Tag Archives: Hilma the Hymer

Tiptoe through the Tulips……….

Tiptoe through the tulips……………

Netherlands: 6th May
Some of you may recall that infamous song made famous by Tiny Tim (6’ 2”) in 1968 – for those hipsters reading this…. What the hell is he talking about …. Google it!
Off we go again in Hilma – last time we were out it was -3°C and 6 inches deep in snow. Now temperatures were soaring to +23°C. We have never been out in Hilma when it has been so hot – lovely. Overnight ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland meant we had some sleep before the very long journey the next day, all of……. 34 miles. Nothing seems too far in Holland, except that is the N206 road, which we decided we liked so much we thought we would go up and down it a few times just to make sure we liked it. Having eventually found the Op Hoop Van Zegen (‘Hoping for the Best’) – all ‘hope’ had been extinguished by that damn road. Anyway, less of my moaning – we arrived.
Not really our cup of tea after the delights of wild camping in Scotland and the free Aires in France but in my inevitable way of wanting ‘something to be organised’ (at least for the first 4 nights) it would do. The afternoon saw us cycle into Noordwijkerhout for provisions (a shiver ran down my spine as I thought we might have to cross the N206, but fortunately the Netherlands is blessed with cycle paths which steered us away from the dreaded road. A few cheap beers and tonic for the Tanqueray Gin off the ferry we were all set (oh yes, we did buy some salad and veg).
Deep sleep beckoned us that night – we were both knackered – nightmares of the N206 haunted me but not bad enough to wake me.

Kuekenhof: 7th May
Today we are off to some famous gardens – the name reminds me of that wonderful cake we found in the Alsace .We decided to cycle there as the information sheet picked up from the ‘Hoping for the Best’ office said it was 25 mins. We decided the Dutch cycle very fast – and yes, we did get lost again despite having all the appropriate cycle maps – ‘Hoping for the Best’s’ advisory 25 mins turned into 50 mins. But we were not disappointed – as soon as you walk in you are immediately hit with a riot of colour, although not in an obscene way. Some were strong and vibrant while others were soft and subtle and all made up from just tulips.

Creamy Delight – no, that’s not the name of the tulip!

Almost unreal

I say ‘just tulips’, these were the very flowers that brought many of Amsterdam’s businessmen to their knees in the 17th Century with Tulip Mania. A single bulb in the 1600’s could cost as much as a Porsche (or 300,000 bulbs) in today’s money – madness – all driven by greed. And yes, the market did crash, it always does.

Sometimes the softer tones shine through

Tiptoe through the…….

Pretty in Pink

Coffee, apple pie, mango & banana smoothie, chips and mayonnaise and ice cream kept us on the go as we wandered through the layers of visual delight. I have always thought the tulip a bit of a one hit wonder and not really appreciated it, I think when you see one or two poking their heads up in someone’s pot or border they really are quite unremarkable. When you see them at the Keukenhoff you see them in a different light altogether – and what light that is, dappled shade interspersed with the occasional burst of sunlight really does bring a new dimension in how to show off these (I now think amazing) flowers. It can take a grower 25 years to get the perfect specimen, me, I’ll just go and buy some. Well worth a visit if you are in the area, but I believe it closes mid-May as of course most of the flowers are over by then.

A muted palette is a real contrast to much of what is seen at Kuekenhof

This almost looks cheesy but believe me the colours are real

To Alsace & back – Days 8 & 9

Eguisheim to Millery – 13th October

So we leave the beautiful autumn golden vines of the Alsace to turn our noses North for our homeward journey. We are not in a hurry though, we are going to take 4 days to get back to the ferry and enjoy the slow drive back. Climbing out of the Rhine valley was gorgeous, this time of year brings a charm all of its own, the countryside bathed in a low light with the trees glowing, each one on their own autumnal journey. At the top of the climb (a few km’s of 6% but very manageable) we stopped for a coffee and Kugelhopf in a layby.

The Kugelhopf in all it’s uneaten glory!

Today we are off to an Aire at Millery (Lat: 48.8159N / Long: 6.12701E) situated just above Nancy and on the banks of the R.Moselle. Upon arrival there were 4 vans well spaced apart, by the time darkness fell there were 14! A bit of a squeeze. We had a little wander around Millery finding the old outdoor Lavarie that had been lovingly restored along with the church. There was some signs that the older residents were not in favour of such ‘rapid’ change with a huge sign on someone’s garage asking to sign a petition against the tide of change.

