Back in Blighty….. 16th August 2019

The journey back to the UK was better than we could have hoped for bearing in mind it was the first weekend after most schools broke up for summer holidays.

We arrived at Calais earlier than expected and had a quick pit stop at Cite Europe before getting a slightly earlier train – all of 45 minutes – enabling us to whisk our way round the M25 and back to the farm by about 18:30.

The sun was shining, a gin tonic and beer were had and there were even baby calves in the field …. what a welcome, even Spud the dog was on duty!

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After a good nights sleep, we caught up on the washing, shopping and sorting before heading over to see Keith’s mum late afternoon to say hello – have dinner – and pick up the car.

The last four weeks have flown by, seeing family and friends and catching up on those tasks that you just can’t quite do when you are out of the country – but all is good.

Not surprisingly, much of the time since I last updated the blog has been taken up by eating and drinking…. well, its what we do with friends and family… oh ok, and on our own !!

Picking out a few highlights – as we have been busy – we arrived back to go to the Maidenhead Real Ale and Cider festival with friends which was a lovely warm evening, interspersed with a few light showers to help us cool off!

The following week we took the mum’s to the Hand and Flowers for lunch which was yet again delicious…

although I have to be fair and say that it wasn’t the best fish and chips I have ever tasted – it was good – but everything else was exceptional.

Unfortunately, we haven’t had quite as many BBQs as we had hoped due to the weather… and I though it was summer! Although we did however manage to do a bit more experimentation,  cooking up some delicious Lamb to go with Moroccan Khobz bread and salads for Bruce and Sarah as well as my first ‘successful’ Lemon Posset – the last one was that bad it had to be disposed of in the bin!

And just to show that we still do experiment with vegan food, we tried out a delicious new recipe to make BBQ Squash and Blackbean Quesadillas ….. although the best picture I have of it,  is of when we made them with the Sausages, Bacon and Black-pudding …. does that defeat the object???

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And finally to top the last few weeks’ culinary delights we went up to London to Richard Corrigans’ restaurant in Mayfair for a tasting feast with paired wines….

It’s not something we have ever done before but definitely something to do again – although not cheap, it was amazing value and the food was beyond delicious.

Having only ever had oysters in New Zealand we were curious… but three glasses of champagne and several oysters later we were complete converts!

Following the plethora of Oysters, Champagne and canopes, our taste buds were tantalised as each plate was full of flavour but at the same time delicate.  Nothing was heavy and although there was a lot of food, neither of us came away feeling that it was too rich – it was all perfectly balanced as were the wines.

We have had an exceptional few weeks with food – although we can’t really complain as we always eat well – but have temporarily left the culinary delights behind us to come down to Hailsham in Sussex to get Hattie’s leisure batteries changed to Lithium and replace the inverter/charger.

We have been staying at a lovely little CL right on the edge of some woodland with a random collection of terracotta pots and an old pump station! (£12 a night inc Elec. – Longleaze, Arlington Road West, Hailsham, BN27 3RD). The CL is roughly 3 miles from AMC Motor caravans who are the sole distributor in the UK for Transporter Lithium batteries, where we had decided to have the works done.

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It should have taken a ‘long day’ to complete the works but unfortunately something was causing a problem and tripping the electrics – oh and the torrential rain didn’t help either as we are too big to get in the service bays so the engineer was exposed to the elements – it all took slightly longer…. another day and a half to be precise!  They are a great team though and they worked through the issues and wouldn’t stop until it was resolved.  It looks like we are sorted now, although time will tell and I’ll update you next time as we have decided to spend another night locally to give ourselves a chance to test everything before we move on …. and its chucking it down out there so who wants to move anywhere anyway!

And the new map has been started for 2019/2020…..

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Homeward Bound…. 19/7/19

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Metz is a beautiful town, sitting on the banks of the Mosel river, centralised around its cathedral which is apparently known for its stunning stained glass windows….needless to say we didn’t see them.

Although we had decided to stop in Metz for Bastille Day we didn’t realise that they also had a street festival over the weekend comprising of a mixture of theatre, acrobatics and music – similar to the festival we found in Epinal but not as large.

We headed out to stretch our legs and get our bearings on Friday, found the covered market and lots of beautiful buildings as well as fair number of interesting boutique shops…. mostly food related!! The town was lively and had a lovely atmosphere as it was a sunny Friday afternoon and people were just finishing work and happily filling up the bars.

Saturday morning was absorbed by the market – we have missed a good French market over the last couple of weeks – so managed to spend a small fortune re-stocking with lots of smelly cheese as well as fruit, vegetables and some meat for the BBQ… it all looked lovely and there was so much to choose from.

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After lunch we set off to take a look at the rest of the town and some of the street theatre and although we only managed to see three performances – they were all very good….. above was a musical farce which was followed by a bit of Jazz…

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Then  finally a bit of a mix of mime, acrobatics and I am not sure what… but he was quite amusing!

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Metz is a beautiful city and as part of the tourism set up they offer different walking trails to get to know it better …. we decided to do two on Sunday – the Street Art, which had a special guest taking prime position

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was a little disappointing though.  I think we have been well and truly spoilt by visiting Dunedin and seeing the spectacular street art there,  although there were a few interesting pieces that are worth a photo….

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The second trail we followed in the afternoon took us to see Art and Gardens and it is fair to say that there are lots of green areas in the city and by the time we had finished we had walked to every corner of Metz!

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We got back to Hattie mid afternoon to find that she had a new ‘beau’.  He was slightly intimidating to be honest – A German Concord Liner Plus…. all 11.5m with a car in the back, making Hattie look small with her 8.2m!

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There wasn’t a huge amount going on during the day – I would actually say it was quieter than normal although Sundays are normally fairly peaceful in France –  we were however honoured by a spectacular firework display which are the usual Bastille Day (14th July) celebrations.  Although we have only seen three in France – one in Bagnoles de L’Orne, one in Tain de l’hermitage and now Metz – we don’t have a huge amount to go on but this was certainly up there but I won’t bore you with lots of firework photos….

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Everything quietened down eventually at around 1am  – in addition to the fireworks and so many people being out in the town, Algeria also got through to the AFCON (Football…. for those of you who don’t know) and there is a huge Algerian presence in Metz so the horns were a honking – a lovely atmosphere!

