Sunday, 13 October 2019

Taos, Los Alamos and . . . Winslow Arizona

Taos Pueblo
Taos, rhymes with ‘house’, is set on a glorious high desert plateau with a backdrop of pine forested mountains. It is steeped in history but the modern town dates from the 1630s. The town has an over abundance of high-class art galleries and when we visited there was a wool festival taking place that we ended up mooching through.

Taos Valley RV park is on the pricey end of the scale and we only scored an ‘overflow’ spot as we had no reservation. The two other RV parks looked like places to avoid at all cost. 

I did some overdue washing using the big US washing machines – all speed and no effectiveness - I pulled out items that managed to have patches of dry remaining on them. The clothes dryers are something else though – items too hot to hold and all done in 45 mins.

Taos Pueblo was a few miles north of Taos itself and is the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the US. The day was brilliant sunshine as usual and the ochre adobe structures with their turquoise woodwork, some resembling apartment blocks, stood out in stark relief against the sapphire sky. Little pizza oven things were dotted around and to satisfy my curiosity I ordered a blue corn fry-bread. It was sprinkled with cinnamon and icing sugar and looked a bit like an oily chapati – curiosity satisfied, I didn’t order any more.

St Francis of Assisi church, a landmark in Taos

Bandalier National Monument
Climbing up to see where the Pubeloan people lived, I didn't like this bit
Things in the cab don’t always go smoothly and my intentions didn’t co-incide with the driver’s understanding, therefore we ended up in Bandalier National monument. A serendipitous outcome as it had a lovely campground set among the junipers. 

Each campsite had all the usual equipment plus a large bear-bin, I don’t know about the bear but I certainly couldn’t open it. 

We trekked downhill 1.5 miles to the visitor centre getting a fabulous view of the ancient ruins on the way. A shuttle service delivered us back to our camp at the end of the day. 

Groves (left) and Oppenheimer,
the main drivers behind the creation of Los Alamos
Bandalier National monument (a national park) is on the doorstep of Los Alamos town. More swearing in the cab before we finally parked the oversize gaudy beast. We had to go through ‘checkpoint Charlie’ who made us turn around and detour around the LABORATORY.

Los Alamos was created specifically to engineer an atom bomb to end WWII. The location was out of range of enemy bombers and set on a high defensible plateau. A collaboration of US, UK and Canadian scientists with quite a few Jewish scientists fleeing Europe joined the Manhattan Project. Within two years the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima (‘Little Boy’) and Nagasaki (‘Fat Man’) had been created and deployed. 

Los Alamos was a ‘town that never was’, at the time officials denied its existence and access was a dirt road from Santa Fe. Eventually there was a rough road made of chip and seal to replace the dirt road. The ranger told us the chip and seal is not like roads the US has today - sorry to say that is still what NZ roads are made of.

Stuart looking at full size replica of "Little Boy" named after Eisenhower with
 'Fat Man' replica (Churchill) in the background)
We visited history and science museums and the house where the head scientist lived, it had a bath unlike most of the other accommodations which were allocated according to employee importance. 

Today the town looks decidedly bland but was decked out in brilliant autumn yellows glowing against a blue sky. We had to show passports to take the road out of town and on our way glanced across at the installation that gets $US2 billion a year to research and develop nuclear weapons. Food for thought indeed.

We are swinging back in the direction of Las Vegas taking in a few State parks with bits of Route 66 thrown in. We struck a bad patch of campgrounds either being full or unsuitable and with the day growing darker Wikicamps suggested the Walmart carpark which welcomes RVers parking overnight.

So - I didn't get to be "standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona, such a fine sight to see..." but I did get to stay overnight in the Winslow Walmart and we made use of their excellent restrooms the next morning. We were not the only ones though, there were 8 other campervans plus a couple of trucks thrown in.

Adios mes amigos, after we return the truck we have a weeks siesta in Noosa, somewhat more familiar ground, before returning home.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Ancestoral Puebloans and New Mexico

Pueblo houses under the lip of the mesa, Mesa Verde

South West America has been home to Native Americans for about 12,000 years, and we visited some places that had been home to their descendants. Mesa Verde is a ‘must-see’ if you are in the area with a great museum, visitor centre and lots of well-preserved cliff dwellings. These sites don’t date back 12,000 years – more like 1500 years ago.

