Sausage gate!

Cathy posting

Tuesday 3rd April 2018

Up at 6am wide awake as we had gone to bed early the night before, I made a cup of tea and sat outside on the bench in front of Pogo and watched the light changing on the River Moselle as the day began to break, I had a good feeling today was going to be a nice day.

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Morning coffee, it’s going to be a good day

Left the free Aire (with services) at Millery near Nancy this morning, we bought a baguette from the mobile bread van who came to the Aire. There was a small road nearby but it wasn’t a problem with ear plugs in and the church bells stopped ringing at 11pm.

Drove to Ribeauville in the Alsace region through our first mountain pass  Col De Sainte Marie, we peaked at 742 metres above sea level, very steep gradients up to 10% in places on both sides of the mountain, Pogo was miffed a bit and started overheating, not dangerously so but we put the cab heater on full and opened the windows, that seemed to do the trick!

Once we had come down on the other side we pulled in at a supermarket, time to buy supplies, lots of lovely salad and fresh meat , we bought a tin opener! It was €5.75! but we needed one.

On towards the Aire at Ribeauville next to a wine Cave – Cave de Ribeauville, we found the exact spot but now it was a building site. Dave went inside the wine company offices to ask about the Aire and was advised to go the Tourist Information office just a short walk away. Dave came back with information about a new Aire located up the pass slightly, the way we had driven, it was an old campsite it seems as the areas  for tents were still numbered it was in the shade of a large rock and away from the road so it was quiet, it took us about 7 mins to walk into Ribeauville, can’t beat that!

Were all alone for now but we saw lots of other motorhomes going to the same closed Aire as we had done so it won’t be long before others arrive, Dave parked up after putting planks down under the drive wheels to make sure we don’t sink in to the grass. The ticket machine was broken so it looks like it will be a free stopover here tonight! Waahay!

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The town really made an effort for Easter

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Château de Saint-Ulrich – up the hill!

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Butchers Tower built in 1920

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Town Hall

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zoom in to see the teddy bears!

Dave spotted a Stork on the roof of a building, he gets excited when he sees birds! And the camera was soon out!

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On one of the roofs in the centre of the village

We are in need of supplies so when a nice young man invited us into his Fromagerie to taste some cheese we thought why not? We tasted a couple and liked one which was reminiscent of Comte but a bit more fruity so we bought some, I pointed to where I wanted the cheese wire to go but he doubled it! I didn’t say anything as I thought oh well it won’t be going to waste, next was the sausage, we tried a couple but settled on the smoked one, dried hung and matured Saucisse Fumee ….. it was really delicious so we said we’d buy it and I asked him how much it was, he pointed to the scales and I saw 4.6, he duly wrapped it all up nicely in lots of fancy paper and then told us how much it was….. It turned out that my saucisse was in fact 0.46 kg and €25 !!!!  lesson learned Cathy, wear your glasses when buying stuff!

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How much!

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Traditional Alsace wine glass

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Traditional UK beer drinker!

We got back to the van and sampled the bank busting Sausage with the lovely cheese and some olives and crackers and it was delicious, erm was it worth €25 of course! at 2mm slices x 2 each hahahaha!.

Cathy

Verdun – day 2

Cathy posting

Monday 2nd April 2018

Pogo is still in the sugared almond factory.

We woke early and walked the 20 mins into Verdun, sun was breaking through and although it’s very quiet all around as it’s Easter there were a few people milling about.

We took a stroll down to the river by the 14th century gates, it’s a lovely riverside and the Meuse as it’s called is reminiscent of the colour of the Moselle.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Moselle, it was at Koblensz, and we were on a motorbike tour following the Rhine and when we got to Koblensz we went to the fortress Ehrenbriitstein  looking down on to the point where the confluence of the Rhine & Moselle meet,  I couldn’t get over the difference in the two colours as they met the Rhine being very blue and the Moselle a sort of soupy pea green.

