It feels like a long time since we have taken the tunnel and come over to Europe and to be fair it is… 12 months to be precise. Just over 12 months ago we did a very last minute 5 day trip to Dusseldorf in Germany and we are back again but this time to take a little more time to get to know Belgium and Germany a bit better…… and find out a bit more about the new motorhome….. she’s a beauty isn’t she?
Haha… only joking – although, yes – she is a beauty, she isn’t ours!
The purpose of this trip was to visit Jurgen in Belgium, whom we are buying the new motorhome from, visit the motorhome show in Dusseldorf again to have a look at a little bit more than just three motorhome vendors as we did last year, visit Phoenix to do a factory tour if possible and take in a few of the sights…… and so far the trip hasn’t disappointed!
We caught a lunchtime eurotunnel and stayed our first night in Hondshoote which is in France but right on the border with Belgium. It is a small town with a little Carrefour, Aldi and an interesting little refill/ bio shop that has opened in the last year – enough for us to stock up as we can’t take any dairy or fresh fruit or vegetables over to europe any more. It has been our first/last stop for a while now if we are travelling East as it is far enough away from Calais to not attract anyone trying to get into the vehicle, yet close enough for a short hop at the end/beginning of the day to get to/from the train…. and it has a good aire…but its not somewhere you’d stay much longer than a night.
After a reasonably peaceful night, fully stocked we set off in the morning to find Jurgen – our Belgium Phoenix contact and service point – who has his workshop in a little town called Rotselaar which is about 12km north of Leuven (East of Brussels) in Belgium. We had only planned to stay a couple of nights, giving us enough time to go through some of the outstanding questions we had for the new motorhome but ended up staying four nights as the surrounding area is so interesting and beautiful…. despite the influx of mosquitos.
Jurgen lives and works in an area that is full of walking/cycle paths along rivers, canals and through woodland. So there are a multitude of options for walking, cycling and running… no matter which direction you went. Although the end of the summer holidays and several restaurants were taking holidays, Jurgen recommended a cafe/bistro in a park not too far away where we could get some good Moules (mussles) – and you can’t visit Belgium without eating Moules and drinking beer – and we weren’t disappointed, although we now expect all of our moules to come in an amazingly delicious curry sauce with caramalised onions and enormous prawns …..and I am going to be looking for a Kreik (Belgium Cherry Beer) on the side!!
We decided to move on on Saturday, although we could have stayed much longer we figured that we will have plenty of time to explore the area further in the future. Switching provincial Belgium for Dutch city life we arrived at CamperPlatz Papillon (20 euros a night) on the River Meuese 2.5km North of Maastricht and just over the Belgium border.
The Camperplaatz has 100 spots and it was full. Despite being so close to the city it was very quiet both during the day and overnight – the only downside was that the pitches were reasonably narrow and as we had been lucky enough to find a corner spot, it was narrower than most… but the views were nicer… and it meant we only had one neighbour – we are so anti-social aren’t we!
We walked into Maastricht on the Sunday and although we have both been before, it was a long time ago, seperately with work… and neither of us got to see much of the city itself which has probably changed alot, but is very pretty. – especially the cultural district. There is a huge amount of history and unbeknown to us there are 14km of underground tunnels and caves…. which we didn’t explore but gives opportunity to come visit again.
With a date in the diary to meet Pete and Liz and tea bags to deliver, we hot footed it over to Dusseldorf where we had booked the same pitches as last year on the river bank at Rhein Camping.
The campsite isn’t anything special but it is perfectly located to get to the Dusseldorf show by bike and it is owned and run by a lovely couple and we have been lucky enough – thanks to Pete and Liz’s co-ordination last year – to get what I would say are the best pitches on site two years running… the Tea Bags are key in this story!!
We had four days of fantastic company whilst making the most of the great weather and tranquil location. We also managed to see a little more of the Dusseldorf show and meet up with Jurgen and the Phoenix team again to go through some final pieces…. unfortunately, one of those pieces was the news of a delay on the delivery of the motorhome as the chassis is still not with Phoenix…but it is in Germany!
Despite planning a day to go into Dusseldorf and explore, we have still not managed it and therefore will just have to come back again next year as it is supposed to be a beautiful city, we did however manage to go out for a lovely meal with Pete and Liz @ Riva on the waterfront in Dusseldorf on our last night care of American Express… fantastic food but perhaps we weren’t quite equipped with enough plastic of the cosmetic form to do the place justice.
It was time to go our seperate ways on Saturday – Liz and Pete were heading back to Belgium to explore Brugge and Ypres and we were heading South …. although to where no-one knows as it appears to change on a daily basis but first stop was a Stellenplatz in Urmitz just outside Koblenz on the river (10 euros a night).
As we had already visited Koblenz a couple of years ago, the stop was just for one night to do some shopping, stretch the legs and decide where we wanted to go. The supermarket close by was stocked with lots of fresh fruit and veg and the walk along the river was lovely and the added bonus was a) we got back to the motorhome before the torrential rain came … by roughly 5 minutes and b) The oompah loompahs had set up a beer / folk festival just 100m away so we had a lovely German brass band playing to us all evening – can’t really complain!
We had thought that we would head down to explore a little bit of the Romantic Road – something we have heard so much about but are yet to make it to – however, whilst we were in Dusseldorf, Jurgen and one of the ladies who works at Phoenix mentioned a few places on the River Main to visit en route to the Phoenix factory so although we are touching the tip, the Romantic Road is going to have to wait to next time!