Following a run and a bit of exercise, we sorted ourselves out and set off to find the River Meuse where we were hoping to do some walking. After a quick trip into Belgium by accident – we didn’t realise that vehicles over 3.5 tonnes need a tag for some non-motorway roads – we arrived at Stenay (GPS n 49.489899 e 5.18278 9.40 euro per night).  A lovely, reasonably new aire by a little marina on the canal…. unfortunately with a lack of walking paths.  The maps clearly highlight walking routes and a cycle path in both directions – we tried one way which ended up by the side of a sewage station and then disintegrated into very over-grown grass.  We then tried the opposite direction which just turned into a locked gate on a bridge …. very strange, first time we have come across this but needless to say we gave up, went to the supermarket and walked back to Hattie through town …. a little disappointed but what can you do?

Strangely, we didn’t stay a second night and instead moved on to Bogny-sur-Meuse (GPS n 49.858946 e 4.745107 4 euros a night) where we parked up in a brand new Aire right on the river Meuse…. very nice!

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The cycle path went in both directions along the river so we walked South on Tuesday afternoon and then ventured North on Wednesday.

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Both directions were lovely, tranquil walks passing through a couple of small towns/villages and locks along the way.  It is interesting to spend time on one large river after another – The Meuse is very different to the Mosel as the towns and villages are slightly larger as a whole and the hills that rise away from the river, smaller and further away …. and disappointedly no vine – but beautiful all the same!

We both went for a run before moving on Thursday morning and the river was like a mirror in parts – just beautiful. It is fair to say that the Ardennes are a beautiful part of France and well worth a visit, I don’t know why we haven’t passed through here before.

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We headed even further North, winding our way to the Parc Naturel Regional de l’Avesnois and a little town called Solre-le-Chateau where we found a brand new aire which is currently free of charge (GPS n 50.178645 e 4.090299).  The Aire was so new the tarmac still had that ‘newly laid’ smell and the areas in between the pitches were still just earth but it had everything we needed, is near to a greenway and was peaceful overnight.

We had a nice walk through the woods along the greenway on Thursday afternoon before getting back to the motorhome just before it started to rain for Keith to cook up a lovely Squash Dahl.

The rain fell on and off all night but had stopped by the morning which was good as it meant that our walk in the opposite direction was a good temperature and dry!

The town of Solre-le-chateau doesn’t appear to have a chateau from what we can see but it does have a rather impressive church with a wonky spire which made me smile ….

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Today is our last day in France for now as we have booked the train for tomorrow afternoon. Although we still have 200km to get to Calais we have stocked up on wine and are looking forwards to being back in the UK for the summer and already have a couple of little trips planned!

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Meandering our way up the Mosel….12/7/19

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Whilst out on my run along the river I was happily admiring the scenery and saw something in the water that looked like a slightly larger than a normal duck and on second glance realised it was an otter – I am not sure I have ever seen one swimming in the wild… yes, ashamedly for those non city folk that means not in the zoo – or on TV… what a sheltered life I have lived…. I had a smile on my face all the way back to the motorhome!

Showered and breakfasted we decided to take on the German supermarket – this time it was Globus which was enormous…. far better than IKEA – you could definitely spend the whole day there and people obviously did.  There were a few men who had obviously been left by the bakery on the second floor – there were three in total – sat on benches reading a paper…. I wouldn’t mind but they weren’t having a coffee or eating anything, the cafe and restaurant were on the ground floor!

As we had planned to go into Koblenz we tried very hard to make this a reasonably quick shop but it still took us a good hour or so to extract ourselves from all the interesting cookery items and smoked meats/fish etc.

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We were really impressed by the smoked fish counter and despite google not wishing to tell us what most of the types of fish were we found smoked herring, mackerel (in about eight different varieties), Salmon (again in about five different varieties) and some others …. they all looked delicious but we finally decided on a couple of different types of Mackerel and a smoked herring…. I am sure that we will find more before we leave Germany!

We finally jumped on the bikes and arrived into Koblenz just in time to have our sandwiches whilst watching the world go by.  The cycle route was roughly 8km and took us alongside the Rhine which was only 500m from the Stellenplatz – an easy ride.

Koblenz is where the Rhine joins the Mosel and as a city it is pretty normal, certainly not something you would describe as beautiful but it does have beautiful river walks, several impressively imposing government buildings in addition to an interesting little old town and a good shopping centre.  The point where the rivers join is called Deutsches Eck  ‘German Corner’ – in 1897, a monument of the German Emperor William I mounted on a 14-metre-high horse was inaugurated there and since this point is associated with the (re) foundation of the German Empire and the German refusal of any French claims to the area.

The area is known for its beautiful castles …. unfortunately Koblenz itself doesn’t even have one of those…. it has a fort instead on the opposite bank of the river!

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After a sit down and an ice-cream we found the bikes and headed back to the motorhome for our first taste of proper German sausages on the BBQ…. we were not disappointed, nice and meaty!

After debating whether to stay an extra day and do some more walking we decided to move on and wiggled our way up the Mosel to a little village called Ernst where we stopped at the Moselland Vinyard which has two fairly large Stellenplatz for motorhomes to stay in. (10 euros a night …. which included a 250ml bottle of Riesling wine …. GPS n 50.142628 e 7.231903)  We stopped on the circular area which was pretty much in the vineyard itself and had a walk into Cochems in the afternoon along the Mosel whilst admiring the steeply vineyard lined hills.

When we got closer to Cochems we were struck by the real Germanic Mosel beauty that everyone talks about, picturesque town on the river edge, steep hills and a fairy tale castle …. what more could you ask for?

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In need of a toilet and a sit down we stopped for a drink and dared to try another Black Forest Gateaux despite not being in the Black Forest… shame on us!!

The cafe was called ‘Becker’ – my maiden name – so we felt the need to try it – although we may be doing a lot of eating and drinking if we followed that method in Germany – and although the service was appalling, the gateaux was ok.  Difficult to follow on from the last one but it wasn’t bad which is probably a compliment!

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Feeling well rested – well I did say the service was slow – we finally made it back to Hattie just as it started to rain…. the heatwave was about to break!

