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Swiss Roll

NB These notes are intended to satisfy a number of audiences: casual viewers,  and motorhomers considering visiting this lovely country. For this reason I have added information likely to be of interest to motorhomers only.  

"MSF" = "Miles So Far"

Sun 12th June 2011 – Herne Bay

Left home after an early lunch. It rained hard and we discovered windscreen wipers were beginning to disintegrate – bother! The ferry isn't until tomorrow, but we decided to drop in on Linda and John to show them photos of the wedding they missed because of John's accident.  We are booked in to a small camp site nearby. (For Caravan Club members, a CL at Hoath. Very nice site and only £5)

Mon 13th June – Antoing, Belgium

Our ferry isn't until 1520, as we hadn't expected to come up yesterday, so we spent a morning in Canterbury, after refilling the gas bottles. We passed a Halfords service depot in Canterbury, and called in to see if we could get some new wiper blades. Not only did they supply and fit them, but when asked how much we owed, they said “no charge, sir, have a pleasant holiday.” I am both gob-smacked, and impressed! (Earlier this year the Toyota dealer fitted new number plate bulbs to our Yaris, and also said “no charge”.)

Sea France as usual, pleasant crossing, and ashore at 1815 local time. Instead of going straight to the aire at Gravelines, as usual, we continued inland as far as Tournai, in Belgium. Failed to find an aire there so moved on to Antoing, nearby, and stopped by the river. And a bonus – there are barges going past as well!

Miles so far (MSF)  321 (100 miles from Calais)

Tues 14th June – Rheinau, wild camping

Having been hassled with mozzies during the night we didn't wake until 8. The empty car park we stopped in last night is now full of cars, and market. Fortunately we hadn't parked where the market stalls were, but we nearly did! That would have been EMBARRASSING!

After a walk round the town, and buying fraises and cerises at the market, we got under way again. We were heading some wild camping spots on the Rhine, near the Vosges, that we noted last time we were this way. The route we took was E42 via Mons, Charleroi, Namur, E411 and E25 to Luxembourg, as we have found by experience that this route is the most pleasant, and you can top up with cheap fuel in Luxembourg. We lunched at the car park on the Belgium-Luxembourg border, which has some fine views. After a while we noticed a queue  building up on the motorway, soon stretching back a long way Then we noticed lots of cars nipping though the car park and disappearing down a narrow road. This was just too interesting, so we followed suit, and found our way across rural Luxembourg, topped up with fuel, and left via Esch, Thornville, Metz on A31, towards Nancy. A33 via Luneville, N59 via St Die Desvosges, St Marie au Mines, Celestat, then minor roads to Rheinau.  The useful wild camping spot is at N48.29911 E 7.70584, and there were several other vans already there.

A text from Charlotte. Their honeymoon in Kenya has been extended by 24 hours because of an ash cloud over Ethiopia. It's alright for some!

MSF 652

Wed 15th June - Innertkirchen, Switzerland

A bright morning, and we headed off to Colmar to find an hypermarche, firstly to buy some wine, and secondly to find an Orange shop that could explain why my Orange phone refuses to connect. We got the wine OK, but the lady in the Orange shop didn't know and didn't give a flying **** about my problem.

Then on to Schaffhausen, to revisit the Rhine falls. Still spectacular. Then, finally, on to Innertkirchen to meet Brian & Janet at Camping Grund. Easier said than done – Zurich was a real battle, queues, confusion and more queues. The final bit into Meiringhem was over a pass, that we hadn't expected. Made it eventually – exhausted! J& B were already there, and they had towed their large caravan over the same pass, instead of taking the flat route through Interlaken.

MSF 874

Thurs 16th June - Innertkirchen, Switzerland

Strolled into Innertkirchen in the morning. After lunch, caught the little train into Meiringen, the funicular up to the Reichenbach falls, then walked back to the site. As we walked back the heavens opened!

Fri 17th June - Innertkirchen, Switzerland

Brian drove us all into Grindelwald. Weather fine in the morning but raining again later in the afternoon.

