2015-07-29 – 2015-08-08: Lorraine, Vosges and Moselle, France 2145 Km
The aim of the trip was to get away for a few days to try Campering in France, and also get some sun.
2015-07-29: Home to Blegny Mine, Belgium – 212 Km
At last we camped in Belgium! And in a really nice camper stop too.
We set off quite late (about 14:00) after packing everything and cooling the newly mended fridge, filling with water and generally loading everything in. Travelled down the A2 with the intention of stopping somewhere in Belgium for a night before moving on to the Lorraine area, and then further to the Vosge. That was as far as the planning had evolved. We found the Camper stop at Blegny Mine in the book and decided to try it first as the user ratings were good.
We hit a bit of traffic at Maastricht, but that's nothing new, and then branched before Vise to go to the south of Liege. Found the camper place easily enough and there were only 4 or so campers there and so we picked a spot and hooked up the electricity. The site has everything, and is free, with €2 for electricity. It's in the car park of the Blegny Mine Museum (Blegny Mine)
I took Timber for a walk down the road to Blegny and back, but then another camper turned up and they told us there was a really nice woods behind the museum. That sounded promising! We had a fantastic dinner of vegetable curry and then went to explore the woods. It's an impressive park, with a signposted walk round the old mine workings, with information boards along the way, together with statues with a theme of big wooden balls.
There are side paths to a bird watching hide and other attractions but the path round the pit workings leads back to the museum, which has nice gardens, old lampposts from Liege and an animal and bird park with deer, goats and geese. (Euphemism is a euphemism for words that people don't like to hear; “pit workings” is a euphemism for slag heap) Timber was very interested in the goats, but they treated him like the goat herder he is; with curiosity. Very good place to walk round and very well presented.
Timber woke at about 06:00 and we went for another walk around the mine, after having a late night circuit as well. This time we climbed to the top of the slag heap to look down on the camper and the surrounding countryside, all the way to Maastricht in the distance.
The camper is in the photo above as you can clearly see. All-in-all, a good campsite to stop at for an overnight on the way to France.
2015-07-30: Blegny Mine, Belgium to Stenay, France – 216Km
We had chosen Jachthaven Stenay as a possible place to stay for a one-nighter from a range of camper/boat stops in the area along the Meuse. We first tried another place at Dun-sur-Meuse (Port de Plaisance du Valois-Dunois) but it was not very nice; dirty toilets/showers for instance
Stenay is celebrated for its beer, and has a museum dedicated to its product. There was also a market the morning after our stop..
A group of oldish people were having a celebration of some sort in a beer tent at the site, and the got louder and louder as the afternoon wore on so the local beer was having its effect.
We had a great spot right next to the river and were able to make good use of the Cobb with some pulled pork.
There were good walks for Timber along the Meuse in both directions, although one was blocked after a while by a bridge to an abandoned factory. Timber slept late (08:00) so there was no early morning wander.
The lock keepers cottage around the corner from our campsite, and the distances to various places in France and Belgium by canal. Only 985 Km to Arles, and that on the day after the anniversary of Vincent van Gogh's death only 125 years ago.
We walked to the town to see the market in the morning but it was mostly clothes and not much in the way of local produce.
2015-07-31-2015-08-01: Stenay, France to Liverdun, France – 142Km
We had decided that we would avoid travelling on the Saturday because of the potential for lots of Black Saturday traffic and so we had planned to use a campsite for a couple of days.
We came across this impressive church and ruined abbey in Louppy-sur_Loison along the way.
The campsite we ended up at was at Liverdun, a large organised campsite with a lot of Dutch tents, caravans and campers. (Camping Les Boucles de la Moselle).
Most people were on their way back home using Liverdun as a last stop before the trek back home, some overnight and some over day.
Very fiendly, bad sanitation (not enough showers). We Cobbed the first night and on the second ate at the restaurant, which had excellent steak and chips and Barbara had a really nice salad.
Walks were along the Moselle which was just outside the campsite. Interesting fisherfolk along the river and one man who “walks” his parrot (on his shoulder) along the bank every night.
The banks of the river were well provided with chairs and picnic tables and it's a popular daycamping spot as well as a parking spot for campers for the night.
Some of the review complaints for the campsite were about the peeping of the trains in the middle of the night. They certainly peeped but not so frequently and it didn't disturb us.
After an easy day doing nothing much, the campsite was emptying on the second day so we joined the trend and moved on.
2015-08-02: Liverdun, France to Plombiere-de-Bains, France – 160Km
Went into Liverdun to see the old town, as we could see it from below. Lovely view from the top into the valley of the Moselle.
We also wanted to see Nancy as we had been reading up on it and it sounded interesting. As it was Sunday it was easy to park close to Stanislas Square which was very impressive, but somewhat tatty just outside the facade. Good walk round the area, in the stifling heat.
