20th October (Interlaken to Toutnau)
We are in our last week and we are slowly but surely making our way northwest back towards Calais. We are not quite ready for that yet but all good things do have to come to an end. Hopefully it won’t be long before we are out and about again.
Today we are heading towards Germany and a small town called Totdnau which is high in the Black forest. We have been here before, this will be our third stop here, 4th night. It’s a bit like our second home at Totdnau. The main reason is that the have the biggest toboggan run in Germany, the Hasenhorn-rodelbahn which is actually quite something special and something that has to be done when you are in the area.
We leave Interlaken to a slightly cloudy day, low cloud slowly making its way around the mountains. The scenery passing by is spectacular. We love Switzerland, despite its high prices, it is a beautiful place without a doubt.
Soon the sun is shining and we have a very nice run into Germany, eventually, we hit the windy roads of the Black Forest which leads us to Todtnau. We have never been here when the sun is out.
It has always been grey cold and rainy be we like it here, more so now the sun is out. Of course, we make for the toboggan, that goes without saying. It’s a nice short walk from the aire which we are the only ones in. The ski lift ride tot he top was lovely and warm with a great view of Totnau and the valley below. A bit of a wait to get back down but good fun once you are in your car and bombing down the hill on the silver track.
For dinner tonight we are going to track down a typical German restaurant for schnitzel, beer and Jagermeister. Hayley does a bit of research and one is chosen. By 7 pm we are sitting down to big hearty dinner in a nice dark wooden-clad restaurant and loved it. A great dinner, filling but great proceded by a great day.
Bye Bye Switzerland. See you soon.
21st October (Toutnau to Titisee)
On our way south a few weeks ago we made our way to Titisee but the rainy weather forced us to move on to chase the sun. We are trying again as we pass it going back home so today we will see if we have better luck.
Before we leave Todtnau however we will have to partake in the traditional German custom coffee and cake and here in this region is where Black Forest Gatuex comes from and indeed in the town of Totdnau, they do the best. Full of liquor, cream and chocolate. Gateaux is the wrong word. It’s caller “Schwarzwalder tort”
The weather, as usual here has taken a turn. It’s raining. In fact all it seems to do here is rain. We take a short walk and make for the van. After a couple of hours, we leave our spot, fill up with fresh water and make for the town. We do a shop then find the cafe that does the best Schwarzwalder tort .
It does not fail… It is amazing. Del has a BIG Cappucino, Hayley and mint tea. There is silence while we dig into our large “stuck” of Schwarzwalder tort. Delicious. Lots of cherry liqueur and cream with a thin crispy base. We will never get this anywhere else…
Time to move on. Full of cake we are off to Titisee to a 16 euro a night parking place. We park up and Del is not too keen on the place. It’s clean and safe, behind a railway station so not great. It is, however, a good place to leave the van for a few hours and have a walk around the town of Titisee. It’s a popular tourist town and set on Titisee Lake.
Lots of shops selling cuckoo clocks, but loads of them, hundreds, in fact, one shop boast it has 1000 cuckoo clocks… They are all set at different times so that they don’t go off all at once.
It’s a nice enough walk made better with the purchase of some cherry liqueur, the same stuff they put in the Schwarzwalder tort. Well why not. Back at the van, we decide to make for a 20 euro a night campsite called Sandbanks which is right on the river, By now the rain is heavy and constant. Yawn!!!! We choose a pitch with a smashing view of the lake. It’s raining and it’s grey but no matter we are glad and lucky to be here.
Steak and chips tonight with a beer and some Underberg. The natural digestive drink. Fabulous…
22nd October (Titisee to Chalons en Champagne (France)
That’s it for Germany. We are heading west today into France to a place called Toul, We thought…
It’s a cold damp morning but very beautiful, we have a great view of the trees reflecting in the still lake from our terraced pitch. We have a shorter breakfast than usual and service the van with freshwater and off we go, threading through the quaint foggy towns of the black forest. As we make our way north the weather does clear up a little so we decide to drive a little further as the research on the town of Toul revealed that there had been some van break-ins at night there and that’s something we don’t want to end our trip on.
After a couple of hours and a stop for some lunch at a very elegant motorway service station, we are making our way to Camping Chalons – en Champagne which is, at last, within the Champagne region. It’s not a bad place, massive pitches with electricity and water on each pitch. The facilities are a little run-down but they all work and they are clean, just a little tired. Rumour is that the site was owned by the council who have sold it privately and that it will be renovated in due course.
The evenings are getting colder now, much colder. We may have to have the heating on tick over during the night. We are, finally, in the champagne region though.
23rd October (Chalons en Champagne)
We understand that this town or rather city is supposed to worth a look so we have decided to stay here another day. After a very long breakfast, we get the bikes out and cycle into town. On the way into town, we spot something interesting. A pizza vending machine. We didn’t try it but what a fab idea…
It is a nice place, long lanes of shops, lovely parks, a lot of churches and a cathedral. We find the main square and have a quick beer in the sun to discuss lunch options which we finally agree will be here in a local restaurant.
We agree on the eatery and have a fantastic lunch of duck, steak and frites all helped along with a fabulous pichet of the house red. The bike ride back might be interesting…
We have spent a good couple of hours in the town and it was worth it. Nice walks and an easy cycle in which we attempt to get back to the van. No problem. In 20 minutes we are back with “Jess” sitting in the afternoon sunshine, lovely and warm late autumn sun. Del gives the van a quick clean while Hayley plans out the remaining last few days. One will be a quick champagne tour on Thursday, a war museum on Friday, home Saturday.
Now, how does this overnight heating work?
