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The Pippins Motorhome Tour 2011 PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

Switzerland and Beyond by Motorhome in the Summer of 2011

Rosemary Newton
July 2011

Introduction

Rosemary and Andy travel in a Rapido 746F, which they have had since the untimely death of their previous motorhome, Tilly, in Bulgaria in 2005. The dramatic and laconic account of the drowning of Tilly after 11 years of faithful service, and the subsequent bureaucratic battles with the Bulgarian Customs and UK Insurance Companies, is well told at: http://www.pippins.me.uk/2005/2005_bulgaria.htm.

Since 2001 the Newtons have motorhomed in France, Turkey, Bosnia, Croatia, Greece and now Switzerland, as well as travels within the UK, covered in their own website (http://www.pippins.me.uk/index.htm ). 'Pippins', by the way, refers both to the apples they would like to grow and the name of their house in England.

Since 2007 they have aimed to travel for 2 months in May and June, and again in September and October. We are all fortunate to be able to look over their shoulders, in words and pictures, and thereby experience Europe afresh.

Pictures will be regularly uploaded to – www.photoblog.com/bacchanalia  This promises to be a better site than previously used, as it shows pictures at a reasonable size without enlarging.

See their excellent Greek Travel Log on this website at: Pippins in the Peloponnese 2010

Here is Rosemary's Travel Log for Switzerland:

Sunday 12th June – We left Shaftesbury after an early lunch and a moderately frantic dash to get ready, due to new tyres on wheels with a long standing problem, and a very damaged rear light configuration (don't ask) that had to be glued back together, as we knew we would not get another one for days if not weeks.

We drove in very heavy rain to Herne Bay to visit cousin Linda Back, and her husband John who had recently had a very traumatic eye accident. We were very relieved to find them in good spirits and after a lovely dinner showed them pictures of our daughter Charlotte's wedding, which they had missed. Then we spent the night on a CL at Hoath near Canterbury.

Monday 13th June – We drove into Canterbury and failed to recognise more than a few buildings which was upsetting, as we so regularly visited it before moving to Shaftesbury and Andy was at university there 1977-80. However a very kind man in a Halford service centre fitted new wiper blades and would not take any payment - just said have a good holiday!!!

We then drove to Dover for the 3.45 pm crossing and instead of our usual stop at Gravelines drove on, first to Tournai, where we failed to find the Aire but had a very interesting drive round the ancient streets. The cathedral was being renovated and the whole side was covered with sheeting depicting the building underneath.

We found a pleasant spot at Antoing for the night, beside the river with barges.

Tuesday 14th June – We went for short explore round Antoing on an unsuccessful search for a way to the château above the town and found a large market set up almost beside us!! This often seems to happen and we never hear anything! We also never learn about the mosquitoes, which came in because we forgot about the fly screens on our first evening. We were amused to see books on Kate Middleton in the book shop window!

We drove on toward Luxemburg and whilst stopped in a lay-by on the border an enormous traffic jam built beside us. We noticed lots of locals taking a sliproad beside us and so did the same, which took us to a local road. We drove on via Metz and the Vosges to the Rhine, where we stopped for the night south of Strasbourg and Rhinau. We had heard that the Rhine was low due to lack of rain and found that to be the case, with a decided shortage of barges. Running adjacent to the Rhine, and with an outlet near where we stopped, was the Rhone and Rhin canal, which to our surprise was a narrow one similar to the Kennet and Avon. Bobby texted to say how much he enjoyed the Rhine and Charlotte reported one extra day in Kenya, due to an ash cloud in Ethiopia!

Wednesday 15th June - There were a few more barges early morning. Andy found a ripe blackberry in the hedgerow!

We first went to Colmar and made every effort to find a supermarket following a name, which led us to a huge distribution centre and not the shop itself. Eventually we found a Cora and then made our way to Schaffhausen and the Rhine Falls, which we had visited about 18 years before with the children; it was much more developed than last time but in essence the same. Last time we had also got confused and thought that Sherlock Holmes had died here, though we could not see that this was a very dramatic place for a struggle to the death. It was only later that we found it was the Reichenbach Falls, which we also visited later. We drove on through truly awful traffic in Zurich and Lucerne and over mountain passes to Camping Grund in Innertkirchen, where we found Janet and Brian much traumatised. They had come in our usual way but, instead of following the easy route via motorways and dual carriage ways almost to the door,their Sat Nav had taken them over mountain passes.