We set off burning more fossil fuel at 8mpg to Mesa Verde National Park. We pre-booked tickets in Durango for a couple of ranger-led tours to see the remains of the buildings created by the Ancestral Puebloans.
On the way we called into the sorry monument erected at the “Four Corners” where Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado states meet. It was wind-swept, tatty, and unkempt. Nevertheless we paid the money and I had my photo taken with a limb in each state.

Mesa Verde is the huge ‘green table’ of a mountain where the Ancestral Puebloans (previously called Anasazi) lived. These people eventually migrated away from the area and are ancestors of the Hopi. The Navajo are relative late-comers to the area and now form the majority of the population of the “Four Corners”.

Mesa Verde is huge and with speed restrictions it took a long time to get from one part to another. We hiked with rangers below the lip of the mesa and walked through the remains of houses and meeting areas being careful not to touch anything. To get between levels we had to climb on reconstructions of old ladders and I was glad we didn’t have to use the hand and toe holds that remained in the cliff edges from the original inhabitants. The rangers each had a unique delivery of their story including strong conservation messages, humour was doled out in spades. We stayed a couple of nights in the park campground and missed seeing the black bear that our camper-neighbour spotted.

Monument Valley
Remember when Forrest Gump stopped running? It was in Monument Valley.  I joined the people playing chicken in the middle of the road to take the iconic photo before we drove toward those massive mesas to check in at the campsite overlooking the valley. Here we met the dragon to end all camp dragons.

“Question?” was her opening line without bothering to looking up. “Answer” said Stuart (who always accuses me of antagonising these people). After we said we wanted to stay at one of her windblown, hot, dusty, hugely overpriced sites she replied with “no this, no that, no the-other, no nothings you get for your money”. OK, we’ll take it.  

We also took an over-priced jeep tour in the canyon between the mesas as RVs are not allowed on the scenic route. The jeep was open-sided and our guide tried hard to ensure she kept on the tail of the vehicle ahead so we had maximum dust exposure, she pointed out bits of rock we might find interesting ‘can you see the rabbit? How about the shoe?’

That night the RV shook against the wind and dust swirled around, but all credit to Stuart, he battled out with his tripod and little torch taking astro-shots of the mesas with the milky way lighting the background.

Goosenecks State Park - a camp for a night

Stuart 'off-piste" in Canyon de Chelly
Petrol in the Navajo reservations is cheaper than other places so Stuart ensured we had our fill before we set off eastwards. I fiddled continually with the radio pulling in Christian, C&W, Mexican and everything in-between, the RV doesn’t run to any USB input on the ‘entertainment system’.

A bit of a haul to Canyon de Chelly National Monument where we hiked into the canyon to see some more Puebloan ruins. It was another blue sky day and the campsite among the cottonwoods was a lovely place to spend the night. A Texan neighbour came over to add his 2 cents worth when he saw all our maps spread out and recommended we head toward Abiquiu. We plotted a zig-zag journey and opened an excellent Californian chardonnay to off-set the low-key dinner.

Travelling 500km on the wide well paved back roads was quick and painless before we pulled into a campsite on the shores of Lake Abiquiu ready to explore Georgia O’keefe country (famous SW America artist).

We were greeted by our host Ken, who made us very welcome and we settled into a well-priced site complete with all the usual – own firepit, hooded bbq, huge picnic table and bench with its own shelter. The downside was Ken pointing out the site was ‘alcohol-free’. We had to play ‘secret-squirrel’ with the booze.

Georgia O’keefe is big in this part of the world and we visited some of the places that she painted, the colours and light in this area near Santa Fe are an artists dream. At night I could hear coyotes yipping and howling and I saw one cross our path the next day, but he didn't hang around. 

Taos is the furthest east we will be travelling and then we turn and head back towards Las Vegas, but that will take several days driving, so Taos here we come (remnants of an R. Dean Taylor song are playing in my head "I'm serving time in Taos New Mexico".......).