Full of culture, we aimed then for the west of the Vosges so we could attack the southern area the following day and ended at Plombiere-des-Bains, which heaving with visitors on the Sunday, but luckily the campsite we had chosen to try was well out of town and was not busy (Camping Fraiteux).
Beautifully landscaped area with individual sites that were well presented. We chose a site with a bit of a slope but well shaded by a large tree. The weather was really hot so we and the dog needed shade. We put the back end of Ruby up on the new, wider levellers with wheel shaped indentations, and it was level on the highest one. We chose to follow the advice and put it up forwards rather than reversing onto the ramp.
There was a farm behind the site, with a nice view of the church and occasional curious visitors.
There was a huge Chateau d'eau just off the site, surrounded by a large field for dog walking. Further across the field was a path leading to a Chapel de Notre Dame (not that one!) which eventually led past the cemetery, the church and then back to the campsite for a circular trip. There was a further long walk through deep woods which went on for more than a Timber walk.
Roast Pork in the Cobb for dinner. Delicious!.
The excitement started after bedtime! When we went to bed, there was a sudden movement and when I went to inspect I saw that the camper had rolled off the levellers, backwards by about a metre. A quick check (and an insufficient one) showed nothing wrong so we went back to bed. But then I wondered what had happened to the awning, which was deployed, but not with the guy lines. Another check outside, and I straightened the legs of the awning and everything appeared OK again, and I couldn't think of anything else to worry about so it was off to sleep.
Timber wanted a walk at about 07:00 (the church clock struck seven, so it was actually 06:55. It lies!) We went for a long walk through the woods and when I got back I noticed that the electrical CEE connector was still in Ruby, but the cable was lying on the floor with bare wires showing and the fridge had been off all night. The cable was under the back wheels and had pulled free from the connector.
We put the fridge on gas, and I rebuilt the connector for the camper side and tried it and tried it, and it didn't work. I tried other connection points, and these didn't work either. The conclusion was either there was something wrong with the site supply or something wrong with Ruby. I checked the cable and everything looked OK to me. I asked the campsite if they had any electrical problems and they said “No Problems”.
What to do next? We decided to carry on to the next campsite where we could test the connector again, otherwise we would probably have to cut the trip short, although we could survive without electricity supply. I suspected that the bare wires of the cable, when ripped out of the connector had tripped an earthing protection in the campsite supply but they said that there was no problem.
After all the repairs and packing we eventually set off in the bright sunshine, after dumping everything and loading up with water.
2015-08-03: Plombiere-de-Bains, France to Xonrupt-Longemer, France – 292Km
We had made a plan to see the sources of the two rivers, the Meuse (Maas in Holland) and the Moselle. First we travelled west to the source of the Meuse which is at Andilly-en-Bassigny (although, if you follow the link in the picture of the guardian of the source (click on the photo) you come to Pouilly-en-Bassigny) and has a sign to the first bridge over the Meuse, which shows a ditch on one side and running water on the other.
And here he is, the guardian of the first bridge over the Meuse. He probably turns into a troll at nights and frightens the daylights out of the local goats.
Having seen that, we re-traced our steps and went to the Moselle, which is near Bussang, where there is a nicely presented area with maps and statues and plaques and channels in which the water can run. The water was not running, probably after all the hot weather, Timber had a quick drink from the source water but luckily he didn't pee in it.
We than had to look for a campsite and went into the mountains to a lake called Longemer. It was packed and as we drove round we saw lots of campsites, one of which was not so full as the others, probably because it wasn't directly on the water. (Camping / Location de meublés La Grange Mauselaine - no link) We made a note and drove round the lake but campsites were full and the whole place was heaving, so we went back to the first one we saw and found a reasonable spot. One reason it was not so full could have been that there was no real shade, so we had to make our own shade. We did this and had a nice spot on the edge of the campsite, electricity was tested, and worked. Lessons learned from the leveller incident were that we will, in future, reverse onto the leveller, even though this is not advised. We'll also leave the camper in gear. When we use the levellers, we will be careful with the awning as if the guys had been connected during the incident, it would quite likely have damaged the awning which would have made us unable to travel. Also the current electricity cable is too long, at 40M and I shall get two new connectors and cut it in two so that we can use a 20M cable normally, but we can double it if necessary
Dinner was curried chicken with roast vegetables and tomato sauce all cooked together in the Cobb wok. This was definitely a meal to be repeated.
Walks for Timber were a trip round the campsite and in the morning a trip outside the site to a woods. The site was a good price (€10), bread in the morning and was quiet and comfortable. The showers were very busy in the morning.
The weather, as per the forecast, was wet and cooler, with rain starting at about 9:00.
2015-08-04: Xonrupt-Longemer, France to Rothau, France – 170Km
We went through the mountains which were in cloud, and headed for the valley near Colmar and visited many of the more Germanic towns there, including Munster, which had storks everywhere.