Thursday 16th June - We went for a wander round the village in the morning in warm sunshine. After early lunch we caught the little train into Meiringen and took the funicular, reportedly the steepest in Europe, to the Reichenbach Falls, with a spectacular view over the valley and the falls. Then we climbed further to the top before descending on the footpaths back to the campsite through pastures and woods, by which time it had started to rain. Brian was reduced to using his gas BBQ in the awning.

Friday 17th June - We used Brian's car - a real luxury - to have a scenic drive via Interlaken to Grindelwald and admired the Eiger and other mountains . The rain set in before we got back and rained all night. We are not showing J+B the finest face of Switzerland with weather like this!!!

Saturday 18th June - Rain all day!! Got out to the village shop in the morning, then it just got heavier all day!

Sunday 19th June - Better weather at last so we all walked to the Aareschulcht Gorge and wandered through and back. The river is squeezed through very spectacular shaped gaps and looking up the previous river passages they have made fantastic shapes.

We had a short stroll around the village in the afternoon.

Monday 20th June - Once again we used Brian's car to drive up the Grimsel Pass, stopping briefly by a dam and reservoir to admire the view, then over the top and up the Furka pass to the Rhone Glacier. We had visited this spot about 18 years ago and were much shocked by how the glacier had retreated. It had dropped by at least 20 metres and retreated by perhaps 80 metres from the spot where we had entered before. It was like going in below the basement instead of entering a house on the 5th floor! However, the colour remains that wonderful intense blue and Janet and Brian were much impressed.

Tuesday 21st June - We said goodbye to Janet and Brian, who were making for the Med, and went over the Grimsel Pass into the Rhone valley, where we camped right beside the Rhone at the Augenstern camp site at Reckingen. One reason for making for this valley was that we had heard it was much drier than the rest of Alpine Switzerland - we will see. Weather continued warm and sunny and we had a lovely stroll through flower-filled meadows. A little more cloud in the evening but generally fine and warm.

The houses are so interesting here; made with much more rough hewn wood, they are much darker and lack the usual detail of other valleys. The windows are small and there are many doors and staircases, to hay lofts and other stores. Many of them are on staddle stones, but not at the base of the building: more likely over a basement.

There are many signs of trauma here - one village on the approach to the Grimsel had signs of a massive water flow down the mountainside with huge boulders displaced and a sort of dam that could be placed across the main road to protect the village. In Reckingen there is a large monument to a catastrophe in 1970 with about 40 lost but unfortunately our German is not up to knowing what happened. The events all seem similar to the flood disasters of Lynmouth/Boscastle, though more frequent.

Wednesday 22nd June - Weather was a little damp when I went to the village shop. I also popped into the village church, which was all pale pink and blue wood painted to imitate marble. They were preparing for a feast day, though I as unable to read which one.

We are constantly surprised how everything here is just in German, when everything will be in French just down the valley. The lady in the tourist office could not speak any English but could understand my request for a weather forecast, which was a little damp till Friday when it should be sunny and warm.

We had a very pleasant if a bit demanding walk up to and along the Gommer Howenweg (high way). It's a walk above the valley, high on the south facing slopes, through larch forests and meadows so full of flowers too amazing for words. There was one flower which was the brightest pink I have ever seen, rather like a tiny Pink Campion but much brighter. Our path was also crossed by a large mammal with a bushy tail, which we think was a Marmot. As we came back through Munster they were preparing for an open air mass amongst the very old houses, many of them dating from the 1600's.

We had light showers during the day but over very quickly, as was the storm during dinner. However it started to rain again later and carried on well into the night.

Thursday 23rd June - I popped into the village to take some pictures but could not do any shopping as the shop was closed. Today was the feast day and an altar had been placed in front of the memorial. I asked at the campsite but their English was not up to naming the festival in English - Corpus Christi? They were able to tell me that the catastrophe that befell the village in 1970 was a giant avalanche, that killed mainly the military who were based here engaged on air defence.