Adios amigos.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Rocky Mountain High, Colorado

Arches National Park
Arches National Park is one of the most popular in the US, after seeing the queues of cars waiting to enter the park we decided to get there early the following day. In the meantime we would continue the shoe search in Moab, have a dinner out and stay in a camp ground. Moab is tagged as being a cool destination, not bad compared with where we had visited so far, and after shoes were bagged we watched the homecoming parade; well actually the road was blocked so we had no choice.

The Moab campground beside the dusty highway, cost $NZ120 for night and we were shoe-horned in between some big rigs. It looked as if nothing had been spent on improvements in 45 years. The restaurant next door had an unpromising appearance but after we were shown to a table outside on the patio we found the food was excellent, a great choice of craft beer, and one of those bands whose songs all sound the same.
Mesa Arch, Canyonlands

Arches NP, followed by Canyonlands had some impressive arch and canyon formations. The geology is lost on me, but let’s just say ‘erosion’ covers a lot of explanation. We stayed in the area for a couple of nights at a Bureau of Land Management camp (BLM = DoC) set high on a saltbush plateau.

Mesas, table-like hills abound in this area as do buttes that are similar but narrower than mesas.

A Pueblo granary tucked under the rim of a mesa.
Had to climb the mesa to get the shot
A cortado is the US equivalent in this area of a flat white without the latte art. We said goodbye to Moab with a cortado apiece inside us and an ‘O’ ring for the waste pipe that had left a drippy trail behind us. (Just shower water). Colorado, a change from the dry dusty desert, lay ahead as we hit the road east. It is like travelling between different countries, the rockies in Colorado are high altitude with plentiful vegetation.

San Juan Highway
The San Juan Highway is strung out over 200 miles through a series of Wild West towns. Telluride, Ouray, Silverton, Durango. Telluride is a base for wealthy winter holiday-makers with shops to cater appropriately, and on the other end of the scale is Silverton, a former silver mining town which offers endless shops of cheesy tat from the only paved street.  All the broad side streets were dirt roads with ATVs driving through.

The highway between these towns climbs up to over 11,000 ft with autumn colours a riot of burning yellow splashed among the evergreens. The craggy mountains lining the highway glow richly red, tenacious pines cling to their sides.

Ouray, delightful little town

Wild West Silverton

The temperature at these high altitudes is much lower at night, we had been given a new red sleeping bag by a fellow camper, Walmart brand  – but it opens out to makes a cozy, if slippery, extra quilt on the bed. The propane powered fridge does not like the high altitude, especially as the tank is getting low. It keeps trying to light itself making disconcerting clicking noises.

I love the rocky mountain campsites, the downside is fellow campers starting up their generators, and filling our truck with smoke from their traditional campfires.  

Patriotism is alive and growing in the areas we are travelling in. Stars and stripes fly from camper wagons and one neighbour even had a flag on their picnic table.

Patriotic campers
The highlight of this last week was the moose that nonchalantly sauntered through our campsite, past the front of our truck while I was cooking dinner. It was huge with enormous dish shaped antlers. Our Oklahoman neighbours were as excited as us. Elk and deer are commonplace but moose are rarer in this area. There are warnings about bears but luckily none have crossed our path. 

We are off to improve our cultural intelligence, setting off towards National Parks that are dedicated to preserving the archeological heritage of the Pueblo people.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Yoo-tah, Utah - the desert lands

Twenty years have passed since we last visited Las Vegas, I must have changed and certainly aged as the glitz and glam had faded for me. After a fruitless shopping journey to outfit our feet we had some shut eye in a hotel bereft of my most important need - something to make a cuppa with. I had the teabags and even some sachets of a dreadful product called “creamer”, but no cuppa for Jane and no energy to traipse miles through the hotel to find one. 

I did however gamble my allowance of $US1 on a slot machine, pocketed $US16 and walked. Stuart lost his dollar, so $14.00 up.
Our helpful uber-lady dropped me off at Walmart while Stuart did the business with the RV rental company. I had hardly started to wade through a difficult grocery shop, discarding products that looked unsuitable for
normal consumption, when himself appeared at my side. Stuart was given his own list of goods to procure and set off with his own trolley.

