The parking area in Dole was peaceful overnight despite having the remains of the funfair that we thought had finished but obviously decided to revive itself for a few hours on Tuesday afternoon!
The town itself was pretty with lots of nice delicatessens, butchers and bakers as well as ‘Les Halles’ which we made a visit to on Thursday morning before we left. Dole is situated on a river and a canal and it has cycle paths going in all directions which was lovely.
I managed to get out for two runs, barely having to cross a road although evidently confused Keith with my description of how to get onto the cycle path as he ended up in the campsite and a slightly more bitty run…. apparently still enjoyable though! We also ventured in the opposite direction for a walk up the canal which although slightly more built up, was also pretty.
Hattie had a visit from a German relative …. its always nice to see the excitement on other Concorde owners’ faces is the same as ours when we meet a similar motorhome…. daft I know but it is like one big family!
Leaving Dole we headed all of 20km up the road to Arc et Senans (GPS n 47.0331 e 5.78079) where there is an Aire both for services as well as parking overnight. As we arrived fairly early we set off for a lovely little 14km stroll into the forest to see a bit more of the area.
Arc et Senans is famous for its Salt …. or at least it was. The Royal Saline was commissioned by Luis XV between 1775 and 1779 consisting of 11 buildings that form a circular arc. In the 18th century, salt was an essential and valuable commodity as it was used for preserving foods such as meat or fish as well as in daily seasoning of foods. The ubiquity of salt usage caused the French government to impose the ‘Gabelle’ – a tax on salt consumption where everyone (including children) had to pay.
The building itself is now protected by UNESCO and is open to visitors and is also a hotel and restuarant but not used for the production of salt any longer.
How the weather can change so quickly I will never know… 30 degrees and sunshine on Thursday afternoon turned into 15 degrees and rain on Friday morning. We bit the bullet and decided to venture out on another walk anyway at least we got to stretch our legs see the poppies, lots of vineyards and the beautiful rolling green hills….
After lunch and a quick empty and refill at the service area we moved further into Jura and Yellow Wine country. We had chosen another place out of the France Passion book which did a wide selection of wines from the region and we couldn’t have asked for me. Domain Desire Petit (GPS n 46.88038 e 5.575643) was up the side of a hill in a tiny little village with a population of roughly 200 people and ten wine producers …… perfect proportions if you ask me!
The car park was big and flat and the views would have been fantastic if the cloud hadn’t been quite so low so after a cup of tea (it was herbal) – how British – we headed inside to find out more about the wines. They are a family vineyard with 27 hectares of vine and the gentleman who was walking us through the wines couldn’t appear to give us enough… he was the uncle of the couple who now run it but used to run it with his brother. They produce small-ish quantities of lots of different things … Sparkling white, Sparkling Rose, Reds (of different grapes – Ploussard, Trousseau, Pinot Noir), Whites (of different grapes Savagnin (yes, that is Savignin not Savaugnon as I had thought) and Chardonnay), Vin Jaune, Macvin, and spirits…… I think we tried over 15 different varieties and each glass was a good tasting. The Vin Jaune which is a ‘speciality’ wasn’t to Keith or my like as it had a bitter aftertaste…. almost like some of the sherry’s that we tried in Jerez. The Macvin however was like a sweeter port/sherry which was delicious so with the need to get back and actually cook dinner, we bought a bottle of that along with some bubbles and a bottle of red… we do like France Passion!!
Although we had expected to wake to rain it was actually just a bit grey although we had taken a rest day based on the forecast… just meant we were on our way a little earlier than normal. Whilst looking at different places to visit Keith had found a place called Epinal which was due to have a street festival over the weekend which we thought would be interesting, so we wiggled our way to Camping le Chateau (17 euro per night + 4.50 for electricity). We had asked for a spot without electricity and paid upfront for two nights but when we got to the handful of spots where the guy said we could park they were fit for a VW campervan…. not a Hattie, so we just bit the bullet and paid for the electricity which meant we could move to the largest spot on site which was enormous!
With the weather looking a bit stormy on Saturday afternoon / evening we decided to leave the washing until Sunday and take a wander into town to have a look at what was going on, getting back to the motorhome just before the skies opened and the rain fell.
We only had a couple of hours of heavy rain thankfully, however whilst watching the news on Sunday evening we learnt that not far from where we were, the rain was replaced by large hail stones which destroyed the Apricot crop which was just at the point of being picked. Very sad, but if like us you like your apricots I suggest you get buying now as the price will probably go up soon due to lack of supply.
Back to the street festival, there were roughly 150 ‘shows’ comprising of acrobatics, theatre, dance and music over the weekend dotted around the town in a variety of locations …. street corners, car parks, museums, etc. We managed to see the whole of four different shows and bits of others, mostly on the Sunday afternoon/evening as they all got crowded so quickly and we learnt that we needed to get to there 20 – 30 minutes before each show started if we wanted to see anything in addition to the back of peoples heads!