Very nice towns with flowers everywhere. We followed the Wine Route for a while and headed for Rothau where we had seen a camper place outside a campsite, for €6,50 including electricity (Vallee de la Bruche). There were two campers there already, and we had a nice spot, on grass, near a river and waterfall, with attendant water noise, and a walk for Timber round the outside of the local football field.
Not much in the local town, but a reasonable place to spend the night. By the end of the evening there were four big campers and our diminutive Ruby. Electricity was timed from 17:00 until 10:00 and there was consternation when it hadn't started at 17:10, but it came on soon after.
Dinner was Lamb cutlets with vegetables, this time cooked inside as the weather was threatening rain and definitely cooler
The plan to head for Bitche and area, and then follow the Moselle into Germany was formulated, so we wait to see what tomorrow brings. Hopefully the sun will return as per forecast.
Timber woke at about 06:30 and had a quick walk around the football field, with mist on top of the trees, and then back to bed, and we woke again at 08:30.
2015-08-05: Rothau, France to Wingen-sur-Moder, France – 174Km
We set off with the intention of having lunch along the way to Bitche. We travelled through lots of colourful villages, spectacular with coordinated displays of flowers. One town had murals of Hollywood stars of yesterday, such as Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Munroe. When we got to Bitche, after having missed out on lunch, the camper place was full, but it looked like a good site, so it's on the list for the future. The citadel, where the site is looks very interesting.
We followed the route de arts du feu (glassmaking) and chose municipal site in Hinsbourg, but there was nobody there and after phoning someone who couldn't speak English, we were unsure what to do so we went to Wingen-sur-Moder (no link) where we had seen a sign on the road so we tried that, and it was a similar site to Hinsbourg but not advertised in the books. We decided to set up camp and see who came along to register us later in the day. We could have done the same in Hinsbourg as well, but we were happy with Wingen, which has better facilities; a shady site on a municipal campsite that has everything. It is very close to the Lalique Museum. There was no-one around to receive us but a fellow camper introduced himself, in Dutch, and then we learned that nearly everybody on the site was Dutch, probably because it is included in the ANWB book,but not CamperContact or other listings. The lady came around to book us in and take the money and to arrange for bread in the morning.
The picture above is of a puzzled camperer looking for the bits that hold the dog's lead together, having lost one in the grass. All was well, I found it the following day so we didn't need to get rid of the dog. Note the levellers were back in use, this time on the front wheels, where we had more confidence.
Anyway, it is a fine site and Timber was happy with a walk in the woods, which could have gone on forever but he started pulling to go back home, so maybe he has had enough of long walks.
We cooked up sausages and pork on the Cobb and while they were heating up I went for a ride through the woods with the mountain bike, which was enjoyable, if a bit hairy at times.
Tomorrow's plan is to go to the Moselle and then start to follow it.
Before the plan could begin, Timber, who'd had a very early morning outing, went for a walk through the woods. We found the local trimbaan (fitness circuit), which consisted of a 2Km circuit, with activities every 100 metres or so. Waving arms, kneebends, as well as using various pieces of equipment were part of the activities but Timber didn't seem keen to use them Lazy dog!
We dumped waste water, filled up with clean, dumped the WC and were ready for the day.
2015-08-06: Wingen-sur-Moder, France to Gillenfeld, Germany – 343Km
A lot of kilometres! The idea had been to wander along the Saar and then pick up the Moselle at its confluence with the Saar at Konz. This began OK and the towns on the way were nice to see. Towards the afternoon, we started looking for places to stay for the night but they were all packed and the few spaces available were not very appealing, and certainly not for the dog in the heat. Eventually we decided to head away from the Moselle into the edge of the Eiffel area at Gillenfeld, next to an old volcano which forms a circular lake. We found a big campsite, where we could find no-one on duty and saw a sign for a camper place and followed that. It turns out it belongs to the big campsite which has a field set aside for campers; nice grassy site with a view over the valley that was fantastic. There was a choice of view or shade, and since most of the shade was taken, and it was the end of the afternoon so the shade was already provided by Ruby, we parked on the edge of the view, set everything out, grabbed a beer and sat back and enjoyed it.
There was a steep walk down to the lake, and a quickie walk along the road for late night and early morning.
The morning was windy on top of the hill, which took the edge off the warmth but Timber, who'd been outside after an early walk, was like a puppy, playful and active, enjoying the wind in his coat.
After admiring the dawn, today's plan was to find somewhere in Belgium or Limburg on the way back.
2015-08-07: Gillenfeld, Germany to Home - 446Km
We wandered through the Eiffel and ended up passing through Luxembourg, where the road surface seems not to have been repaired since medieval times, and took advantage of the cheap diesel. Aimed at a couple of campsites near Gulpen in Limburg, but they were huge, and not really intended for campers. Decided instead to head home and go out for a Chinese meal.