The gaudy beast was waiting outside in the heat and glare. Cruise America had us given a labrador puppy to mind. Gaudy on the outside and grimly brown on the inside. A very serviceable colour is brown and the manufacturers had no intention of updating their design  over the past decades. It also has only 2 windows which together with the wilful brown curtains that refuse to remain open makes the interior  gloomy. It is built with no thought for weight-saving, in fact the mattress can barely be lifted. Never mind, they said “just shove a v8, 7 litre engine under the bonnet and that should move the beast along". Ten miles to the gallon if the going is good.

Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon NP
The trip to our pre booked camp in Zion National Park went very smoothly, so smoothly that I was able to unpack clothes and organise the groceries while Stuart drove. We arrived in the dark and I checked in with the kamp kommandant the next morning, phew - I only wanted to show her my reservation. She wasn’t having a bar of me, loudly telling her husband to ignore me as I was ‘just a walk up’. I had to persist before I was given an official tag for our site.

Zion has a wonderful shuttle service which eliminates private vehicles from the park, we joined more people than we would have liked  on a non too peaceful riverside walk. Still the grandeur can’t be denied.

We bought an annual pass for the National Parks and were disappointed at either being too early or too late to present our credentials at the entrance booths of the string of parks we visited.

The tunnel that exits Zion towards Bryce National Park is too narrow for RVs so we had to buy a permit for the rangers to close one lane so we could drive down the middle. As it turned out, it seemed as if they permanently operate a one way system. 
Bryce Canyon has rows of brick red hoodoos that glow with a light of their own. They form amphitheatres and the area was described by Ebenezer Bryce as “a helluva place to loose a cow”. You can walk the rim trail looking down on the hoodoos or descend into the canyon for a close-up view. 
More hoodoos

But yet more NPs were on the list.

We scored the nearly impossible goal of getting a camp site in Capitol Reef NP at Fruita, a former Mormon settlement. The camp was surrounded by orchards, and apples and pears were ripe for picking. A family of mule deer with their over-size ears grazed, their teeth aren’t designed for apples and I hoped they wouldn’t choke as they rolled the apples on their  tongues.

Mormon barn at Fruita, Capitol Reef NP

Mule deer in orchard

Stu picking apples

We both had persistent colds so decided to have some rest in a couple of state parks, with gentle hikes thrown in for good measure. Coral Sands State park is a magnet for ATV fans, and like the RVs that towed them, they were big – bigger than my car anyhow. 

The park has very fine coral pink sand that forms dunes and beautiful desert flowering plants were in bloom. The camp host, with his ATVs, full set of BBQs, huge RV, stars and
stripes flag etc on display showed us a nice canyon for walking in.

Kodachrome State park
Kodachrome State park, wish I could forget that Paul Simon song, was stunning with 5 star bathrooms. There was one anatomically accurate natural rock formation that had campers pointing and shaking their heads, but the park is aptly named with red and white rock, blue sky and yellow flowers. My favourite so far.

We are still in Utah but not done yet with deserts and rocks, we are travelling  on the lightly trafficked roads,wishing NZ roads could receive the same quality and quantity of road  surface. Blue skies, yellow roadside flowers and red rocky hills. Adios for now.

Indian Paintbrush plant

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Moseying along the Moselle and heading for Blighty

The Moselle changes its name to the Mosel when it crosses into Germany, a sinuous snake of a river that confuses our sense of direction as it twists and turns. The steep hillsides are raked with vines, planted in cross-hatch patterns amongst rocks and shale. The slopes are so steep that crampons would be useful for the vineyard workers. There is help for the viticulturalist however, small monorail systems that stretch up from the riverside for transporting grapes and supplies up and down the slopes.
The river route between Trier and Koblenz is lined with ‘stellplatz’ that cost about $16 a night, usually with a water view and sometimes with wifi and electric. Stellplatz means ‘stopping place’ and they are nearly always close enough to a village for fresh bread or coffee/beer. The Mosel river is an ever changing scene of barges and pleasure craft, the villages are of course immaculate, not OTT with geraniums and twee, and with a distinct Germanic flavour.