Dinner was the smoked herring and mackerel that we bought on Friday and we can confirm that it was delicious…

It rained on and off all night and until about 10am on Sunday providing us with a refreshing start to the day rather than the 23 + degrees at 8am we have been used to over the last couple of weeks!

We jumped on the bikes and went in the opposite direction to Cochem up the Mosel for just under 20km which got us to Bremm.  A pretty ride taking in a few villages along the way, including Ediger which had a fire fighting competition going on and on the opposite river bank, Beilstein which was probably the prettiest village we came across on the ride,  demonstrating some of the steepest vineyards in Europe….shame the sun was in the wrong position for a decent photo!

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The temperature had dropped overnight finally, providing a lovely 14 degrees for a run and exercise, so feeling refreshed we set off to our next port of call Traben-Trabach (12 euros inc. elec. GPS n 49.9585 e 7.10302).

The Stellenplatz was lovely and we decided to set out for a little walk around the towns in the afternoon – Traben is on one side of the river and Trabach, the other. We were a little disappointed as they were both a little depressed and run down with many empty shops – something we haven’t seen a huge amount of to date in Germany but there was development going on in the town to create a new Spa so hopefully things will pick up soon!

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Once again we decided to stay for two nights, so on Tuesday we jumped on the bikes and rode another 22km up the Mosel to Berkanstel-Kues a much prettier town – also split by the river – unfortunately packed with tourists as all the cruises stop here.

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Once again, we also took advantage of the weather and the fact that we are on a site where we can do a BBQ and made pizzas when we got back in the evening.  As they say all good things come out of mistakes, this time we made the wrong quantity of dough – too little – and I think we have now perfected the thin crust pizzas!!

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I headed out for another morning run along the river and saw no-one – not even dog walkers – which still surprises me as 8-9am is such a lovely peaceful time of the day… amazing light and so tranquil…. he ho, their loss!

Another hop along the Mosel and we got to Piesport (8 euros GPS n 49.872799 e 6.9272), another beautiful Stellenplatz on the banks of the Mosel, surrounded by vineyards.

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We knew we were forecast a bit of rain over the next few days so took advantage of the afternoon and headed out along the river to take in the views. This part of the Mosel is definitely one of the most beautiful parts we have visited with a silky smooth river and vineyards stretching up the sides of the hills….

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We also managed to get another sneaky BBQ in before the weather turned as we found some chicken legs and Keith did a lovely Cajun rub.

The rain arrived on Thursday at around 9am and continued on and off most of the day.  We hung around for the morning hoping it would lighten, eventually going  out after lunch in the opposite direction for a walk to stretch our legs and see a couple of the other little villages along the Mosel.  Amazingly, it stopped raining for the return journey, drying us off by the time we got back to Hattie just before the skies opened again…. all the more reason to have a lovely Chilli Con Carne for dinner…. yumm!  There is no such thing as bad weather …. it is just a good excuse to eat different food!

Piesport was our last stop in Germany this time round as we had decided to head to Metz for the weekend and more importantly – Bastille Day!

We decided to stick to the Mosel for the majority of the route despite the SatNav wanting to take us into Luxembourg! The route was pretty, especially when we got past Trier and we were travelling on the left bank of the river and Luxembourg was on the right bank.  Although Keith passed through a few years ago, I have yet to set foot in Luxembourg …. although we possibly should have gone in to fill up with fuel before we got to France as there weren’t any fuel stations on our side of the river in Germany!

We crossed back over into France after two fantastic weeks in Germany and after a bit of Deja Vu – my fault as we missed the turning – we finally got to Camping Municipal Metz (28.60 euro for a vehicle over 3.5 tonne GPS 49.125702 e 6.17068) mid afternoon and after a bit of a ‘discussion’ regarding the price, we parked up and plan to be here until Monday …. hopefully they celebrate Bastille Day in style!

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In search of Black Forest gateaux… 4/7/19

Kehl is a pretty normal town and as we went for a walk round on Friday afternoon we were surprised to find that cigarettes are obviously a lot cheaper in Germany as the number of ‘border’ tobacco shops in town was proportionally high!  Although it did seem to have a fair number of nice cafes and restaurants and a lovely cycle path and park along the Rhine….. oh and a UFO.  Yep, randomly on the Rhine bank there was a UFO.

Although we had finally arrived in Germany we were cheating really as we only slept there, I went for a run in the morning along the German side of the Rhine and then we caught the tram back over into France to go and have a look round Strasbourg!!

The slow introduction to Germany was a relief really as I am embarrassed by my lack of knowledge of the language. Someone came up to me just before I set off on my run on Saturday morning asking how to get somewhere and I barely managed to get out ‘no spreiche Deutsche ….’ which I now know should actually be ‘Ich Spreche Kein Deutsch’ or better still – ‘Tut mir leid, Ich Spreche Kein Deutsch’ Which would be ‘I am sorry, I don’t speak German’…. best get practising if we are going to be here for a couple of weeks!

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As it has been so warm, pollution levels were high (although not noticeably to us), so we benefitted from free Trams as they try to encourage people to use public transport rather than taking their cars – such a great idea, I wish they would do the same in the UK.

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We were very pleasantly surprised by Strasbourg as we had thought that going in on a hot Saturday would be a bad idea but it wasn’t too busy and possibly because of all the canals and rivers, it had a lovely calm and open feel to it.

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On the far side of the centre is the covered bridge (Barrage Vauban ) which you can walk up on top of and take in the views back over Strasbourg (as above), as well as walk inside and admire the gargoyle’s and statues.

The Barrage Vauban was built in the 17th Century and used to be known as ‘The Big Lock’ as each of the 13 small arches can be closed off to create a lock or a dam.  However it is now only used as a viewing platform (on top) and a museum (below) nowadays.

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The area near the Barrage Vauban is known as Petit France and is probably the  prettiest part of Strasbourg if you like the traditional Tudor style architecture.  Although everywhere we went was lovely really…. that was possibly helped by the lovely boutique shops,  gourmet patisseries and delicatessens.  We were helped through the day by some artisanal ice cream mid afternoon whilst we had a quick rest in the shade.

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As Cathedrals go, the Strasbourg Cathedral de Notre- Damme is an incredible centre piece of gothic architecture.  The photos don’t do it justice as it is only from a distance that you can see the delicate stonework to the towers that are open to the elements.

