See The World
with BILL'S EYES
Lee roaming the grounds of an Abbye.
Charmes houses as charming as they look.
Great access to the heights of the castle with spectacular views.
Gardens are contemplative and best without the kids.
Third and Fourth Days
Unknown to you we have been a bit tardy in creating our daily reports, so we have to provide yesterday's and today report in one.
Our stay in Chatenois was a three dog night (as the Australian saying goes - meaning that in the outback it is a good thing to have three or more dogs sleeping next to you to keep you warm). Lee and I had two quilts each to keep warm.
No officials to tell us off for parking on a grass verge but the passing locals with their dogs were a welcome interlude for Lee who is missing her Kenzie (west highland terrier).
Another late start as we waited for the Aries facilities to become available to allow us to fill up with water, dump waste water and other things.
Our designated destination was Haut-Kaenigsbourg Castle some 15 or so kilometers from our overnight stay location. The castle is stunning from a distance but grander when close up and actualy inside. We parked some kilometer from the entrance but as we walked up the road there were plenty of locations that we could have used closer. No problem as the walk would help to balance the great meals we have been having, Oh and the pastries.
As we walk up to the entrance we pass families unloading their vehicles, older people - relative term I know - in fact lots of people making their way to this grand castle on a Wednesday late morning. Must be good.
Well we were not disappointed as there were steps, helical stairs, parapets, look-outs, rooms, kitchens, wells, battlements and weapons rooms to be roamed about, endlessly photographed, and generally looked at in awe of another time. We thought about our Grandson Mac whom we thought would have loved to see all that was on show. Seems that the castle was rebuilt in the early 1900's with careful attention to detail to the different centuries of the developments over the greater than 800 years of its existence.
One of developments was reinforcement to walls some hundreds of years after it was built to cope with the newer cannons of that time. Seems no different today, just few months/years on and the most modern defences of today will be obsolete, as much as the reinforced battlement of this castle was in time.
Our next stop is the picturesque town of Ribeauville (are not all these towns picturesque). It seems this town is well known for storks visiting each nesting season, hence the many spires with nest receptacles provided by the township. This time we had the sense to sit down for lunch and let the world pass by. Just what we needed.
As we had a late start (haven't they all been late starts) we were ready to head off to our overnight stay location of Kaysersberg. Interesting to note how some towns are -burg, some are -burgh, some are -berg. I have still have not worked that out, but the German influence is understandable since the area was once German territory which passed to the French.
The Kayserberg township is in the hills of the Alsace region with the largest city nearby being Colmar. We stayed at a caravan park so that we could wash our clothes, have a mains water hot shower and importantly have electricity to charge all our devices. Interesting how that becomes an necessity in today's world.
It must be an unwritten rule for such places to be nearby a school since the next morning we are awoken by the sounds of playing children but not too early as today we planned to take it easy and leave the park late.
We had one last township in the Alsace region to visit (Eguisheim) and we thought that could be done by sometime after lunch and then we would make our way towards Colmar and the towards the Champagne region near Reims via Nancey although we're not getting there today.
Eguisheim is a town that is circular in shape as defined by the clearly older buildings along and internal to the circularly shaped periphery. The German influence is clear and the town seems to rely mainly on tourism as I could not see much evidence of wineries, although as expected in Alsace townships there were wine outlets.
We moved on quickly, but I should not let this opportunity pass to mention the hard time given to motor home and camper vans by all the towns we have visited during our travels. I appreciate these vehicles are large and can take up two normal parking spots, but the use of frames of very limited height over the entrance to parking locations near the center of town to exclude the entrance of camper vans, and signs making it clear that such vehicles are not allowed, etc., forces the drivers to seek parking well out of the town. I also appreciate that there are many streets that will not accommodate these vehicles and I do not have a problem with this. End of rant.
On to Colmar on a mission to find a tap adaptor to allow our hose to be fitted to more taps than it is possible at the moment. We had to borrow an adaptor back at Chanenois and to do some more shopping.
