Tuesday, 26 July 2016

T4rdis2 Tour2 -Day 21 - 25 Northeastern France

Day 21
Thursday 21st July 2016 - Morning very hot and afternoon humid with 1 torrential downpour

This morning we left our little campsite at Gerardmer and headed off to drive through the Vosges mountain range - specifically to follow part of the 83km Route Des Crete's.   We hadn't been on the road long when the climbing started, and as it was still very hot at this stage, we were very glad to have engine power rather than peddle power for our journey!  This area boasts 60% forestation with firs, pines, spruces and beech along the roadsides, and at times the trees did obscure the magnificent views, however when the vistas did reveal themselves they were breath-taking in their beauty with glacial lakes, flower filled meadows, deep valleys and cliffs all available to be admired.  Therefore, regular stops were necessary because to take ones eye of the twisty road with it's frequent hair-pin bends would have been to court disaster!

Now, I've already said the day was hot and humid, but as time passed cloud was also rolling in, so when we got to the highest point, which is at 1424 metres at The Grand Ballon, the mist was sweeping up the valley and shrouding everything in ghostly shadow, and unfortunately obscuring our view somewhat! Therefore, we aimed T4rdis2 at our next destination, which was to be an Aire in the village of Orschwihr on the Alsace wine route, but we have promised ourselves that we will return to this area sometime in the near future.

And it really was a good job we hadn't delayed because we had only just parked when the heavens opened with an absolute torrential  downpour.   We thought it might help to cool things down a bit, but  no, all it did was to make it even more humid, and the noise on the outside of the van was thunderous,  poor John had to take his hearing aids out cos it was deafening him!

The Aire is really very pretty (and free) and the village in which it is situated boasts no less than 27 'wine caves' - I think we might like it here!  It is also surrounded by rolling fields of vines as far as the eye can see, so later in the afternoon, when the rain had stopped, we strolled out around the village and up through the vineyards.   Here, we were very surprised to note the lack of any form of irrigation - we were later to learn that this is not allowed in this region - the vines have to rely completely on the weather for a drink!

Then later, when we were back home, a little tap came on the door.  It was one of the 'Cave' owners inviting us to come for a tour and tasting tomorrow - we'd planned to move on but it would have been rude to decline!

Day 22
Friday 22nd July 2016 -  Humid and hot in the morning - rain and much cooler in the afternoon (maybe we'll sleep better tonight!)

The plan for today was to go for our wine tasting in the morning and then to move on further up the road in the afternoon - it's a good job we can be flexible!  The morning went as planned and we were at the wine cave by about 10.30 and met by the lovely Marie Albrecht who spoke excellent English.

She showed us through their cellars and explained about the processes from picking the grapes to the finished product.  She also explained that, here in the Alsace region there are only 7 different grapes used and none of them are mixed or blended.  The Whites they produce are Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat d'Alsace, Pinot Gris,and Gewurztraminer, and the only Red is Pinot Noir.  She also explained that any of them can also be fermented a 2nd time (in the same way that champagne is) to become sparking Cremant d'Alsace - a bottle of which she gave us free along with our purchases.  The winery could trace it's origins right back to the 15th century, and Marie was able to show us her family tree, along with many other artefacts that had been used in  wine production over the centuries.

Now usually, John and I are red wine drinkers, but while we've been in France, and because it's been so hot, we've taken to having an occasional tipple of white and thoroughly enjoyed it.  So for our tasting we chose to try Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer, but maybe what we hadn't banked on was the fact that Marie would be very generous and bring out different vintages of each, thus resulting in 5 or 6 little tipples - all absolutely delicious, but thus our departure from the village will have to be delayed till tomorrow!

Of course, after all the time Marie had spent with us, and because we'd enjoyed our visit so much, we did purchase some of their goods, possibly with a plan to save them till we meet up with our friends Sharon and Paul in the Czech Republic in August - but that will depend very much on how good our will power is (so don't bank on it Sharon)! 

Then it was back to T4rdis2 for lunch and a very lazy afternoon - but as I'm writing this the rain is pouring and it's lovely and cool so for the rest of the day it will be feet up - and just maybe we'll crack the first bottle!

And finally, huge congratulations to our daughter Sarah on landing your fantastic new job xxx

Day 23
Saturday 23rd July 2016 - A bit cloudy but with some sunshine. Heavy rain showers in the late afternoon

This morning we left our pretty little Aire at Orschwihr and headed for a commercial one at Kayserberg which we had been told (by Marie at the winery) wasn't so nice.   It turned out to be  just a big 'car park', however it has lovely views over the vine and forest clad hills all around it, and it's very convenient because it's only a few minuets walk from the very impressive town centre.  Kayserberg isn't mentioned in our guide book so we didn't really know what to expect, but it turned out to be a very pretty little gem with numerous medieval buildings and colourful flowers strewn all about.