Apparently it is considered to be one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in Europe and for centuries it was the tallest building …although those days are long gone!!

Strasbourg’ed out, we jumped back on the tram and headed the 5km or so back over to Kehl in Germany to get some air flowing through Hattie.  It was a warm evening and Keith had made a Quiche so we didn’t have too much to prepare, although we weren’t expecting the entertainment that accompanied it.

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At around 9pm the music started up and we were apparently benefitting from free tickets to some kind of concert which had cover bands from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and some 00’s who were pretty good thankfully as it carried on until 1am and there was a separate firework display at around 23:15.  What with the heat and the music not much sleep was had but it was an interesting evening!

On Sunday morning we set off to Baden Baden, a Spa town roughly 50km from Kehl where we parked up at a Stellenplatz just outside the town (12 Euros a night GPS n 48.782399 e 8.20361).

Sunday had been forecasted to be the hottest day yet and it was 37+ degrees and unfortunately the site didn’t have much shade.  After a bit of lunch we took a walk into Baden Baden along the treelined cycle/footpath which ran alongside the Stellenplatz to be met by beautiful colonial architecture and green areas.

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The town oozes wealth and although the majority of the very large buildings were hotels, the smaller ones like the above were still private residences.

As the town isn’t very large you quickly get to the huge park area which follows the river Oos up into the hills and on to the next town.  We just walked along the side of the river for a couple of miles but it felt like you were in the middle of nowhere, accompanied by the sound of water running alongside you as they had cleverly built steps into the river so you could hear the water flowing at all times!

On the way back, closer into the town we were surprised to see a gentleman walking his dog….. and pony – obviously something he does every afternoon, both on a lead – the dog leading and the pony dragging its hooves!

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Of all the beautiful buildings, the Trinkhall (Pump room) is probably the most beautiful building in the town in my eyes and it sits alongside the Casino and hotel which are slightly more understated.

We had decided to visit Baden Baden not only because we had heard it was a beautiful town but also as it is in the Black Forest and apparently its a pretty good place to try the traditional Black Forest Gateaux.  Based on reviews we homed in on Cafe Koenig which is a traditional cafe and patisserie and despite the 37 degrees we ordered Black Forest Gateaux but to complement it, Black Forest Sundae as well….. what a treat!!

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The Black Forest Gateau was light and fluffy with a biscuit base which we didn’t expect and a good balance of Kirsch soaked cherries which made it not too sweet or rich.  The Black Forest Sundae was amazing….. the warm cherries were drowning in Kirsch then covered with homemade vanilla and chocolate ice cream, a little chantilly cream (not too much), flaked chocolate and meringue to finish it off… heavenly!

Not really the kind of thing for a hot afternoon but exceptions must be made!  Needless to say that it was quite nice just to have smoked mackerel and salads for dinner as we didn’t need a huge amount!

German law mandates that kirschwasser (Kirsch liquor) must be present in the cake for it to be labelled a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Gateaux). Additionally, it is not considered to be a legal Black Forest Cake in Bavaria without the liquor from the Black Forest cherry…. it is a very serious topic!!

The weather forecast had said that from Sunday night the temperatures would start to drop, however it was probably the warmest overnight that we had had, only going down to about 27 degrees…. it was a slow run into the park in the morning for me but we both felt better after a bit of exercise and a shower to cool us down!

We noticed that there was a supermarket not too far from the Stellenplatz so ventured over to do our first German shop and we can confirm that we like Germany!!  Although we were constantly looking up words on google translate they had a great variety of produce, both fresh and otherwise …. and they even had Skyr yoghurt ….. whehey!

Keith was hoping to get some good German beer and we were both a bit confused as initially we couldn’t find anything except a few bottles of Pilsner… and then the doors opened into the Beer room!!  As expected the Germans take Beer seriously and it has its own dedicated warehouse!!

What we hadn’t completely understood however was the recycling/single/Multi usage – the Pfand system – deposit which are complicated.  Keith was opting for cans of beer as not only are they better for the motorhome but we also thought they wouldn’t have an additional fee for the receptacle…. how wrong we were.

So apparently it works like this…. Any single use drink receptacle has a 25 cent charge, any glass drinks bottle has an 8 cent charge – the higher charge is supposed to discourage people from purchasing single usage drinks – i.e. cans of Coca Cola or beer etc.  The 8 cent charge can be refunded if you take the bottles back to the store with your receipt.  Good concept, how many people actually do it is another question…. but next time we will be buying glass bottles that is for sure.  The weird thing is that they only have the tax on drinks containers and not on food???

Anyway, after sorting the shopping we hit the road and finally made it to the Concorde factory (GPS n 49.7677 e 10.5646) where there is a Stellenplatz open to all.

After parking up we popped down to the reception to check that it was ok to stay only to find that the showroom was shut until Wednesday ….. we aren’t having a huge amount of luck with our trip to Concorde!!

We had also thought that we would be able to go and look at the Phoenix motorhomes as their factory is next door but quickly realised that there wasn’t a showroom so after a quick walk round the village and a bit of lunch we jumped on the bikes and headed over to the Morello Factory (the other big motorhome builders in the area) all of 8km away.

Morello was set up by a couple of Directors who left Concorde roughly ten years ago and it is fair to say that their motorhomes are of a quality build and fairly attractive…. although we didn’t see anything that would make us change…. at the moment at least!

On Wednesday morning we finally managed to get into the Concorde showroom and we have decided that we would currently still be faithful … although they didn’t have the exact model that we liked, by looking at the front end of one and the rear of another we think we have a future potential!!  It’s all theory though as we are really happy with Hattie and aren’t thinking of making any changes for a while!!

Whilst jumping between motorhomes we met a lovely english couple (Terry and Wenda) and ended up chatting for over an hour…. always good to exchange knowledge and experiences….although even better if over a glass of wine/beer!  However, realising the time and that we had a fairly long drive ahead of us we made our excuses and set off on the road towards Koblenz.