Back at the riverside in Verdun we spotted a café open with chairs outside and ordered coffee, a cappuccino for me  and espresso for him, no food though but monsieur says go to the patisserie around the corner and bring them back here, off Dave goes and brings back the best pain au chocolate I’ve ever had and he had the freshest quiche Lorraine, all warm and soft in the middle.

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Breakfast in the sun!

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What’s that doing here?

It was lovely sitting in the sun

We head off to see Verdun Cathedral it’s called Notre Dame it has beautiful stained glass windows and I don’t think I’ve seen so much art on the walls in a cathedral before.

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Cathedral Notre Dame in Verdun with paintings

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The marks of the largest battle of WW1 from 21st Feb to 18th Dec 1916, 9 months, 3 weeks and 6 days! Between French and German still an every day reminder of the horrors that took place in this area, lest we forget.

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Battle scarred walls

The Eastern side was destroyed and the towers were never rebuilt

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It was freezing inside the cathedral you could see your breath it was that cold so we decide to have a walk along the river banks it was lovely and sunny and lots of joggers about which reminded me to find a walking app, our daughter suggests Run Tracker so I’ll look at that later.

These strange looking trees are all round the city.

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The area around the River Meuse has a surprising variety of fauna and it’s an area of European importance for bird life as 30 endangered species reproduce here in Spring including the Ash Coloured Eurasion Curlew for the bird lovers amongst you, hundreds of migratory birds come to this valley in Autumn and some spend the winter here.

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River Meuse

We walked back to Pogos’ resting spot at the almond factory and decide to drive 14kms just outside the city to Douaumont Ossuary high up in the hillside.

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Douaumont Ossuary

This is a monument and chapel and national cemetery of war graves dedicated to the dead and it also contains the skeletal remains of French and German soldiers who died on the battlefields, at least 130,000 unidentified soldiers bones can be viewed through windows I wasn’t expecting that and although we’ve seen the huge cemetery nothing prepares you to see bones and skulls piled on top of one another.

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Germans fired 1 million shells in 10 hours during one day in 1916

We climbed the tower 46 metres, 204 steps high and had a panoramic view of the battlefields we went back down and lit a candle in the Chapel.

 

That’s it on WW1 can’t do anymore it’s too emotional.

We got back into Pogo for a cup of tea with Jacobs cream crackers and Laughing Cow cheese! I know !! but Dave loves them!

It reminds him of all our family holidays in France when we stayed in Gites or Keycamp sites, our son Christopher had his 1st birthday in a tent in St Jean de Monts, Vendee, France, we hung his cards up on the tent poles!

Tea and crackers done and we’re off to Nancy en-route to Ribeauville. We are on a free Aire at the side of the Moselle now and we like free Aires!

Cathy

Verdun – 1st day

Dave posting;

We left Mutigny this morning and headed towards Nancy in Eastern France, we will have an overnight stop at Verdun.

En-route we bought diesel at 1.36 euros and later stopped at a local boulangarie for a lunchtime baggette, time to try out my schoolboy French, whilst in the shop I bought  two cakes, after all it’s Easter Sunday and we don’t have any chocolate in the motorhome!

About 30 kms from Verdun we pull over and munch the lovely bagettes and cakes!

After a decent break we travel on and arrive at the free overnight site, it’s a designated spot at a factory but it’s like an Aire with no services. Verdun centre is 20 mins walk away and it seems very quite here inside the residential area of Verdun.

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Clean sugared almond factory at Verdun – a free stopover

Pogo is parked  at Dragees Braquier, sugared almonds to me and you! a sugared almond small unit/factory and it’s the smartest, cleanest factory I’ve ever seen, there’s a shop attached to pop in buy their products, maybe we will go in later or tomorrow.

When we arrived there was a locked gate across the entrance, what are we going to do now? wait a minute Dave, Cathy says and reads the signs on the gates, it looks like we are the rear entrance for delivery vehicles! So we drive around the block and found the entrance on the other side! The signs direct us to the rear where there is marked out and designated space for 3 or 4 vans, we are the first here, so we choose our spot.

