Friday, 7 April 2017

Alsace Trip, 7 April

There was frost on the ground this morning!  It had been cold enough in Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, but not frosty!  We had been kept awake most of the night (well, on and off) by intrepid fishermen who seemed to have been up all night, despite the frost, and were chatting all night.  "Whatever did they find to say?" asked the Swan Whisperer.

As we still had a couple of hours to drive, we got up at 07:00 and were away before 09:00.  I know that sounds slow, but bear in mind we have to wait for the bath-water to heat up (well, shower water, but you know what I mean), boil kettles for tea and coffee, both of us shower, cook breakfast, eat it, wash it up, put everything away (and I do mean everything!), make the beds (even on the last morning, as otherwise you can't see properly out of the back window) and so on and so forth. 

Still, it was a lovely drive as far as Valenciennes, and then motorway all the way.  We stopped at the Auchan in Grande Synthe to do some last-minute shopping, and, although we were told we were on the shuttle we'd booked on, fair enough, we started off the second they called us and ended up one of the last cars on the earlier one, which was useful!  Lunch during the crossing, and then an uneventful drive home, during which I fell asleep, lots of unpacking, and now gradually thinking of getting back to the home routine. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Alsace Trip, 6 April

This morning we went for a walk around Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, although I only saw one church. I think the other was a now-defunct priory. 
We set off at about 11 for a long drive across France, from Colombey-les-deux-Eglises to Saint-Dizier, to Vitry-Le-François and so to Chalons-en-Champagne, where we stopped for lunch.  The Swan Whisperer had beef tongue and chips and I had a "Salade d'Alsace" which had the makings of a Full English on top of a bed of over-dressed lettuce! Delicious, but i couldn't finish it, although i did rather greedily have a crème brulée afterwards!

I noticed that the Swan Whisperer had a sore eye, so i made him stop at the first pharmacy we saw and they have given him some drops, with strict instructions to go to the doctor if it doesn't improve. We also called into Reims and used the services we'd used on the way out, as we were low on water.
Then we stopped again for petrol, and then on and on across the French prairies to this little town called Landrecies, where we are parked up beside the Sambre in a tiny aire where we got the last space!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Alsace Trip, 5 April

We have actually said goodbye to Alsace now, and are on our way home. I am not quite sure whether we are in Lorraine or in Champagne, but it is still the "Grand Est".

This morning we both went for walks in different directions, and I wandered around the shops, but ended up at the supermarket where we were parked up.  Then we set off and drove here to Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, home of General de Gaulle.  There is a museum and memorial to him which we may or may not visit in the morning. 

We drove via Vittel and Contrexéville, but the Swan Whisperer had said not to bother to tell the satnav to avoid tolls as it was only a little way, but the machine didn't at all take him the way he thought (and he didn't check, not me!) and we ended up going quite a long way, which will be expensive!  We don't mind paying if we are really trying to get from a to b in a hurry, but not when just pottering. Plus we are sure it took us all round the houses!  Oh well. And the fridge gas ignition has gone wrong - we did make it work in the end, but not sure how. At least it is the end of the holiday, not the start.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Alsace Trip, 4 April

This morning it was peacocks and storks, this evening it is trains and traffic!  Still, I highly doubt it will stop us sleeping.

We did not dawdle (much) this morning, but set off after using the services and arrived at the Cité du Train before 11:00. A wonderful museum - a bit confusing in the first hall, but the second one, which was a much more straightforward affair, was fascinating, telling the story of French railways down the centuries, from the first tentative efforts to today's TGVs and Thalys.  They also told you when the various locomotives and/or carriages had been taken out of service, as well as when they entered it.

By the time we had finished it was definitely lunch time, so we went back to the motor home and ate, and then the Swan Whisperer went to the Electropolis next door, which I think he found interesting. I had a nap, instead!  After which we drove up here to Thann, where the parking is free and there is an interesting street of shops to be explored in the morning!  But it is a bit noisy!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Alsace Trip, 3 April

UWe had rather a late breakfast this morning, as the Swan Whisperer decided he would like to go for a walk. So it was quite late when we set off for Mulhouse, stopping en route to shop at Cora, as we were out of essentials.