The weather remained cloudy and a little chilly for the morning before brightening up, but we set out along the Rottenweg - a path following the Rhone - and covered about 10 miles through more forests and flowery meadows. I don't pretend to know all the flowers but they included pink campion, tiny pansies, several vetches, cow parsley, forget-me-nots, a flower similar to yellow loosestrife, oxtail daisies, mallow, coltsfoot, dandelions, harebells, scabious, sorrel, bugle, buttercups plus many more I could not name. And there were so many of them together filling each field, not just occasional bunches!

Friday 24th June - We drove to Fiesch with the intention of taking the cable car to the top and seeing the Eggshorn and the Aletschgletscher (largest glacier in mainland Europe) but the lady in the tourist info advised it would be better from tomorrow onwards. I also asked about the time indicators, which are needed in so many Swiss car parks. She advised trying the post office, which in turn said they never had them and suggested the tourist office. As we were parked next door to the police I popped in there. One kindly officer looked high and low and consulted his colleagues, who also did not know how to get one, and in the end he took me out to his car and gave me his saying 'It is easier'!!

We then drove on to Saas Fee, a resort high up in the mountains. I had imagined a small resort surrounded by our beloved alpine meadows but sadly the buildings had swallowed most of the level ground and there was a very developed resort far from our taste. However we had a pleasant walk around the hills above, then walked up beside the abundant waterfalls towards the glaciers which were very spectacular and tower above the town. Apparently at the end of Europe's little ice age, in 1818, the glacier's twin tongues had combined and were extending rapidly towards the town; now they are about 1.5 miles away up the mountain. On returning to the van we could still see the glaciers but above the enormous empty multi-storey car parks that serve the car-free town, mainly in winter.

Saturday 25th June - We woke early and really cold. Hardly surprising as Saas Fee is at 1800 metres (5,940 ft). The sun on the glacier and surrounding peaks looked lovely. However I'm not sure I go along with their description of the town as 'Pearl of the Alps'.

We then retraced our steps and drove back to Fiesch and took the cable car to the top of the Eggishhorn and a very spectacular view of the Grosser Aletschgletscher, a huge glacier stretching from the Jungfrau to above the Rhone valley. We could see a huge glacier bending round the mountain in front of us - the black stripes were where two glaciers had joined. Andy climbed the last metres of the Eggishorn (2869 m), along with a boisterous extended family of Italians who said a prayer on top, while I admired the view which was amazing with peaks in every direction. The whole area is a World Heritage site, like the Dorset Coast.

We then dropped down to the intermediate station and had a level walk, still with an enormous 180 degree view. This time the main flowers were a dark purple pansy and gentians, and a pretty pink rhododendron. Once finally down we drove along the valley bottom then up the unspoilt tiny Lotschental valley to a campsite at Kippel called Burgermeinde Lonza, a municipal site we think. The contrast with the previous night could not have been more marked, as the valley and village are so unspoilt and quiet. At the end of the valley is yet another glacier, in reality an arm of the one we saw today.

Sunday 26th June – The day dawning blue and warm, it was quite warm enough during breakfast. We found out that the village was having a celebration so we went up to see. There were many ladies in local costume entering church - here it comprised a black dress and bonnet, much decorated with gold and touches of other colours. The village band led a company of Grenadiers in Napoleonic costume up to and into church. They stood filling the nave with the two flags at the back of the church; Andy was surprised they took their weapons into church. After mass, which included a surprising number of hymns I recognised and would have considered German Protestant, the band reformed and led everyone in procession, including the first communicants in white frocks with baskets of flowers, around the village, stopping at a wayside cross before returning to church and ending with the psalm The Old Hundredth.

We heard the band again in the afternoon and I rushed up the hill to see. The Grenadiers and a few townsfolk led by the band had returned to church for sung Vespers and afterwards paraded once again, this time stopping to give the townsfolk a demonstration of flag throwing, similar to that we had seen in Italy. On the way home I stopped in the village museum to ask about the event and was told it began to celebrate the safe return of the husbands and sons who had been away driving Napoleon from Switzerland, and has been re-enacted ever since! The festival was definitely not designed for tourists - there were only a handful - and has probably been taking place for the last 200 years!! Much of the village is very old and the wooden houses date from 1600's. I have read that after a while seasoned wood can become as hard as steel.
Apart from that we enjoyed the views of sunny snow-capped mountains and a very peaceful campsite.