Sat 18th June - Innertkirchen, Switzerland

More heavy rain, but did pick up emails etc at a bar in Innertkirchen

Sun 19th June - Innertkirchen, Switzerland

Walked to the Aareschlute and back. Our 3rd visit, and still worth the visit

Mon 20th June - Innertkirchen, Switzerland

Brian drove us over the Grimsel and Furka passes to the Rhone Glacier. We last went there 18 years ago (we think), and since then the level has dropped 20 meters, and receded back up the valley 100 metres.

Tues 21st June  - Reckingen Switzerland

The longest day -  oh how the nights are drawing in! Struck camp, B& J heading for the South of France, us over the Grimsel pass into the Rhone valley. Quite expensive – 188 CHF for 6 days – almost £25 per night. Stopped at a Dutch run ACSI site at Reckingen -  Camping Augenstern. Right beside the Rhone, very pleasant, but wifi is an unacceptable 5 CHF for 30  minutes!

MSF 907

Wed 22nd June - Reckingen Switzerland

Dad would have been 100 today. Rained in morning (this valley is supposed to be dry!) but went for a walk in the  afternoon, up quite  a steep and rough path to the Hohenweg (high path). A marmot ran across the path only a few feet in front of us. Heavy rain overnight, which was slightly concerning as the Rhone is about 6 feet away, and running fast.

Thurs 23rd June - Reckingen Switzerland

10 mile walk down the Rottenweg (Rhone Way) & back.

Fri 24th June – Saas Fee, Switzerland

Time to move on down the Rhone Valley. We stopped at Fierst, in the cable car park, with a view to going up to the Eggehorn, overlooking the  Aletsgletscher glacier. The lady said that the weather tomorrow and Sunday would be better (– in the event she was wrong). However, we had noticed that many places required you to display a parkschein when parking, a blue disc that you set your time of arrival on, and decided we ought to have one. First, Rosemary went to the tourist information office. After some conferring behind the scenes she was told that they were issued by the post office. So we drove on through Fierst, and parked beside the post office. There, after some conferring behind the scenes, Rosemary was directed to the tourist information office! However, we were also parked outside a police station, and Rosemary asked there. After much conferring behind the scenes, and the searching of lots of filing cabinets, a policeman was embarrassed to admit he had no idea how you got hold of these things “everyone just had one”! “The easiest thing” he said “is for me to give you mine.” Which he did. Full marks to the Swiss police! (But I do hope he managed to get a replacement! We never did need to use it again.)

Then on to a rather expensive aire de camping car at Saas Fee, quite high up in the mountains (1800 metres) at the foot of the Feegletscher glacier. I had expected this to be in a large pasture, beside a set of cable cars and chair lifts. In fact, it was beside a 10 story car park of a tourist resort, self styled as “The Pearl of the Alps”. The resort itself was hugely underwhelming, but there were some very nice walks. In the 1880s, during the Little Ice Age, the village (as it was then) was threatened by the glacier, but now it is in full retreat and is at least an hour's walk (climate change deniers, please note).

The one advantage of it being a resort is that free wifi was available at a number of bars, time to catch up on emails and the BBC news.

Sat 25th June  - Kippel, Switzerland

Well that was a bitterly cold night! An early start, and we headed back to the cable car at Fierst. Despite what the forecast was yesterday, the weather was cloudy! We find cable cars quite unexciting – nothing like a good old fashioned chair lift (which seem to have disappeared). Cost return was CHF 32 each – about £24.

At the top I scrambled on up further, to the summit of Eggehorn, looking down on the glacier. Also there were a couple of large Italian families – it sounded like a roomful of canaries! As I started to descend they all followed me, so I returned to the summit to enjoy the peace, and the view.

Lunch at the top, then down to the intermediate level for a bit of warmth, and a stroll along some moderately level and easy paths.