First stop therefore was Wertheim am Main (5 euros a night)… not a bad little town to start off in!
The Stellplatz we had chosen had another folk/beer festival going on – those oompah loompahs are following us – apparently it’s the season, this time unfortunately they had taken over the whole of the stellplatz so we couldn’t stay but we managed to eventually find another Stellplatz on the opposite side of ther river following an argument with our satnav which wanted us to take a leap off of the flyover to get to it. The second Stellplatz was actually closer to the town – just not quite as pretty as it was underneath the flyover – although to be fair it was actually pretty quiet both during the day and overnight and it also had river frontage.
Wertheim am Main is a pretty little town with the re-constructed walls of the castle looking down over it and lots of lovely / normal looking cafes/restaurants and shops. As always appears to be the way with German rivers from our little experience to date, there are cycle paths going in both directions on both sides of the river – the set up for walkers and cyclists is incredible. We stayed two nights to explore the surrounding area more and each night we were accompanied by 8-10 other motorhomes on the Stellplatz. All in all, a lovely little area to explore with a fantastic supermarket close by.
It was time to move on though and explore new territory so a short hop, skip and a jump and we arrived at Lohr am Main where we had found a little campsite, Campingplatz Mainufer (24 euros per night). I had emailed ahead to confirm availability and asked if we could arrive before lunch as German campsites generally shut from 12/12:30 – 3pm and I was glad we did as although no-one was there, Keith called and was told we could park up but that there was only one pitch with river frontage…. what a corker! Snuck in just before anyone else arrived…. although a German guy did come over and ask if he could squeeze in alongside us… Keith politely said ‘no’, there wasn’t another space there…. once he grasped what he was trying to ask!!
Lohr am Main is another pretty little town with a very relaxed feel about it. Weirdly legend has it that Snow White lived here… at the castle above – although I couldn’t see any mention of the seven dwarfs and wonder whether they were an English addition… needless to say I steered well clear of red apples whilst we were in the vicinity!
The campsite was fairly basic – which didn’t bother us as we don’t use the facilities – but the pitch was huge, we had water on our pitch and our views were excellent, enabling us to watch all the boats and wildlife pass on by…. and visit us! I am not sure what the swans made of Keith’s meditation but I was wetting myself with laughter as they approached him slowly out of the water. Don’t worry, I am not that mean – I did actually get up and move them away when they tried to have a little nibble, quite a mean feat when you have tears rolling down your face!!
The weather was so good – despite forecast on rain both days – we not only ate every meal outside but also managed to get all our washing done… a bit of a bonus we weren’t expecting. Although we didn’t get a chance to explore too far, we found out that there is a huge network of cycling and walking routes up into the forest and hills from Lohr am Main. Definately an area to explore further on foot in the future and there appears to be a real mix of ‘serious’ routes for those who want a bit of a challenge and those looking to find a dwarf or seven in the forest.
Moving a little further around the river Main we had chosen Karlstadt am Main as our next stop where there was a fantastic Stellplatz (10 euros per night), once again on the river front and with its obligatory cycle path and just 500m from the town center over the bridge.
We pulled in as a Concorde was leaving and happily took his spot alongside a baby Morello, by lunchtime the place was full again. The backdrop is the Karlsburg Castle which was destroyed in 1525 by the townsmen during the Peasants War, made even more picturesque by the turning colours of the trees.
Karlstadt am Main is full of history and beautiful architecture as well as being surrounded by vinyards and apparently having a bit of a reputation for its Culinary excellence. Unfortunately for us we had missed the wine festival by a few days so may just need to plan another visit next year!
We decided to stay three nights and took advantage of the breaks in between the torrential rain to venture along the cycle paths alongside the River Main where the Vines line the hills and the colours are just breaking into autumnal beauty….
Having taken our rest day yesterday due to the weather forecast, I went for a lovely run this morning which reminded me of how much quieter Sunday mornings are (as Sunday is normally our rest day), enabling me to take in the beautiful surroundings along the river in complete tranquility…. may just switch days permanently!
Showered, breakfasted and all things sorted in the motorhome we set off again this morning another 20km further along the river to Wurzberg. As Wurzberg is a larger city known for its beautiful Barroque architecture and is at the top of the aforementioned ‘Romantic Road’, we were a little concerned as to whether we would get a space on the Stellplatz. We were right to be concerned, as there were probably 40+ motorhomes in the parking area when we arrived, however some of the official parking spots had been freed up as a number of motorhomes had left early, enabling us to park up in one of the larger spots alongside another Morello … albeit this one was slightly larger!
It’s not the most salubrious place that we have stayed in but once again we are right on the river – and cycle path – and close to the town center – perfect for a couple of nights to explore the area more…. and we have a bonus surprise as there is a music and street theatre festival this weekend with about 15 different stages of talent placed around town, several with food, beer and wine stalls – a lovely athmosphere.
We had a lovely little walk along the river and through the old town this afternoon and plan to do a bit more exploring tomorrow but very much like what we have seen so far and can see why Wurzberg attracts so many people.
Impossible to believe that we have been away for nearly three weeks as it feels like so much longer with all the places we have visited and sights we have seen. Hopefully the next two and a half weeks will be as interesting, although if there is one thing for sure it’s that I am embarrassed by my lack of German language skill… something that needs to be addressed!
If you are interested in the route so far …. our little map is below