Found that the Cité de l'Automobile had its own car park, although it charged, but not to excess and not between 12 and 14:00.  So we had lunch, and then went into the museum, which was - odd. It's based round two brothers' collection of Bugattis, with other cars thrown in, including a Citroen 2CV a DS and a Renault 4, but no Morris Minor or original Volkswagen.  And very few 1950s cars at all.

It was quite interesting, but.... As it is no longer owned by the same people who own the Cité du Train, which we hope to visit tomorrow, the is some upgrading going on, and one set of loos were out of service, the tea-rooms weren't open, and so on.  But we got round in the end, and then came away, first to check that the Cité du Train also has parking we could use (it does, free!), and then to see something of Mulhouse before driving back here to the Ecomusée where we are parked up again.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Alsace trip, 2 April

Although where we were driving was technically from Strasbourg to Mulhouse, the Satnav took us mostly through Germany and almost to the Swiss border. We thought we were going to be stopped crossing into France, as the van in front of us was, and I was just about to go and rootle out our passports from the cupboard where they live while we are travelling when they waved us through.
We arrived here at the Ecomusée d'Alsace at about noon, and parked up in their Aire, such is very nice and peaceful, or would be were it not for braying donkeys, screaming peacocks and clattering storks! 
After an early lunch we went to the museum, and very interesting it was, too. Some houses and sheds made us feel old, having stuff we remembered from our childhoods, but not all. We would have liked to have seen the milking, but it didn't happen and I rather suspect the cow was dry. We did, however, see smiths, carpenters and saddlers at work, and ate locally-baked goodies. And there was a drink of local liqueur given out - took one's head off, but still!
Alsatian houses, though, were much of a muchness - the front door led into the kitchen (if it was 2 floors the was a lobby for the stairs), with the "Stube" or living-room on the right. This was where you are, slept and entertained visitors, and was probably the only room that was heated, usually by a big ceramic stove.  The one we saw had a great bench all round it, instant press, I shouldn't wonder!  If there was another room, it would be to the left of the front door.
By the end of the afternoon my head was spinning rather, but it was nevertheless well worth visiting.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Alsace Trip, 1 April

I went back to sleep after my alarm went off​, oh dear, so we were not very early setting off!  But once we had had breakfast and tidied up (so necessary, in such a small space), and I had been very clever indeed and managed to tether my Kindle to my phone to download a book I had bought that was published today, we were set for the day.
We walked into town the pretty way, via an oxbow lake, and our first port of call was the tourist office where we bought day tickets for public transport, and found out about sightseeing trips, which here are done by boat. To get into Strasbourg, at least until the end of this month, one gets a no 21 bus from outside the tourist office, and changes to the tram at the end of the line.  The tram is being extended out here, but won't be ready until the end of the month.
We arrived in the centre of Strasbourg and had a lovely walk around the old town, enjoying the sights, and then had lunch - traditional Flammekueche, with beer, and an ice to follow - before getting on our boat. The tour takes you right round the island on which the old town is built, and then out to the European quarter, where there are the Parliament buildings and the European Court of Human Rights.  You then return to your starting point. Thoroughly enjoyable, but not very comfortable, alas.
When we got off, we walked back to the nearest tram stop, and decided, just because we could, to take a tram back out to the European quarter, and then back to the main railway station, as we had been told it had been built while Alsace was a German city under Kaiser Wilhelm, and we wanted to see whether it was as overblown Gothic as Metz station is. Well, the European buildings were almost more impressive at street level, and we passed a load of Art Nouveau houses, which was apparently a Thing here back in the day.
The station was, indeed, a Gothic palace, but has a modern atrium built out the front, like Kings Cross, which spoils it slightly. However, we made use of the facilities and I bought some coconut water since I was really thirsty. I don't like it much, but it is very refreshing.
The tram back to Germany was in the basement of the station, which was rather fun, like a metro, and the next excitement was that the bus was stopped by the border police and our passports were checked!  Then we couldn't find the entrance to the shopping centre and walked all round it, and of course it was where I had said it was all along, but still. So we did some unexpected German shopping and then walked the hundreds of miles (it felt like) back to the motor home, where it was fortunately beer o'clock....