The town of Zell
About midway in our journey we back-tracked to a stellplatz attached to a restaurant/winery/bakery and plugged in for the night. The English people in their big new luxury motorhome parked next to our dusty small rental job recommended the restaurant, so we got changed and had – you guessed it – schnitzel von krumb. I had bought a new dress that afternoon but didn’t wear it as I saw ‘her next-door’ wearing the identical dress as she walked toward the restaurant. It was just as well we had back-tracked as Stuart decided the boots he bought were the wrong size so we swapped them on our way back.   
Eltz castle
To reach Eltz castle, we had to detour out of the valley and up onto a plateau covered with fields of wheat that rustled and swayed in the breeze. 
The castle is a dead ringer for a Disney castle, I guess they copied it off TV. It is a bit of a Tardis in reverse as they often are – huge on the outside but only a small part is open to view. Still good to have been there.
After our tour we left the beautiful park like setting and descended back into the valley before heading to Koblenz.

Stuart at the confluence of Rhine/Mosel
The final stop on the Mosel experience was a very expensive campground in Koblenz, no special amenities but it sits at the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine rivers. Jutting out into the confluence on a triangular piece of land is a monument to beat all monuments commemorating Germany’s last emperor – Kaiser Wilhelm II. Kaiser Bill is massive as is his horse, the pediment underneath it dwarfs people as they climb to get the full experience. The ‘prow’ of this piece of land is something like being on the bow of a huge ship, people were taking selfies in ‘Titanic’ poses. A small ferry takes us from the campsite to the town opposite and Kaiser Bill stares down on the ferry and across to our wohnmobile (as the Germans call it) parked in the camp opposite. Koblenz is abuzz with river traffic separating under Bill’s eye to go up either the Mosel or Rhine; a gondola is in perpetual motion overhead and streams of trains and cars run alongside the river. All this motion!

I miss the French polite greetings and farewells and the elegant language – a menu in German is not nearly as enticing as a menu in French, but there is something interesting in the sound of ‘puddingplunder’. The currywurst I had for lunch was not quite the wurst choice of streetfood I have ever made but I won’t be repeating it.

It is auf wiedersein to Germany as we start the trek back to Calais where we have an early morning rendezvous with a ferry for the trip back to Blighty. Belgium did not exactly beckon but whichever way we turned the map it seemed inevitable. There was muttering about cheap diesel in Luxembourg but it seemed counter-productive to travel extra to get it. 

Sunday is a great day to travel on the toll-free motorways in Germany and Belgium, all the trucks are squeezed into laybys and service areas to sit out Sunday in the scorching heat.

Our meals are becoming a bit creative now as I try to use the supplies up, and the treats cupboard is emptying quickly. The last leg of the journey is a bit of pick-n-mix as we make our way across Northern France. Will the detergent and toilet paper last?
I am looking forward to coming home, nothing like home is there? People spot the GB identity on our registration plate and assume we are from England – we quickly put them right. Older people think we have travelled from the end of the earth (we have) and younger people fall into paroxysms of delight. “Wow! I want to go there, it is the best place” they say. The promotions must be working.

We have a few weeks in England, one in Suffolk re-visiting the area we lived in 40 years ago then three ‘L’s’ – Ledbury, Liverpool, London. We drop off the camper at another L – Luton, and pick up a rental car to see us through the final weeks.
London is the venue for Stuart’s birthday – maybe a West End show. So it is au revoir from her, and auf weidersein from him.  Bonne chance and catch ya later.

Chateau in Belgium next to our camping spot

Monday, 9 July 2018

Verdun, Luxembourg and the Three Frontiers

Moving right along from the magic of Metz we drove across the rolling Lorraine countryside, all wheat-fields, corn and sunflowers to the WW I battlefields of Verdun. In 1916 the longest battle of WW I raged in Verdun, the town’s name is synonymous with wartime slaughter. The town was never actually taken but it was nearly destroyed along with 9 villages that surround it. 

