Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Fortress of brrrrrrr

Day 213 12.02.13 Luxembourg

Well that was a chilly one!  We give the van a blast through with the heating before either of us dare venturing out from under the covers!  After wrapping up warm we set out on the long walk to the city centre.  It’s probably the coldest it has been so far and our faces are quickly red from the biting wind.  We find the centre relatively easy though and pick ourselves up a free map and city guide from the tourist information office.

We walk to the Palais Grand-Ducal which is a little underwhelming for a ‘palace’ but does have some chilly looking guards with guns outside parading back and forth.  We walk through the main square ‘Place Guillame II’ with its large statue and some buildings of note.  Following the very helpful street signs we make our way up to the ‘Three towers’ and the start of the city’s fortifications.  The towers are quite nice although sadly graffiti ridden.  The rest of the Bock promontory is where the real interest lies.  The UNESCO protected fortress walls are mightily impressive indeed.  Built up from the natural defence of the surrounding valley these powerful ramparts offer spectacular views over the town.  Sadly the Casemates underground tunnels through the rocky foundations of the city are currently closed.  We take a while enjoying the lovely view of the abbey, river and colourful houses from our lofty standpoint.  Wandering back through town we make our way to the square with the town hall and all the cities eateries.  It’s too far to walk back to the van for lunch and in the absence of any supermarkets or mini-markets to grab food we end up in good old McD’s although the wifi is locked and nobody seems to know the password *sigh*.  It’s cheaper than in France at least and Chris’ ‘Bigger Big Mac’ is quite the feast! 

After some more pottering about town we walk down to the Constitution Square and Gelle Fra memorial.  This amazing viewpoint offers just awesome views over the deep, snowy valley of the Adolphe bridge and Place de Metz on the other side.  It’s a wonderful sight, probably the finest in the city.  Looking down the steep fortress walls to the valley below there looks to be plenty of kids using the fortifications to launch pretty epic snowball fights!  In summer I bet this place is a wonderful, green park.  In fact I should mention that there are lots of huge green spaces in and around the city with some fantastic play areas for kids.  We spotted a massive pirate ship play area that I would have ended up in myself had it not been covered in snow!  The parks are very well looked after even in this weather so no doubt in summer they must be blissful.

We take a walk over the long Adolphe bridge high above the valley.  On the other side we find a fair few grand buildings including the very attractive ArcelorMittal Headquarters, a fancy baroque affair.  That’s the last of the sights according to our map and I must say we’re freezing!  Its mediateque time!  We settle in to the toasty warm Mediateque in the late afternoon and get some writing done whilst thawing! 

I’ve been quite surprised by how small Luxembourg actually is.  There are some very lovely views afforded by the surrounding valleys but otherwise not a great deal of attractions.  There’s clearly a lot of money in the city as the locals are all impeccably dressed and the majority of shops are very high end labels.  It’s a quirky little place but I hoped it would have a little more to offer.  Perhaps we visited at the wrong time; I’m sure in summer I’d fall for the enormous parks and come away with a much more favourable opinion!

If it aint broke, fix it anyway.

Day 212 11.02.13 Metz to Luxembourg

We wake up to find around 5 inches of snow has fallen overnight and Van Diesel is covered!  A few of the other campers are attempting to dig their way out of their parking spots and taking several attempts to drive up the slippery and steep exit ramp out of the car park.  I don’t think we’ll be going anywhere for a little while!  Instead we enjoy a lazy lie in.

Hunger gets the better of us eventually and we venture out all bundled up in clothes to fetch a fresh baguette for lunch.  Brrrrrr it’s chilly to say the least!  With full bellies we head out again to see some of the further reaches of the centre.  The town looks so different covered in a thick blanket of crunchy white snow.  We find our way over to the brand new Pompidou centre with its funky undulating roof.  Sadly covered in snow, the effect of its architectural quirkiness isn’t quite as dramatic as I’d hoped.  The nearby train station offers some lovely, more traditional architecture although once again much of the view is obstructed by barriers and diggers due to the tramway construction. 

