Eguisheim, France – Nov 2017

So I did it. I cycled from Colmar to Eguisheim.

More about Eguisheim in a moment (and the town is well worth a visit) but first some advice on getting there. Don’t cycle it or, if you must cycle it, do not rely on the sat-nav in your vehicle for directions. Before setting off I committed the route on my “top of the range Pioneer system” in the Van to memory and left feeling quite confident that I knew where I was heading.  All went well to start with (the cycle paths in this part of France track most major roads and are fantastic) but then, after a really nice fast bit coasting downhill round a bend and bombing along a wholly empty right hand lane I realised I was travelling along the hard shoulder of the motorway to Strasbourg. It was a very sheepish me that dismounted and walked back along the motorway to find an alternative route. I’ll probably figure prominently in the French equivalent of one of those “Cops” TV programmes where they show video from motorway camera. Oh well…

Eguisheim is a lovely place, renowned (at least locally) for it’s fine wines and flowers. Flowers were not much in evidence (it is winter) but I tried a couple of “verre(s) vin blanc de la maison” and they were most enjoyable. It’s not a big town but it is crammed with character as I think the photos will show:-

So there were a few flowers out

I took many black & white photos – it seems to work here

Needless to say, it is pretty much all pedestrianised. 

I won’t talk about the cycle journey back. There was a railway line and lots of ploughed fields and, honestly, it’s just a bad memory  but, it doesn’t detract from the fact that the town of Eguisheim is magical (and it is so close to Colmar).

Colmar, France (Day 2) – Nov 2017

Staying in Colmar for a couple more days. I need some decent winter tyres for the Van and they cannot be delivered until Wednesday morning. There are worse places to be while waiting for winter tyres but I should have had this done while back in the UK waiting for the house to be sold. My schoolboy French really doesn’t lend itself to a protracted conversation as to the merits of different winter tyres. At least the people at Best Drive Tyres didn’t laugh but I’ll not rest easy until I have seen exactly what it is I have ordered.

Tomorrow I am thinking of cycling (yes, cycling – they say you never forget how) to a place called Eguisheim, a few clicks from here. Eguisheim was recommended to me by a local guy I met today in the Irish Pub (of course there’s an Irish pub here!) as being every bit as nice a place to visit as Colmar. Well, I think that is what he said – He couldn’t speak English (and he was French, not Irish. Lol). Time will tell. I have to get to Eguisheim first without my sat-nav.

Meantime, a few more photos of Colmar:-

Inside the Irish Pub – that’s my Murphy’s on the bar.

It was dark when I left the pub

Colmar, France – Nov 2017

Rain woke me at 05.00 and prompted an early departure to Colmar (rain sounds much louder in the Van and will take getting used to). It ceased raining as I arrived at my planned stop for the next couple of nights (Camping de L’Ill, N48 4’51”  E7 23’12”, about a mile from the centre of Colmar).

Camping de L’Ill has all mod cons (although the swimming pool has been emptied for winter); is situated in very pleasant surroundings (close to a bar/restaurant) and; best of all, at least for the moment, I have it pretty much to myself.

Parked up at Colmar

The view of the River L’Ill from my back door

A local, fly-fishing on the L’Ill

From what I could research and have been told about Colmar I expected something special and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m just back from a 6 hour walk around the town (except for a couple of hours in a very good bar/restaurant that will receive a mention in my trip advisor review when or if Will tells me how trip advisor works) and it is perhaps the most charming town I have ever visited.

The town was surprisingly quiet even though there was a 10 km fun run taking place which finished in the town centre. This is the advantage of arriving out of season.

No more words; just a handful of the 50 or 60 photos I took although they don’t do the place justice…

I think that is the River Lauch which is a tributary to the L’Ill

Dieue-sur-Meuse, France – Nov 2017

Needed to cover some ground today and made seriously good time down the motorway from Lille to the little village of Dieue-sur-Meuse, stopping at Epernay on the way for a glass of Champagne. I was in Epernay just last year and it is well worth repeat visits especially when the weather is as nice as today – warm and sunny.