Monday 27th June - Another hot and sunny day; in fact it was almost too hot to sit in the sun at breakfast. We had a quiet day doing the washing and a little shopping. The village has only a baker but we enjoyed an amble through the village and popped into the church, which surprised me in its almost Lutheran plainness, the only decoration coming from the ornate high altar, dedicated to St Martin, and 2 side altars. Both church and chapel behind it date from the 1600's. Every grave in the surrounding churchyard was identical: an iron cross with just name and dates, and a pile of earth with similar flowers. All were recent because residence is only temporary. After a few years all would be moved into the room below the chapel, the Beinhaus (Bone House).

During the afternoon we had a stroll but it was almost too hot to do anything. We were pleased to find a well stocked tiny supermarket in the adjacent village, in fact they almost join. This made it easier to stop for a few more days, as it seems silly to dash on when it is so pleasant here. We are parked beside a very fast flowing river and every so often we can hear large boulders being carried downstream by the torrent. Long after the sun has left the valley, the surrounding peaks are bright with late sunshine.

Tuesday 28th June - We left the van just after 9 o'clock to catch the cable car from Wiler up to the Lauchernalp to join the Lotschentaler Hohenweg , a high level walk through the valley with spectacular views of the valley and surrounding peaks. As we walked along we could clearly see the glaciers on the top of the mountains and in places spilling down the hillside. There were the usual lovely meadows and larch forests.

One perennial problem is what to say to passers-by. If you try German 'Guten Tag' (good day), they will probably reply 'Gruezi' in Schwyzerdutsch or Swiss German, which is totally different. Language is quite a problem here, as every sign and information board is in German without even a French translation, which we would find easier. Surprising, as Switzerland combines 4 language groups. Andy had just remarked that we had never had to say 'Bonjour', despite being very close to French Switzerland, when we came across a whole school of French children all of whom said 'Bonjour'. One even stopped and asked if I was Canadian! The schools break up at the end of the week and everywhere there are pupils doing activities.

We walked on Fafleralp and would have walked on towards the glacier but decided to save it for another day as it was quite a distance, and made our way back down the valley. At Blatten I felt I had walked far enough (10.5 miles) and as a Post bus was due I climbed on board. Andy walked the final 2 miles home. A really satisfying and beautiful walk.

Tomorrow Andy might have another go at finding somewhere that has internet. We had got so used to finding places – for example in Greece last autumn, where every campsite had it for free, and I would spend many evenings emailing Charlotte as their wedding was planned. Here we struggle to find it anywhere and then it is very expensive.

Wednesday 29th June - Weather not so good today with light showers and at times a strong wind. We went shopping and were bemused by the post office opening hours - half an hour each morning and evening - but at least every village has one, even if it is only a short walk to the next village, as well as a bank! One lady appeared to be sending her luggage of two suitcases. I went on a pleasant walk beside the river from the campsite to the next village of Ferden and came back a path above the villages, which appeared to be the original mule path as it was paved and bordered by old walls.

In the afternoon I visited the local museum: interesting, though I would have got more out of the visit if I could have read more. However there were charming old pictures and films of the valley in years gone by, when it would have been very cut off indeed, and I was able to make a detailed study of the local costume and could see how it had been made, eg smocking at the hips to give the skirt loose pleats.

Thursday 30th June - We woke up early after torrential rain overnight and I don't mind admitting I was a bit worried about the river beside us, which was a raging torrent at the best of times!

We were up at the Fafleralp by 9 o'clock ready to walk to the Langgletscher at the end of the valley. It really was a superb walk, through pastures which gradually gave way to rock gardens as we approached the glacier, and finally piles of glacial moraine, or rocks which were surprisingly firm and enabled me to get quite close to the glacier. Even there I saw the odd plant taking hold. If it seems as if this is turning into a glacial tour it is, because I read the Valais, or Wallis in German, has over half of Switzerland's glaciers (over 600), so those small ones down the mountainside really were glaciers too.