We have a walk around some of the bits of town we’d missed yesterday but there’s not a huge amount left.  The slushy, icy pavement doesn’t make for too enjoyable a stroll and so we find ourselves running for mediateque shaped cover.  Unfortunately it’s closed and we’re stuck out in the cold! 

We head back to the van instead and discover some council workers out gritting the paths and removing some snow from the carpark.  Fearing another snowy deluge overnight we decide to get on the road while we can and head for our next destination of Luxembourg.  It’s a relatively direct drive into Luxembourg and we head to a Lidl store on the outskirts of the city where we can stock uo and then hopefully park up for the night as it’s getting late.  It’s unfortunately closed for a refurb (seriously France, leave things alone!!!) which is a major pain as we’re getting low on a few things and really needed a stock up.  

Instead we have to leave with fingers crossed that our first city parking plan works out as we’re rapidly losing light, the Luxembourg road system is a little ‘anything goes’ and it’s still bloody snowing!  Thankfully we find the park and ride carpark easily and it is, as we’d hoped, free.  We spot a height barrier on the entrance though and feel hope slipping away.  As we drive on past the rest of the carpark though we spot some transit vans parked inside which look to be a similar height to Van Diesel and so we loop back around.  There are no signs to say what height the barrier is set at so we have a rather worrying slow drive up to them and discover that we can mercifully fit underneath, huzzah!  It’s too late for any venturing around so aside from a short walk to see what’s on offer in the very nearby area (answer: nothing) we settle down for the night.

Icicles on the gargoyles.

Day 211 10.02.13 Metz

We get up early and make the most of some more time online and of course more hot showers! It really is the last minute when we close up the room to leave, not that there appears to be a checking out process?!   We get the van ready and drive over to the aire closer to Metz centre, which despite being only a couple of kilometres, is a nightmare journey.

Metz is the umpteenth French city about to get a tram network and as a result huge swathes of road have been dug up and much of the city outskirts are inaccessible.  We spend a ludicrous amount of time trying to get to the aire before giving up in a large but paid for carpark.  Chris waits with the van whilst I go off to figure out where the hell we should be going.  I find the aire and about 6 other campers but tracing the route back to Van Diesel gets impossible and I return to the van grumpy, cold and clueless after getting more than a little lost!  We drive out of the carpark only to find ourselves stuck in a seemingly infinite loop of left turns thanks to a series of diversions.  It’s the third time around before we spot a car who has found the exit; apparently you need to drive around the barriers and onto the pavement to escape!!!  We squish Van Diesel through and then we’re out onto road I recognise and manage to navigate the route over to the aire.  It’s a quiet riverside spot only a short walk from town and we’re pleased to finally get there! 

After grabbing some lunch we head out to look around town.  It a freezing cold day but the bright blue skies lift our spirits, it’s been a while since we’ve seen much of those.  Across the river our first sight is the lovely Temple Neuf which juts out into the river.  The frontage has a great deal of lovely stone work as well as some rather odd purple(?) ironwork. 

Onwards into town you cannot miss the humongous cathedral with, at a gigantic 42 metres, one of the highest naves in Europe.  It towers beautifully over much of the town, a real jaw-dropping sight.  It is incredibly well maintained and very clean looking.  It’s so cold today that even the gargoyles have icicles hanging from their mouths!  You can’t help but be taken aback by the sheer scale of this stunning building, it really is magnificent.

Inside we are once again amazed, the height of the ceiling is dizzying!  The tall stained glass windows apparently have a whopping surface area of 6500m2.  They are a mix between traditional religious designs and rather funky abstract modern designs.  Both fill the interior space with a vivid array of colours on this sunny day.