Although the roads are excellent in Germany there is a huge amount of traffic and a higher proportion of Trucks and even though there are no speed limits on the majority of the motorways there are over taking restrictions if you weigh more than 3.5 tonnes and we ended up stuck behind slow trucks on several occasions.  This was nothing however, as when we got to Frankfurt we decided to ignore the Sat Nav… we won’t be doing that again …. and continue on said route rather than turning off and taking a road closer into Frankfurt…. it was getting close to rush hour after all….

A 4 hour journey ended up taking just under 7 hours…. there was obviously a really bad accident and the road was closed and we just sat there … moved ten meters, then sat there…. finally arriving at our Stellenplatz just outside Koblenz just before 8:30pm …. thankfully there was still a spot for us as it was pretty full!  (11 euros a night GPS n 50.309101 e 7.59798).

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The Germans looked at us as though we had two heads … probably for turning up and eating so late but the temperature started to cool down a little, we had a lovely dinner with a bit of wine to ease the stress and we slept really well…. all was good!

We woke, did our exercise and took advantage of the Stellenplatz being slightly more like a campsite to do some washing before heading out for a lovely walk along the river Lahn…. we decided we will stay more than just a couple of nights!

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Warming up…. 28/6/19

Although a bit grey and threatening to rain we did some food shopping and then headed out along the cycle path – which was actually country lanes – for a little walk to stretch our legs while the shops were shut over lunch.  The countryside is so lush – well, they have had a lot of rain so I guess it should be – and beautiful.  You can’t see the big peaks … although the hills around Munster rise to over 1200m and Munster itself is in a valley sitting at roughly 350m altitude.  The Germanic influence on the architecture is lovely with the peaked roofed houses dotted on the sides of the hills in between the trees.

The town itself is actually quite small with one main shopping street which is made up mostly of touristy shops and eateries but there was a lovely market on Saturday morning where we managed to top up our cheese supply…. some local unpasteurised soft cheese, Munster with Cumin and a lovely strong Tomme.

The journeys are getting shorter and I think it was less than 10km between Munster and our next port of call which was Eguisheim…. another of France’ most beautiful villages. We had found a couple of France Passion vineyards but figured we were a bit too early to arrive at 11am so parked up and went for a walk into town before venturing to our overnight stop at Domaine Stoffel (GPS n 48.04431 e 7.30546).

 

The old town is built on a circle and surrounded by vineyards rising up the side of the hills, a really lovely setting.  We were lucky as it wasn’t too busy despite it being obvious that it was a very touristy location.

 

We moved the motorhome to the Vineyard just after lunch and went for a lovely walk through the vineyards before coming back to do a tasting of the wines with ‘Grandma’…. we do like these family run vineyards!  Domaine Stoffel was her vineyard that she set up with her late husband and now it is run by one of her daughters although as appears to be the way with viticulture, you never let go!

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The wine from Alsace is mostly white with a little bit of Rose and some bubbles of both white and rose thrown in, although this particular place also had a Pinot Noir.  We worked our way through the menu which consisted of Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Gewürtztraminer and several others including a Pinot Noir Rose and the Pinot Noir red finally settling on a couple of bottles of Pinot Blanc as the weather is looking like it is going to be pretty warm over the next week and headed back to the motorhome for some BBQ Baked Beans and a warm but peaceful night.

After a run through the vineyards and a bit of breakfast we travelled another 8km further down the road to Colmar where we parked up at the Port de Plaisance (GPS n 48.080502 e 7.37349 15.44 euros inc Elec.)

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Colmar is a fairly big town in comparison to the others we have visited recently with a beautiful cathedral and in our eyes….. way too many people!  Although it was a Sunday and most of the shops were closed, it was still full of tourists….and storks who in Alsace generally appear to take up residence on Church spires.

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We walked through the centre and then around the perimeter of the old part which had lots of lovely green spaces and some really beautiful colonial buildings, although there was no doubt that the focus of Colmar is definitely the fishmongers district and ‘Little Venice’.

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A little ‘peopled-out’ we wandered back to the motorhome where thankfully we could open everything up as it was 29 degrees and at least there was a bit of a breeze.

Windows wide open all night and the temperature dropped to all of 21 degrees …. outside.  My run and Keith’s exercise routine in the morning were pretty warm to say the least – thankfully both were mostly in the shade.

Although we keep saying we will be in Germany in the next couple of days we also keep changing our mind and seeing somewhere else interesting ….. so leaving Colmar behind us we decided to venture slightly further North in France (rather than Germany) – roughly 20km this time – to a little town called Ribeauville where we we stayed at Camping Pierre de Coubertin (13.50 euro a night).  The campsite was lovely and the pitch was shady which was a blessing considering the temperature….  I think all meals for the next few days will be outside… even thinking of getting a couple of hammocks!

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Just after we arrived, our neighbours even had a visitor for lunch …. I was quite surprised as he went straight up to the table asking for food, then after they gave him some bread – although you are not supposed to feed the Storks – he wandered off round the corner to the next family eating lunch and did the same – ignoring everyone else en route who didn’t have any food….. he was on a mission!

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Later in the evening he came back round with a friend …. they aren’t stupid and appear to know when dinner time is, I am sure they can read number plates as they went to the Germans, Belgiums and Dutch at around 6pm then came on to the British and French at around 7:30/8pm…. needless to say he didn’t get anything from us although he was eyeing up the Pizza on the BBQ!

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The town of Ribeuville is very pretty, probably the prettiest out of the few we have seen over this last week or so as not only does it have the beautiful buildings and quirky streets, it is also surrounded by hills lined with vineyards and topped by castles.

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We decided to continue our research though and walked through the Vineyards to Bergheim, the town of the Witches just 3km away.  It was also pretty but having seen quite a few of Frances ‘most beautiful villages’ now we are getting a little picky!!

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We jumped on the bikes after lunch and cycled over to Riquewihr which is also on the list… and this time I would say it was pretty much up there with the best!  Once again surrounded by hills lined with vineyards, Riquewihr is another medieval fortified town and although very touristy, it is very well kept and you cannot deny its beauty.

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Not only does it have beautiful gates and towers…. naturally it also has the obligatory multi-coloured houses.

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I think we have had our fill of ‘pretty villages’ for now …. generally too many people for us and not enough ‘real’ places where people actually go on a day to day basis to eat and buy produce!

