Essays / s /

Tour de France

We decided to do something totally new for us this year for our vacation: a tour through France by camping car. And it was a blast! Originally we only planned for northern France, but due to the weather we decided to take on the south, too. So this tour went through Belgium to the Normandie, further on through the Auverne into the Languedoc and Provence, from there into the Carmargue and back up to Burgund and Lorreine into the Rhineland in Germany. What a ride - 4100 km and every day new sights to see.

We started out in Münster, going to Aachen and then into Belgium. Our first stop was in Brügge. The camping car area is quite close to the city, so just a quick walk and you are in the old town with it's interesting buildings.

From Brügge we drove right into France to visit the Cote d'Alabaster, staying both in Dieppe and Etretat for a night. Etretat was a bit more touristy, but for me the landscape was even more impressive than Dieppe - and the camping car area was better located (in Dieppe we had to stay at a camping site about 4 km from the city center). After Etretat we went on to Mont Saint Michel, because it would have been strange to be that close and not visiting it. Very impressive, too, but definitely overrun with tourists. Still, it is worth to visit at least once. And the camping site at the little town Beauvoir was quite nice.

From Mont Saint Michel we went through the valley of the Loire to Vichy, to go south from there. Vichy was just a stop-over but it had some nice architecture. From Vichy we drove all the way down to Carcassonne, a city I only knew from the same-named board game before. It is a very interesting medieval city with lots of interesting sights.

After Carcassonne we went to Avignon, a city best known for the times when the Pope was living there. The popes castle and the whole medieval city wall and the remnants of the romans there are very interesting. But same as Mont Saint Michel and Carcassonne, it is very tourist oriented, which can be a bit of a distraction. Still worth to visit at least once - and the camping site was absolutely great, just being located across the river from the old town.

Next we really wanted to visit the Mediterranean Sea - so we went straight south. We did a break in Arles to visit the remnants of the romans there, the theater and the amphitheater are very impressive, much bigger than what I am used to around my home town. Our goal, though was Saintes Maries de la Mer, a small town located in the Carmargue directly at the coast. The town is a pilgrim location for gypsies and twice a year they have a big festival there. One was the upcoming weekend when we stayed there, so the city was packed with gypsy families. On our way to Saintes Maries de la Mer, Flamingos crossed our path - stunning! I only ever seen them at the zoo before! Definitely a place where I want to go again (not necessarily Saintes Maries de la Mer, but the Carmargue).

Now it was time to head slowly back north to get home in a few days. Since we wanted to skip the highways this time, we took it slowly and had our first stop at Le Puy, a fantastic medieval city that is known for it's two volcanic chimneys with a church on one and an iron statue on the other. The whole city is a labyrinth of little walk ways and very narrow streets, with lots of monasteries and cloisters and churches wedged in. We totally loved that place and will definitely visit again, it was a highlight for both of us.

From Le Puy we went on to Autun, because there were more remnants of romans there, one being the biggest known theater of the roman world. A nice thing was that Autun was totally non-touristy, so you could just walk around in the ruins without problems and without buying tickets.

From Autun we went direction Troyes, but we ended up at the Lac du Forest d'Orient due to Troyes not really giving us a great feel. On our way we did make a stop at the Abbey of Fontenay, though, and we are really happy we did, it is a very well preserved Abbey with lots of impressive architecture. And hey, they invented the hydraulic hammer there in the 12th century and had one of the first metallurgic manufacturing sites there.

Our last night was already in Germany, at the lovely Mosel river in the similarily lovely city of Bernkastel. We've been here before on our Trier weekend, so we knew what we would find, but it is a great place to chill after a long tour and have some relaxing walks in the wine hills or having some local wine, of course. From there it was just a short drive back home to Münster, unloading the car and that was our big adventure.

Years End on Gran Canaria

This year we wanted to spend christmas and new years somewhere with sun and not the icky and drab weather of Münster at that time. So we went to Gran Canaria, Puerto de Mogan, a lovely little town in the south of Gran Canaria. Sure, it's a touristy place, but devoid of those ugly thousand-guests-palaces they build as hotels over the coast on that island, with a little harbour, a (artificial, of course) lagoon and nice apartment buildings for tourists to stay. Very relaxing days.

Soest

We had no idea what little jewel of a town was just an hour with the train away. Soest has a lovely old town with a large part of the old city walls still there, lots of old buildings and fascinating churches. It has interesting history, too due to it's position as one of the major westphalian cities during the Hanse (actually Lubeck was founded by - among others - merchants from Soest, and the Soest' city rules were exported to many cities in the baltic area due to that during the Hanse time) and the cities decision to switch to the protestant faction during reformation has some really interesting situations with the large cathedral buildings in Soest beeing protestant (which is quite rare in Westphalia). Spent a great time there and had lots of fun exploring Soest.

Mosel Wine and Jewels

We visited Trier and some places near Trier - the river valley of the Mosel river, Luxembourg (the city), Idar-Oberstein, a jewellers town in the Hunsrück mountain ranges and other littles Towns like Bernkastel-Krues and Lieser. A lovely and relaxing weekend.

Trier was fascinating with it many remains of the Romans. Luxembourg with it's fascinating placement over several hill plateaus, connected by bridges. Bern-Kastel and Lieser for their lovely old architectures and the whole river valley because of the great landscape. In Idar-Oberstein we visited the jewel mines, where they were digging for several jewels until the 19th century. All places well worth the visit.

Roadtrip through Slovenia

For our summer vacation we decided to do something different - we took a car and drove all over Germany and Austria to Slovenia, traveling through Slovenia from the east border near Hungary to the slovenian Adria near Italy. On our way up, we took a first break at Bamberg, visiting it's world heritage old city.

After Bamberg, we went into Austria and stayed for a few days in Graz. There again we visited the (again world heritage) old city, the castle mountain and took a stroll all around it.

Next was Ptuj, our first stay in Slovenia. It is in the eastern part, close to Hungary. There are some interesting places close by, especially Jeruzalem, a hilly region that was once given to the knights of the cross by some caesar or other, and so really is connected in a way to Jerusalem. Nowadays it is dominated by whineries and their whine yards.

We went into the middle of Slovenia next, staying in a farm near the town Skofia Loka. It was a great place with great hosts, we really enjoyed it. And we really enjoyed the Julich Alps and the Kranj mountains close by and the little mountain villages and the scenery. Definitely a place we want to visit again some time. While there we visited Ljubljana, too.

On we went after a few days to Piran, or actually to Portoroz, a city at the slovenian Adria, quite close to the italian border near Triest. So we got some ocean action in and got a chance to visit Italy. The old city of Piran is a crazy place to visit!

We originally planned for a trip to Triest, but due to weather problems (rain in Portoroz and Triest) we went to Venice. Worse things could happen to travellers, I guess.

On the end of our travels we went to Villach in Austria, but didn't take a lot of photos there - guess some kind of vacation burn out or something. We did take a bunch again when we did a stop in Salzburg on our last days, though. And we had Salzburger Nockerl.

That's it from our summer vacation in 2014. Lots of fun, lots of great places to visit and a big success. I guess this roadtrip kind of vacation will happen in the future, again.