24th October (Chalons en Champagne to Verneuil)
So our trip this time was supposed to start and spend some time in the Champagne region but because of bad weather at the start it had to be abandoned, so the two weeks or so in the region has been condensed into 1 day possibly 2.
Hayley has found a very nice place to park in Epernay, the “capital” of the region. The intention is to spend a couple of hours in Epernay, walk down the main street where all the major champagne houses are located and check out the town.
It didn’t go quite according to plan however.
Today the weather is fair, a slight chill in the air but it’s dry with sunny spells as we set off. We are on the outside of the town of Epernay, not the prettiest but we give it a chance as we make for the nice parking place. To our disappointment when we arrive the parking place is empty with a “You will be towed away!” if you park here sign. There is also some maintenance going on in the area, weeds being dug up and the road is being surfaced. Not what we thought or hoped. No matter, disappointed we decide to take a drive through the town to our next destination for the day, the abbey where Don Perignon is buried. Let’s go!
The drive through Epernay was a disaster. All the main streets and roads are closed and have diversions here there and everywhere. It’s busy and the traffic is all over the place, chaos. We need to get out of here and fast. Well not too fast.
The next stop we hope will be more fruitful. The abbey where Dom Perignon is buried in Hautvilliers. Looking forward to it we escape Epernay and make for Hautvilliers.
The drive is lovely, rolling hills of vineyards all changing colour in the autumn sunlight as we pass signs telling us which house owns which vineyard. Lovely.
The parking spot is just outside of town, it’s quiet and peaceful here, deserted even. It is out of season after all. After a 10 minute walk, we find the abbey and make our way in. There he is is, right down at the front, the tomb of Dom Perignon. Splendid.
We have a stroll around the small town and make our way back to the van to head for our next and final stop for the day.
We know a wonderful champagne house in Verneuil called Jacques Copin. We have been there before as they have an aire there where you can stay free of charge, it has everything we need, water and electricity. You don’t have to buy champagne from them but it’s polite to do so if you are staying. We sample a couple of glasses of their finest and walk out with 9 bottles of fizz, two glasses and some biscuits. Smashing.
The sun is just about to set as we crack open a bottle of Jacques Copin’s champagne and toast the day, it got off to a bad start but ended very well…
25th October (Verneuil to Watten via Wizernes)
Today we are heading for Wizemes to a very unusual museum. La Coupole. It’s a longish drive today, 3 and a bit hours with mixed weather. The museum will, if you buy the admission, let you stay the night in their carpark, which when we arrive is full but at least it looks safe and secure and slightly away from the town.
We arrive at the museum which is a most unusual place. It is the place where the Nazis assembled and launch the V1 “flying bombs” aimed at London and the proposed launch site for the V2 rocket.
The site was never completed so the rockets were never launched. It’s a fascinating and harrowing place. The Nazis used slave labour from concentration camps from around Germany to assemble the rockets, many died in the most appalling of circumstances.
There is also a 3D cinema here which we took advantage of. We saw two films, one about the solar system and the discovery of new planets and the second called CapCom Go!, a documentary about the Apollo missions all in 3D. It really was fantastic.
The irony is that you get to see what great things man is capable of with space exploration and the bad side of what man can do just metres away in the missile building factory.
We spend 4 to 5 hours here and love every minute. One of the best museums we have been in and one that everyone should go to and indeed does. In the carpark, which was now emptying, there are cars from all over Europe including the UK just to visit this wonderful place. Highly recommended.
Del is not too sure about the parking and sleeping arrangement tonight. We are the only van by now but it looks a bit sad in the cold grey damp of dusk so we decided to move onto the town of Watten which will leave us ideally placed for the short run into Calais and the ferry home.
When we arrive at the free parking place in Watten it’s already pretty full. There are only 25 spaces and there are only three left. As we are reversing into our space there are another three vans immediately behind us. One of them will be disappointed. Good job we left when we did. Tonight we will dine out, there are two restaurants in the little town of Watten, both get good reviews. We get set, lock up Jess and make the short walk to the town only to find that both restaurants are closed!!! Both!!! The only two in the town and both close for a two week holiday at the same time!!!
Fed up we head back to the van. In the end we have a fabulous dinner in Chez Jess. Who needs Watten?
26th October (Watten to East Cowes, Isle of Wight)
It’s home time today. Yes, the day has finally come 5 weeks later we now have to go home. How quick the time has gone. we have been to a lot of interesting places and seen some great things, but now, today. we have to go home.
As is the custom however we stop at the wine supermarket in Calais and fill up with 14 boxes of wines various and some more fizz. We are a tad early for our ferry but fortunately, they let us on early. Good news. Once you know you are going home then all you want is to be home.
We have been told that the weather is for heavy rain and strong winds of gale force 9. Sure enough, once we are out into the channel the sea is rough, very rough. Large waves are breaking across the bow and spraying the boat high up covering the windows where we are sitting.
The ferry just seems to glide through this mayhem and 90 minutes later we are in the safety of Dover port.
We now need to get to Portsmouth for the final 40-minute ferry to the island. We are early so Hayley brings the next ferry forward. The rain is heavy at the time and so is the traffic.
We miss an even earlier ferry by 5 mins as the traffic is so bad in Portsmouth on a Saturday afternoon.
We finally board the ferry for home. The 40-minute crossing over the Solent is foggy and the sea is lumpy but we arrive safe and sound and do the short drive to home to unload our booty of wine, clothes and uneaten provisions just in time before it goes dark.
Time to put Jess away until another day, over 3000 miles she has done on this trip which has been one of our best.
Del & Hayley