We then drove out of the unspoilt and remote valley down to the busy Rhone basin and then up into French-speaking Val d'Herens. What a difference!! Evoline is a charming but quite touristy village set amongst hillsides clinging onto the faces of a gorge. And so very French - 3 'boulangeries' and a shop that was straight out of the 1940's, with staff and an old- fashioned till to match. Even the churchyard was completely different - all individual graves and very long residence permits!

Friday 1st July - The day dawned bright but chilly and remained very pleasant, with a freshness that was lovely. We wandered round the town, shopping a little in the old-fashioned shops. Andy was most impressed that when a small boy came to ask for 2 apricots in the lovely old fashioned one with the antique till, the shop keeper just beamed and gave them to him. We established there really was a local chair lift, and in the afternoon set off to find it. Most of them have been converted to telecabins, or only run in the winter, but this really existed, albeit old and a bit tatty. It was lovely swinging over the meadows and chalets in silence, apart from the birds, and the ride lasted for over 15 minutes. It was very chilly indeed at the top, so we had a brief wander, then came back down! Andy found some samples of a very shiny silver rock that left traces on his hand: mica?

Saturday 2nd July - A very cold night - hardly surprising at 1400metres . After a brief wander for shopping we drove on, down for a very long way. Just when I thought we must be nearly there I glimpsed the valley very far before us, it felt like a plane coming in to land.

We then arrived at what must be the best site yet, Camping des Glaciers at La Fouly, under the St Bernard Pass and only 4 km from France and Italy as the crow flies. The site is large but uncrowded with mown pitches amongst banks and areas of wild flowers, underneath and indeed on the moraine of the glacier. Here we heard the sad news that Auntie Pat had died. She had a really interesting life which she had lived to the full for her 90 years, but sad all the same.

On our stroll round the village, which is new and has no old core, we found another chair lift so were obviously premature in predicting their demise, and amongst all the flowers we saw Turks Head Lilies. We are now at 1600 metres so expect it to be even colder.

Sunday 3rd July - Today we caught the 10 o'clock chair lift (!) and went on an Edelweiss hunt, which we understood could be seen in a meadow above top station. We walked up from 2000 metres, an easy path zig-zagging upward, and after a while it started to get a lot more serious. We struggled on upward, to 2400m, overtaken by 2 lads with mountain bicycles on their shoulders, but when we saw the people above us crossing an area of scree we felt we had gone far enough! We sat down rather sadly to admire the view, then I said to Andy 'What is that flower by your foot?'

We were sitting in the middle of the meadow of Edelweiss and had not even seen them. It has to be said they are a little drab and I possibly prefer the other flowers - orchids, including a dark purple one that smelt of vanilla, yellow poppies, forget-me-nots, and especially gentians. But at least we got to our goal! Descending, the views of the valley and glacier above were magnificent.

On the way down we met a Dutch couple who told us they had been coming to this site for 30 years and that there used to be houses amongst the pitches, demolished when the ice re-advanced. Finding this surprising, I asked at reception and was told the campsite had been struck by a large avalanche, a much more likely event.

Monday 4th July - We sadly left the site, which has to be about the best we have ever stayed on, with wonderful views, lovely pitches and walks. However, we had come to the end of the ACSI discount season and it was about to become very expensive, so it was time to leave Switzerland.

We drove via Martigny and Chamonix, under Mont Blanc wreathed in clouds, and on to Beaufort via the Col de Saises and a nice pass ruined by a very messy development. There were so many cyclists on the road, some behaving as if they were in the Tour. We were aiming at a mountain site above Beaufort which sounded superb, but the road just got too narrow with too many hairpin bends when Andy was tired, so we dropped back down to the town and the municipal site there. It was pleasant enough but anywhere would have been a come-down after La Fouly. The computer work in the office and details to be given took an age.

Tuesday 5th July After doing some washing, we wandered into the pleasant small town. We had tasty lunch at a restaurant there, opposite a very faded building with the inscription of 'Gendarmerie Imperial'. We asked when it had last been used and was told during the reign of Napoleon III – c 1870!