The availability of the Internet has made traveling so much easier today than it would have been without it. Even if you are traveling in a country that speaks a different language you can use one of many applications to translate the phrase you need to do a search using the local language. So we were able to search for and find the address of the shops we needed. Then the vehicle GPS takes over and you get there with little fuss. It still takes care and sometimes frustration to enter the correct address because the spellings are so unfamiliar.
Colmar is a large city and is best known for the Little Venice portion of its old city, so we hunted about for a parking spot and eventually paid for two parking bays for a two hour period so we could walk the streets of the old part of Colmar. Lee found a clothing shop and a sweater of 100% cotton and I roamed the streets observing the many groups of tourists following their leaders. I was struck by the sameness of the routine of these groups in that they all saw the same things, they all took pictures of the same things, they all Ooed and Ahhd at the same things and generally had a pleasant time. I have been there and done that with the tours I have been on and now appreciate that we are not that much different, except we could decide to stay or move on, we could decide to sit down for a coffee and cake, which we did, and not everything is guaranteed so we may need to put up with a cold shower and the coffee may not arrive until someone walks a distance to get some. Que sera sera.
We then decided it was time to leave the Alsace region and head West. It could be an hour or more driving to the next Aries so it was best to get started.
We set the GPS to Charmes and relied on the route settings to get us there. Thankfully the route was through some of the prettiest mountain country, past old snow covered ski slopes -closed for the spring and summer seasons and we stopped to take pictures on many occasions, including a stop to walk a few hundred meters to touch the old snow. Too slippery to walk on (as I fell onto my hands a number of times attempting to do so) but a great backdrop for some pictures and our first selfie for the trip.
The Aries only has two other vans but it is located next to a river and we look forward to tomorrow having had a lovely pork and stir fry meal with great Alsace Pino Gris.
If a tractor can get through surely a senior driver can.....
Stalk nesting on the best viewing platform in town.
Suit up and prepare for combat.
Note the bottle is half gone even before starting our meal.
Run Forrest Run
Wangen made sure our beast would not enter.
I would not want to be on the receiving end of this.
Westhoffen from the fields.
Little Venice in Colmar
Off on our CamperVan adventure. Lee was nervous about the van but I assured her it was just a hire car WITH the kitchen sink.
Our first resting place on the Country Roads of France
Adventures in FRANCE in an RV
French school building in Obernia
Sainte-Odile a mountain top monsatery.
Lee, like her Dad, will talk to anyone, especially if they have a fluffy Westie dog.
Second day awaits as we awake from a restless night including Lee having a panic attack because of the confined sleeping quarters.
Water for coffee to get the day started is soon on the boil but I learn that I have to ladle the hot water from the pan into the waiting cups. Who cares as long as there is coffee and milk in the cup.
There was a junior school next to our Obernai location and the noise of the children playing had woken Lee earlier but she had returned to sleep. The louder sounds of playful children during an early recess was a delight and their play ground replete with trees and play equipment meant we were not getting any more sleep.
We are a bit slow today possibly because there has been so much to do and think about. I am sure it will become routine in time but it is early days yet.
First off to the local Information center of Obernai to get a better map of the Alsace region which was a walk retracing our steps of last evening. No time for crepes but we did pass a local patisserie and bought two local pastries for having with some coffee in the van later.
The local hill has a look-out so we secured the van and ventured out of the Aries and towards a steep and winding road, a great way to begin the day, but we are fresh and eager to see the vista including the town of Obernai and many of the nearby towns of the Alsase regions. The vines of Chardonnay, Pino Gris and many other varieties with their buds of promising grapes and eventually wine were regimentally arrayed behind us.
