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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

PROST & SALUTE


Finally, by June 2019 we are ready to head back to GR2 to continue our travels. A last-minute booking and a whole heap of Goodbyes before we do the long haul to Munich. Then a few trains before reaching our favourite German friends in Hilpolstein. GR2 starts first pop – amazing after 6 months languishing in a shed.

We have plenty of time to catch up with Konrad, Ingrid and their whole family who have become part of our family over the years. But all too soon we head off to Bad Kissingen to see the famous Abenteuer & Allrad Show (a massive – apparently the biggest in the world! – 4x4 overland/camping show.) A pretty drive through back roads before we reach the camping areas for the show. Utter congestion & seemingly utter chaos. Camp 1 is full so we end up on a slope in Camp 2. We think we should be safe from overcrowding as we are on a slope, but no, by evening we have been totally surrounded. As good luck would have it, we are camped opposite Chris & Erin Ratay whose travels we have been following on facebook. But more on that story later.

The next day we head to the show on the shuttle bus provided. The first people we meet are our friends Connie & Herman from Brisbane. Great to see their smiling faces. The show is also packed. We meander around all day. There are many different types of 4x4 camping styles catered for: from Jeeps with roof tents to massive MAN trucks. I am rather relieved to get back on the bus to our camp. In the evening we go for an explore to gawp at all the camping vehicles. It is not long before we find Connie & Herman & Jack in their big SLRV trucks. We spend a few happy hours catching up on news and arrange to go out for dinner the following night.

Today we farewell Konrad who has brought his van to the show too. Then John heads back to the show. I am over it- so stay behind. Normally at this point we would take off on our travels but we are filling in time until Monday.

So back to Chris & Erin. They too are filling in time so we laze around and chat, eventually deciding to head off and camp somewhere. We end up at the rather cute town of Hammerstein at a parking platz. A fun town to wander around with a shady willow to plop our deck chairs under and chat. Sunday afternoon we decide to move on nearer to our workshop and Frankfurt, where Chris & Erin need to go. It takes a few goes as all the little lakes are busy on a lovely summer weekend – but we end up in the forest near Hainstadlt.   In the morning we say our Goodbyes. It was lovely to meet you both, we will definitely keep in touch. We are at the workshop by opening time. Fingers crossed!

A few days sorting out bits and pieces and most importantly installing a new cooktop. One evening we wander in to the nearby town of Glenhausen and are amazed. It is stunning. Full of half-timbered houses and a glorious cathedral.

Finally, on Wednesday at 5.30pm we are on our way. As it doesn’t get dark until 10pm we decide to head off. Finally, it feels as if our travels are under way. We jump onto the motorway to bypass Frankfurt and continue on towards Trier. As we get nearer to the Rhein River, we check our app for camp spots. We find a beauty, right on the river at Bingen beside the ferry. Great spot to sit and watch the river traffic.

Thursday is a driving day. Although we do stop for groceries before we leave Germany and a cute camping table with adjustable legs so that it will always sit flat. We continue on smaller roads across to the Moselle valley and meander along the rivers edge until we reach Luxembourg. We haven’t come to look around, but to fill up with cheap diesel. So much cheaper than Germany or France. John is a happy boy. We had planned to do a trip underground at part of the Maginot Line in Fort du Hackenberg, but it is too late for the tour. Instead we find a free museum & a few bunkers at Fort Fermont. Sadly, this line of defence proved useless in the war as the Nazis just slipped around it! The heatwave is still continuing so we keep driving until we reach Reims. There is a great free camping spot right in the centre of town. One spot left for us. Awesome, if a little noisy as it is rather close to the motorway. No one is in their campers. When they return, we discover they were all at the light show at the Cathedral. Maybe we will stay another night to go too.

A busy morning exploring before it gets too hot. The Cathedral de Notre Dame is magnificent. The detail on the outside is over the top amazing. We walk on down to the Basilique St Remi to gawp at that too.   After lunch in town, I head back to GR2 and John walks on to the Motor Musee. A long evening to fill in before the light show at 10.30pm. And wowser, it is worth the wait. Just magical – highly recommended if you are ever in Reims.

An early start this morning. We are trying to traverse the length of France without going on the toll roads, not just because we are mean, but because it is much prettier driving, although sometimes the roads narrow alarmingly through the villages. So next up on our planned tour is the Route de Champagne with a stop at the very famous Moet & Chandon headquarters. Some exceptionally pricey bottles are here for sale. We check out the tour. Hmmm at over $75 each for an hour we hesitate. By the time we decide to do it the tickets are all gone. Oh well! It was not to be!

Next stop on my list is the Chateau at Fontainebleau. Summer home to Royalty, and then when they were all beheaded, to Napoléon. Just a tiny pad at 1900 rooms. We tour inside through lots of glitzy rooms. John is relieved to leave (he is rather over palaces!) On to our next stop: Chartres to see yet another Cathedral Notre Dame. It is getting late so we are glad to score a carpark beside the river that runs beside the old town. We race up hill as it is nearly closing time. This Cathedral is famous for its blue stained glass and its 2 bell towers- each in a different style. We don’t fancy another noisy night in town so we head out to a quiet Aire in the tiny village of Thiron.

After exploring town, and sampling their croissants we get back on the road. After a while we come across the tiny village of Arville with a cute castle. Definitely time to stop and explore. These little unexpected finds are always fun. And so on towards Blois in the Loire Valley. As we have been there before I choose one Château out of 100’s for us to visit: Chambord. This is apparently in the top 5 in France. Pretty gorgeous, but rather pricey, lots of walking on a stinking hot day & horror of horror (for John) many of the rooms are art galleries! Chateau’s now done and dusted.

Nothing else is on our list for France as we have zigzagged across this southern area many times. So, we continue following the Loire River finally pulling over in the town of Loches. The walled castle looks interesting so we head off to explore. In the end we stay in our carpark for the night. Amazingly quiet right in town. We continue our meandering south, but get detoured with road closures and so we stumble across Fortress L’Angles in the pretty town of Angles-sur-L’Anglin. Yet another cute find. Further south we stop for the night at Brantome- a little town set on an island in the river and beside it a huge monastery. In the camping area we meet Annmarie & Chris (a French couple) who bring over a bottle of champagne to share. Just lovely.

And so today is our final day in France as we head through the Pyrenees. We end up camped right at the top (now in Spain) surrounded by mist. At least it is cool.




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