Monday, 23 February 2015

Travelling to Abruzzo

Done this trip 6 times now! I still cannot believe it. To start with I had an old Berlingo van that could not go over 50 miles per hour and this did stretch out the trip a bit. Now I have a Berlingo car which has turned out to be quicker but not awfully reliable.

Our trip starts in Calais but I prefer to stay outside of the town if possible and last year we stopped off at a small town about 80 miles from Calais. The town is Lens and one of the reasons for stopping off there was to visit the branch of The Louvre here  set in a landscaped park (this was a coal mining area) with Birch trees and gravelled paths.

path to museum

Louvre Café

Early Christian Carving in gallery

Walk from Car Park to Museum

In the Main Gallery
Reims is a big city and I'm slightly put off by the complicated road signs and motorway exits so the next place to stop is Chalons en Champagne a splendid  town (despite the unpromising outskirts) with 2 lovely churches to explore and a vibrant  historic center. St Alpins Church in the town center embodies all of the major phases of medieval art from the Romanesque/Gothic period.
From 8th - 10th Century Chalons developed considerably and a Merchants Quarter was established and at its heart was a chapel dedicated to St Andre which then became the church of St Alpin.
 After Nancy - another wonderful French town if you have time, we take the road that crosses the Vosges  into Alsace and down along the plain to Mulhouse.
The road 'par le col' is very winding and slow as it takes you through numerous villages all with their speed bumps and limits but if you have the time and brakes its worth taking.
The advantage is that along this road in the summer and autumn local farmers and producers set up stalls beside the road selling local vegetables, honey and apple juice. If you can resist buying too much (They bag up apples in 5 kg sacks !) there are great bargains to be had here. I love the very pungent Munster cheese which has a smell that does tend to linger inside the car for several weeks after I get home.
Based in Mulhouse for a few days (using to find a clean cheap hotel) we visited the Flea Markets held in local towns and run by charities as fund raisers.The towns are mostly closed to other traffic and every household sets out a table by their gateway.There is a lot of tat here but if you do have the time and the patience you can also discover some wonderful bargains.To find out when these sales take place I use this site .You will need at least 3 hours to look at all of the stalls and enjoy a cold beer or coffee!
Flea Market near Mulhouse 2014
After leaving Mulhouse we cross into Switzerland at Basel ,stopping at the border control to buy a Swiss Motorway pass at about £30.The roads around Basel are a nightmare and I've not dared to leave the Italian bound motorway for fear of getting lost but one day I WILL! We normally wait until we reach the beautiful valley of Gertnellen then take a little road from the motorway that runs all the way along the valley until after about 5 miles you can re join the motorway.

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