11th December – 18th December
It seems quite fitting that our last night in Germany is spent with us sleeping near the Rhine river. We drove on the autobahn to Weil am Rhein just near the Swiss border mainly to stock up on food and beer before venturing into Switzerland. We are parked at a stellplatz which is on the Rhine at a dam and half way across the top of the dam wall is the border of France and Germany, so as we did when in Strasbourg, we walked from one country to another. We then had a small walk along the river before returning to Tilly to watch the swans, geese and ducks as well as the barges go by in front of us. A stunning sunset over the water is a fitting end to our time in Germany.
We headed off to Switzerland only to be thwarted by a low bridge within 4kms of our overnight stop. Back to the map and onto the A3 autobahn. We skirted around Basel through the industrial side which wasn’t quite the scenery we were expecting. Further up the road and through several tunnels, one being 3.2km in length, we viewed the Switzerland we love, green pastures and mountains, albeit small ones. We have come to Langenthal as a halfway point to Lucerne and are again staying in a Wohnmobile dealership for free, with free wifi, free power and all the services. We had a look in one of their Motorhomes, a Morello 8.6 meters long, luxuriously fitted out with leather seats, full size shower, separate toilet, coffee machine, you get the idea all for the princely sum of €300,000! Each year Sebastian Vettel upgrades his Morello at this dealership, if that gives you an idea of the clientele and to think we didn’t have to pay a thing!
Our journey to Lucerne was mixed today with us going on the scenic route for part of the journey through some of the thickest fog we have encountered to date so we didn’t see much! The ice on the meadows in places was so thick it looked like snow. We stopped at Lake Sempach where we had a coffee before getting onto the autobahn. We drove through a couple of small tunnels, the last one sees us arriving in Lucerne with the snow covered Swiss alps in the background. It’s like an amphitheater with the alps surrounding the city, it takes your breath away, it is so beautiful. Once parked we walked on the path along the side of lake Lucerne into the old town where we wandered through the streets, mesmerised by the beautiful buildings with frescoes brightly painted on them. There was a brass band playing Christmas carols in one of the squares with the majority of musicians being young kids. We walked across the Kapellbrücke (chapel bridge), a 14th century timber bridge with triangular roof panels showing important events from Swiss history and mythology. The roof was replaced after a disastrous fire in 1993 and is said to be very close to the original. The Christmas markets here are a little different to Germany not only in price but with what is on offer. You can still get Gluwein however the food is not the same but lots of people were tucking in. We walked a little way down the other side of the lake where an ice skating rink had been set up and we watched the kids skating for a little while before coming back to Tilly. It’s going to be another cold night with the temperature being zero at 4.40 in the afternoon.
We left Lucerne under thick fog again to travel to Meiringen, where meringues are said to have been invented. We drove on the autobahn through at least 7 tunnels, this time the longest being 5.2km. It was amazing how you could drive into a tunnel in fog and come out the other side to sunshine. The road was extremely windy and steep with snow piled up along the roadside at least a foot deep in some places however the roads were clear and the views were to die for. We stopped at Lungerersee on the way for a photo before arriving at Aareschlucht where we were going to hike to the gorge. We didn’t read the write up very well as it was closed for the winter! Never to be disheartened, we had our lunch before heading to Interlaken with views to the Jungfrau ranges to keep us company. We walked a couple of kilometres into Interlaken and had a good look around. It is very quiet at the moment with not many tourists but they must be expecting some as there is a huge ice skating rink being set up to open on 19th December until 20th March. We sat and watched the paragliders landing before heading back. We are parked next to a horse agistment centre underneath a sign that says no overnight parking, naughty us. Will we get away with it? No we didn’t. A gentleman knocked on our door at 6.30 and told us the police would come and fine us, so we moved to the golf course car park. Same deal here, no overnight parking but it is so dark, we figure no one would see us. Are we safe this time?