The French motorways are impressive and well worth the toll price.

The stop in Dieue-sur-Meuse was what might be termed a wild camp inasmuch as the village didn’t have a pub. Well, it did but it never opened. Went for a short evening stroll and had a quiet night in with a bottle of the local wine – a Pinot Noir that set me back 3 Euros (I went for the mid price range).

There are worse places to park up for the night… (GPS: N49,07110 E5,42634)

… and, yes, it was a gorgeous evening.

Lille, France (Oct 2017)

Losing track of the days now.

None of my sources could identify a suitable campsite within Lille city limits and I therefore elected to stay a few kilometres outside of Lille at a place called Peronne-en-Melantois. Peronne-e-M is a little more than a hamlet and the campsite I found is not much more than a field in a farm on the edge of the hamlet. The proof follows:-

My immediate neighbours on the campsite

Oh…and this one knocked about with a cockerel that sounded off non stop for a good hour from about 5.15am. Perhaps not surprisingly, the cockerel didn’t hang around to get his picture taken!

The only real positive about Peronne-e-M is that it is just a couple of kilometres walk to another hamlet (Fretin) which at least has a station (well, a sort of station because trains do stop there) and it is on the Gare de Lille Flandres line. I had to wait a while for a train but in less than a quarter of an hour of the train arriving at Fretin, I was at the Gare de Lille Flandres and right in the centre of the city.

You would be hard pushed to know you had arrived at the village without this sign

Fretin Rail Station, simply known as Gare

Gare de Lille Flandres

Lille is France’s tenth largest city and it has some striking buildings, many of which are on or near the Grand Place just a couple of hundred yards from the station. Grand Place is also known as the Place General de Gaulle (after the visionary French Brexit campaigner General Charles de Gaulle) who was born in Lille.

I took a few photos but they were all rather rushed. After my last few days in Belgium, Lille was simply too busy for me. I had dinner there (it was nothing to write home about) but otherwise didn’t stay long because I wasn’t sure when the last train left the City for Fretin. It was dark by the time I got back to Peronne-e-M.

Grand Place

One of the more attractive buildings, especially inside, is the Catholic Church which is en route to the Grand Place.

The Catholic Church

One of many impressive stained glass windows in the Catholic Church

I’ve covered little more than 45 miles in the Van over the last few days. At this rate I’ll not get across the Alps before winter. The Grossglockner is already shut. I’m going to have to find another route through Austria. Time to check out the French Auto-routes…

Day 9 – To France and Onwards

The Channel Tunnel crossing from Folkestone to Calais was a doddle (and very quick). I booked it online and simply followed the instructions in the confirmation letter from Euro-Tunnel and then the signposts in Folkestone. The rail crossing itself (if something going under the sea can be termed a crossing) was just 35 minutes but the whole journey from leaving Dave’s house in Canterbury to my parking place in the centre of Kortrijk in Belgium took less than 4 hours.

One observation I would make regarding the crossing is that the train rocked almost as much as any ferry I have travelled on – I didn’t have any Stugeron 25 to hand to combat motion sickness but the acupuncture learned on the Caribbean cruise earlier this year worked once again. Hurrah for alternative medicine (assuming always that acupuncture qualifies as alternative medicine)!

Not very exciting but the first photo in France!

Regarding the journey from Calais to my chosen destination of Kortrijk, it was straight forward. The downside was that I spent a good 1.5 hours listening and responding to a French language tape only to find that the Belgians in Kortrijk studiously avoid speaking French. They speak, read and write Flemish; English as a foreign language and; French only as a last resort. I should have realised this beforehand given that Kortrijk was previously known as Courtrai (at least by me). Oh well.

I know what to do in a fire but what about the rest of it?!?!

Time to go and explore Kortrijk.