I was very worried indeed by a young family. The parents both had very young babies strapped to their front and the father pushed a cart, similar to those designed to be pulled by a cycle. They were well equipped for walking but the mother looked most exhausted and unwell. They sat in the shade of the church opposite, where the mother attempted to feed the youngest baby, who just did not stop crying. The family were much noticed and commented on by Madame and other guests in the restaurant. They eventually moved off and I was relieved to see them on a bus later.

We wandered back into town in the evening to pick up emails. As yet we have only had one site with (expensive) Wifi, whereas in Greece last year almost every site had it for free, as did those in Turkey a few years ago!

Wednesday 6th July - We wandered on, unable to find the 'Aire de Camping Cars' at La Clusaz so drove on to the little municipal at Le Petit Bornard, a lovely unspoilt spot, very well kept indeed and surrounded by mature trees and rocky cliffs beyond. They cannot have too many visitors, as the residents came out of their vans and really stared. We had a stroll in the afternoon but there wasn't really any inspirational walking from the site. We read that we had to present ourselves at the bureau at 6.30 pm, but during the afternoon a lady supervising the site, with the blackest dyed hair I have ever seen, came in to fill in forms. She had hi-jacked another camper to translate, though we are not sure why as his native tongue was not French. She insisted on our passports (our usual camping cards would not do), then she was confused that they did not have our addresses in them! She returned later with jetons for the showers. Andy presented himself at the office, where the lady was late, and then had to show his passport all over again, while the same details and more were meticulously written down. All for one night!

Thursday 7th July - We moved out of the French Alps, with which we have been rather less than impressed. I know they don't have the best bits and we only saw a fraction, but wherever the scenery became lovely, such as a col, a row of shops had been built with a bouncy castle and a go-cart track! We drove towards Annecy, across a rather boring flat piece of countryside, then north from Bellegarde sur Valserine into the Jura, which was much more to our taste.

These are old, worn mountains covered with forest interspersed with pastures. At Mijoux we found a bridge decorated with flags, including a large British one. A stone recalled amongst other events the line between occupied and free France 1940-45, and that it was the scene of the escape of a British secret agent called Michael Hollard helped by a local couple. On one pasture there was a huge bicycle made out of wood. There were also real cyclists everywhere, ideal country if you don't want to tackle the Alps!

We drove down through an impressive gorge, full of enormous folded rocks, to St Claude, a large industrial town where we failed to find the Aire. Continuing along the valley to Jeurre, there was a lovely one: a large mown field decorated with pots of flowers and great views. All for 5 euros, no forms, and we were given a little pot of honey!

Friday 8th July - Retraced our steps via St Claude up into the high Jura and to Les Rousses and a free Aire. Visited the town in the morning and the market for another stock-up. We found the Tour de France had passed this way last year, which explains some of the road markings and other decorations.

During the afternoon we walked across fields with far reaching views to a neighbouring village called Le Cure, half of which was in Switzerland, so we walked across the border, just because we could, along a footpath, then across a field which had a remarkable stone. It had a line across, dividing on one side Vaud, Switzerland, and on the other France, with imperial eagle! Dated 1866 - Napoleon III once more. There were no other signs of the border at all, just fields. We then joined a road which ran parallel to the border. Over the road there was a gently sloping fields with occasional farms but whether they were in France or Switzerland only they knew.

Many of the houses here have immaculately tended rectangular plots of healthy looking vegetables, which we have been seeing so often in the Alps.

Saturday 9th July - We found a most beautiful little town by just driving past and noticing it. Then, seeing a motorhome high above us as we approached, found a lovely Aire on the terraces below the hill top town. Nozeroy is completely unspoilt, a small defensive town surrounded by charming rolling countryside. The town has all the necessary shops, albeit in tiny form, and is full of understated but pleasant houses lining the few streets. We saw our last cows with bells here, after seeing them everywhere in Switzerland.

We have been very intrigued by the vast houses in the countryside in the Jura. They are double fronted and have a large cart-sized door, either in the middle of the building or on the apex side, and often this space seems to continue right through the building. Often there is another house or more accommodation on the other side of the building.

Sunday 10th July - We had one last wander around the town, then drove to Salins-les Bains, where we spent the rest of the morning in the van as it was raining hard. This made us realise exactly how dry the whole holiday had been, as we had not had rain like that since Kippel.