We had selected mostly to see acrobatics and we were not disappointed, the strength and flexibility that the performers had was truly incredible.
Having had our culture fill over the weekend, with blue skies and sunshine we set off on Monday morning heading into the mountains to find some walking. We had decided to stop at a town called Gerardmer which sits on a lake at 660m Altitude and is surrounded by hills and forests which in the winter turn into a ski resort. We parked up at Camping les Sapins (14.40 euro per night) which was about 1.5km out of the town half way down one side of the lake. It’s a lovely campsite and thankfully it had one large pitch left which worked out perfectly for us!
As we needed to do some food shopping we walked into town around the edge of the lake, found a Super U and on the way back found an amazing butchers. As we walked in through the door we were hit by the smell of the smoked meats luring us away from the reason we actually went in there in the first place. The smoked meats were a mixture of Pork and Beef, some were cured and could be eaten as they were, others needed to be cooked…. they all looked incredible. After much deliberation we ended up buying minced beef for some burgers, a filet mignon for a bit of a rub on the BBQ and a small amount of cured smoked pork, a type of chorizo and a type of salami … all made in house and all were delicious.
In the morning, with the sun just about poking through the clouds we walked up into the forest on the southern side of the lake which was dense forest so no views, although still beautiful then once we had dropped down again we ended up also doing a circuit round the lake, a nice walk just under 16km and 700m ascent.
The following morning – as we decided to stay three nights in the end – we did some washing …. well, you know the story – then walked round to the opposite side of the lake and up into the forest before coming back round along the side of a stream on a circular walk. I think we managed to get two glimpses of the lake this time but the forest was still fairly dense …. not an area for walking if you like your views but still fantastic and lots of wildlife.
Before heading off on Thursday we did a quick visit to the market in town and were very pleasantly surprised – it was really big with lots of local produce, everything from fruit and veg to smoked meats and the cheese coming out of its ears…. needless to say we held back on purchasing any more cheese as we knew we were heading into the mountains to an Auberge that sold local cheese and then onto Munster … but we did stock up on lots of lovely French apricots!
We left Gerardmer just before midday and took a windy road into the mountains, climbing up to 1100m before descending again to La Bresse which is roughly the same altitude as Gerardmer… 660m.
As we didn’t want to arrive at our final destination until mid-afternoon we stopped and had a walk round and with a rain stop in an awning, made it back to Hattie without getting wet to eat lunch! It’s a pretty little town in a valley but nothing really in comparison to Gerardmer from what we saw anyway.
We had decided to go to a France Passion Auberge in the mountains for dinner and despite being a little nervous about the roads and access we left La Bresse and wiggled our way upwards again. I was driving and as we took a turning off of the ‘main’ road…. I say that in the lightest possible terms… I started to feel the sweat form…. we were still a good 20 minutes away!! The road was actually a good paved road, it was just that it was only wide enough for 1.5 Hattie’s … so each time we came across another car it was a squeeze, thankfully we didn’t encounter anyone on a hairpin…. or anything bigger than a car! Needless to say the road was only about 5 miles long and we soon joined another ‘main’ road which dropped off to the right …. probably all 1200m of it. I glanced over and the views out to the lake were stunning but as Vertigo started to kick in I decided I was best to leave the sight seeing to Keith and focus on the road!
Unfortunately there weren’t any suitable spots to stop and take a photo but we continued to twist and turn until we got to our stop for the night which sits at 1150m altitude – Ferme Auberge UFF Rain (GPS n 47.96858 e 7.03216) where we had booked in for a bit of Alsatian food…. just to be clear that is food from Alsace, not dog food!
Although the cloud was low and rain was looming we headed out for a little walk up to the peak of the mountain we were on which sat at 1314m, through the forest and back down to Hattie with enough time to sort ourselves before we went for dinner.
It is fair to say that the food was fantastic, although having not been to Alsace before, we get the impression that like Northern Spain, everywhere you go you will eat well.
The menu was fairly simple with three different set menus and then some of the dishes were available to order separately. As neither Keith nor I had a clue what we were ordering we opted for two different ‘Menus’, both 20 euros a head and we were not disappointed.
We shared everything but Keith’s starters was a plate of charcuterie and mine can only be described as a sausage meat pie – both came accompanied by the obligatory sauerkraut and grated carrot, main course for Keith was cured ham with Gratin Potatoes….. oh my, they were good – although we will be having cheesy dreams for weeks to come. Mine was smoked pork with cheesy mash…. which sounds a bit daft when you think of how much cheese was in the gratin…. as to be fair mine was barely cheesy at all in comparison…. although very nice! I then had a cheese course to make up for my cheese deficiency and we both squeezed a bit of dessert in … Keith had blueberry tart and I could only manage vanilla ice cream with blueberry coulis…. all however, was home made and lovely.
Needless to say that despite all the rich food and cheese we slept well, waking to the sound of the cows coming in to milk, bells a clanging ….
And today we have arrived at Munster at a nice little Aire (GPS n 48.037601 e 7.13309) 8 euros a night.