As you enter the town  you soon come to the Weiss river that requires you to cross over a 16th Century stone bridge that is framed by several half timbered buildings.  This leads into the main streets where you are quickly surrounded by more ancient buildings that have flowers leaking from every orifice, and that house all manner of shops, cafes and bars.

We were also interested to find that Kayserberg was the birthplace of Albert Schweitzer, a winner of the Nobel Peace prize related to his establishing a hospital and leper colony in Africa.

We wandered around the streets for quite a while, mostly only window shopping, but occasionally we were quite amused by some of the goods on offer!  I think John quite wanted to buy the whisky product on the left but the name quite put me off, and I'm not fed up of him enough yet to buy the one on the right!
Eventually the heavy showers got the better of us and we just made it back to T4rdis2 without getting a proper soaking, but on the way back John popped into the loo and was even more amused with the signs in there!

One of the things we did purchase was Munster Cheese - another product of this area, and one that is supposed to be incredibly smelly.  As we had plenty of time on our hands when we got back we decided to scoff it quick  - we've had experience of stored smelly French cheese before and we know that every time you open the fridge door it stinks the van out!

On a more serious note, we've just been reading about the ferry crossing chaos in Dover - where people are being standard for many hours because of the increased security checks at the port. We're very glad we missed that and made our crossing when we did!

Day 24
Sunday 24th July 2016 - A bit overcast all day but it remained hot and humid with rain promised for later!

Happy Birthday Val - Hope you had a lovely day xxx

More heavy rain had been promised for today so we were quite undecided what to do this morning, but our guide book highlighted the town of Riqewihr as being the prettiest on the Alsace wine route, and as we're only about 4 miles away from it we decided to walk over and see if we agreed.  Our walk led us though more vine clad paths where we tried to distinguish between the different grape varieties, but all we really noted was that the vines were very heavily laden with  fruit, so hopefully, there will be a very good harvest to come.

The hilly terrain that we were walking through allowed us to look down on Riquewihr before we arrived, and from a distance it didn't look very remarkable.  However, once we entered the town properly we found a maze of narrow cobbled alleys with overhanging geranium clad balconies and galleried courtyards that are overlooked by more half timbered brightly painted medieval buildings.
If you look carefully the
signs say Duck,
DONKEY and Deer! But what do you
think they are!

The streets were also very thronged with visitors, stalls and restaurants that spilled into the walkways thus depriving us of  a quite corner to partake of our picnic.   We did eventually find a nice spot however at the side of the old ramparts where numerous sparrows came to join us, and the air was filled with the perfume of flowers that were blooming from an old cart that had wine barrels mounted on it.

Then it was back to the comfort of T4rdis2, and as I'm writing this it's about 6pm and the promised rain still hasn't arrived - I think we should ignore the weather man from now on!

Day 25
Monday 25th July 2016 - Another scorching day - temperature in the van 32 degrees!

This morning we left our Aire at Kayserberg and headed a few miles up the road to The Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg - a huge fortress that looms 2500 feet above the pretty Village of St-Hippolyte.  To get there we trailed up the steep hillside, only to find hundreds of people had arrived before us, but luckily, T4rdis2 managed to sneak into just about the last available parking place, and then we were required to walk the last half a mile in the very hot sunshine, however it was well worth the effort.

The building team
The castle can trace it's origins back to the 12th century, but the original was destroyed in 1462, and then following it's re-building it was destroyed for a second time by fire in 1633.  Then for a couple of hundred years it stood as a ruin until the architect Bodo Ebhardt restored it at the beginning of the 20th century as a precise reconstruction of the original.

It's very hard to find words to describe this magnificent and breathtaking reconstruction of a feudal chateau with it's mellow sandstone walls, it's fierce drawbridge, it's pointed corner turret and rings of fortifications that would have provided additional protection for it's inhabitants.   Our tour also took us through creaky arcaded galleries and gloomy Gothic chambers, many of which were complete with furniture,  frescos that adorned the walls, as well as myriads of hunting trophies.

We also had the opportunity to visit the kitchen area where we viewed a wine cask dating from 1670 - apparently the oldest in existence in the Alsace and capable of holding 8,500 litres of the good stuff!

And can you guess what the picture on the right is? The answer is at the bottom of the page!
I'm not sure what he
was playing but it was very

Eventually, we tore ourselves away, mostly because we were starving, then we dropped back down the hill to a pretty little picnic spot where we had the pleasure of watching Monsieur Stork while we ate.

And finally, we headed for a camp site that is very near to the German border, because our plan for tomorrow it to continue our adventure in a new country.  However, at the moment my only access to the internet is via our 3 modem, but as Germany isn't a 'Feel at Home' country the cost to use that will be extortionate, so my blogging may be interrupted until  we manage to source 'a pay as you go sim'.

So for now I'll say 'Goodbye', but hopefully I'll be back soon with our continuing saga!
Take care xx  

62 metre deep well that was dug in the middle ages!