Elsewhere in town there are a number of very pleasant churches although most of them have wide-scale refurbishments going on at the moment. Strolling away from the main streets we find ourselves in a residential area with some gorgeous Art Deco houses with beautiful detailing.  It’s a very nice area indeed and every residence has a uniquely attractive façade. 

We make our way over to the far side of town and the ‘Porte des Allemands’ gate on the river.  This old fortification has pointed towers and strong turreted walls.  There is nothing left of the interior but the external walls continue to stand proudly over the water that rushes through underneath the main archway.  It’s a great reminder of the history of the town and looks lovely against todays blue sky. 

We make our way back through town via some more churches, the highlight being the elegant Saint Segolene.  The sky is starting to turn dark by this point and we’re pretty tired from all the walking so we head back to the van for dinner and a movie or two.  The temperature is dropping yet further and the snow is starting as we turn in for a chilly night.  Can we go back to the hotel room now?!

Returning to humanity

Day 210 09.02.13 Nancy to Metz

After a short lie in we were on the road to our planned hotel/hostel in Metz.  We got there easy enough and parked up.  There was nobody at the reception desk but a helpful man in the lobby pointed us in the direction of the booking machine outside.  After switching the language over to English we learned that we just needed to use a card to pay the machine for a code to get into a room, very handy!  Called Formula1, it’s a hostel meets hotel with double rooms and shared bathroom and shower facilities.  This helps them keep the price at a relatively low 33 euros a night per room. It’s a big treat for us since we usually live so cheap but we desperately need to get showered up, get online and charge the gadgets.

We’re soon in the room, lounging on a real bed and surfing the net.  I make myself get the mammoth blog update done before allowing myself a shower of equally epic proportions.  The showers were piping hot and very powerful, exactly what us grubby travellers needed!   After freshening up we both skyped our families and spent some more time caching up online. 

The room was similar to a University dorm in its no-frills style and had a double bed with a single bunk bed above it.  The view (once you got past the nearby industrial units) took in three tall spires in the centre of Metz which we’ll no doubt visit tomorrow.  It really has been very nice indeed to take a little time to recharge our batteries and we’ll leave the hotel feeling a lot more human!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

More snow?!

Day 209 08.02.13 Nancy

We enjoy a bit of a lie in, somewhat imposed by the fact it’s snowing outside!   As it’s late by the time we’re up and ready we grab an early lunch before heading to town. 

On the walk into the centre of Nancy we pop into the cathedral to have a look around.  It’s surprisingly stark inside, mostly I think due to the lack of stained glass windows.  They just have plain glass windows so it’s very clinical looking. Otherwise there are some stunning bits of stonework and some nice woodwork too.  Without the colour from windows the place still feels a little lacklustre.  We also go into the St Sebastien church to have a look around, once again it’s a little plain inside save for some woodwork statues trimmed in gold which are pretty nice.  There’s not a great deal left in town that we haven’t been to visit.  Sadly the galleries and museums are pretty costly and the weather is starting to get a little too unpleasant for much aimless strolling around the streets. 

Regardless we head over to the large Pepiniere park for a look around.  There’s a mini golf course, a stage for outdoor concerts, a puppet theatre and a small zoo.  The zoo is free to enter but certainly not at its best this time of year, all the animals have thought better than to be out in the snow!  We can’t see the monkeys if they are indeed even in the enclosure but we spot the peacocks and some nosy donkeys come out to say hello.  I’m sure in the summer months this park must be a hive of activity and a great place to while away an afternoon. 

The snow starts to get much heavier and we’re out of places to visit so it’s off to the mediateque for some charging up and writing.

Nancy whilst it doesn’t have a huge number of sights to visit has a unique feel.  A lot of larger French cities can be quite similar but the grand main square and quirky Palais Ducal set Nancy aside.  It’s certainly a shame that because it’s out of tourist season so much of the city is currently under construction but I suppose on the flip-side visiting in winter means it’s not too busy!  I would definitely like to be able to see Place Stanislas in its full glory with working fountains though, I bet its quite a sight! 

