Sunday, 2 October 2011

Onward travels

No, I have not disappeared off the face of the earth - it has just been proving incredibly difficult to find the time to blog on this trip! But finally, a bit of an update. 2 weeks ago, we were at Alpe d'Huez, a strangely soulless place in the 'inter-season', as indeed most 'out of season' ski resorts are.  But we had a good parking spot and nice views all the same - can you see Sadie?
I took the pooch for a walk up above the resort and the view towards the higher mountains was fantastic
We never got to explore its mountain biking and walking potential as the weather came in on Sunday. The exterior temperature gauge indicated 5 degrees, and we were treated to strong winds and driving rain - time to move on.

We headed a few hours North to the Jura department and had an exhausting and frustrating time trying to a) find somewhere suitable to park up and b) find somewhere that had an adequate 3G signal. We ended up on the edge of the National Park just NE of Lons-le-Saunier, in the midst of the Jura vineyards! I can think of worse places to stop. We spent one night in a quiet little carpark on the edge of the village of Voiteur, where I
stocked up on Macvin, a delicious Jura aperitif and also a few bottles of local wine. The renowned hilltop village of Chateau-Chalons which produces the 'Vin Jaune' of the Jura was just up the road.
We got in a good 8km run from Voiteur through the vineyards and then next day we headed to Verges for a cracking mountain biking afternoon. The area has loads of waymarked routes and we chose to do two of them back-to-back.... like you do. We blasted round the first 24.5km/300m+ circuit in just 1h43m
had lunch and then set off for the second 15.8km/320m+ circuit which was a different ball game 

 It was really hard technical riding in parts thanks to recent rain as the ascents kept on coming - we were seriously flagging after the 1h38m that it took us to get around. But what a good workout it had been!

After the mountain bike outing, we stayed in the Jura department but booked into a small campsite in Baume-les-Messieurs for 2 nights from where we did a 12km/475m+ walk which took us around the renowned 'réculées de Baume', which is a specific geological feature of the Jura area involving limestone erosion and collapse which results in deep gorges of up to 200m high - stunning!

From the Jura, up to the Champagne region. It's a great area if you are into vineyards and, well, Champagne, but not if you are in a campervan wanting to go mountain biking/running/walking because a) parking up is impossible  and b) it is virtually impossible to get info on mountain biking circuits in the area. So, after a night in a village car park, we left and headed North to an area just south of Laon which looked great on paper (the road map). We found a lovely, quiet little level parking area next to a fishing lake near the village of Chamouille.
To get there, we drove along the 'Chemin des dames' ridge which saw much action during the First World War

The fishing lake adjoined a much larger lake around which, thanks to the internet, I managed to find a good 10km running circuit which we knocked off in just over an hour.

From there, up to Calais and the ferry back to the UK which is where the fun and games as 'camper-vanners' really starts. Having spent 2 weeks travelling up through France, it is interesting to make comparisons between France and the UK. France is wonderfully geared up and organised for people travelling in motorhomes and campervans. Not only do motorways have 'service stations' (aires) with dedicated campervan overnighting spots, set well back from the autoroute, plus facilities for emptying your toilet cassette and waste water and for filling up with water, but throughout France, many towns and villages have 'vidange' facilities for servicing your campervan which are either totally free or cost a maximum of 3 euros. Not only that, but, in France, there are generally very few restrictions on where you can park overnight. Contrast this now with the UK. There are no facilities for camper-van/motorhome owners to service their vehicle other than at campsites where you are either required to pay over £5.00 for the privilege or are made to feel like a right cheeky bugger for even daring to ask! Clearly, UK towns and villages do not want such people to stay locally, spending their money in shops and restaurants, bringing much needed revenue to the area. It baffles me, to be honest.

Anyway, rant over. We spent 4 nights at mum's in Dorset where I got to spend some valuable time both with mum and with Jamie catching up with his latest plans and projects. I shall do a separate post on our UK adventures as I think this one has gone on for quite long enough!

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