So we said our goodbyes to the lovely lady who ran the campsite and headed slightly further North to Obernai where had booked ourselves a pitch – the volley ball pitch – at Camping Municipal Vallon de L’Ehn (16.20 euros a night).  I joke not but when I called to book and mentioned the size of Hattie they offered us the volley ball pitch as it was large, flat and hard standing ….. I did say we weren’t ‘that’ big and would prefer a bit of shade if possible but on arrival the volley ball pitch it was!!

The heatwave has set in and the thermometer was registering 42 degrees in the motorhome on Wednesday and although the temperature does go down over night its still very warm, even though we have been able to leave all the windows open

Obernai is a lovely little town with real shops and on Thursday mornings it has a big market which is one of the reasons we decided to venture there for a couple of nights.  The market was well worth the visit, all I can say is don’t leave it until late…. we decided to have crepes for breakfast and do some washing, getting into the market at around 11:30 and many of the stalls were in the process of packing up.  So we had a bit of a mad rush to find what we wanted but dinner on the BBQ was steak with chargrilled vegetables and a local sausage that was made from veal, spinach, cheese and some other lovely ingredients … as we had to try the local produce – it was delicious!  All washed down with the bottle of Cremant (bubbles) that we bought  in Jura a couple of weeks ago …. a nice way to celebrate a birthday!

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I know it has been a long time coming but finally we have crossed over into Germany this morning.  We were a little nervous as the hot weather has pushed all the pollution levels up in the big cities but thankfully our CritAir rating of 3 was accepted (we did have a back up route), enabling us to pass through Strasbourg to get to Kelh (8 euros a night GPS n 48.563801 e 7.81395), our first Stellenplatz in Germany for a couple of nights to go and explore Strasbourg.

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Hattie gets Vertigo……21/6/19

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The parking area in Dole was peaceful overnight despite having the remains of the funfair that we thought had finished but obviously decided to revive itself for a few hours on Tuesday afternoon!

The town itself was pretty with lots of nice delicatessens, butchers and bakers as well as ‘Les Halles’ which we made a visit to on Thursday morning before we left.  Dole is situated on a river and a canal and it has cycle paths going in all directions which was lovely.

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I managed to get out for two runs, barely having to cross a road although evidently confused Keith with my description of how to get onto the cycle path as he ended up in the campsite and a slightly more bitty run…. apparently still enjoyable though!  We also ventured in the opposite direction for a walk up the canal which although slightly more built up, was also pretty.

Hattie had a visit from a German relative …. its always nice to see the excitement on other Concorde owners’ faces is the same as ours when we meet a similar motorhome…. daft I know but it is like one big family!

Leaving Dole we headed all of 20km up the road to Arc et Senans (GPS n 47.0331 e 5.78079) where there is an Aire both for services as well as parking overnight.  As we arrived fairly early we set off for a lovely little 14km stroll into the forest to see a bit more of the area.

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Arc et Senans is famous for its Salt …. or at least it was.  The Royal Saline was commissioned by Luis XV between 1775 and 1779 consisting of 11 buildings that form a circular arc.  In the 18th century, salt was an essential and valuable commodity  as it was used for preserving foods such as meat or fish as well as in daily seasoning of foods.  The ubiquity of salt usage caused the French government to impose the ‘Gabelle’ – a tax on salt consumption where everyone (including children) had to pay.

The building itself is now protected by UNESCO and is open to visitors and is also a hotel and restuarant but not used for the production of salt any longer.

How the weather can change so quickly I will never know… 30 degrees and sunshine on Thursday afternoon turned into 15 degrees and rain on Friday morning.  We bit the bullet and decided to venture out on another walk anyway at least we got to stretch our legs see the poppies, lots of vineyards and the beautiful rolling green hills….

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After lunch and a quick empty and refill at the service area we moved further into Jura and Yellow Wine country.  We had chosen another place out of the France Passion book which did a wide selection of wines from the region and we couldn’t have asked for me.  Domain Desire Petit (GPS n 46.88038 e 5.575643) was up the side of a hill in a tiny little village with a population of roughly 200 people and ten wine producers …… perfect proportions if you ask me!

The car park was big and flat and the views would have been fantastic if the cloud hadn’t been quite so low so after a cup of tea (it was herbal) – how British – we headed inside to find out more about the wines. They are a family vineyard with 27 hectares of vine and the gentleman who was walking us through the wines couldn’t appear to give us enough… he was the uncle of the couple who now run it but used to run it with his brother.  They produce small-ish quantities of lots of different things … Sparkling white, Sparkling Rose, Reds (of different grapes – Ploussard, Trousseau, Pinot Noir), Whites (of different grapes Savagnin (yes, that is Savignin not Savaugnon as I had thought) and Chardonnay), Vin Jaune, Macvin, and spirits…… I think we tried over 15 different varieties and each glass was a good tasting.  The Vin Jaune which is a ‘speciality’ wasn’t to Keith or my like as it had a bitter aftertaste…. almost like some of the sherry’s that we tried in Jerez.  The Macvin however was like a sweeter port/sherry which was delicious so with the need to get back and actually cook dinner, we bought a bottle of that along with some bubbles and a bottle of red… we do like France Passion!!

Although we had expected to wake to rain it was actually just a bit grey although we had taken a rest day based on the forecast… just meant we were on our way a little earlier than normal.  Whilst looking at different places to visit Keith had found a place called Epinal which was due to have a street festival over the weekend which we thought would be interesting, so we wiggled our way to Camping le Chateau (17 euro per night + 4.50 for electricity). We had asked for a spot without electricity and paid upfront for two nights but when we got to the handful of spots where the guy said we could park they were fit for a VW campervan…. not a Hattie, so we just bit the bullet and paid for the electricity which meant we could move to the largest spot on site which was enormous!

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With the weather looking a bit stormy on Saturday afternoon / evening we decided to leave the washing until Sunday and take a wander into town to have a look at what was going on, getting back to the motorhome just before the skies opened and the rain fell.

We only had a couple of hours of heavy rain thankfully, however whilst watching the news on Sunday evening we learnt that not far from where we were, the rain was replaced by large hail stones which destroyed the Apricot crop which was just at the point of being picked.  Very sad, but if like us you like your apricots I suggest you get buying now as the price will probably go up soon due to lack of supply.