Tomorrow we’re back on the road again this time to Metz.  We’re intending to bite the bullet and treat ourselves to a hotel room so we can get ourselves refreshed and enjoy a bit of time online.  It’s been too long since we’ve skyped home and been able to update the blog.   With the problems with the water pump we haven’t been able to have proper showers either so we’re a little scruffy to say the least!  I must admit we’re both VERY much looking forward to it!

Fancy Nancy!

Day 208 07.02.13 Luneville to Nancy

We were up very early to scrape the ice and snow off Van Diesel and get going to Nancy.  It was another pain in the backside of a drive and our parking spot (a section of carpark earmarked for campers) was cordoned off and inaccessible.  We ended up a fair bit further out of town in a less than ideal place but keen not to have to drive anymore!  After an early lunch we set off into town.  By this point I’m feeling pretty green around the gills and so after much wandering about this very poorly signposted city we wind up in the mediateque.  We need to get the gadgets charged up and sitting down in the warmth seems much more preferable to pottering around in the biting wind outside, at least until I start to feel a little better.   

After a little while in the mediateque I’m starting to feel much better so we head out to do some sight-seeing.  The main highlight of Nancy centre is definitely the UNESCO protected Place Stanislas.  The large square is home to the town hall, arts museum, theatre and many other important buildings.  Each of the corners has a large, extremely impressive gold trimmed gate with a fountain in front.  Unfortunately for us they are undertaking some maintenance on the fountains at the moment so there are once again barriers obstructing our view – it seems to be becoming a trend on this winter trip.  Despite the barriers and works, the square is undeniably quite astonishing.

We take a walk down from the square towards ‘La Porte de la Craffe’ the 14th century gate with two tall fairy tale towers.  It’s very pretty indeed despite the dreaded winter-time renovations taking place all over the town.  Just down from the gate is the magnificent Palais Ducal where the museum of the Lorrain region can be found.  The building has an incredibly beautiful carved doorway, rows of detailed gargoyles leering over the street and a tall spire painted a lovely turquoise colour and trimmed in gold. From here we headed to the nearby church of St Epvre the tall spire of which can be seen from almost anywhere within Nancy.  It’s an impressive church but sadly due to (you guessed it) renovations we can’t get inside!  The square out the front of the church is a little disappointing with its large roundabout with a big plinth in the centre with a very underwhelming statue on top!

After a little while pottering around the high streets its starts getting dark so we set off on the long-ish walk back to the van.  Despite not feeling too great it’s been really nice to get back to some proper sight-seeing after a couple of quieter days.

Death threats and sausages.

Day 207 06.01.13 Strasbourg to Luneville

We decided to move the van over to the aire on the far side of town situated by a youth hostel.  We’d read online that the hostel would most likely let us use their showers and if not we figured we’d treat ourselves to a night in the hostel to get showered up, charge everything and hopefully get online.  On arrival we spotted a scruffy-looking travellers camp down the road from our destination, confused as to where to go due to the Sat Nav having a tantrum I got out and had a quick wander around.  Some workmen told me we shouldn’t park in the travellers’ camp as they would “kill us”.  I’m not sure quite why he said that but we didn’t stop to find out!  They pointed us in the direction of the youth hostel and we soon arrived to find 4 other campers in a small carpark.

We asked at the youth hostel and the lady on the desk told us showers were out of the question.  All the double rooms were booked so if we wanted to stay it would be 11 euros each to sleep separately in same sex rooms with 3 strangers and no wifi.  Needless to say we changed our minds quickly.  So much for that plan!

We walked over the bridge from our parking spot and into Germany for some shopping.  We had only intended to pick up bread for lunch but soon came across Aldi and Lidl both of which were noticeably cheaper than their French counterparts.  We ended up with a few bags with cheap chocolate, sausages and beer (when in Rome and all that, or more accurately Germany!).  We had a quick walk around Kehl, the first town over the border.   It’s very noticeably German in its very functional, grey box-shaped buildings.  There’s little architectural flair or colour and it feels a lot like the UK.  We head back to the van for lunch and enjoy some of the German treats we picked up.