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City Gate at Verdun

 

After a little rest we walk in to town it’s now about 5pm, over the bridge and through the city gates, we discover a museum tucked away and we spend an interesting 30 minutes in there, it’s an old building dated from 1525 & we found the courtyard really interesting, plus it’s free entrance on the first Sunday off every month, that was lucky!

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Musee De La Princerie

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Monument of Victory in Verdun towards the River

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Monument of Victory where records of soldiers are kept on an old carding system

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How about this! a toilet for dogs, only in France!

We head towards the cathedral, and square, once there we decide to save the cathedral visit for tomorrow when we have more time. As we wandered  back down the hill towards the River Meuse, we see a bar, Le Club over the bridge, let’s go for a drink ! we have not been to a bar yet and 5 mins later we are having our first wine and beer of the tour! I had Battin Extra at 2.50 Euros for 250ml, expensive but it was lovely! Cathy was happy as they had her favourite Rose wine Cotes de Provence. It was entertaining watching the folks in the bar as there was a bit of Argy – bargy going on with one of the local lads who had obviously had too much!!

We really enjoyed our day and evening today!

Dave

Bubbles – hic!

Saturday 31st March 2018

Dave posting;

A yellowy sun pops its head out through the clouds and warms the day up. We did a quick morning walk for 45 minutes along the old railway track

We are looking forward to going to the Champagne region today, left about 11am and we enjoyed the drive through rural France listening to a master mix of disco hits! Guess what? we found the Aire without a hitch, it’s easy when you know what you are doing with the GPS coordinates!

We are the second motorhome here now at Mutigny in heart of the champagne region, 170 kms north east of Paris. We park next to the service bollard as we need to top up with water and electric, costs €5 for 300 litres of water and 3 hours electric, it’s a sharing system and it seems to work well enough. A kind German motorhomer lent me his water connector as mine didn’t fit, we will buy one locally soon.

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View from the Aire, vines for miles!

Shortly afterwards we walk up the hill to the centre to find out more information on the tours and walks, everywhere is closed, so we asked the locals and later knocked on the door of a Champagne producers’ home where they also make Champagne, she has a sale board ouside, a lady appears and then between Cathy and the lady, Cathy speaks a little French, we deduce we have to be at the town hall at 5pm tonight and her daughter will there to explain and help us choose a tour or tasting.

Lots of houses had these outside, Champagne for sale!

Okay we said we will come back in 3 hours and meet her at 5pm, as we walk off Cathy saw a young man unloading his car, Cathy asked him if he knows anything about the tour and tasting, he said yes, Cathy explained about the previous chat at the producers house 4 doors away, and Cathy asked where do we meet.

He then says it’s my grandad you want, hang on I’ll call him, incredibly the grandad says he can come now to the Town Hall where it takes place and he can do the tasting for us, so between the young man, grandad and us we establish that there are no English speakers on the tour so we opt for the tasting, we ask if we can come back in hour as we haven’t eaten and we didn’t want to get drunk on an empty stomach! Ok that’s no problem they said.

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Town Hall at Mutigny, Champagne tasting was inside

We pop back to the van to make lunch and an English couple arrived at the Aire, we got chatting and asked them if they wanted to join us in the Town Hall for tasting. Tony & Bet from Weymouth said yes, we got back in time and the Town Hall was open and inside was a young lady, Cathy said we are here for the champagne tasting, Cathy told her there was a gentleman coming to do the tasting, the lady said she knew nothing of this, so we waited outside for him.

10 minutes later a chap appears who we assume is grandad, introduces himself in French to us and we all go inside, and grandad introduces us to the same lady! It like a secret society or something!

The lady, Carine,  now introduces us to a variety of Champagnes in very good English, complete with detailed information on types of grapes used, two or three methods of fermentation, acidity, the local producers, how the grapes and vines are cultivated. We were particularly keen to try the locally produced ones. Grandad Bernard was showing us how to aerate the bubbles the correct way in our glass.