Close to a million soldiers alone died in the area.We chose to visit a couple of forts, the Ossuary and the war memorial of Verdun near the destroyed village of Fleury. We lined up the “Just Go’ with the other motorhomes in what looked like the bus park and passed a modern French army tank on our way to the entrance of the memorial.
Verdun war memorial - view from the top of the tank

The young soldiers in charge of the tank invited us to have a look and suggested I sit in the gunner’s seat. Initially I didn’t think I would be able to fit down the narrow entrance or get out again, it was very ‘enclosed’ and the only view was through some high-resolution periscopes. A similar seat for the driver is accessed on the other side of the tank, I couldn’t see where the third member of the team sat. I managed to get out with some dignity.

inside the tank

The war memorial is a modern three-storey building with re-creations of the battlefields and it holds a lot of personal items belonging to soldiers who fought in the war. I pulled open a display drawer to see a very large red, white and black kerchief which was issued as part of the French soldiers’ uniform. It performed a dual purpose of clothing and training manual. The kerchief could be used as necessary for a bandage/sling/scarf/towel …. but the other use was a training manual. There were 13 kerchief designs printed, the one I viewed showed among other things, how to dismantle the army-issue gun. As most of the French soldiers were recruited from rural areas the pictures helped those that could not read.

Destroyed village of Fleury -
white marker posts where houses used to be
After enough of the memorial we walked about 200 metres to the remains of the little village of Fleury. All around us were huge shell holes; after 100 years grass had smoothed their edges, the contours of the ground reminded me of a giant egg carton. An unusual silence hung around the trees that had been planted amongst the white wooden upright posts that denoted where the butcher/baker/school had been.

Ossuary and a French military cemetery

A short distance away was an ossuary where the bones of 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers are kept. 

The ossuary rose like a giant white sword from the ground, standing 130 metres high. Each stone in the monument is engraved with the name of a missing soldier. Outside are row upon row of small perfect white crosses on the graves of French soldiers.

Let’s go to Luxembourg – it was my idea and seconded by Stuart who was tempted by the cheapest diesel prices in Europe. We didn’t see a lot of Luxembourg but immediately we crossed the border we were faced with lines of trucks, 2 abreast, stretching beyond my range of sight. They were blocking roundabouts and traffic was at a standstill. There was every brand of fuel on offer and the trucks were waiting their turn to fill up on the cheap stuff. We managed to get in and get a tankful as the trucks can’t use the smaller pumps.  

A rainy day in Luxembourg city

The following day we went by rail to Luxembourg city. It was the first day in weeks that it rained – more like drizzle really but still enough to dull the sights of the lovely little city. We both felt very scruffy compared with the young chic set that moved between the pale, clean classical buildings. 

Rainy day in Luxembourg city

The city is built on the sides of two gorges and there is a lift to move you between the high town and the picturesque low town.  After our fill of walking around the ramparts in the drizzle we (I) drifted into Zara and bought some clothes that are identical to ones I already have.

Enough already, we tightened the hatches and set off the short distance back to Thionville in France. The municipal camp was well placed with an easy walking distance to town and beside the Moselle river.  I have had some tussles with the commandants who man the reception at municipal camps and was daunted to see that this one was wearing khaki camo shirt and matching pants, sturdy boots completed the ensemble. She was certainly dressed for battle, but pas de probleme –  the nicest camp lady I have come across.

View from the campsite at Sierck-les-Bains.
Sierck-les-Bains was a top place for a spot of chillout beside the Moselle river. It is on the 'Three Frontiers' - we could smell the schnitzels cooking in Germany, wafts of cheap diesel were drifting in from Luxembourg and the aromas of fresh baguettes and Camembert completed the scene as technically we were still on French soil. 

The French lunch reigns as we found when we arrived 10 mins after the midday cut off time at the campsite. We cooled our heels for 3 hours until camp-mother let us approach the desk. Forms and documents were signed and we were given the code to approach the front gate. Only one person at a time is allowed to complete a form and it is forbidden to be on the camp without completed forms.

Sierck had a food festival one evening and we walked along the river to join in the fun and taste some wonderful food, but all good things roll into more good things and we are pressing on into Deutschland to follow the Moselle as it wends its way past picturesque villages.    

Vending machine dispensing hot baguettes

Monday, 2 July 2018

Rolling through the Routes des Vins and magical Metz

Pretty town of Ortans

Eastern France has a lot to offer, mountains, great scenery and pretty villages. Our mode of travel is to avoid the large roads if possible and choose routes through the small towns and  countryside.