After lunch we head back over the border in the van to scope out the campsite and youth hostel over there.  The campsite is closed and the youth hostel extortionately expensive with a reception desk not manned for another 4 hours.  We decide to get on the road towards Nancy keeping an eye out for cheap hotels and aires on the way.  That also turned out to be a bust as the journey was a twisting, turning hairpin-riddled ride through snow covered mountains!  A tiny village here and there with a handful of houses all caked in 6 inches of snow was the closest we came to civilisation.  I have to say it was incredibly beautiful for the few seconds either of us dared take our eyes off the road or SatNav.  Van Diesel didn’t like the trip too much and it was a stressful journey for both of us too.  As we ran out of light we threw in the towel and parked up beside supermarket in Luneville, the first sign of life we’d seen for a long stretch.  We settled down for a much needed beer before getting the German sausages cooking for dinner. It’s been a long, cold and pretty frustrating day.  Here’s hoping for better luck tomorrow.

Sideways hailstones and golfball sized snowflakes.

Day 206 05.02.13 Strasbourg

We sleep in until mid-morning and awake to glorious blue skies.  By the time we’re up, dressed and ready to leave, the sky is 50% blue and the other half is foreboding clouds.  We go into town and head to a couple of the independent stores that have been closed for the last couple of days.  We find a great shop full of merchandise from some of our favourite Japanese films, sadly all at astronomical prices!

We grab a baguette for lunch and the next thing we now there are golf ball sized hailstones whipping sideways through the sky!  We run for cover but they show no signs of stopping so we make a run for the van.  I’ve never seen hailstones quite like it, they genuinely hurt when they hit you!!!

Back at the van we have lunch, thankfully the baguette isn’t too soggy!  The hailstones make way for the heaviest snow I’ve ever witnessed.  Weather in this city is crazy!  It’s almost entirely white outside with all the ginormous snowflakes.  Thankfully it’s too damp on the ground to settle too much.

We wait around for the snow to change to rain and eventually die down so we can walk to the mediateque.  We spend the afternoon hiding from the weather whilst writing.  For the biggest mediateque in France it’s a pain that it doesn’t have wifi so I can’t get the blog updated having written up the last few days of entries.  Instead we call it a day after a few hours and head over to McDonald’s to catch up with all things online.  We’ve been lucky with all the free wifi of late, I suppose we can justify paying for it once in a while!  Unfortunately the wifi is ridiculously slow so after taking over half an hour to get one blog entry ready to go I decide not to bother, sorry!

We head back to the van for dinner and a DVD, thankfully it’s not raining, snowing or hailstone-ing for once!  Strasbourg has been an odd city really.  It’s very pretty in places but there’s a grubby feel to the place.  We get hassled at least a couple of times a day for money (despite looking like we have none) or cigarettes (despite being the only non-smokers in France it seems).  There’s no tangible personality or identity to the city which is a shame as there are lots of nice things to see and plenty to do (if your pockets are deep enough!).

Sight-seeing in the dark

Day 205 04.02.13 Strasbourg

We get a surprisingly good night’s sleep despite our roadside position and we’re up bright and early.  We’re made even more glad for our Sunday arrival when we discover the road we so easily parked on is now jam-packed with cars.  There is even a row of cars on the pavement beside the road!   We head into the centre, our first stop being the cathedral to look around inside.  The double height stained glass windows are particularly nice as too is the colossal church organ trimmed in gold high on the wall.  At the back we find the gothic Pillar of Angels and the wonderful Astronomical Clock.  The major downside is that both of these highlights of an otherwise quite ordinary cathedral are in the dark until somebody puts 20 cents in the box to light them up.  It’s only 20 cents but it seems very cheeky to me!  The clock is fantastic with its intricate workings clear to see.  The rest of the clock is covered in talented portraits and detailed figurines.  Apparently at 12:30 every day the clock chimes and the apostle figurines move around, this costs an extra 2 euros to see.  Can you see a pattern developing here?!  Everywhere there’s an opportunity for the city to charge you money they take it and it’s a real shame.  I’m astounded the public toilets are free (although there’s a saucer by the sinks for you to tip to the cleaners!).

