) at the tourist office in the old town. As we were off to explore, we chose the latter, and successfully paid for a night and escaped with a key.


The Stellplatz was overlooked by what appeared to be local authority offices, which were on top of the Feurwehr premises, and contained a clean set of public toilets (little frequented other than motorhomers, I suspect, given the location).


It was a pity the weather was somewhat unkind as, interesting though it was, the constant drizzle interspersed with (very) sharp showers didn't show Weilburg at its best. The old town has a few shops (not a lot of scope for bread and groceries except one small general store) and a number of cafes and restaurants, but had a very out-of-season, shut up feeling. We had a good stroll around, a visit to the "Schiffstunnel" which burrows through the neck of the loop of land to avoid a couple of weirs on the main river, a mooch around the castle grounds (which would have been delightful on a fine day - the geometrically laid out trees were quite impressive anyway!) but were deterred from walking along the Lahn to the next village by a particularly heavy shower (retreating to the 'van). We spotted a local authority van, from which someone descended and approached the three remaining 'vans, but quickly retreated through the rain - we assume as soon as he could see a receipt in each of the windows - the Platzwart?


We'd struggled to spot an appropriate (open) place for an evening meal, but a bit of web research found a restaurant down a back alley of the old town that was reputedly open, and heading out for the evening, so it proved. I t was cosy and warm, and, I suspect, the only place open, as it was doing brisk business. We had an enjoyable meal, then back to the 'van for a read and a bottle, before a very quiet night.


Rekem was to be the final destination in the morning.


.....to be continued.




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Weilburg isn't the Stellplatz to get an early getaway in the morning, particularly if you want to dump the black waste and replenish the water. As already noted, for that you need a key, returnable, if you want your deposit back, to the tourist office, which opens at 10am. Luckily, with well under 150 miles to drive, we weren't in a hurry, so, after a leisurely breakfast we drove off to the dump, and then parked the 'van whilst we wandered back up into town to claim our deposit. A quick call at an ATM, and we were on our way to Rekem, with a quick stop at a bakery we passed before dropping back onto the motorway system.


It was still somewhat overcast, but at least dry, and an easy drive saw us cross into Belgium and drop off the motorway to Rekem. Reaching the Aire/Stellplatz, there was only one 'van in residence, though the small field (more of a grassy bank, really) to the rear of the parking had been temporarily fenced and populated with sheep. It made parking slightly difficult, because the parking area is wedge-shaped, and even the wider end provide spaces only just long enough for our 'van (at 7m with the bike rack) but even then only if the rack could overhang, and be swivelled out over the grass to the rear. This was impossible without fouling the temporary electric fencing, so we moved to the narrower end of the wedge (where the spaces are very short) and parked sideways instead. Since no-one else turned up during our stay, this wasn't a problem.


As the sheep were accompanied by a ram, we were rather expecting a noisy night (though in fact, at the time they were remarkably quiet), but the farmer arrived early in the evening, and without any bidding, they all gathered at the end of the field, and he led them off somewhere down the canal.


We had somewhat more of a wander round the area than two weeks before, and noted with some surprise that our choice of restaurant for the evening was going to be somewhat constrained (to a choice of one!). The attractive area obviously functions as a weekend "honeypot", and, having milked that weekend market by opening on Saturday and Sunday, almost everyone closes on Mondays and Tuesdays (and it was indeed Tuesday).


The one that was open (pictured below) was certainly a mark-up on German prices, but had a decent menu and looked inviting, so things could have been worse. Somewhat after opening-time we tootled up, preceded by two ladies who were immediately rejected because they only wanted a drink, not to eat. A single (the most attractively placed) table was reserved and we were given a choice of every other one (as there was no-one else there). Being on the junction of Dutch, French and German speaking areas, the menu was in part indecipherable, but the owner apologised for not having an English menu (not that we asked for one) and offered (as she had time) to translate everything. She then went on to explain why it was so quiet. Normally, she said, being the only establishment open on a Tuesday, she might end the evening turning people away. It was, however, World Cup qualifying night, and both Belgium and the Netherlands footbal teams were playing, and on live TV (since almost half the cars you see in Rekem are Dutch, a double whammy!).


The dish of the day we'd both fancied was off, so, on recommendation I went for casserole of hare (even though I'm no great fan of rabbit!). What I thought might be a mistake turned out to be an excellent, gamey choice. Complementary servings of pigeon soup helped with the experience, as did a bowl of frites served with mayo (of course). As a number of (obviously) regulars rolled up, we had a less solitary and very enjoyable meal. (Subsequent checking on the web gave reviews that placed it at the lower end of the local eateries - though it soon became obvious that the average mark was greatly reduced by people complaining that the establishment didn't allow drinks only!).


Despite there being a little (muted) noise from the factory over the canal, we had a restful night. We would (and probably will) quite happily use Rekem again as a night's stopover, it is convenient, and there are ample other restaurants to try (Mondays and Tuesdays excepted ;-) ).


With something under 200 motorway miles back to the Chunnel, we were envisaging an easy day tomorrow.


........to be continued.




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The morning brought a relatively leisurely start, with a walk up to the excellent nearby bakery (not in the old town but North from the bridge) before the short leg back to the motorway, and off in the direction of Coquelles. The tunnel was booked for 17:50, in an attempt to be behind the worst of the traffic on the M25/Dartford Crossing, so, even allowing for contingency, we had plenty of time in hand. Again, one of our better motorway journeys had us well ahead of any deadline, leaving us time to waste.


Our usual practice in these circumstances is to divert off the motorway shortly before Calais, and head for the Carrefour at Bois en Ardre. Whilst having a very decent selection of wine, this supermarket is always quiet, with plenty of parking, and there is a large (albeit rough-gravelled) parking area at the other end of the village (off-road parking is rare around here!) to relax and have a brew and a snack before the crossing. Unfortunately, the road was closed, and though we could access the supermarket, the parking further on was off-limits, so we had to cast around (quite a bit!) for a quiet side-road to park up.


Setting off such that we arrived at Coquelles just on the recommended "no more than 2 hours ahead of crossing", we were offered a crossing an hour in advance of the booked one, and decided to take it regardless of the potential M25 traffic. Once embarked, the train left then 10 minutes early, and we envisaged delays around London.


Quickly off at Folkestone, we had light traffic all the way to the M25, though the M20 in the opposite direction was one long car park. In addition there was news that the A1 Northbound was closed, and had been all day, presaging a late night. In fact, even though it was rush hour, we sailed round the M25 and through the Dartford Tunnel, hardly slowing, and as we exited the other end, the news came through that the A1 had (after 12 hours of closure) reopened. We had one of the fastest journeys home we've had from the Channel, and arrived quite a bit earlier than we had planned (which, given a 400 mile day) was welcome.


Looking back on the holiday, we had a great time simply seeking out unknown places and using Stellplätze. We're certainly not driven by cost (though at an average of around €7.50 per night including electricity on all but our first and last nights, I'm certainly not going to complain!). The informality suits us; the locations have largely been good (though some research goes into selection), and the (often very) close proximity to towns is useful, both for shopping, and more particularly eating and drinking out.


Though they may each have their peculiarities, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of the locations we used, though I suspect some might be a bit less restful in high season. In addition, Germany is a friendly, good-value destination with much to see. Meals, drinks, coffee and cakes, and even (real) ice-cream (at 80¢ a "kugel") seem as good if not better value than the UK.


1700 miles overall, at an (indicated) average of spot-on 35mpg, and, even in retrospect, a very enjoyable 2½ weeks!



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