Fri 22nd Aug.
A morning of mishaps. A later-than-hoped-for departure from the campsite in Ihringen preceded a drive into town to a supermarket to stock up on essentials (German beer, primarily. But this is a wine region and the beer selection was poor.).
On the way into Ihringen is a petrol station that also sells LPG/Autogas (we have a refillable LPG gas system on the van so we needn’t worry about swapping gas cylinders, which is actually very difficult when crossing country borders as a gas cylinder from one country can’t be swapped/refilled in a different country). The LPG pump displayed a very large notice to the effect that it was illegal to use LPG for anything other than driving the engine. Hmm. I’d heard rumours about this but this was the first time I’d come across it. So we decided to be good citizens and not fill-up our tank here. Less good in the citizenship stakes was that I managed to remove part of the roof over the LPG pump whilst driving away as the overhanging back-end of the van swung out and caught it amidships with a loud cracking sound. Fortunately the van is undamaged other than a few scratches on the awning caused by breaking polycarbonate roof panels. To be fair, the lady in the petrol station was very matter-of-fact about it as we swapped insurance details, and even said she hoped that was the worst thing that would happen to us today. It was. Just.
In the supermarket (as in almost all German supermarkets), there’s a machine for returning your empty plastic bottles, and another for returning your empty beer bottles. Both machines issue credit slips for the refunds on the bottles. These credit slips can be cashed-in at the check-out (smart machines, they have a laser scanner inside them that scans the barcode on the labels, accepting bottles that are recognised, and declining refunds for bottles that aren’t recognised (like the Italian water bottles we’d been toting around, trying to find somewhere to recycle them!). Needless to say, one of the beer bottles failed to make it into the machine and proved no match for the concrete floor it fell upon. Fortunately, we weren’t lacerated by broken shards, and a very nice lady came and cleared away the mess.
With our tails metaphorically between our legs, we hot-footed it out of Germany and into France following guidance from “her on the windscreen”. To be honest, we had no clear idea of where we were heading. “South” was the general idea, but do we go to the Med coast, or to the Atlantic coast? And so undecided, we agreed to head for a place that was close to the “watershed” in terms of road directions: a place from which we could choose either direction. A place I’d never heard of before except as a sticker on the skin of a banana: Dole.
And so we rocked-up in Dole having driven through some beautiful countryside (“she”’s been programmed to keep us off toll roads. i.e. 99.9% of all motorways, and so we’re sticking to the main roads, most of which are really good). Much of the route was alongside the river Doubs. We parked-up at the aire along with about 20 or so other motorhomes. No facilities, but completely free of charge.
The aire was situated between the river Doubs and the Rhine-Rhone canal, which – in Dole – formed part of the town’s defences in earlier times. It was also next to the Stade de Sport. We’d arrived just in time to see two teams coming out of the sports hall changing rooms – each team dressed in their own team colours – and make their ways 10 metres or so onto the car park which also turned out to be a boules piste. Yes – they wear team colours here for boules matches (Pat & Gaynor take note!).
Unfortunately, the aire was also adjoining a fairly busy road that continued to be used throughout the night. A bit noisy, but not too bad. At least not until an emergency vehicle went past with alarm going. I didn’t sleep too well.
This morning, I wandered up into the town to find a boulangerie for an obligatory roof-of-the-mouth-shredding baguette, a croissant and a pain aux chocolat. It was a steep climb up – what I realised to be – a very ancient street. There was a hotel that used to be the town mill on a branch of the river diverted into the lower town in the 13th century. But there wasn’t a boulangerie, neither ancient nor modern. At the top of the town is the most imposing church of Notre Dame – and enormous church, originally from the 16th century and rebuilt many times – the last restoration being between 2002 and 2005. Eventually, I managed to procure the required baked items & returned for breakfast.
After breakfast (i.e. practically lunchtime) we decided we’d both explore the town in some more detail. I don’t know how we do it, but almost every place we happen to stop in is fabulous in some way. In addition to the church, Louis Pasteur was born here – the house of his birth (a tannery) is now a museum. The town used to be the principal town of Bourgogne for many centuries. It’s a beautiful and famous town, and I’d never even heard of it.
Destination programmed in – somewhere North of Bourg-En-Bresse. We’ve decided to head down to the Med. However, we have decided to take a detour off into the alps en-route and we found a convenient Camping Municipale in St Etienne – just to the N of Bourg-En-Bresse – in which to pass the night.