One of the great things about camping holidays is summed up in one word. Touring. The ability to have a base, or bases, and then go exploring in your vehicle.
But I'm going to add another, related, word. Driving. Or motoring. Either way on a recent camping trip to north-east France I reminded myself of that feeling of enjoying a great road from behind the wheel.
I was pitched up in the beautiful Vosges Mountains close to France's border with Germany at Au Clos de la Chaume in Corcieux. I will be writing more about the area and its history in a forthcoming feature for Camping & Caravanning magazine. But for now, let's just say it has some fabulous driving roads, and one in particular – the Routes Des Cretes, or Ridge Route.
The route is exactly that, it runs just below the summit of various peaks, hugging a 55-mile stretch of mountain tops through the
Ballons des Vosges Regional Natural Park. It makes accessing various summits much easier since you can park at designated points and hike up to summits including the highest point, the Grand Ballon (1,424 metres).
The route is well kept, full of switch-backs, and at times runs through dense forest before emerging into alpine meadows. Although it's a great road you still need maximum concentration given the bends (and big drops) plus the number of cyclists and motorcyclists who also turn out to enjoy the experience.
Oh, and you also have to concentrate to avoid staring in awe at the jaw-dropping landscape around you. But that's okay as there are many viewpoints at which to stop, stretch your legs and savour the views. And those views really are spectacular. Whether you are looking west back into the Vosges or east to nearby Germany, or any other direction for that matter, it's simply stunning.
Motorhomers were also out in force, equally happy to drive the Ridge Route. They had the added advantage of being able to stop to brew up a cup of tea to drink in the views. We decided to stop at one of the many farmhouse inns on the route for our refreshments. These are working farms where you will see geese strutting around or cows chewing the grass, with their distinctive bells ringing as they move.
The food inside the inns is hearty local fare and sensibly priced. I’d recommend the tarte aux myrtilles for dessert.
I am here in the summer but it's quite a different place in winter when the ski clubs come into their own and the road is often closed. For now though, the sun is shining, the sunglasses are on and the road ahead is there to be driven and enjoyed before returning to our campsite. Touring, no let's call it motoring today, doesn't get any better.