We were left alone at the golf club but neither of us slept that well, always listening for that car to turn up and turf us out. When we got up, we moved to the lake for breakfast and had a stunning view of the mountains. We drove to Stechelberg through the Lauterbrunnen valley once again with amazing scenery along the way and through a few more tunnels. We saw the highest waterfall of our trip so far. Our hike today began at Stechelberg and we climbed through snow covered paths to a height of 1300 metres to Gimmelwald. We passed several springs along the way, neither of us keen for a dip! At one of the forks in the road, while admiring the scenery, we turned around and we noticed a sign that said the path was closed for winter and that was the one we had just hiked up! Must tell the lady in the tourist office. It was the hardest climb we have done so far taking us two hours to reach the cable car station. We were thinking of continuing onto Mürren another 370 metres up, but as the village of Gimmelwald was closed we figured Mürren would be quiet also and rain was forecast for later in the day so as we didn’t want to get wet, we decided against it. We had our lunch before catching the cable car back down to Stechelberg which confirmed just how steep the climb was. Next we drove to Spiez along the Thunersee (Lake Thun) with more breathtaking scenery to our spot for the night in a restaurant car park just outside of Spiez for €5 a night. Our view from the front window is alps all around with pretty little farms in the valley below. Picture perfect.
After breakfast we left Spiez and the Swiss Alps to drive to Bern along the autobahn. We had a lovely walk around the old town with its cobbled streets and painted water fountains in the middle of the road. The bear pit has been vastly improved since we were here last, although the furry little creatures had decided to hibernate much to the dismay of all who were visiting. After a couple of hours we headed back to Tilly and our next destination of Neuchatel which is near the French border. Suddenly all of the road signs have changed from German to French although we are still in Switzerland! We are parked in a free stellplatz with views to Lake Neuchatel and arrived to find the machine for drinking water is out of service due to freezing. The young guy next door who looks like he lives at the stellplatz permanently was going to get water from another stellplatz and said we could follow him. Good job too, we never would have found it, and turning up here with a near empty water tank would have meant moving on. He waited for us to fill and we followed him back. We are going to venture into town in the morning for a quick look before heading off.
We woke again to heavy fog however we still ventured into Neuchatel for a look. There were some beautiful old buildings along the walk path and gold leaf fountains in the old town. On clear days the view of the lake and the walking paths would have made for a nice stopover, however after a quick bite for lunch we hit the autobahn for our 100km journey to Nyon, on Lake Geneva. We did have another scenic route plotted which would have taken us along the shores of Lake Geneva but with the fog, the autobahn was the safest route. We chose Nyon because of the Roman ruins here and the fact that it is half way to Annecy in France. We also wanted to walk along the lake Geneva shoreline, which we may do in the morning if the fog lifts. If not, it’s back on the road and our exit from Switzerland.
It as another foggy morning so we didn’t get our walk in like we had hoped, never mind. We took the autobahn out of Nyon until we got to the border. We passed through both the Swiss and French border controls without anyone stopping us, not sure if that is a good thing or not, although two old fuddy duddies in a Motorhome don’t look too threatening. We got onto the D road to Annecy and thankfully the fog lifted and we had our first view of the snow covered French alps, oh happy days! No dramas getting to the free aire with services although there is a 24 hour limit, but given that it is winter, we are hoping to get away with a couple of nights here. We walked into town and had a good look around. The Christmas markets here are again different to Germany but better than Switzerland although still no stalls selling food apart from Churros! Lots of little nick knacks and a chocolate shop where you had to take a ticket and the queue was out the door. Must be very special chocolate.
19th December – 26th December
We had a huge day today. After breakfast, we rode along the bike path around Lake Annecy to Talloires east of Annecy, a round trip of 30 kms up and down a few hills. From Talloires we hiked for an hour up to Cascade d’Angon, a waterfall of 465 metres. The climb was quite steep (not like Gimmelwald though) and we were able to walk under one of the small waterfalls before reaching the big one. The snow capped mountains came into view near the waterfall and it was well worth the effort. We had our lunch looking at the mountain peaks before climbing back down for the journey home. It was a balmy 14 degrees today with lots of people out walking around the lake. We stopped for a while to enjoy the view across the lake before coming home. We did say our stay in Annecy would be a relaxing one, I wonder when that will start!
Our relaxing day didn’t start here! We would have stayed another day except that the free aire was in the shade all day and the leisure battery was getting a bit low, so off we went to Aix Les Bains, about 40kms southwest of Annecy. The drive was pleasant enough once we got through the fog. We are parked on the street along with 5 other Motorhomes with a view to Lac du Bourget, France’s biggest natural lake. We had a stroll along the promenade into the port area where we had lunch at a nice restaurant, our first meal out for almost three weeks. After lunch we again walked along the promenade, this time in the other direction past several pétanque pitches with lots of people playing. There were lots of people out and about enjoying the winter sunshine. You could walk for miles along the promenade, possibly up to the runway of the airport at the end of the lake.
