Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Into Alsace

Very tired tonight so this will probably be brief.

We thoroughly recommend the B&B at Villers Ste Gertrude - only open 5 months and run with all the passion and professionalism you could desire. It would make an excellent base for touring in the region - very beautiful wooded hills and valleys, Roman sites, nice local food, etc.  So - not at all pretentious or over-glamorised, but classy, calm and restorative.

We drove up over the high ridge at the south of the Ardennes - through divinely beautiful snow decorating the trees on either side of the motorway - the trees transformed into startling black and white sculptures, and the snowflakes doing that mysterious thing where they are almost stationary if you stand still but they whizz past at blizzard speed as you drive past them (an optical illusion).

The day's driving was quite demanding as we sped along - the skies above us filled with raging black and white cloud systems, and rather threatening. We ditched our plan to go to Trier because it was so squally, dark and cold. We also decided to stay out of Germany as far as possible, because the law there now requires that you have proper snow tyres if there is any snow at all - and of course, we do not.  The fashion/law there now is that you have two full sets of wheels for your car, which you change at the beginning and end of winter - a specialist company stores your other wheels for you, and of course that is a whole level of expense that we Brits do not - at present - even consider.

So, we headed down towards Luxembourg, taking in a very nice coffee at Arlon - a hilltop town of unexpected richesse and grandeur - have never heard of it before - but it has a huge church built in about 1908 with a 100m spire and fantastic quality and space. Lovely.  It also had a banner up saying they will have an Intronisation of the Prince of Carnival in the spring....   Intronisation?

We didn't make Luxembourg in the end, but had our lunch at Mamer - failed to get into a local cafe serving a menu at €10 (full of old people eating sort of choucroute), but secured a great little table in a nearby pizzeria (la Croquante) which was banging - all the local cops eating there, and nice old ladies, and courting couples, and groups of young people - very good indeed.

We stopped for a pee and and glass of water at a quiet little place utterly dominated by another huge chemical plant - Saar something - these factories are terrifying to look at - and with so many people living right next door, you wonder how it's allowed to happen. They have all these chimney belching out fumes and gases, dozens of them.  Folly.

Our plan was to get to Strasbourg but actually we peeled off early here at Saverne - what a pretty place - river, canal, railway, 12thC church, wonderful wooden buildings, brasseries with local wine, lots of boutiques, language schools, hotels, all looking very thriving, just a nice place. We are in the Hotel Europe which is (sort of) 4 star - the lift is SO small you can barely get one person in, let alone 2 or any baggage. It must be built into an old chimney stack.

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