We woke up to sunshine in the Alsace, and were quick to pack up and leave our view of the concrete wall. Within minutes, we were in beautiful countryside, vineyards in all directions. We found ourselves driving on ‘Route des Vins D’Alsace’, on roads meandering through the vineyards, intermittently passing through gorgeous little villages and towns.
We came to one town called Bennwihr, where we stopped to take a photo of the church, with it’s unusual tiled roof. Adjacent to the church, was a memorial for those who died in the first and second word wars. Interestingly, there was also a plaque in memory of the 71 young men from the town who had been conscripted into Hitler’s Third Reich in the Second World War. Having been returned to France following WW1, Alsace was annexed by the Germans during WW2, and in total 140,000 Alsations were forcibly conscripted into Hitler’s armies. These men were known as the ‘Malgre-Nous’ – literally ‘Despite Ourselves’, since the majority went to war against their will. This is one of he reasons that Strasbourg, in the Alsace, was chosen as the seat of the Council of Europe, and later as the home of the European Parliament – as a symbol of hope of future Franco-German, and pan-European cooperation. After WW2, Alsace was once more returned to France, but throughout the region, the influence form Germany remains, both in architecture, and place names.
Today, Alsace has a unique character from the rest of France. Many of the towns wouldn’t look out of place in a fairy-tale, and the scenery is sublime, with undulating hills covered in vines, and many topped with castles. The region, as well as being famous for it’s wine, also is a gastronomes treat, with a profusion of Michelin starred restaurants, and every town bulging with charcuteries, patisseries and shops selling traditional fare such as preserves and it’s Munster soft cheese. Alsace is also known for it’s storks, more than 400 pairs, and everywhere you look, there are storks nests. Howard spotted one wandering amongst the tents on last night’s campsite, and many of the buildings, particularly churches, have a large nest of twigs and branches sat aloft.
We eventually made our way to a lovely little town called Ribeauville, where we spent several hours, pottering around, and of course, having our statutory coffee. This medieval town is just so pretty, with it’s coloured timber buildings and cobbled lanes, with glimpses all around through gaps in the houses to the the vineyards beyond. We climbed the hill, through an old stone arch to the ‘Picturesque Quarter’ – if anything, an understatement! The whole town was beautifully kept, and nearly every house had a profusion of flowers tumbling over window-boxes. Occasionally, we stumbled across little squares, with fountains, and restaurants and cafes on every corner. This place is stunning, and it knows it! I can’t believe that I had never even heard of it, before today.
We stopped to buy some bread and quiche for our lunch, and then I spied a shop that caught my eye. It was selling brightly coloured jackets, made from a patchwork of different fabrics. I couldn’t resist going inside and trying one on. It looked like something a hippy might wear, not out of place in ‘Woodstock’, but when I tried it on, I immediately thought it would make the perfect ‘campervan’ jacket. Even Howard liked it, so it was a done deal.
We slowly wound our way back to Oscar, and only then did we decide where to go next. By now it was 2.30, and we carefully selected a campsite near Nancy that sounded nice. However, not long after setting off, as I sat reading the details, I realised that it had closed 2 days earlier. So we rapidly had another change of plan, and headed for to a campsite just beyond Metz.
The campsite is situated on the banks of the Moselle River. Ironically, having started the day on the ‘Route des Vins D’Alsace’, we finished the day on the ‘Route des Vins de Moselle’. It makes us sound like vinos!
The contrast in tonight’s pitch from last night’s couldn’t be more striking. As we arrived, the lady asked us if we would like a river-side spot. As we drove into it, the sun was just starting to set, sending a wonderful orange glow across the river, highlighting the autumnal colours of the trees on the bank opposite, and reflecting in the water – just stunning.
Tomorrow we head the short distance to Luxembourg. For tonight though, it would seem wrong not to drink a glass of wine, to celebrate the Alsace and Moselle regions. Cheers!!