Back to the street festival, there were roughly 150 ‘shows’ comprising of acrobatics, theatre, dance and music over the weekend dotted around the town in a variety of locations …. street corners, car parks, museums, etc.  We managed to see the whole of four different shows and bits of others, mostly on the Sunday afternoon/evening as they all got crowded so quickly and we learnt that we needed to get to there 20 – 30 minutes before each show started if we wanted to see anything in addition to the back of peoples heads!


We had selected mostly to see acrobatics and we were not disappointed, the strength and flexibility that the performers had was truly incredible.

 


Having had our culture fill over the weekend, with blue skies and sunshine we set off on Monday morning heading into the mountains to find some walking.  We had decided to stop at a town called Gerardmer which sits on a lake at 660m Altitude and is surrounded by hills and forests which in the winter turn into a ski resort.  We parked up at Camping les Sapins (14.40 euro per night)  which was about 1.5km out of the town half way down one side of the lake.  It’s a lovely campsite and thankfully it had one large pitch left which worked out perfectly for us!

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As we needed to do some food shopping we walked into town around the edge of the lake, found a Super U and on the way back found an amazing butchers.  As we walked in through the door we were hit by the smell of the smoked meats luring us away from the reason we actually went in there in the first place.  The smoked meats were a mixture of Pork and Beef, some were cured and could be eaten as they were, others needed to be cooked…. they all looked incredible. After much deliberation we ended up buying minced beef for some burgers, a filet mignon for a bit of a rub on the BBQ and a small amount of cured smoked pork, a type of chorizo and a type of salami … all made in house and all were delicious.

In the morning, with the sun just about poking through the clouds we walked up into the forest on the southern side of the lake which was dense forest so no views, although still beautiful then once we had dropped down again we ended up also doing a circuit round the lake, a nice walk just under 16km and 700m ascent.

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The following morning – as we decided to stay three nights in the end – we did some washing …. well, you know the story – then walked round to the opposite side of the lake and up into the forest before coming back round along the side of a stream on a circular walk.  I think we managed to get two glimpses of the lake this time but the forest was still fairly dense …. not an area for walking if you like your views but still fantastic and lots of wildlife.

Before heading off on Thursday we did a quick visit to the market in town and were very pleasantly surprised – it was really big with lots of local produce, everything from fruit and veg to smoked meats and the cheese coming out of its ears….  needless to say we held back on purchasing any more cheese as we knew we were heading into the mountains to an Auberge that sold local cheese and then onto Munster … but we did stock up on lots of lovely French apricots!

We left Gerardmer just before midday and took a windy road into the mountains, climbing up to 1100m before descending again to La Bresse which is roughly the same altitude as Gerardmer… 660m.

As we didn’t want to arrive at our final destination until mid-afternoon we stopped and had a walk round and with a rain stop in an awning, made it back to Hattie without getting wet to eat lunch!  It’s a pretty little town in a valley but nothing really in comparison to Gerardmer from what we saw anyway.

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We had decided to go to a France Passion Auberge in the mountains for dinner and despite being a little nervous about the roads and access we left La Bresse and wiggled our way upwards again.  I was driving and as we took a turning off of the ‘main’ road…. I say that in the lightest possible terms… I started to feel the sweat form…. we were still a good 20 minutes away!!  The road was actually a good paved road, it was just that it was only wide enough for 1.5 Hattie’s … so each time we came across another car it was a squeeze, thankfully we didn’t encounter anyone on a hairpin…. or anything bigger than a car!  Needless to say the road was only about 5 miles long and we soon joined another ‘main’ road which dropped off to the right …. probably all 1200m of it.  I glanced over and the views out to the lake were stunning but as Vertigo started to kick in I decided I was best to leave the sight seeing to Keith and focus on the road!

Unfortunately there weren’t any suitable spots to stop and take a photo but we continued to twist and turn until we got to our stop for the night which sits at 1150m altitude – Ferme Auberge UFF Rain (GPS n 47.96858 e 7.03216) where we had booked in for a bit of Alsatian food…. just to be clear that is food from Alsace, not dog food!

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Although the cloud was low and rain was looming we headed out for a little walk up to the peak of the mountain we were on which sat at 1314m, through the forest and back down to Hattie with enough time to sort ourselves before we went for dinner.

It is fair to say that the food was fantastic, although having not been to Alsace before, we get the impression that like Northern Spain, everywhere you go you will eat well.

The menu was fairly simple with three different set menus and then some of the dishes were available to order separately.  As neither Keith nor I had a clue what we were ordering we opted for two different ‘Menus’, both 20 euros a head and we were not disappointed.

We shared everything but Keith’s starters was a plate of charcuterie and mine can only be described as a sausage meat pie – both came accompanied by the obligatory sauerkraut and grated carrot, main course for Keith was cured ham with Gratin Potatoes….. oh my, they were good – although we will be having cheesy dreams for weeks to come. Mine was smoked pork with cheesy mash…. which sounds a bit daft when you think of how much cheese was in the gratin…. as to be fair mine was barely cheesy at all in comparison…. although very nice!  I then had a cheese course to make up for my cheese deficiency and we both squeezed a bit of dessert in … Keith had blueberry tart and I could only manage vanilla ice cream with blueberry coulis…. all however, was home made and lovely.

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Needless to say that despite all the rich food and cheese we slept well, waking to the sound of the cows coming in to milk, bells a clanging ….

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And today we have arrived at Munster at a nice little Aire (GPS n 48.037601 e 7.13309) 8 euros a night.

 

 

 

Pigs, goats and a donkey…11/6/19

Leaving Lourmarin we decided that as we were fairly close and neither of had ever been – although we had heard many good things about it – we would head to Aix-en-Provence.  As it is a fairly big city and there wasn’t a huge amount of choice we opted for another campsite, this time Camping Arc en Ciel which was 22 euros a night without electricity.

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The campsite was like a little garden of paradise underneath a motorway, its difficult to paint the picture without it sounding awful but it was actually a really lovely place  with lots of trees and flowers, a river running through it where you can fish as well as a swimming pool.  We had chosen a spot closer to the entrance which meant the road noise was more evident but further into the site it was much quieter and it was only 2km from the centre of Aix-en-Provence…. it worked for us anyway, we both even had a swim in the outdoor pool which was refreshing at the end of the day, although my run was hilly and complicated to say the least… that’s cities for you!

