Monday, 1 May 2017

Cote D'Or to Reims

Friday 28th April 2017   We're slowly making our way up to Belgium for a ferry next weekend and thought we had better visit a vineyard on the way to stock up! An independent vineyard at Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, ( N47.52155 E4.52961 )a little north west of Dijon looked ideal and so it turned out to be. One of the oldest vineyards in France, listed and mapped in the time of Charlemagne, it dates back to 741 but gradually disappeared by the end of the C19th.  A little over 20 years ago 13Ha were replanted and the current owner is trying hard to promote not only the vineyard but the region. Located near the historical site where the battle of Alesia took place between the Romans and the Gauls it is considered to be the birth place of the French nation. There aren't as many vineyards this north in the Cote D'Or but we chose well, the wine was terrific (we bought a bottle or two!) and the location was excellent, the vines planted on the south facing hills looked down upon us, swallows performed their ariel acrobatics ,owls screeched and hooted and once the sun went down there wasn't a sound to be heard other than the birds. No traffic, no trains, no planes and we didn't hear a strimmer until 9.30 the following morning. Our non-scientific study suggests that Greece has the highest per capita strimmer ownership, Spain second and France in third place. Strimmer operatives generally wear ear defenders. Folk nearby generally don't. That's all I have to say about strimmers.   Saturday 29th April 2017   We left the Cote D'Or and set off toward Chaumont, leaving the vineyards behind and were soon driving alongside fields of rape, wheat and corn. Not the most scenic of drives but we drove through some woodland and a quaint village or two. I use the word quaint to describe villages we drive through where Phil tenses and I say that a bus could get through here as I pull in the side mirrors. The 30kph speed signs are generally unnecessary as I crawl through with all senses on high alert. After a brief detour to Intermarche to buy 5L of white vinegar ( we put it in the waste water tank to keep it smelling fresh - or vinegary, dependant upon your sense of smell) and its cheap in France, we arrived at the motorhome aire just outside Chaumont. It wasn't the most pleasing of places and there was nobody available to turn on the, allegedly free, electricity and water until 4.30pm. As it was only 12.30 we had a look at a book or two and drove another 30mins north to Froncles. A great stopover, all services including electricity, next to the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne, and all for €8.45 per night (N48.30138 E5.14885). When the young lady came round to collect the money I mentioned that I would fill up with water the next morning and she asked if I had an adaptor for their water outlet as it was rather unusual. If I didn't have one she could lend me one in the morning. Now, I reckon I've got an adaptor for every tap/water outlet known to man or woman in Europe so I retrieved the bag of fittings and wandered casually over to the water supply. It all looked a bit high tech and very new and sure enough there was an odd looking stubby lump of metal coming horizontally out of the stainless steel box. Closer examination and it turned out to be a push fit thingy that you get with garden hoses. I retrieved my fitting from the bag and inserted it into the outlet. It didn't quite fit. I tried three and then a nice Frenchman wandered over and showed me the fitting I needed and said I could borrow his. "But I've got one of those" I said showing him the piece. We tried again and sure enough my bit of kit worked and water came out of my hose. I thanked the French guy as I pulled the fitting from the outlet and covered myself in about 5L of water! A quick change of clothes and, as we were only 20m from the canal bank a spot of fishing was in order. No fish were harmed in this fruitless endeavour.   Sunday 30th April 2017.   No quaint villages today but plenty of quaint roads. Eventually we ended up on a road with a white line down the middle and Phil was able to exhale the breath she had been holding for the last 10miles. Onwards through more fields of grain until we reached Nancy. Few large cities have motorhome aires anywhere near the centre but here in Nancy we can park up next to the canal marina with all services (N48.69228 E6.19320) and a ten minute walk to Place Stanislas, the medieval quarter and a lovely urban park with a small zoo. The harbourmaster (la capitainerie) after we stumbled along for a while in my fractured French, asked me if I spoke a little English after which we got on like a house on fire. He accepted my €16.40 for an overnight stay, gave me a map and told me that Place Stanislas was the most beautiful square in France, if not all of Europe and drew a little route on the map which would show us the best sights and only take a couple of hours. We set off but were delayed after ten minutes by a vintage car rally where the vehicles we had earlier seen being escorted through the city were parking up. Old Renaults, Citroens, Austin Healeys and MGs and a superb AC Cobra amongst others. Before they had parked up they had been escorted through the city by police motorcyclists who looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Blue lights flashing, vintage car horns honking, pedestrians gawping as they drove past - what's not to like? Being in the centre of a large city I didn't think I'd have any problems finding some WiFi so I could follow the Spurs/Arsenal match. If not a live feed at least a commentary. Unfortunately we appear to be in some kind of WiFi black hole here but my son kept me abreast of the game via a series of expletive filled text messages. Oh well, there's always next season and we're in the FA Cup final. Tomorrow we head to Reims.   Monday 1st May 2017   What a beautiful city Reims is. Wide pedestrianised boulevards with stunning architecture,although a lot of it is obscured by the many tall trees, now in full leaf. We were lucky to be able to walk about here today with hardly any traffic and no crowds of shoppers. Today being a National Holiday the shops were all closed as were many of the bars, can you imagine shops and bars closing in England on a Bank Holiday? No, me neither but it made for a peaceful stroll around the city centre. But first we headed for the Cathedral where between 816 and 1825 some 34 sovereigns began their reign here, including a couple of dozen Kings. Building on the Cathedral in its current form began in 1211 and was mostly completed 100 years later. The view when you approach from the west is stunning with the front of the Cathedral framed by trees either side of  rue Libergier. The Cathedral is 139m long but what amazed me was the height. Looking up from the nave with massive pillars either side and buttresses crisscrossing above took my breath away. It was a little cloudy today so we didn't see the best of the stained glass windows but we saw enough to be amazed. Some of the windows date from the fifteenth century but there are three large panels by Chagall which are almost as impressive. Damage during WW1 & WW2 took its toll but the restoration work itself is a wonder. I've recently read "The Pillars of the Earth" and I can imagine how awestruck English builders and masons must have been when they first saw these magnificent French Cathedrals. The 250 step climb to the tower affords 360deg views across France's flattest region but we were spared the ordeal with it being a Holiday and the tour wasn't available - phew! We arrived here early afternoon and unusually the motorhome aire here in Reims (N49.25006 E4.02164) is just on the edge of the city centre however, unlike last night's stop in Nancy, this one is free. There is only space for 7 vans and the access is barriered with a phone number to obtain the access code-  "Bonjour, J'ai un Camping Car" "Oui?" "Err......" "Do you speak English?" "Yes - I have a camping car and I'm outside the barrier" "Yes, I know. The code is xxxxxxx." "Merci" "You're welcome, have a nice day" Easy peasy.   Tomorrow we'll have another look around the City, there's lots we haven't seen, and then set off toward Cambrai which will possibly be our last night in La Belle France for a while.

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