Fantastic timber work in the reconstructed Millery lavoire

The dodgy duo – enjoying the setting sun on the banks of the Moselle

The Friday night youths were out on their busy little hairdriers but by 10:00pm all had quietened down.

Millery to Rocroi – 14th October

An early mist greeted us coming off the Moselle which made the aire very atmospheric, someone had already left at 6:00am, someone else had launched a boat both of which woke me early. Cup of tea in bed then!
We did get off to an early start making sure our fog lights were working – but there was a snag. Although our pull-out bike rack has lights fitted it did not have a fog light, that was fitted on the main light cluster and was hidden by the bike cover. I didn’t feel comfortable traveling without the fog light on display (I’m sure the Gendarme wouldn’t approve) so off came the bike cover and the glorious fog light could now shine through the spokes giving the French tailgaters an ample view of Hilma’s bottom (note: not Hilma’s ample bottom).
A coffee break half way (with more Kugelhopf of course – Janette is going to get the recipe) and we decided to motor on all the way to Rocroi, set up camp and then have lunch. Upon reaching the edge of town we were stunned by this pretty little aire (Lat: 49.92347N / Long: 4.51705E).

Hilma sitting pretty at Rocroi

The Rocroi Aire – just below the town fortress walls

There were already some vans ensconced on the site but there was plenty of space. In ‘All the Aires North’ book by Vicarious Books it states there are 6 spaces – but clearly there is room for more. As I write this there are 8 of us and probably more to come if last night was anything to go by.
After lunch we decided to take a walk around the old town walls which in fact is a Star-Fort built by Henri II started in 1555 and gradually added too throughout the centuries.

The manicured walls and ramparts of the Rocroi star fortress

A fascinating walk, there are circuits for bikes around the outside and fitness exercise stations to work off all that Kugelhopf!

Janette – doing an impression of Olga Korbut (for those people of a certain age who remember)

……. and in final selection training for the SAS

The real Olga Korbut – for the avoidance of doubt

To Alsace & back – Day 7

Eguisheim to Husserain-les-Chateau (circular walk) – 12th October

Today we left the bikes behind and set off on our pieds. Boots laced up, rucksack full of food, drink and coats stuffed inside, off we set into some pretty moody looking skies hanging over the Vosges Mountains. The Alsace is the second driest place in France according to most of the reports I have read. Today was no exception, despite the threatening looking skies we managed to stay dry all day.

A moody sky over Eguisheim

The walk was about 6 miles incorporating – yes you guessed, vineyards and pretty villages along with a smattering of woods. Beautiful, this is such a peaceful area despite the obvious tourism, once again I would say that I am sure it would be heaving at the height of the season. Following the map, my GPS and some obvious French signposting we wound our way up to the hillside, the view of the Rhine basin opening behind as we climbed, sunlight drifting across the land lighting up the vines with a golden glow.

More moody skies – this time over over Les Trois Chateau. Yes they are vines all the way to the woods.

Just before midday we reached the village of Husserain-les-Chateau and managed to find a hotel above the village in the woods for our morning caffeine hit along with a ‘tarte du jour’ – I keep saying this “what’s not to like?”
This sleepy village has some wealth about it – plenty of fairly ‘newish’ properties with some magnificent views. It is well within commuting distance of both Colmar and Strasbourg, also we are pretty sure that many of the vintners earn a decent living here. If our friends back in our village can grow grapes and get about 350 bottles a year, imagine what some of these boys and girls are producing – eye watering. Prices for the Alsace wine bought direct from the producers range from £7 – £20 depending on quality, year of produce, etc.

Sun lighting up Colmar to the right

What struck us was just how clean it all is, villagers take great pride in their streets and their flowers, obviously vying for ‘best floral village’ and other such awards. A real pleasure to cycle and walk around, we would not hesitate to come back to this area again and spend more time here.

Our last look at Eguisheim before leaving


Moving on

We are off on our return journey tomorrow – we are taking 4 days to get back to the UK so again taking it as part of our holiday, not wanting to rush through this wonderful country. We have some Aires earmarked so let’s see what the next few days will bring. Goodbye Alsace!

No grapes in this one – I just loved the colours

To Alsace & back – Day 6

Open air grotto in Wettolsheim – a moving memorial to those lost in the Great War

Wettolsheim & Turckheim – 11th October

Today was our first cycle around the area – we had planned to cycle to Wettolsheim, walk around the market, buy some pain and vegetables and cycle back to Hilma. On arrival at Wettolsheim we came across a huge open air grotto – a memorial to the fallen in the great war, also something about children which we couldn’t quite make out.
On entering the ‘centre ville’ we found the market today was one stall – some ropey old veg. A quick visit to the boulangerie for our staple bread and croissants and a change of plan was needed. Looking at the map we decided to move on to Turckheim (which I remember our neighbour saying was a great place to visit). Less than half an hour later, on lovely flat and uncrowded roads following the ‘Route des Vin’ signs, we found ourselves in another walled medieval town. This one much bigger than Eguisheim and not quite so ‘twee’, yes still catering for us tourists but had a much more lived in feel.