Onwards through town we enjoy the back streets of Little France where we find more painted houses and half-timber frontages.  We pop into a few shops now some of them are open, although a lot close on both Sunday and Monday (what economic crisis?!). 

We take our time and stroll along all the streets we missed yesterday.  There are certainly some lovely views to be found in this city but between the continual attempt to drain your pockets and the seedier undertones, the edge is taken off a little. 

As we’re both pretty tired from yesterday we opt to head over to the mediateque in the late afternoon.  It’s the largest mediateque in Eastern France and has a lovely spot beside the river.  Sadly however it’s closed for today so after lurking outside McDonald’s for wifi we head back to the van.  We’re so glad to have gas back as it means we are able to put the heating on and have a warm dinner because the temperature has dipped again after another day of very changeable weather.  

Sunday sightseeing in Strasbourg

Day 204 03.02.13 Obernai to Strasbourg

It’s a short drive to Strasbourg and we’re very thankful we chose to make the journey on a Sunday.  The roads are very quiet and there are plenty of parking spaces.  We park up in a side of the road spot on the edge of town just down from a Police Station.  Whilst we’d ordinarily seek out a quieter spot, after having heard that Strasbourg has a pretty bad reputation for car crime, security is our most important concern.  Happy that we’ve found a good spot we head into town to find the tourist office. 

We find it easy enough and discover they want a euro for a map of town and a pocket guide, both of which turn out to be pretty useless for finding your way around.  We’re pretty peeved as even the smallest of towns we’ve been to have maps to give away so it seems pretty greedy.  The pocket guide informs us that all the museums and galleries are very costly too, another black mark for Strasbourg, we’re not off to a great start!

The cathedral is undoubtedly Strasbourg’s architectural highlight and with the spire a whopping 142m tall it certainly wows.  Sadly the town is so closely packed that you can’t really stand back and get a decent view of the whole thing.  We go inside but find there’s a service on so we’ll come back another time to look around. 

Beside the cathedral is the Kammerzell House a 15th century richly carved half-timber house which is quite probably the most striking we’ve seen so far.  The detailing is just breath taking for the building’s age.
The town centre is surprisingly compact, nestled in a loop of the river that’s home to lots of swans.  The river is much higher than usual at the moment and much of the riverside walkway is under water!

We make our way up to Petite France, the most photogenic part of town.  On the way we walk across the Vauban Dam Bridge where we find lots of statues and bits of the cathedral that have fallen off, its like a sculpture graveyard!  Atop the dam there is a panoramic terrace which offers fantastic views of the covered bridge, with the cathedral and pretty houses behind.  Petite France has numerous half-timber houses backing on to the river with a criss-cross of little bridges between tiny islands.  It is undeniably very pretty but it’s still not a patch on Colmar!  Many of the houses are painted white which seems a shame and the murky looking river slightly mars the area.  I’m sure I’m just being picky as I adored Colmar so much!  This area is certainly very picturesque and the prettiest area of Strasbourg by far.  Back from the river the old houses continue with wooden balconies hanging over the old cobbled streets. The balconies are apparently where tanners of the area would hang their animal hides out to dry.  It’s lovely for a city this size to have retained this historic area so well.

We enjoy a walk alongside the river (on the dry path) and down to the other side of town.  We find an attractive large church with is sadly closed for refurbishments.  Further down we come across the Place de la Republique where we find many Baroque buildings of great beauty and a central garden are which is surprisingly colourful despite the time of year.  Sadly the nearby botanic gardens I’d hoped to visit are closed until March.