We decided to move on today as the weather was a bit bleak and wet. After doing the shopping, our first since before Switzerland we drove to Chambrey where the plan was to stay the night. I’m not sure if it was the stellplatz but neither of us had a good feel about the place, so trusting our instincts, we drove to Myans which is on the way to Grenoble where there was an aire on a farm for €5. It was quite late in the afternoon and raining when we got here so we hope to be able to investigate the area a bit in the morning.
We had a peaceful nights sleep up until we were woken by the baying of the two donkeys in the paddock next door. The hills surrounding the farm were still a bit misty but we thought our scenic route today would be clear – wrong! Most of the journey was in fog however the views to the mountains did clear as we got closer to Grenoble and another spectacular view to the snow covered mountains. The aire we are staying in is about 7kms outside of Grenoble in a suburb called Sassenage which sits in a basin with mountains all around. On our left are the snowy peaks of the alps and to our right and behind us are bare rugged peaks. There is a little lake just up the road which we had a walk around and we also walked along the river L’Isere for a kilometre or so before coming back to Tilly. Off to town on our bikes in the morning.
We woke to clear blue skies today and a magnificent view of the snow capped mountains. After breakfast we hopped on our bikes and rode into town along the river. We stopped for a coffee in McDonald’s hoping for a bit of wifi but they didn’t have any. We have only seen this two other time on our travels, in Cologne and Strasbourg, four soldiers armed with automatic rifles walking around. It is a sad sign of the times. We walked around town, visiting the last Christmas market of the year and it had a really nice feel about it. Very much like the German markets we have grown to love. We sat in the sunshine to have our lunch before visiting the Musee Ancient which was displaying Roman artificers dug up when the city was building a new tramway. We had a brief walk along the river before getting back on the bikes and heading home. After dinner a few more Motorhomes turned up and unfortunately one of them had an accident in the aire. We think he hit the accelerator instead of the brake and went straight into a pole moving a large rock that was next to it. We aren’t sure whether he steered away from us but when Dave had a look in the morning he had missed us by less than a metre. The front of his Motorhome is a mess. It’s a brand new Frankia with obvious damage to the radiator and goodness knows what else. We all came out for a look and the poor lady in the Motorhome near us was shaking as she watched it all happen from the front of her Motorhome. What a terrible thing to happen just before Christmas, at least no one was hurt.
No fog again today however on leaving we passed two police check points stopping cars where the second one even had a gendarme patrolling the area with a automatic rifle, not sure why? Our drive was a pleasant one through a huge fruit growing region. We stopped at Roman-ser-Isére for a walk into the small town before having our lunch. On the road again to Tournon-sur-Rhone and views of the vineyards with the majority of them growing Hermitage grapes. We did have to take a slight detour to get here due to Tilly’s height, something that never happens to me but we are now settled in our Christmas home with views to the Paul Jaboulet Aine vineyard which covers a huge area on the surrounding hills. We had a walk into town along the Rhine river (we keep finding this river) and it is such a pretty town with piped music through the shopping streets, free horse and cart rides (I think just for Christmas) mad locals zipping around in these pedal carts, it was very festive. There were three river cruise boats parked at the jetty but they were not in use, perhaps the season has come to an end.
Merry Christmas 🎄🎄🎄
We had our Christmas viewing of “Love Actually” last night which is becoming a small tradition on Christmas Eve. We wanted to Skype the kids today but unfortunately we couldn’t get any wifi so a phone call had to suffice. It felt strange not having anything planned with them however we did have a good chat. After breakfast we climbed up the hill at the back of town and had a lovely view over the River and town with the snow covered peaks in the distance. I cooked a roast chicken for our lunch which we had outside in the sunshine with a nice bottle of French Bordeaux. After lunch we walked across the river to the town of Tain l’Hermitage for a look around. It looked quite nice but with everything closed it is a bit hard to tell. Back over the river and home again for a quiet afternoon.
On the road again after a good night sleep and our first stop was in Valence. We had a walk around town, quite a lot bigger than I thought it would be with lots of people out and about. No after Christmas sales here, but it was still a nice walk. We had our lunch in the park before getting back on the road again, this time to La Voulte-sur-Rhône, just a stop over for the night. We are parked in an Intermarché (supermarket) car park that have dumping and filling facilities for Motorhomes for free as well as a laundry!! Two washing machines with washing liquid (€4 for 8kgs) and a dryer in a covered bay next to the car wash. Oh happy days.