Yet another beautiful border town street with a definite lilt to Germany. Note MORE vineyards in the background – they are everywhere!

More pretty buildings, more pretty flowers, more cobbled narrow streets and a few café’s and restaurants (what’s not to like?). A coffee was needed before we set off to explore the town on our bikes which didn’t take too long. The cleanest public loos I have ever come across – anywhere!
We decided to stop for lunch and had Tarte Flambee (thin pizza), a beer and Perrier, followed by another café before wobbling away again to find a supermarche to buy our veg. Just like at home in the UK it seems the small independent grocers are few and far between – I guess people rely more on the markets for their fresh produce.

Is it me or are the French more respectful of cyclists? They seem to be much more patient than their British counterparts and also give us more space (maybe not in Paris though?).
Finished off the day sat outside Hilma in the late sunshine, a glass of Reisling and a good book – later an end of day walk in the vineyards as the sun was setting – what a life – I want more of this!

Couldn’t resist taking yet another photo of the grapes!

Eguisheim to Turckheim cycle route (1:25,000)

To Alsace & back – Day 4

To Eguisheim – 9th October

Quite an early start for us, but before we set off the man in in his little smart car came and collected our 5 euro for the pleasure of staying overnight. The previous night was free – I think the difference here is you can stay longer than the 48hrs and there are more services (although you would be brave to use the showers)
Today was a shorter drive – a mere 120 miles to our intended destination. A small ‘deviation’ and then a stop to LeClerc for provisions (Leffe and bread – well maybe some veg and meat as well) with a lunch stop en-route all made for a pleasant journey. Whilst at the lunch we were glad we didn’t use the ‘frites’ van as the said owner take a pee behind his van – yuk!
Driving in to the Vosges mountains the rain came down quite heavily, the road gradually rising to a fantastic viewpoint, Hilma did a grand job of climbing the mountains. I must admit to being a little concerned as once or twice when stopping I have smelt a hot clutch – pas de probleme.
On arriving on the outskirts of Eguisheim Mrs. SatNav once again got us to the edge of town but wanted to take us through it’s very narrow streets, just in time we saw a sign for the campsite directing us around the outside. And a very pleasant little campsite she is. After the Aires though and our wild camping in Scotland it all does seem like they pack em in tight.
Funny, although the drive was shorter today we both felt really tired. We put it down to the ‘newness’ of being in Hilma in a foreign land and having to concentrate that much harder about everything.
Once we have this trip under our belt I’m sure we will settle into a pattern with future travels. At the moment, we can only compare it to the North Coast 500 trip – the daily mileages were less interspersed with 2 or even 3 day stops.

To Alsace & back – Day 3

8th October
Lac du Val Joly, Eppe-Sauvage

Before leaving our overnight stop we decided now that we no longer have Raggs we need to do some brisk walking (good cross-training to compliment my running). Walking down to the lake we found a mini entertainment complex rather like a smaller version of Center Parcs. Lots of activities that could be done in the high season with plenty of cycle and walking routes to suit all. A great place to stop, maybe for a couple of nights and explore the surrounding paths. That said I would think at the height of the season space would be at a premium. Even at this time of year there were 17 motorhomes on the site (could easily fit 30).
Because we were splitting the journey to the Alsace over 3 days we could choose our route without having to feel like chewed cardboard at the end of each day. The first part of today’s journey we had to negotiate our way through Verdun – Mrs. SatNav did a great job of getting us around the town, not sure we could have done it without her. Once out on the open road we revert to the Michelin regional maps at 1:200,000 (1cm = 2km) which I have to say (backed up by a road atlas) are good for getting an overview of the route whilst giving great detail. The problem with Mrs. SatNav is she wants to take us the most direct route which may not be where we want to go (or dare I say it, even suitable for Hilma’s girth).

Eppe-Sauvage aire

The view from Hilma – first night in France

Lac du Madine, Heudicourt-sous-les-Cotes

We aim for Lac du Madine (Lat: 48.93533N / Long: 5.71557) our 2nd overnight stop in France. Driving through some beautiful countryside with the maple trees turning a warm golden yellow also gave us a warm glow inside. The Aire is large, again near a lake which is an obvious magnet for holiday destinations. Although this site could easily take 50 vans there were only 5 vans spread around the site – all looks a little tired, beware the showers & toilets – better off in the van I reckon.