Elsewhere in town we have a walk around the main shopping streets although virtually everywhere is closed as its Sunday.  There are lots of shops including a rather fancy shopping street of all the high-end labels.  Its great arriving at a new town on a Sunday as it’s always so quiet and easy to get around!  We’ve walked all over Strasbourg today and seen many of the main attractions.  We get back to the van as light starts to fade and we’re rather pooped!  

Gas and the ghetto.

Day 203 02.02.13 Obernai

We get up early and get going to Obernai.  On the outskirts of Selestat I spot a Bricomarche store which people online had recommended for exchanging empty gas canisters for shiny new ones.  After mistakenly going in the Intermarche next door and being accused of stealing the rusty, old gas canister I had with me by the world’s grumpiest shop assistant I ended up in the right shop.  Some bumbled French and 5 mostly useless sales assistants later I left the store with a new full gas canister as they disposed of our old one.  A HUGE palaver but hurray that tonight’s dinner won’t be sandwiches!

Clear skies give way to horrendous torrential rain along the short 30 minute drive.  We go via Lidl for a jumbo shop to stock up on everything as the supplies are running very low again.  The carpark beside the rampart walls that surround the town of Obernai is ideally placed for sight-seeing as well as offering a short walk to the launderette.  The rain has cleared and its now bright sunshine and a mild 7 degrees as we explore the town. 

Through the well maintained rampart walls we soon find the market square with its tall clock tower and attractive half-timber houses.   There is also a small outdoor ice rink that looks to be left over from Christmas.  Many of the towns we’ve visited still have most of their Christmas decorations up despite it now being February!  They seem to go to a huge effort with their festive decorations that it only seems right they’re up for a while.  Around the corner we find the brightly painted town hall with its stunning stonework especially the lovely balconies.  Beside it is a very pretty old well, a passer-by stops to zealously tell us of the history of the well but we don’t understand a lot of what we says!   This has happened quite a lot of late, it’s nice to see how proud the locals are of their town’s history. 

The nearby church is a mostly simple affair on the outside but inside has a nice, traditional painted ceiling as well as numerous rather grand chandeliers.  It looks like they’re setting up for a service or perhaps even a funeral later today so it’s only a short visit!

Elsewhere around town we find more narrow cobbled streets with colourful half-timber houses.  I don’t think I could ever get bored of these charming little homes.  Their bright facades really make towns seem more lively and cheerful even on rainy, grey days.  They definitely make Obernai a very pleasing little town to visit.  Many of the towns we’ve seen of late have a German influence to them, but it’s certainly stronger in Obernai with many streets and shops with German names and signs in both languages.

After we’ve seen all town has to offer we gather up the washing and head off to find the launderette.  It’s just over the railway tracks and turns out to be very much the ‘wrong side of the tracks’.  It’s a very rough housing estate that seems to have come straight out of the film District 13.  We arrive at the launderette to find two Algerian women doing what seems to be the whole neighbourhood’s washing.  They’ve already filled 7 machines (including 2 that hold 16kg of washing) and seem very unimpressed that we dare use one machine for our stuff.  We press on anyway much to their annoyance!  Washing done and dried we make a break for the van as the rain starts to pour, so much for this afternoon’s sunshine!

After packing the washing away we get ready for some showers only to discover the water pump is refusing to work.   No idea what’s going on with it but it’s a massive pain and a big worry.  After such a productive morning it feels like a huge setback, especially as we have no idea what’s wrong with it or how to start trying to figure it out.  So much for that plan!   We go out instead to find the nearby McDonald’s to go online but can’t find it straight away and the ever darkening sky suggests we shouldn’t stay out much longer.  As we get in the light rain gives way to heavy snow.  It’s like 4 seasons in one day here!  Needless to say it’s a rather crappy ending to an otherwise nice day.