Back down to earth, and we drove the 30 odd miles to Camping Lonza at Kippel, a tiny site at a tiny village up quite a narrow valley (N 46 deg 23' 55” E7 deg 46'31”)

MSF 1013

Sun 26th June - Kippel, Switzerland

Woken at 6 am by the church bells! A cloudless blue sky, and very hot. Later, the sound of drums alerted us to something going on in the village. We thought it was a first communion, because of little girls dressed in white, and Swiss ladies in their gorgeous national (and regional) costume. The presence of a large number of Napoleonic looking soldiers had us confused. A church service, including several hymns I knew the tunes of, was followed by a procession around the village. We later learned that this was a ceremony that had been held annually for nearly 200 years, celebrating the safe return of men from the village from a war of liberation against the French (Napoleon). The “soldiers” were in fact local men dressed up, which explains the parade drill that would have made an RSM weep!

Mon 27th June - Kippel, Switzerland

More morning bells! And a day even hotter than yesterday -  a good day to put on my shorts and get sunburnt knees! Only a sort walk, maybe 3 miles. And I have finished my stock of unread Scientific Americans – time to reread “Why does E=mc squared”, but this time follow the maths through. We have camped right beside a fast flowing river running off a glacier, and I'm sure it is running much faster than last night – we can hear boulders bouncing along the bed.

Tues 28th June - Kippel, Switzerland

Awoke to another cloudless day. Caught the cable car from Wiler (10 mins walk), then walked the Lotschentaler Hohenweg to Fafleralp, which is the car park and bus stop for the Langgletscher (another glacier). The walk there was 8.5 miles, and the glacier itself is a further couple of miles. We decided to do that another day. Instead, we had lunch and started to walk back, along the lower path. Rosemary decided to catch the bus after a further 2 miles, but I walked on to complete the round trip, 13.5 miles. And it was HOT!

Wed 29th June - Kippel, Switzerland

Cloud today, and some spots of rain. Rosemary spent the afternoon in the local museum, and I searched fruitlessly for a wifi connection.

We're leaving tomorrow, so paid the guy who visits daily. CHF 90 for 5 nights with an ACSI card, cf CHF 26 pn without ACSI.

… and in the evening – a thunderstorm & heavy rain. Hope we can get off the grass!

Thurs 30th June - Evoline, Switzerland

Got off the grass, no probs! It's all so well draining here. Drove to the car park at Fafleralp (where we walked to on Tuesday) and walked up to the snout of the Langgletscher glacier, where water was gushing from a dramatic looking ice cave, then back a different way. This has to be one of the nicest walks we've done.

Then, back down valley to Steg (a drop of 1100 metres), down the Rhone valley to Sion, then left up the Val d'Herens to an ACSI site Evoline. This is a pleasant little village, touristy but unspoilt. On the way we passed, in fact drove under, “Les Pyramides”, a set of “fairy chimneys” rather like those we saw in Cappadocia in Turkey. We have only driven 50 or so miles, but we are now in the French speaking part of Switzerland, and everything is different – much more informal, less regimented, and I can understand some of the language!

MSF 1070

Fri 1st July - Evoline, Switzerland

Woke up late, and had a lazy morning, including a spot of shopping in Evoline. There's a lovely little grocery shop, seemingly staffed only by people in their 70's, still using an old fashioned till. A small boy came in to buy just two apricots, and the benign looking old gentleman serving beamed, and refused to take any money for them. I remember as a boy growing up in Hastings greengrocers would do the same with apples for children, but I bet they don't these days – everyone is too scared of being suspected of being a paedophile! The gutter press has a lot to answer for!

There is a real chair lift here – we had thought that these had all been replaced by much more boring cable cars or cabin cars. We love going on chair lifts, quietly sweeping over the pastures and trees. This one cost CHF 12 each, return, and went a surprisingly long way. Each way was over 15 minutes. It was bitterly cold at the top, and the walking was fairly uninteresting, so we didn't stay there long.

Sat 2nd July – Le Fouly, Switzerland

Time to move on, another 60 miles or so to within a cat's whisker (4 Km) of the French and Italian border, close to the St Bernard's Pass. The camp site at Le Fouly is the best yet – large, spacious, fantastic views, and right below the ???? glacier. Internet costs CHF 3 per hour, but I noticed there is free wifi at a bar in the village nearby. The ACSI discount ends on Sunday, and we got 2 nights at €15 pn, plus tax, Excellent walking from the site, AND there's another chairlift!