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Aix-en-Provence itself was lovely, with lots of restaurants, cafes and bars as well as boutique shops.  Every time we turned a corner there were more interesting streets with more cafes and boutiques…. all of which appeared to be one offs which made it even more interesting.  It has obviously had a large amount of money invested in it to maintain the buildings and make the centre look attractive.

After a couple of nights in Aix-en-Provence we headed on and although we loved Avignon when we visited a few years ago, we decided to give it a miss this time but instead stopped off for lunch in a little town called Orange. Although the town itself was a bit rough around the edges, when we stopped and walked around and saw some of the key sights….. all I can say is wow, what history and amazing buildings – although the photos doesn’t do it justice.

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Orange of 2000 years ago was a miniature Rome with all the public buildings but on a scaled down level.  The building at the back of the photo above is the Ampitheatre and obviously with restoration, is still being used today for theatrical and musical events. If you have a look at the following link you can see what it looks like from the inside … pretty incredible.

Although they have left the theatre with a slightly more rustic feel, they have completely restored the Arc Triumphal which did look spectacular…. thankfully Aldi let us park in their car park as parking for a ‘Hattie’ was complicated to say the least…. we did do some shopping so didn’t feel too bad about taking advantage!!

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Feeling cultured up we worked our way towards our stop for the night which was a Pig Farm….. yep, all things pig and to be fair they had a few mischievous goats too!

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The France Passion for the night was Domain Distaise in Grane (GPS n 44.75562 e 4.86749) and we had chosen it as we fancied somewhere to eat and they provided an Auberge a la ferme which in this case meant a small group of people eating a set meal together which mainly consisted of products produced on the farm and if they weren’t from the farm, they were from local producers.

We parked up amongst the cherry trees with about 15 other motorhomes who were a mixture of France Passion and Park for night (who paid 5 euros a night to stay) and  headed out to have a look in their boutique.  One pork loin, two beautifully large sausages (one with spinach and one natural), some goats cheese and some saucisson later we headed back to the motorhome already salivating about our dinner that night!  The farm owners own all the land down to the Drone so we headed out to have a look at the ‘Porks’…. as they call them and it is fair to say that they were happy…. fat and happy….. just how we like them!

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The meal was delicious.  There were 14 of us, although a Swiss couple turned up at the end of the evening and they served them a plate of charcuterie as well.  We started off with a plate of all the different types of charcuterie that they make on the farm – Saucisson, Pate, Caillette (which is a mix of onions, spinach and pork) and a cured ham accompanied by a home made onion marmalade and salads.  To follow we had Pork Shoulder cooked with potatoes and carrot in a bread oven for 6 hours which was absolutely delicious, Cheese which were two different types of goat and then finally dessert for which Keith chose the local speciality which was sheep’s yoghurt with Sweet Chestnut purée and I opted for an apple crumble with ice cream. …. contented but not too stuffed!

It was well worth the visit, we ate well on the night, slept incredibly well as it was so quiet and have been contentedly eating the produce ever since…although last nights cassoulet and todays sandwiches finished off the fresh meat!

A short hop up the road and we arrived at Camping les Luc’s in Tain de l’hermitage …. one of our favourite little spots since we did the apricot and cherry picking here three years ago.  It’s a great little campsite right on the Rhone and we got one of the best pitches… despite not fitting on it in any other way than parking diagonally!

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Tain de l’hermitage is all about chocolate, wine, apricots and cherries to us…. and it delivered on all accounts!  Michel and Teresa turned up on Friday afternoon with a bag full of cherries and two apricots …. disappointed as it was the apricots we were hoping for but the cherries were delicious and it was lovely to see them!  We headed to the market on Saturday morning and stocked up with some delicious cheese amongst other staples and on Sunday went over to the farm where we worked for lunch with Michel and Teresa.  They were nestled amongst the Apricot trees with their motorhome and although they weren’t ripe, we came away with a rather large bag of apricots …. which are currently in the process of being cooked up and smell delicious!

We managed to squeeze in a visit to the Cave du Tain to try out the different wines again on Saturday afternoon and on the way back a quick visit to the Valrhona chocolate shop which didn’t disappoint either. This year they had introduced some new chocolate for patisserie which were a burst of either Strawberry, Raspberry, Passion fruit or Yuzu…. absolutely amazing!

The rain has unfortunately caught up with us though and although Sunday was a mixed bag, yesterday and today have been fairly wet.  The frogs – which appear to be out in their abundance – are definitely enjoying it, as are the farmers as it has been pretty dry recently.

We left Tain de l’hermitage yesterday morning and drove through the rain to get to Ferme des Couderies (GPS n 46.26874 e 5.21840) a France Passion farm where they had goats and vegetables….. and not to forget the donkey!  The farmer was really busy and although he had had 40mm of rain in 24 hours he found us somewhere to park and this morning, having been woken at 5:30am by the donkey, we got freshly picked new potatoes, strawberries (which were more like wild strawberries as the flavour is immense), onions and you guessed it … more goats cheese!  I think we are going to hang back on buying any more until at least the weekend as we simply can’t consume at the same rate as we are buying it…. despite trying!

The rain was slightly lighter today so we took a bit of a detour to find one of the beautiful villages that Michel recommended called Baume-les-messieurs.

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Despite the grey clouds and rain the village was beautiful, nestled in between the huge limestone rock faces.  We found a little parking spot and walked up through the village to the waterfall and the caves which are supposed to the one of the best in Europe but we had just missed a tour so can’t comment unfortunately.

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Although the road was a little narrow at points there were ample places to park ….. at the moment – I dread to think what it would be like in the summer – and a lovely campsite right in the middle of the village next to the river!

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We didn’t stay however, we decided to head slightly further north to Dole, where we found a place to park up just by the stadium (GPS n 47.089401 e 5.500006) and plan to stay a couple of nights with the hope that the rain may ease in the morning as the town looks pretty and there appears to be lots of cycle routes/ walking tracks to explore.

We have covered a bit more mileage this week and Germany is definitely within sight now….. you never know we may actually be there by next week!

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