Autumn in Alsace

An account of our visit to Alsace in September 1999 published in Caravan Magazine October 2000 

 At the beginning of September we headed for the continent for the second time this year, this time with the aim of spending much of the month in the Alsace region of France. 

Having been part of Germany at various times has produced an area quite unlike the rest of France, most noticeable in the style of building, Germanic sounding place names and a local German dialect.  Being bounded by the Rhine to the East and the Vosges mountains to the West creates a microclimate giving Alsace the lowest rainfall in France and autumn sun that ripens the grapes well into October.


We had spent a few days there on our way back from Italy earlier this year and had fallen for it in a big way.  Even before we arrived home the idea of returning had been firmly planted.  Finding a special ferry deal on the Caravan Club website settled it.  50% reduction on the Hull – Zeebrugge crossing was too good to miss and the short drive to Hull from Sheffield was a real bonus. 


We travelled on the first day of the offer and we were not alone in taking advantage, caravans almost filled one deck of the P&O ferry.  It was our first experience of a long crossing and we found it a very civilised start to a holiday.  There is on-board entertainment to suit all tastes and after a good dinner, we settled for a visit to the cinema, a couple of drinks and a good night’s sleep.  Next morning at 9 o’clock with a hearty breakfast inside us, we were on our way along the free Belgian motorway.



Municipal Campsite
(now closed)

River Moselle

It is 385 miles to our chosen destination, Colmar, but with 30 days at our disposal we took that in two easy legs.  Camping Europe in Remich is a convenient halt, situated alongside the Moselle on the Luxembourg-German Border.  Remich is a very pleasant town with riverside walks and shops selling goods cheaper than the old “Duty Free” prices.  This, combined with diesel at 35 pence/litre makes it very popular with Germans from the surrounding area at weekends.  Luxembourg is well worth more than the two days we stayed this time but we wanted to press on and check the progress of the tiny grapes we had seen in June.


From Remich to Colmar is only 160 miles but the route we chose used some toll motorways and avoids the built up area around Saarbrücken.


Les Trois Chateaux, in Eguisheim near Colmar is a municipal site with modern facilities surrounded by vineyards and only a short stroll out of the village. We found it much fuller than it had been in June, most of the available pitches were sloping but with the help of our Carver Mover we were able to site ourselves in a large pitch with good views.
Eguisheim has a perfectly preserved centre of cobbled streets lined with half timbered medieval houses bedecked with flowers.  There are shops for essentials, a superb butcher, several good restaurants and a hypermarket nearby.  Storks, the trademark of the area, nest on the church roof and occasionally visit the campsite for titbits.


The village, whilst not ignored by coach parties is not overwhelmed or over-commercialised.  In our opinion it’s probably the prettiest village in an area renowned for them.  It is on the “Route de Vins” and almost totally given over to wine production with many local victualers offering tasting and direct sales from their lovely medieval premises.


When we realised that there was no pressure to buy huge quantities or indeed anything at all, tasting excellent wine in such surroundings became the perfect way to round off an afternoon.  At prices on a par with supermarkets we usually took a bottle away for a more considered opinion over dinner.  This wasn’t too successful though; our considered opinion is now that we like them all!


As this was a second holiday and not wanting to do too much driving, a base in the Colmar area was ideal.  It is central for the entire wine region, and a short drive from the Vosges mountains.  Colmar is a beautiful city with its’ medieval “Old Town”, and a little further away, Strasbourg is an absolute gem.


                                                              Strasbourg Old Town

The area is rich in history and the medieval fortresses that line the Rhine valley are the evidence of how violent it has been.  Many are open to visitors, but be prepared for the French opening hours!  The three that overlook the campsite and give it its name are a short drive or can be reached on foot by the more energetic. Signs of more recent conflicts are visible in the Vosges where wire tangled WW1 battlefields have been preserved as a monument to those killed fighting for control of the peaks.


We interspersed quiet days roaming through the villages with trips up into the Vosges where the “Route des Crêtes”, an excellent road built by the military in WW1 runs along the crest of the mountains, giving easy access to the highest peaks and super views.

                    The Vosges Mountains                                            La Ligne WW1 battlefield

At 18 nights this was our longest ever stay in one place and although we still had not exhausted the sights, a change in the weather persuaded us that it was time to move on.


There isn’t the usual abundant choice of campsites at this time of year as many French sites start closing mid September.  We next spent four nights as the only tourer on a small municipal site at Sivry sur Meuse, north of Verdun.  It was friendly and cheap, but we preferred our own facilities to the chilly, jetton fed and neglected showers.  Verdun and the surrounding countryside each side of the river Meuse is very attractive but most visitors are drawn there for its Great War sites.

Much of the area was so devastated that it was unsuitable for reclamation and eighty years of returning to nature has not obliterated evidence of the battle.  The principle sites are well signed and provided with tourist information.  The Verdun museum at Fleury has the expected artefacts of war but is also keenly promoting Verdun’s role as “The Peace Capital”.  A visit to the Ossaury nearby where the bones of the thousands unidentified of both sides are placed, is a moving but positive experience.


The final leg of our trip was an easy run via the Belgian motorways to Brugge. A beautiful medieval city, it is compact enough to explore on foot or by horse-drawn trap.  A boat trip on the canals is to be recommended, as is the local beer.  We used Camping Memling which is in the suburb of Sint Kruis and open all year. It is conveniently placed for a hypermarket, public transport into Brugge and is only 15 miles to the docks.



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