For this years Easter vacation, we decide not to put ourselves through the chaos at the St. Gotthard Tunnel. It’s a tunnel that goes from the German to the Italian part of Switzerland and is normally the fastest way to get to the South. Its length is about 17 km (10.5 miles) and it has only one lane for each direction. So in times of vacations in Europe, this tunnel is a bottleneck for all those traveling by car. There’s the option to go over the Gotthardpass, be my guest if you like driving at a snail’s pace behind a camper. This is one of the reasons why we will spend our offroad trip to France.
Offroad Trip to France
Our goal is to escape civilization, so we decide to head west towards France. This time we want to explore the inland. The Franche-Comté, the Burgundy known for its fine wines and the hilly Vosges.
Jura and the Franche-Comté
We drive through the Jura Mountains in Switzerland, pass La Chaux-de-Fonds and cross the border in Le Locle. We’re excited about the adventures to come. What will it be like with the roof top tent, how is it going to be with the dogs? Wondering about those experiences, we’re heading West. The only rain cloud far and wide is our constant companion. According to many and more apps, the rain cloud should disappear shortly. Well it doesn’t.
Gladly we notice, that in France Good Friday is a normal business day and we go to a grocery store to replenish our food supplies. Then we start looking for a sleeping place. We drive crisscross through the woods and find a perfect spot at the forest border.
Setting up the RTT for the first time
We’re looking so forward to setting up the roof top tent, that we don’t even bother the raindrops and the slurry on the field. We set up the tent and the awning and sort our camping stuff. Alex plays with the drone, meanwhile Rey enjoys the slurry in his own doggy way. His Eau-de-Cow doesn’t bother us too much at the time, he will sleep in the car anyway. Poor Mila… And this particular smell isn’t as bad as the one that will come later.
Our First Night in the Roof Top Tent
The night was cold as ice (about 5 degrees celcius = 41 degrees fahrenheit) and rainy. Better sleeping bags are rapidly set on our to-improve list. Mila and Rey seem to have slept pretty well. Rey has had his own little adventure that lead to our decision to close the car doors in the middle of the night. We’ll tell you more about this story in another blog.
Before we leave this beautiful spot, Alex brews some fresh coffee and I make some yummie vegan Banana Pancakes. While we warm ourselves with this hearty breakfast, our roof top tent is drying in the sun. The packing and folding of the tent is quickly done.
We hit the road, westbound direction Burgundy. Bourgogne in french. Alex has the cool idea to visit the Castle of Guédelon in Treigny.
Beautiful Burgundy and a Stinky Dog
We drive through many and more small villages. Most of those villages are very neat and kept clean. The flowerbeds are flourishing and giving the villages a cultivated appearence. That’s the reason why we are even more surprised to see a major part of the houses looking abandoned. There’s not many people on the streets either. Maybe it’s just the siesta or people are really leaving for the big cities, not seeing a future in the country.
Most of the people gather at the local bakery, where we stock up on Baguettes (the typical pole shaped French Bread).
We make a quick stop on a green meadow, let the dogs out for a run and the drone makes some spectacular footage.
Rey has two brilliant ideas today. First off, he finds a nasty bone in the field that catches his whole attention. After we take that away from him, he has his next bright idea. He rolls himself in some fecies. We cancel our picnic and use a year’s supply of moist cloths on a dog that doesn’t seem to understand what the fuss is all about.
With our windows wide open and Mr. Stinkers luckily sticking his head out of the window, we go looking for a lake or a river to wash him.
We are full of hope as our way crosses the Doubs, a rather large river, that winds in its natural beauty through the landscape. To our regret we notice, that the shores of the river are mostly privatized. There are fences that go right to the shore. On an open field we regain hope. But unfortunately, there’s only an abyss leading straight into the river. That’s probably why there is no fence…
At the end, we wash Mr. Stinkers with a biological detergent and a bottle of valuable water. Rey doesn’t like it at all and Mila seems to be laughing up her sleeve.
Hotel-Dieu in Beaune and the Mill of Dautin
Our trip leads us to Beaune, passing the famous Hotel-Dieu in the middle of this beautiful city. The Hotel-Dieu is a late Gothic hospital that is now mainly used as a museum. Through Sacy, with its stone houses typical to this region and narrow streets, we continue our journey past the old mill of Dautin in Migé.
Castle of Guédelon
In the evening we arrive at the construction site of the Guédelon Castle. Unfortunately we’re a little late and the gates are already closed. The nice landlord allows us to set up our nightcamp in front of the gates on a parking lot. He’s even up for some small talk and tells us stories about the construction site of this medieval castle.
Setting up the roof top tent goes faster every time. We cook ourselves a nice dinner, feed the dogs and go to sleep rather tired from the day. At night, there’s another camper joining us on the parking lot.
Next morning, Easter Sunday, we get up early to be ready when the gates open. We figure there could be a crowd on such a sunny holiday. As expected, the rush is pretty big and we are glad we arrived last night. Another positive aspect: Dogs are allowed on the area. We visit this huge, spectacular construction site and will write about it in another blog as it would go beyond the scope of this blog.
The Vosges and the Alsace
After visiting the impressive Castle of Guédelon, we head on eastbound as we want to spend our next night in the Vosges. Now we are longing for some hills after all these flatland areas. We finally find the perfect spot in the middle of the woods in the surrounding of Saint-Julien. We make ourselves comfortable.
The night is cold and we’re happy holding a cup of hot coffee in our hands. Alex makes his famous Tofu Scramble for breakfast and we even have some Baguette leftovers from yesterday. While we’re enjoying our breakfast, the first warming rays of sun start lighting up our camp site through the trees.
We pack everything up, always leaving our camping sites clean because we are guests. With a heavy heart, as it is our last night on this easter in France, we ride on direction Alsace.
As a conclusion we can say, that travelling with the roof top tent is exactly our thing. We enjoy the freedom of not having to make any reservations and to stay where we want at any given moment.
After we stock up on Baguettes, we drive towards the Alsace. The Alsace has a mixed culture of French and German, as there was a back and forth of German and French control. The trip leads us through the hilly Vosges and its dense forests, from time to time there’s even some snow on the hills. On our way towards Colmar we make a little offroad detour.
Colmar and Altkirch
In Colmar we manage to take a picture of the city’s landmark, the colmar canal, without even leaving the car 😉
Involuntary we learn much more about the town of Altkirch, as we get lost and hardly find our way out. After some time of straying around, we decide to take the highway and drive directly home. As much as we enjoyed our offroad trip to France, it’s getting late already and we both have to go to work the next day.
France, we love you and we will definitely be back!
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