The area of Alsace is very close to the border of Germany and has been passed back and forth between the two countries as a result of wars. Many of the towns have Germanic names and architecture. The cuisine and culture has Germanic roots as well, with sauerkraut, sausage, bretzels, and bundt cake on offer.

Thann is the start of the routes des vins in Alsace, a pretty town with an aire for motorhomes. We parked under some shady trees while we checked out the impressive church, decorated streets and had a general toot around the river and environs.  When we returned to the truck it was covered in yellow tree droppings – small flowers that were trapped in the concertina insect screens, on the roof, in the air vents and generally gathering in drifts all over the truck. It took a bit of effort to rid ourselves of the yellow peril.

The route goes through Alsace villages dedicated to producing wine.  Some are working villages with no sign of life at all, everybody at work in nearby towns. They are immaculate but ghost like. The only signs of life, the occasional vintner driving a tiny narrow tractor designed for working between the rows of vines, or trucks delivering wine bottles. There are grapes growing up and down the hillsides, sylvaner, pinot blanc, riesling, muscat d’Alscace, pinot gris and gerwurtzraminer plus pinot noir – so white wine is the favoured drop here.

On the flip side, villages that had become tourist destinations are bedecked with geraniums and gingerbread-house shopfronts displaying revolving stands of fluffy acrylic red and white storks – so much so I was questioning myself if I really should be stocking up on them.
Black and white storks on chimney tops and nesting perches clattered their bills, fluffy grey babies peered out of the nests – it’s a long way down.

Storks stalked around the camping ground searching for frogs and lizards and I watched what I assume is the male stork bringing building material for the already over-engineered nest while the female is saying ‘we are all starving, we have enough sticks – bring more frogs’.
Eguisheim on the routes des vins was our base for a couple of nights, the municipal camp close to the village was our home. Sixteenth century half-timbered houses are painted in pretty shades of pink, lavender, terracotta …. this is a modern trend started in the 20th century – back in the day they wore sombre colours and the windows were even tinier than they are today.

We hired electric bikes to do a trip through nearby villages, it was my first trial of an e-bike. The bikes powered away on the uphill but boy are they heavy – my one had the world’s worst seat and days later I can still feel the effect. Afterwards we stopped to buy a bottle of aged local pinot gris which helped ease the pain for a while.

bundt moulds used in decorative way
Rolling along we found a tiny campsite in Barr, the large shade trees would provide some respite from the heat which is spreading over France. No sooner had we found the little site than we realised we hadn’t stocked up on essentials and it looked too far to walk in the heat, so we used the old Garmin which is programmed with the locations of my favourite chain of supermarkets to lead the way.  

Instead of using the opportunity to redeem itself, it headed straight for the middle of the ancient town and before we knew it were in a place that motorhomes shouldn’t venture. We squeaked through and before we knew it we were travelling behind an over-sized lawnmower along a road narrower than our driveway. The return trip wasn’t any better, we tried to outsmart both satnavs but ended behind a truck in a place where both a truck and motorhome shouldn’t be. 

Moselle, Metz
Metz (pronounced ‘mess’) is the capital city of the area of Lorraine, which borders Alsace and is where the quiche came from.  I had recommendations to take a look-see at this little gem. It sits astride the confluence of the Moselle and Seille rivers and I certainly can recommend it as worth a visit. Such an elegant city with arched bridges, big spacious areas, lots of greenery and waterways. There are no vehicles in the centre except for slow moving electric buses which makes a peaceful atmosphere. Many towns we have visited have us jumping out of the way of cars. I give it 5 stars. Metz has also undergone historical hand-changing between Germany and France over the years.

The number one tourist attraction is the Centre Pompidou-Metz, a satellite branch of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Its aim is to bring modern art to the masses and there were several exhibitions on when we visited. All a bit strange to us - I am still pondering the trough of blue sand (so maybe the centre is doing its job after all).

I have included some snaps I have taken recently, but I am a lazy photographer, I should be taking photos when the light is right but that is either before my getting-up time or after dinner when again I don’t feel like moving. 

C’est la vie.

Moselle river with swan sculptures

Moselle with origami boats