After lunch we discovered that the only English tour of the adjacent Salt Works was about to commence. They have been bringing up brine and evaporating the liquid by heat since the 12th century. The 19th century vats were especially vast and interesting, though I'm not sure that the works really merited World Heritage Status. The rest of the town was rather sad and faded and lacked the fine buildings I would have expected in a spa town, so we drove on to Arbois.

This town was much more pleasant - mind you, by now the sun had come out! Arbois is famous for its wine and also being the home of Louis Pasteur for many years. We had intended to stay there with the other vans but when we returned we noticed that there were several fair ground vehicles arriving. As we have woken up in the middle of one before, we decided to move. We drove on to Poligny where, unable to find the Aire because of road works, we just stopped in a flower-lined car park, in very pleasant evening sunshine.

Monday 11th July - Drove on early out of the Jura and into the Vosges. We shopped at Vesoul, having our usual problems of finding a supermarket, then problems discovering the way in! We then chanced upon a lovely little village Aire at Corravillers, beside the Marie, so settled there surrounded by lovely rolling wooded countryside. It is intriguing to know what benefit these small villages gain from an Aire, as there is no village shop to use, though we did have a drink in the Auberge.

Tuesday 12th July –We drove north to an Aire I had marked as worth visiting, only to find on arrival that we had already been there and yes Charmes, the town, was as boring as last time - my map has been amended! However, we had a pleasant lunch time meal and I think I have solved the decision around where to try the Plat du Jour - our meals at Logis de France hotel restaurants have been reliable. The weather grew very hot and sitting by the Moselle on the excellent Aire was lovely, so it was not really a mistake and by bed time there were at least 30 vans there.

Wednesday 13th July - Very heavy rain in the night and we did wonder if we were going to be able to get off the grass but it was not a problem. We drove north into the Ardennes, through really charming clean and tidy Belgian villages beside rivers totally surrounded by thick forests. We reached Montherme by lunch time, just over the border in France. This little town was not so clean and tidy. Beside the Meuse, it obviously had been an industrial town and there were many terraces of charming houses and lots of interesting industrial archaeology. Once again we were by the river and behind us were the thermal baths and an assembly room. Although newly decorated, there was no sign of use.

Reading notices we began to understand that the primary Bastille celebrations took place that evening in the shape of a procession and firework display, in front of the van! People began setting off fireworks from about 5 o'clock, including one father and son on a bench right in front of us. There were continuous explosions from then onwards. Just before 11 o'clock the processions reached us, a slightly discordant band without uniforms and firemen carrying flaming torches, leading many families, the children with Chinese lanterns. All around fireworks were going off and it was decidedly anarchical as they approached. The firemen set down roman candles as they passed by. After a short while the display itself began - very good but with the emphasis definitely on noise rather than light. There was a disco behind us and more fireworks but they did not disturb our sleep.

Thursday 14th July - The town was asleep when we left, driving north through Luxemburg to a hypermarket on the outskirts of  Lille. We knew where this shop was but still had difficulty getting the right motorway exit. Although all of France was closed, I had noticed that the largest shops were intending to open and soon we realised that an awful lot of France was quite keen on shopping on that day!

We then drove on to Brugge (Bruges) to visit Bobby's girlfriend Kylie's mother and family. They were well after recent health problems and it was so good to feel well enough to have a really good chat, as last time I was very unwell. We had a lovely meal.

Friday 15th July - We left Lorraine and family after breakfast and caught the 11.20 am ferry, returning home without incident.

Final Thoughts on Switzerland

  • It is really alarmingly expensive at the moment, due to the poor exchange rate.
  • However, it remains as lovely as ever, with wonderful scenery, people and walking.
  • The Rhone valley, the Wallis and its offshoots, really does have sunny and warm weather a lot of the time.
  • It is very impressive that each village keeps a shop, post office (sometimes only open for half an hour morning and afternoon) and a bank, even if it's only a very short walk to the next village or they are possibly adjacent.
  • The glaciers really are shrinking at an alarming rate!
  • I thought we would be too late for the flowers but they were really amazing!
  • Chair lifts are alive and well and as good as ever!

If you have been, thanks for reading!