Dusk over Lac du Madine

Before supper went off for a 3 mile run near the lake on grass, through woods and good paths. Afterwards we both went for our constitutional walk with the bins, spotting a Great White Egret, hundreds of Mute Swans, Coots galore and the odd Gadwall. Slept like a log!

To Alsace & back – Day 2

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The Ferry – 7th October

Today was an early start – this was to be our first foray onto a ferry (sounds like a good soundbite – foray onto a ferry – I think I’ll copyright it and then the BBC can buy it off me for some exhorbitant fee and make some cheap ‘fly on the ferry’ documentary – or has that already been done?) with Hilma and to foreign lands not so far. France was calling.

Hilma waiting patiently at Dover – note the Euro light stickers in the wrong place!!

Nearly every motorhome blog one reads tells of how the French have got it sorted regarding motorhoming. Last year we bought the ‘All the Aires France’ books by Vicarious Books so was able to plan 2 stops en-route to Eguisheim in the Alsace, our planned destination.
There has been many a time we have previously driven through France (without a motorhome of course) and got caught out with driving times, ending up like chewed cardboard by the time we arrive. Not this time – we plan to travel a mere 140 miles to our first night stop at Eppe-Sauvage (Free) next to Lac du Val Joly (Lat: 50.11965N / Long: 4.13925E). No tolls for us, just motorways and D roads (still haven’t mastered the map roads to reality numbering yet).
We hugged the Belgian border most of the way making good time and the aire proved just what was described on the tin. We have not tackled a ‘Fot Bleu’ (water, waste and electricity unit) yet and just looked at the machine wondering what the heck to do. As we are travelling we don’t need hook up yet and our batteries are getting topped up either whilst driving or by the 100w solar panel installed earlier in the year. Hardly used any water so no need to fill up yet. I’m hoping we can make it to Eguisheim without servicing Hilma with the necessaries!

Eppe-Sauvage aire

Hilma at rest after her epic first journey to France (with us anyway – who knows where her previous owners took her)


Eppe-Sauvage aire

The view from Hilma – first night in France

North Coast 500 – Days 1-3

5th May
And they’re off – like a ferret down the trousers, like a greyhound out the trap, like Red Rum winning the Grand National – more like a snail with the scent of a Pansy in it’s olfactory senses. After the stress of getting the dash light sorted (previous post) we were all packed and ready to go with an early start in mind. Thwarted at the last minute – Janette runs a couple of chocolate shops with an online presence (Chocolate Gourmet) and the checkout system was not working. I attempted to sort but it was having none of it – I suspect a recent upgrade may be the issue.
Anyway this is about our trip not work! We decided to take 3 days to get up to Inverness, the start point for the tour. Setting off about 9:00am, destination Lochmaben close to Dumfries, a little CL site. Weather was gorgeous, no annoying dashboard light, Hilma purring up the motorway like a seasoned traveller, what is not to like. The sense of release and freedom always surprises me when we set off whether it be for 2 days or 20.
This is the start our second year with Hilma and so far (and I can’t see this changing), we love it.
6th May
An early(ish) start for the drive to the next site in The Trossachs (I know all those jokes rattling around – sounds painful, etc.). Maragowan was the destination, a CC site, very pretty, sitting next to the River Lochay running into Loch Tay. Very busy – we do prefer the smaller sites but this was a convenient stopover so we would only be here one night. Booked a meal at the Bridge of Lochay Inn, a short walk from the site, talking ourselves into treating ourselves ‘as we were on holiday’.
7th May
I have got back in to my running and had a fantastic early morning run along the river before breakfast – beautiful sunshine but chilly. We were on the road by 9:30am and driving on the A827 along the side of Loch Tay. Mrs.Garmin tried to take us down a road that had a narrow bridge (7.5ft) and as Hilma is of the same girth we gave that a serious miss (although I’m sure the drive would have been spectacular). Warning – this A road felt like a B road – twisty and sometimes narrow. Our next destination was Culloden Moor just outside Inverness ready for the true start of the NC 500. Great views all the way and we found the site easily enough – went for the usual afternoon walk to stretch the legs.
An Oystercatcher had decided to take up residence on Pitch no.43 and was duly roped off!

Ensonced on Pitch 43 and not moving

Spooky, eerily quiet

Dark and dingy with the promise of light.

Not sure what kind of moss – possibly a Liverwort of some sort?