MSF 1132

Sun 3rd July – Le Fouly, Switzerland

A bitterly cold night – but we are above 5000 foot with a glacier only ½ mile away. Another glorious day, with a very hot sun and a cold wind – very confusing! A 10 minute trip on the chairlift, and a steep walk up towards where edelweiss is to be found – it is being studied because there are concerns about its long term future. The path got steeper, and more scary, and we decided to stop there. We sat on the grass, admiring the view, and drinking water, then Rosemary said “what's that by your foot?”. Edelweiss! And looking some more, we could see lots of it! Quite an unprepossessing little flower, quite disappointing in fact! Not sure it was worth the 500 meter climb from the top of the chairlift.

Later, on the same walk, we came across a field of sheep. (I say “field”, actually it was the edge of the mountainside!). Funny, I thought, that sheep looks like a dog! And indeed it was. A guard dog left loose with the sheep to protect them from predators and stray dogs That explained the notice in French that I didn't fully understand.

Mon 4th July – Le Fouly, Switzerland

To finish the last of our Swiss francs, I purchased an hour's Internet. No new emails other than junk, but it was good to read the Guardian. Returning our numbered marker, I remarked to the young lady who seems to be there all day every day, and speaks perfect English, Dutch (according to a Dutch couple we met) and German and French, that in 40 years camping this was probably the best site we'd ever stayed at.

Leaving the site, we took the road back to Martigny, then into France, Chamonix, Sallanches (where topped up the larder at a hypermarche, at French not Swiss prices), Megeve, and Flumet. At Flumet we took the D218, a narrow windy road, to Beaufort. Going through Beaufort, which seemed a very pleasant French town, and headed up into the mountains beyond. However, the road got even steeper, narrower, and hairpin bends got sharper, and being 5 pm, a lot of traffic. This was just TOO hairy, and we turned round, and found the municipal site at Beaufort. Although this was only 100 miles, it was 100  miles of full concentration, and many hairpin bends, and I'm exhausted! GPS N 45.72171  - E 6.56472

MSF 1233

Tues 5th July - Beaufort France

The site has a washing machine – so we caught up on our laundry before going off to investigate the town. A pleasant little town, but not a vast amount to see. There was a wide range of cafes and restaurants, and we took the “menu a €15” at a Logis de France in the Place de l'eglise. And the food was excellent. Recommended!

Whilst sitting under the umbrellas outside the restaurant (we were there an hour and a half) we noticed an old & dilapidated building opposite, marked in faded paint “Gendarmerie Imperiale”. We asked how long since it had been a gendarmerie (I had to work hard at my French to ask that!), and told “Napoleon III”. He was deposed in 1870, and apart from a new roof, it doesn't look as if the building has been touched since.

We walked back into town in the evening, to find a bar with wifi (pronounced “weefee”). The Guardian website is reporting that the News of the World, already embroiled in a scandal about hacking into mobile phone messages, had hacked into the mobile phone of Milly Dowler, a girl later found murdered, and had deleted messages.  What an odious bunch of shits News International is, part of the Murdoch empire of slime!

Wed 6th July - Le Petit Bornard France

Left Beaufort by 0900, and followed the twisty route back via the Col de Saisies (awfully touristy!) Flumet, and on to La Clusaz. Here we attempted to find an aire at Les Confins, but it's no longer there. Instead, moved on to a small municipal site at Le Petit Bornard. The site is lovely, well cared for, exquisitely clean facilities, but there isn't much to the village, and there isn't much in the way of walking from the site either. Cost €12 pn, inc showers. Electricity, only 2 amps, for another few Euros, so we didn't bother.

