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Saturday, 25 August 2012

Vernioz, France

The plan is to continue heading South so we headed to a site below Lyons

Once again it was a tight squeeze for Mr H to manoeuvre the RV on narrow approach roads, through the strangely-angled gate, avoiding multiple overhanging trees, children on their bikes and a very large rock strategically placed on the route to our pitch but we made it in one piece. We had a limited choice of pitches (well one really) on the site but the staff and camp director Derek were very helpful, he promptly sawed off two large branches so we could fit the bus in :) 

This busy site was full of last week school-holiday campers and people stopping over en-route North/South. Our arrival was a scource of entertainment with many people coming to look at the RV, stare through every window and ask endless questions about the make, engine-capacity, mileage and cost, all whilst we tried to chill in the sun, watch TV or cook a meal! I have now developed stock answers for the most FAQ's and can be avoidant without causing offence.

The site had a fishing pond so Mr H got his fix of carp-bashing in the cooler early evenings and we shared a Pizza from the restaurant one evening as Mr H was fishing, the flies and ants liked it too! 

However, the site is very rural and a long way from any shops of note (16km to the nearest supermarket) and was more geared to families. The play area complete with bouncy castle was right next to our open pitch with hundreds of kids on the bouncy castle during the day and groups of noisy teenagers at night:)) So after a week here we decided to continue our trip South.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Lons-le-Saunier, France

After our 'walk' we continued South and back into France to this municipal site where we had a large pitch on hardstanding with all services included apart from wi-fi which was extra. We enjoyed listening to the rowdy entertainment from the comfort of our pitch on a nightly basis, the Village People and Boney M rocked out along with many French karaoke classics! All was quiet by 11.30 for us old folks though. The weather was fabulous so we decided to park up for a few weeks to wait for our mail from home and we've had a trouble-free relaxing stay! Bike and bus behaving themselves and no ailments to report. Settled into a steady routine of cycling, shopping, sunbathing and sightseeing.

As well as the local town of Lons le Saunier which is the capital of the Jura region

we frequently ventured out on the scooter to enjoy the panoramic views  nearby.

We found some pretty villages including Conliege and Baume-les-Messieurs with its impressive cave complex all within easy reach. I recommend that one should visit caves in practical dark clothing, not in pristine, expensive, white trousers as even industrial strength stain remover didn't shift the mud stains I collected! Despite it being the height of holiday season in France the traffic was minimal and parking was free for our scooter so it was easy riding.

We spent a few days visiting the Lac de Chalain where we could lay on the pebble beach and go swimming in the fresh water lake. Ducks, dragon flies, life-guards in dinghys and children on various inflatables provided the entertainment.

We also found the Cascades de Herisson situated a few miles away at the source of a rocky and shaded stream.

Our mail arrived eventually via the campsite owners out tray as he had opened it before seeing our name and pitch number! So time to head further South.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

A Walk in the Black Forest

The current plan is to keep heading South and on the way to pay homage to Horst Jankowski with a 'Walk in the Black Forest' so it's back over the Rhine and into Germany.

We headed for on a bright sunny day knowing it was not too far away. A largely uneventful journey apart from the Sat-Nav choosing a few tight roads until we approached our destination. Thought we'd made it unscathed but we'd picked the one day they'd decided to resurface the access road!! Mr H had to reverse out while manouvering the trailer into oncoming traffic then perform a U-turn and follow the diversion notices, all written in German! These actions totally confused the Sat-nav, sure I heard her swear as she decided to divert us down a 3.5 ton weight limited road with a low tunnel bridge. Mr H's hazard radar kicked in and he hit the brakes! MR H's TRAVEL TIP No 3 - DO NOT FOLLOW SAT-NAV BLINDLY! So there we were reversing out again onto the main road, I did my best to guide him and the other diverted drivers around the reversing bus with a combination of manic hand signals and exaggerated facial expressions! (note to self... buy a whistle, white gloves and white hat). We then headed towards the the nearest town with our fingers crossed and eventually found the back way in to the campsite, several times we could see the site and the bloody sat-nav kept saying "you have reached your destination" as we had to drive past again looking for a road in! In keeping with the days theme of heroic failure we arrived on site 0.08 mins after the reception closed for lunch! lol.

