The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

This trip was planned with my friend David, but we scheduled it to leave in June as that is when he wanted to go, a month to six weeks later than I usually like to travel. The reasons why I like to leave earlier will become apparent later in this story.

But David early in the year developed a heart problem, as I had already booked the ferry and arranged a trip around the Welsh coast beforehand; I decided to leave things as they were but travel on my own. Big Big mistake!!

The aim of my trip was to go to the Vosges and Dura’s in France to see all the flowers in the summer pastures and to take photos of any that I had not come across before, plus to see all the beautiful scenery in those areas. Then go on, down to Lac Annecy and  Chamonix from there under the tunnel into Northern Italy, visiting Bozen/ Bolzano and the Ice Man museum, before going on to walk more of the ridges in the Dolomites and from there into Germany to visit Colditz Castle, before heading home. Well that was the intended plan!!

As my crossing was booked on the 10am ferry, I did my usual which was to get to Dover the night before, in case of holdups on the M25. I would then spend the night in the coach park near the castle which I have done many times before with no problem as it is empty from about 5pm till ten in the morning,  I am usually gone by 8am. Well this particular morning I was all set to go at 8, the other van parked there still had the curtains drawn and no sign of life. So I decided to use my loo in the rear of my van before leaving for the ferry port. On walking back to the front of my van I saw a traffic warden taking my number, so I went out and explained to him that I was just off and that I had often parked there when catching an early morning ferry and left around 8am. His reply was that no one should park there taking up coach space, at this a curtain was drawn back in the other van so they could see what was going on, as they had obviously heard us talking. The warden then told them to move on as soon as possible, but gave me a 70 parking ticket. My question is, “Why just me?”

The next part of the trip went smoothly, spent the night at my usual campsite in Ghent; as it was overcast and drizzling I did not bother going into town. The next night I stopped at Dinant still in Belgium before moving on to Luxembourg to top up with cheap fuel once again and to spend a couple of nights in the lovely little town of Esch-Sur-Sur. I last stopped here about seven years ago and thought it well worth another visit. There is not a lot there to see, except for some old castle ruins but the surrounding countryside is lovely for walking, both of which I visited and did the next day.




Winter Edition 2011

The Happy Wanderer - 2010 Europe Trip or “Why Me?”

Then it was back into France and headed for another little town called Gerardmer in the Vosges, it is situated by a lake and surrounded by trees. I had often passed it on my travels before, but never had time to stop as I was always rushing to get some where else. As it looked quite idyllic I had made a note on my map to visit when possible, now seemed a good time.

The place I stopped was an Airs in the middle of town costing about 3 euros a night, I was not going to argue with that price. The lake was only five minutes walk away. Most of the other campers were French or German, in fact I saw hardly any English people the whole trip, I think it was due not only to the low value of the pound against the euro but the cost of living has gone up drastically in France and Italy, making every day items dearer than those in the supermarkets in England. I certainly noticed the difference.

The first night it was just a quick walk round the town, then to a restaurant overlooking the lake for a beer before returning to my van for an early night as I was feeling rather tired after a long day’s drive.


That night’s stop was at Belfort but that will be in the next episode of: - “Why me?”

Christine L Culley


      Gerardmer  

Esch-Sur-Sur

There is a very large monument which I found very interesting situated on the high ground above the town overlooking the Rhine, but for the life of me I cannot remember for what reason it was built, age must be creeping up on me! But I can and have looked it up! It was built after the Franco-German war (1870-1) as an expression of Wilhelminian power and depicts a sword brandishing Valkyrie gazing defiantly westwards and is 121ft high.

Moving on going northwest to where the Mosel joins the Rhine at Koblenz, then west along the Mosel, as I said before a lovely drive, so scenic. We stopped overnight on a campsite just outside Trier which is not far from Luxembourg. Although we were within a hundred yards of the Mosel we could not see it because the area in between was very overgrown. Not that it bothered us too much, we just needed a place to rest up for the night after a long day’s drive.

Next day we nipped into Luxembourg to fill up with cheap fuel again as it was on our way back with just a slight detour. After which we headed for a small town in Belgium called Dahn to spend a few nights and get some walking in, as the scenery and rock formations there are great. It was well worth a few days stopover to get a few walks in, looking at many of these views and rock formations before heading for Calais and the ferry home.Next day it was time to get some exercise in and walk round the lake which took a couple of hours, it was much quicker than if I had had my old mate David with me. I could not use him as an excuse for stopping for a beer after the walk, but I had one just the same. Must keep up with tradition!

Leaving Gerardmer behind it was another long hard drive along the Route des Cretes a well known tourist route up in the mountains with fantastic views, the roads were very narrow but it was well worth using them. Along the route I stopped at the Grand Ballon and Ballon de Alsace, climbing the last bit of each on foot, but once again well worth the effort. At 4,672ft the Grand is the highest point in the Vosges. Ballons are rounded top mountains! The views from the tops were very panoramic all across Alsace, the Lorraine plain and the rest of the Vosges. Glacial action during the Ice Age caused the rounded tops of the many ballons in this area. This is an area of France, the Vosges and also the Dura that I will never tire of going to; my only disappointment was that nearly all the flowers that I had gone to see on these high pastures were finished. That is one of the reasons why I had wanted to go on this trip at least a month earlier. When I had made a trip to this area several years ago in May the area was an absolute riot of colour, many of which we have in our gardens today at home. It was lovely just walking through them for miles on end, plus seeing all the insect life that goes with the flowers.

Grand Ballon - At the top was a monument to the Marquis (the French resistance fighters during WW2)

(Left) Ballon de Alsace

The Virgin Mary overlooking the plains of Alsace.