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Champagne lessons!

Whilst chatting it transpires that Bernard had worked in the champagne business for 46 years at Bollinger as a bottle turner, known as a riddler, the bottle is placed upside down in a holder at 75° angle. Each day the Bernard would come in to the cellar and turn the bottles 1/8th of a turn whilst keeping it upside down, this forces the dead yeast cells in to the neck of the bottle, Bernard would typically handle 20,000 to 30,000 bottles a day. Bernard told us this area produces 310 million bottles a year!

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A little display at the entrance of the village

We tried, I meant we drank 8 glasses between the four of us, four different varieties, two of which were Rose.

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We enjoyed those glasses of Champagne!

We bought 3 bottles at €17 each, £15 ! (that is a bargain at those prices) and we will save them for special occasions on the trip. We will economise somewhere else!

These champagnes tasted excellent and we were so glad we did the tasting, it was a lovely experience.

Spicy Teriyaki Salmon for evening meal with noodles, I’m trying to persuade Cathy to write her recipes for the blog as she cooks instinctively without recipes, we had another walk around the village in the evening, there are no shops, bars or shops here just houses that sell champagne but there are great views.

Dave

UNESCO – maybe not so!

Cathy posting;

Friday 30th March – Good Friday

So it’s confession time, Dave has realised that his Sat Naff has 2 settings one is DMS -degrees, minutes and seconds and the other one is DD- Decimal Degrees! It was pure luck that we ended up at our first Aire in Ypres at all! Apologies to the Aires book you were right, our bad! (please see yesterdays post!)

So last night, Thursday we were parked up at the edge of the canal at Landrecies, it’s a small Aire for just 4 vans, there are no services but it’s a pleasant spot and it’s free! 3 other vans arrived later in the evening so all spaces were full.

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Canal side at Landrecies

Next morning, Good Friday we noticed there had been a resurrection! All the other vans had gone, and we were up quite early… after healthy breakfast of porridge we had a nice walk along the canal about 9.30 am for 2.5 miles, I’m planning on keeping a track of miles walked on this whole trip and just need to download a walking app.

We set off about 11am to head for Rozoy Sur Serre in Hautes de France – Northern France (N50°07.668′, E003°41.452) The site is lovely just 4 spaces again but this time fresh water and waste disposal, extremely quiet and landscaped, it seems quite new too and there is only us here for now.

The Aire is near a little village Parfondeval, listed in UNESCO heritage as one of many beautiful villages, we parked up and had some French bread and coffee.

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French bread, English tea, Italian coffee, a very European breakfast

We decided to walk to the village 4.5 kms away, even though it seemed to be alongside the road, however it started to rain quite heavily so we decided to drive, I get a bit stressed about driving into small villages with a big van but I need not have worried as it was empty like a ghost town not a soul about, no patisserie, no boulangerie in fact nothing at all, no winter flowers, it was described as incredibly beautiful well apart from a couple of nice cottages and a particularly old timber framed one I’m afraid I wasn’t impressed, maybe the heavy rain didn’t help but I won’t be coming back, sorry UNESCO.

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Free Aire at Rozoy Sur Serre

We went back to the Aire and as it didn’t stop raining we settled in for the afternoon, I am reading a book called In Europe by Geert Mak, it’s a sort of biography and travel journal, he set off from his home of Amsterdam in 1999 to criss cross Europe tracing 20th century history as it slipped into the 21st, I’m only a few chapters in but I’m enjoying his style already.

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Cathy in the library

It is time for tea now, chicken a la grecque we bought yesterday and tinned potatoes, well  guess what we left at home? you guessed it, yes the tin opener! never mind Dave to the rescue.

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Good job he bought the leatherman tool along!

Dave has been making a note of all the places that we’ve been to and as we go he will record them for future reference and fellow travellers, whilst also keeping a copy of all our spending daily, weekly and monthly to make sure we stay on budget.

Off to bed early as were up early for Champagne region tomorrow.

Cathy

Lost in France!