So we parked up in the access road and I cobbled together some lunch to munch whilst we waited 2 hours for it to open. We found some shade from the sun and were joined by a very friendly Dutch family who were also waiting to book in. I made coffee for the girls and the lads had a natter and a cold beer. Mr H was allocated a pitch without a water supply in a very tight corner spot. It took some serious manouvering to get the bus parked while being watched by a large audience. The pitch was on grass, overhung by large trees and as level as a cock-eyed son of a sea cook on a shore based bender!!!  As we'd previously phoned to book a level pitch on hardstanding with full services we were not happy, so off I went to challenge the site owners in a very polite way of course! Following a lengthy discussion in broken German / English we were relocated to a level pitch with all services higher up the site.

Mr H then battled with a temperamental water pump and water tank but after a couple of hours of banging, swearing, lagging and tinkering he declared the plumbing A OK. We celebrated with a beer whilst taking in the lovely views from our pitch of the Black Forest's hills and trees.

We settled down to gear up for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, typical that the Olympics is being held in Great Britain and we are at the other end of Europe. Over the next few days we became very focussed on all the Olympic events and developed several of our own including synchronised whingeing, formation sunbathing (team and individual), long-distance washing up, the shower block time-trial and freestyle competitive neighbour watching, attaining a gold in all events!!

We planned a walk in the Black forest after some research of the surrounding area and picked a cooler day after heavy rainfall to explore it. I wish we had a scratch and sniff option to share the wonderful smells of damp fresh air and soil, wild herbs and the newly washed trees and mosses, just magical despite us being unable to track down a Black Bear. Mr H declared he had found some bear s**t and a scratching post! Looked like a large slim fir cone and a broken tree stump to me but admired his Sherlock Holmes approach to locating the beast! 

As usual we visited a few local towns trying but ultimately failing in our quest not to look like tourists! It must be the camera, shorts and flip flops, Mr H's numerous tourist information maps and our Tesco bag for Life that give us away. The town of Sulzburg was very near to us and we visited it frequently for essential supplies. A charming place full of flowers, fountains and fancy pastries.  

Even the road side grass verges are planted with wild flowers and fields of sun flowers and gladioli lined our routes around the area.

This fella seemed to have been hanging around for a while in Sulzburg and for some reason he had pride of place in a large hotel window .

Visited Bad Krozingen where we just missed out on a Sweet / Slade concert! We saw many posters advertising the event and hope it was well attended and no hips were fractured. Those platform shoes can be dangerous to over 50-somethings.

Heitersheim was close for shopping and catching the train to the famous city of Freiburg which is a centre for tourism. Water, sculptures and historic buildings galore. All the best designer shops are tucked in between the local speciality stores and  we found some amazing antiques shops. Spotted some Lalique glassware and stunning chandeliers while looking for an elusive carved black bear.  

Throughout the city is a system of drains called B├Ąchle and I had to keep an eye on Mr H as according to folklore if he'd fallen in he would marry a Freiburger!!  Thankfully only paddling children and a few dogs were in the drains that day.

As we explored this lovely city the hot cobbled streets provided me with an excuse to purchase some rather posh soft leather flattish shoes! As we sat eating an early lunch in the city square many people began to gather and every available seat or low wall became occupied. People were looking up to the sky and I was mystified as there was nothing to see. Then at the stroke of midday we were treated to the sound of multiple bells chiming as many buildings in and around the square had bells on the roofs and walls.

This shows my age......I must say how impressed we were with the local public transport which is free for tourists. The buses are clean, comfortable, air-conditioned coaches and we enjoyed a double-decker train journey to Frieburg that was quick, quiet, smooth and air conditioned! Both ran on time to the minute!!

This fella joined me as I sunbathed one day, he was very laid back about my presence and very quick to find some shade when he became bored with me and my camera, I'm sure he thought.. "best stay still for the tourists until they get their photo to bore people with".

Things were going far to smoothly at this point so just to keep Mr H on his toes the scooter sprang a leak over the front wheel during our last trip into Heitersheim. Through a process of elimination and actually reading the scooter manual (that's a first)  Mr H located the leak and sorted it.  Ah well as they say it's all character-building. Prepping to move on has become second nature and Mr H's trailer loading and packing skills are honed to near perfection.