Far from the Madding Crowd, Alsace / Lorraine and the Vosges Mountains
By - Spinner
Motorhomers usually fall into two categories, planners or point and goers. In reality, most of us are somewhere in between, we have an overall plan but nothing is booked or set in stone. France, with its diverse landscape and climate, offers the traveller a plethora of chill out places to visit and because of the fantastic aires little planning is needed. The Vosges in North Eastern France is one of those. Over the centuries this bit of land has been a pawn between France and Germany and, therefore, the culture, architecture and the people reflect this in their outlook and language. The Vosges Mountains reach their highest point with the Grand Ballon, at an altitude of 1424 m. They stretch along the left bank of the Rhine, facing Germany, covering a distance of 250 km, skiing, hiking, and kayaking are all available and easily accessible to the motorhomer.
Colmar in the department of the Haut-Rhin is a town of half-timbered buildings with cobbled streets intersected by canals.
The so called capital of Alsace, Colmar, is only 440 miles from Calais. For those of you who like to crack on, then with an early crossing this can be done in a day and toll free if you go via Belgium and Luxembourg. However, for those whose mantra is “it’s all about the journey” then there are some excellent stopovers en route and these can be found on the Club Motorhome Website.
Squeezed between the German border and the Vosges Mountains, Colmar is well worth a visit. During the summer months the streets are adorned with flower and seasonal bunting and celebrations. One kilometre from the centre, adjacent to the canal, is a good stopover, Port de Plaisance. Ideally placed for walking and cycling along the canal this aire has the usual facilities plus loos, showers and washing machines, useful for the full timer!
Where to go next in this region will really depend on how long you have and in which direction you’re heading. A twenty minute drive away and slap bang in the centre of the finest Alsatian vineyards is the gorgeous town of Kaysersberg. With an aire just five minutes walk from the centre, Kaysersberg is a gem amongst gems, and perfect for the motorhomer. For those of you who like to sample a restaurant or taste local brews, Gewürztraminer from the Cave de Turckheim or a meal at La Vieille Forge restaurant comes highly recommended.
If walking is your bag then take the path behind the village up to the old castle ruin, climb the tower and observe the view through the valley and across to the German border. You can walk along way-marked routes from village to village via woods and rolling hills. In October the vineyards are golden brown and the shadows of the setting sun on the converging lines of the vines create what can only be described as an ‘awesome picture’. For those of you with cycles or scooters then take a ride out to the other medieval wine towns Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé, again picture postcard with artisan shops.
In the summer the many lakes are great for recreational and water activities, best in the area are Gérardmer and Longemer. With small campsites littered along the shorelines these make the perfect base for those memorable family holidays or for couples just wanting to get away and spend some time in this romantic landscape.
During the winter season small ski and toboggan slopes appear. Now this is not the place where you will find the Royals skiing and nobody will be checking if your apparel is of the latest fashion. Forget Après Ski and crowded bars, this is winter fun at its best! Snowballing, sledging boarding or skiing, it’s just families, mostly locals, having fun. Further up the valley is the small town of La Bresse with a nice sports complex, swimming pool and restaurants. This is farming country and the smell of the speciality dishes of cooked cheese and bacon on bread dough, baked in wood ovens prevail the air.
A little further on are the ski slopes of La Bresse /Hohneck. Here you will find a ski school, a snow park (Oppuland) and Luge where kids have endless fun. There is also the opportunity to do some winter or snow shoe walking as well as cross country skiing. With illuminated slopes, skiing at night is possible and when most of the day trippers have left you have the slopes to yourself.
Motorhomes can overnight in the car park. However, these slopes are popular with the Dutch and Belgians and during the Benelux holiday period it does get very busy. A hundred metres from the slopes is the campsite Belle Hutte which is ideal for a longer stay.
The great thing about visiting the Vosges is that it is achievable even if you only have a week or so. If you’re looking for somewhere different, a family based holiday perhaps, then the Vosges is definitely worth considering. The other thing is it won’t ‘break the bank’ as prices here are lower than many in France especially those down the west coast. Nature, food, strenuous sports or gentle activities, the Vosges has so much to offer. Within easy reach and not too expensive Alsace /Lorraine is surprisingly Far from the Madding Crowd – well almost!