Cathy posting;

Woke early again 7.30 am to a welcome sunrise, blue skies but fresh!

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Aire facing the lake

There’s a strong smell of Brussels sprouts from the local fields this morning…….

Quick shower and porridge and off we go, just over the lane is a War Cemetery called Railway Dugouts Burial Ground and the area of Zillebeke has many Commonwealth war graves as the front line ran through it, this graveyard was where the railway runs on an embankment next to a farm known to the troops as Transport Farm and the site was screened by slightly rising ground, burials began in April 1915 up to Armistice but in 1917 a considerable number were obliterated by shell fire before they could be marked, this would be why we noticed that some of the headstones just said the persons name or “soldier” known to have or believed to have died in this place, terrible to think that their friends had buried them only for them to be blown up again. I’m not sure I will go to see any more war graves, I wanted to see this one to remind myself of the futility of war.

We walked back across the to Aire for a walk around the lake, it was a lovely walk as well with good paths and there is a bed and breakfast with restaurant and bar on the edge with great views. It was closed today though.

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Dave with the B&B on the Lake in the background

Once back we got chatting to a couple who were now stuck inside the Aire, they had just 20 mins left of their 48 hrs and the barrier wouldn’t open, (it says at the entrance if you stay more than 48 hrs the barrier won’t open and you can’t get out!) they were trying to ring the phone number on the sign but it just kept ringing out! They were still there when we left 2 hours later, we felt very sorry for them.

Did some services stuff, toilet emptying, grey waste as well, filled with up with 100 litres of fresh water for just €1.

Selected an Aire from the book, All The Aires France, at Landrecies Parc Naturale Regional Du L’ Avesnois, we put the GPS coordinates in and double checked by both of us because of yesterday’s mishap, checked location on sat nav screen, looked right and in the correct vicinity. ETA 2hrs @ 124 kms, beautiful day for driving off we go, we hit road works in a small village and the French road workers must have been in high spirits ready for Easter as all the diversion signs met up with each in a continuous circle, we kept seeing the same spots, shops and cars! Cars were following us and if we can get through so can they! We put the place name into the sat nav and google maps on my phone, check its where we want to be and were off again! It’s another 21Kms.

The co-ordinates in the All the Aires book are wrong?? There are 5000 in the book and we pick a wrong one? (we verified this later when we actually got there). I’ve renamed it Sat Naff. Not it’s fault but that’s how I feel.

The correct GPS coordinates are N20.1278, E003.69086, ignore the ones in the 2018 edition! (edited  – please see the next post, the book is correct after all and I can’t use a sat nav properly! )

Just over 3 hrs later and not 2hrs because of the French circular fun trail apparently, we are 1.9kms away, sat nav shouts turn left, I looked ahead & it’s a dirt track, so we pulled up, checked again and I said to Dave said it looks ok, go for it! When the condition of the track became muddy and not hardcore after 1.6km travelled we turned around and came back to the main road. I took a video but stopped before it got really bad.

(I can’t upload the video at the moment, I am learning this blog stuff as I go along! I’ll try and post it later)

So our 2 hr trip became 4 hrs, not eaten since our porridge at 8.30am and its now 4pm, so we are tired & hungry , let’s nip to the little café or pizza pace around the corner said I, good idea says Dave,there’s nothing open until 6pm says the local gendarme! Ok, the supermarket over the road it is then, I’ve got some fresh tarragon, so I’ll get some chicken, something I can make in 30 mins total before Dave eats his elbow!

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A very hungry and tired Dave!

It’s a week now since we left home and we can’t believe we will be doing this until August on this trip, feels odd not working and also thinking that we haven’t just left home for a holiday, someone is actually living in our house, it’s now essentially their home for at least 12 months, we are happy for it all though.

We will go for a stroll around the town later and I’ll read my book whilst Dave makes a spreadsheet for our daily costs to keep on budget, one for you there CJ, if you are reading this

Hopefully tomorrow will be uneventful.

Cathy x