A group of hardy walkers had made their way up the slopes to join us as we take pictures and revel in the vista of the red coloured tiled houses of the adjacent town of Obernai and many small towns in the distance most with a church spire as the most noticeable feature. It seems to me that the past, and I am talking many hundreds, if not thousands of years, have religion and vain monarchy to thank for the edifices that we all visit and reverie. I wonder what future generations beyond the 20th and 21st century will make the effort to see.
We drove North to the location of the lovely Westhoffen (can't help but think of the Power's back line player Westhoff and also a past Power player Wanganeen when we travelled later to Wangen). We stopped at the same spot as the previous evening near Westhoffen and took some more pictures but this time with the mid-morning light, which came up a treat. The actual township was picturesque as its seems are most of the townships in this region and we took some time to walk the length of the main street of Westhoffen. Then off to Wangen and took more pictures as we walked through the town since we were not able to drive through the sole entrance arch to the town.
We parked a little way out of town right next to an Insect Hotel (a very well designed array of different insect habitats within a wooden structure). This town was very small but most of the main street buildings were devoted to winery activities, either selling wine or bottling wine. We then went back to Marlenhiem to workout where we would go next.
Sainte-Odile a mountain top monastery was the chosen destination via Ottrot. The monastery is a popular destination for young and old, more particularly school children on this day. The views over the Alsace region were spectacular and the grounds and rooms very conducive to contemplation (must be when the hordes, especially children have left for the day).
Little did we know that a little contemplation would turn into chaos a little way down to road in Mittelbergheim.
As you do in a 2 tonne vehicle you ignore the designated parking spots on the edge of town and head down a cobble stoned lane way that becomes progressively narrower. In my mind there was plenty of room for the beast to pass by the parked workmen's vans. There was even a gate way half way along the lane that I could partly duck into if a vehicle came the other way. 'All the best laid plans of mice and men' (a partial quote from a poem by Robert Burns) soon came to put my confidence a sunder. All it takes is a senior driver who wants to go forward when they could have gone backwards or carefully forwards, to wedge my 2 tonne monster against the walls of the buildings not able to go backwards or forwards until the senior driver is cajoled into to reversing just a few meters. By this time Lee is out of the Van and conversing in English to someone who has never spoken English and then the hands start waving in small arcs becoming larger and larger as the driver seemed to think going backward was like asking the French president to kiss the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Again in my mind the senior driver (who surprisingly did not have a hat on) could easily drive past the Van but OH NO they had to reverse under duress 2 meters. That really did not help and they should have reversed the 30 meters to the start of the lane they entered. Well if the first two meters was any indication this senior driver had last driven in reverse during their driving test.
That left me with the need to do a 300 point turn in a lane way the width of half the length of the Van. Luckily there was a driveway opposite the other driveway I had snuck into, and after many great directions from Lee I had the Van completely inside the backyard of an unsuspecting French home owner so that the senior driver and the by now 6 waiting vehicles could drive past me and snicker at the ignorant Camper Van driver (Englishman/American/etc.).
So here I am ready to make camp for the night and hopefully get a great feed with the the good grace of the French person who owned the driveway I was soon to make an acquaintance with.
However, I asked Lee to stop the traffic and almost blindly hope that I can reverse this monster back into the opposite driveway and then direct it down the lane to escape my predicament.
Lee again directs me well and I do eventually after multiple turns of the steering wheel get the beast on its way.
We drive about and park outside of town this time and walk the streets and take more pictures.
By now it was getting late and we needed to think where we would stay the night.
Selestat is about half way along the Alsace wine route and our Aires booklet indicated that Chatenois, a nearby town has a 7 van space Aires. We were soon on our way and when we arrived all 7 spaces were taken.
Not to be deterred we found a spot on a grass verge nearby and rustled up a stir fry and saltimbocca to cap off an eventful but interesting day.
The time to contemplate is rare but appropriate in an Abbye
Very impressive castle.
Insect Hotel is a lot cheaper than our digs but you have to put up with the blood sucking owners.
Some of the food we purchased.
Our first selfies - and in the snow.