MSF 1280

Thurs 7th July - Jeurre

There isn't anywhere to empty the loo, so we shall just have to be careful for a while! (But we are in France, after all!). We decided we are not too impressed with the French Alps (probably because we have been spoilt with the Swiss Alps, and especially the Le Fouly site). It seems every pass and col has to have a bouncy castle, and other “amusements”, which completely wrecks the ambience So we are moving on to the Jura, a much older set of mountains than the Alps

We had in mind an aire at St Claude, and we took the rout through Annecy, Bellegarde, the spectacularly pretty D991, before joining the main road to St Claude at Mijoux. Mijoux has an interesting little bridge, which apparently was the  demarcation line between occupied and free France (and only a few miles from neutral Switzerland.) . A memorial on the bridge records a local couple helping a British agent, “Michel Hollard”, head of AGIR, across the line. Further on, we passed an ENORMOUS wooden bicycle erected beside the road!

St Claude proved to be a busy industrial town, and the aire didn't exist, so we carried on another 10 miles or so to Jeurre. The aire here is superb, but does cost €5, electricity €2 and water & emptying another €2. The village appears to have no shops or centre whatsoever.

MSF 1375

Fri 8th July - Les Russes France

We retraced our steps past St Claude, then turned left to Les Russes, a village only a mile from the Swiss border. Here there is a another superb aire, free in summer, but fresh water costs €4. Looked for, but failed to find, a wifi cafe. Pity, as we want to catch up on the UK news. The News of the World newspaper, a Murdoch rag, is closing after 168 years because of the phone hacking scandal – it won't be missed! But I'm keen to read the editorials and comment on the affair.

In he afternoon we walked into Switzerland – just like that! Went in via a border crossing, and came  out by a footpath – apart from a stone marking the border, dated 1866, you'd never know you'd changed countries!

MSF 1406

Sat 9th July - Nozeroy France

An early start, we made our way to Champagnole. A huge and busy market was under way, but the town seemed quite characterless, so after an hour or so we moved on. We did see a clock tower they called “Big Ben”, and nearby was on old red British telephone box, and a London taxicab, but that was about it. We were heading for St Pont Lac, but took a small detour to se Nozeroy, a small town of noted character. And characterful it certainly is, rather like Winchelsea in Sussex. And more, it has an aire that isn't in any of our books, €6 pn inc 2 amps of electricity, which is where we spent the night. The town seems completely unspoilt by anything garish. NB the bar in the main square has free wifi

MSF 1441

Sun 10th July - Salines-Les-Bains & Poligny

After another stroll around town, and dropping an envelope off at the mairie containing €6 for the aire, we departed for Salines-Les-Bains. Here we found a “font bleu” to empty the waste and refill the water tank, and moved on to the old salt workings (from which the town gets its name). They have produced salt here since the 12th century, until 1962. We were just in time to get a an English speaking tour, which lasted about an hour. And well worth the visit. Brine is pumped up from quite a deep level, at a concentration higher than the Dead Sea. The water content used to be boiled off, leaving the salt crystals. Nowadays they just spray it on the road to clear the ice.

About 4 pm we moved on to a car park at Arbois, a few miles away, to spend the night in a recognised overnighting spot. Arbois is where Pasteur lived and did his research, and they are obviously (and reasonably) very proud of him. On our return to the car park, it seemed that a fairground was about to be established on the site – so time to move on again. This time a few more miles to Poligny.

We failed to find the aire at Poligny, and ended up in a car park opposite a hospital. One lucky chap had 2 women and a bottle of something to himself in the park behind us. It sounded like they enjoyed themselves!

MSF 1488

Mon 11th July - Coravillers France

Drove back past Arbois & Salines to Besancon, where we failed to find the hypermarche we were looking for, then on to Vesoul, where we did find a Cora hypermarche, and on up the E23 to Luxeil-le-Bains. Here we turned right along the D6 into The Vosges. As we passed Corravillers we saw a sign to an aire de camping car. This wasn't in any of our books, so went to investigate. A lovely little 2 berth aire beside the mairie, in this tiny village. Free, but no emptying facilities, and water costs $2 (which includes 20 minutes of electricity).

There is an auberge not far away, and we picked up an open wifi there

MSF 1594

Tues 12th July - Charmes France

An early start as we wanted to get to the aire at Charmes before lunch. For part of the journey we took a small road beside the Moselle, looking for suitable wild camping spots – and there were none!

As we reached the aire at Charmes, we realised we had been there before. The aire is beautiful – beside the Canal de Vosges, grass is beautifully mown, electricity is included and it is a short walk into town. Cost €6 pn. However Charmes, despite its name, is not at all charming. Mostly modern, with lots of traffic noise. (We suspect it was badly knocked about in the war, as there are some old town walls.) We were keen to eat out, as we are nearly home, but there were only 2 restaurants to choose from. We chose the Hotel Dancourt, a Logis de France, for their €15 menu du jour. This included a compote de lapin (or pressed rabbit). We chose this despite there being a pet rabbit hopping about our feet, on the terrace. The same hotel has an open wifi connection, which is still available on the park benches in front of the hotel, so I could catch up on the latest in the Murdoch/News International phone hacking scandal. What an odious piece of shit he is – I shall have a few drinks to celebrate when he pops his clogs, I can tell you!

MSF 1641

Wed 13th July - Montherme France

Heavy rain overnight, and awoke to half inch of standing water on the grass. Despite concerns, we got off with no problem. A long drive today, but we kept the speed down to 50-56 mph, both for economy, and as a much more relaxing style of driving. Sally Satnav took us through Nancy, Metz, Luxembourg, Belgium, through small roads in the Ardennes, then finally popping back into France to Montherme, on the R Meuse. The Ardennes are seriously lovely, rolling hills covered in broad leafed trees. Surprisingly (to us) the Belgian part was much tidier, neater and generally more cared for than the French side.

The aire at Montherme is large tarmacked area beside the Meuse bridge, with a nice view across the river to the town, although it seems the old part of the town is on this side of the river. Tomorrow is Bastille Day, when France seems to close down. We discovered that celebrations are due to start tonight, with a torch lit procession, firework display, and dancing, based on the square behind the aire and starting at 11pm. Could be a noisy night!

Later: the evening reminded me of Guy Fawkes celebrations in England when I was a boy (outside of the East Sussex “Bonfire Towns”), a small torch lit procession, firework display, and lots of small boys throwing fireworks, mostly bangers (now banned in the UK). The dancing wasn't loud, and didn't go on too late.

MSF 1825

Thurs 14th July (Bastille Day) - Bruges Belgium

I have to say the storming of the Bastille, a low grade prison manned by a few old soldiers, seems a strange thing to celebrate, especially when you consider the horrors of the revolution that followed! Everything except boulangeries and large hypermarches were closed, and lorries over 7.5 tonnes prohibited from entering France. On the good side, we had a long drive north to Bruges, and the French roads were completely deserted – it's an eerie feeling being the only vehicle on a long straight dual carriageway in the middle of the morning!

First we went to the HUGE Auchun hypermarche at Lille. The first challenge was getting into the car park, which is defended by robust height barriers. Eventually we found an entrance where you could ring the bell, and the barrier (which would stop a tank!) slid back to allow entrance. (and the same procedure when leaving.) Then we found what the French do on Bastille Day – they go shopping!

Our son's girlfriend's mother and stepfather live in Bruges, and we spent the night in their drive, after a very convivial evening.

MSF 2010

Fri 15th July – Ferry home

As we were about to depart, Lorraine noticed we had a flat tyre. Just what we needed! However our tyre inflator soon had it back up again – I can thoroughly recommend the Ring professional inflators – just the thing for large tyres (we have burnt out 3 of the cheaper inflators designe3d for cars).

There were long queues to get through passport control, but we made it to the port in time for the ferry. An uneventful crossing, and the usual battle round the M25, and we were home by 7.30. A letter on the mat told me that, because I had missed a hospital appointment, they were striking me off the list. Only later, working through the backlog of letters, did I find a letter giving me the appointment. It seems pretty bizarre to make an appointment without requiring confirmation. I shall be writing some letters!

Overall mileage 2260 – our shortest trip for a long time.

 

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www.pippins.me.uk                                              Page Last updated:  25 July 2011