Well the first day in the CamperVan was interesting. Driving is a challenge when the 2 tonne vehicle which is wide and long, has the 6 gear stick shift on the right, the indicators on the left, is driven on the right hand side of the road and has the acceleration of a 20 tonne truck. Quite a bit different from my low to the road automatic two seater.
At least the GPS is talkative and helpful as long as the destination is clear. Not so much if you use the GPS coordinates provided in a book of Aires, which are free overnight stay locations for camper vans located all over France and provided by the local councils to encourage tourism in their area. You can purchase a book listing them all including the facilities they have and directions to get there including the GPS coordinates.
It is best to know the general direction of your travels when you jump into a 2 tonne juggernaght. We knew we were heading for the Alsace region of France but there was a temptation to drive the five or so kilometres to Germany to at least say we had travelled to that country.
We were on a mission though and the first destination in France beckoned.
The chatter from the GPS soon became secondary to the strident calls from Lee that the van was tooooo close to the side of the road; the parked cars; the sign posts that seemingly jump out at her as we approach; and approaching trucks and busses which create a windy buffeting that moves the van from side to side. Suffice to say the stop just 13 kilometres from our starting point was a relief.
We decided to do some shopping and stock the van to ensure we could survive a few days food wise. The van has a gas hot plate, hot water and shower so all manner of goodies were purchased but importantly some G&T was included. Gin and Tonic for those that do not know.
Felt like some right then - but best to be enjoyed during the evenings.
We entered Marlenheim at the Northern edge of the Alsace region and were soon on the edge of the town when we sighted our first Aires. It was about lunch time so a stop to enjoy some baguette, ham, cheese and coffee was in order.
The adjacent fields were green and lush and we certainly felt we were in the country which happened to be France. It felt good to be able to boil the water add the coffee and milk and enjoy the surroundings while eating the local fare.
I do not want to make this a travelogue of the towns we visit so it seems more relevant to describe what we did, which included posting a package to our grandchildren in Darwin Northern Territory at the local Poste office. Seems the unusual destination did not faze the helpful postal worker who spoke English and said ‘good bye’ when we left.
We also visited our first cellar door called Cave du Arthur Metz and enjoyed sipping the unusual wines that I had not seen in Australia. We bought two bottles for consumption in the evenings and then walked the streets taking photographs and discussing how to compress two days into one.
We then travelled towards Westhoffen but did not quite get there as the scenery took our eye and by the time we had taken our photos and had a further coffee it was time to drive to our overnight stay Aires.
Time fly’s when you are having fun and we were not yet decided where we would stay the night. Obernai was the choice some 30 kms away. When Camper Vaning you need to think about where to stay each night and ensure you are there early enough to not only get a spot (they are a finite resource) but also to calm the passenger that thinks the earth will swallow you up if you cannot get in the place you thought you would get into........
We made it to our first Aires and it was almost full. The picture shows the challenge I chose which was to parallel park the beast between two previously parked vans. Mission accomplished with inches to spare. There is a trick to parallel parking and if you wish to know contact me as it has helped numerous learners I taught along the way.
Too late to cook a meal tonight and in my mind the whole reason for traveling the way we were is to experience the townships by walking the streets whatever the time of day.
Off we went to explore. It was chilly so a coat and scarf was in order to allow us to wander later into the evening. The photographs we took captured the strength of the dusk sun against the weathered walls of multiple hundreds of years old buildings highlighting the Germanic influence as well as the grandeur of olden times.
We were hungry and a local restaurant beckoned where we had a local beer and a local potato based three meat stew seeped in Alsace white wine with a hint of onion and herbs.
Back to the van back-tracking our walk in the dark and occasional light of street lights and outside lights of the local homes and the escaping light through windows.
First night in the van is always a challenge. Where are the light switches? Will the bed be comfy? Is there enough warm bedding? Oh and how do you keep the light out? After a great deal of fumbling and perseverance we were settled. See you tomorrow.