From Thoirette to Belfort

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Thoirette (continued)

Thoirette is a small village overlooked by the Jura mountains. We went for a walk along the river and the scenery was spectacular. We also bought a cheeky apple tart from the village patisserie.

The French know how to make a knockout apple tart!

Back at the van, the aire was situated in front of a building which turned out to be a community centre. During the afternoon, some lads had turned up and unloaded soft drinks and crisps. Peeping through the window later on, the hall was laid out as if for a kiddies birthday party, so we were prepared for a bit of noise – a serious underestimation on our part.

People didn’t start arriving until about 9PM, mid-late teens, and the music went on. More and more kids were turning up, well over 100, a huge number for such a small village. As we were on electric hook up we put the TV on; we’ve now moved far enough north to start picking up UK Freeview channels for the first time since February, so we watched some TV whilst hoping that the noise would stop at about 1 AM.

At 1 AM, when we went to bed, the party was in full swing. As it approached 2 AM we were praying that it would be finishing, but no. The same at 3 AM. And 4 AM. It wasn’t until 5 AM that the music stopped, after which time some lads spent about 15 minutes chatting right next to our van.

We got up at about 8 AM, and were both knackered. In hindsight, we should probably have moved on as soon as we realised something was going on. We did consider moving on once the party got going, but didn’t fancy taking our chances driving along the winding mountain roads to the next aire in the dark, and so had to stay put.

Nozeroy

The next morning we continued to head north. The weather was still very hot, ideal for drying clothes. As we’d accumulated a large pile of laundry, we stopped off at a Super-U supermarket as these invariably have washing machines in the car park. Luckily the large machine was free – 18 KG (three normal loads) for €8 – so all the washing went in in one load.

Washing done, we drive to the aire at Labergement Sainte Marie which took us through the stunning scenery of the Jura mountains, very close to the Swiss border, and the villages drove through started to look Swiss in appearance – lots and lots of chalets.

The aire was situated in a sports complex next to a large beautiful looking lake, and the first thing we did was to put the washing lines up and hang out the laundry, before getting out the chairs and settling down for a read. After a while the guy collecting the rent turned up for his €6. He warned us that a wedding reception would be held in the sports hall right in front of us which could go on into the early hours, so we told him we would be moving on. We were in no mood for another night of no sleep!

After checking out our aires and campsite books, we brought the half-dry washing in and then drove to an aire 30 KM away at Nozeroy. It was basically a field on the edge of a medieval village on a steep hill, with a commanding view of the countryside. We put up the washing lines and hung the washing out again.

In the evening we went into the town but there wasn’t much there, though it did look quite charming. That night it was pitch black in the van after lights out, as there was no light pollution at all, so we had a great night’s sleep.

Rural traffic

The old court, mayor’s office and school

St Hippolyte

Our penultimate stop in France was a riverside aire at St Hippolyte, and we had to arrive early as there were only spaces for six vans. On our journey there, a couple of motorcyclists blocked off the roundabout in front of us to let a convoy of classic motorbikes and old American cars through to a show. There were some lovely cars there, including a couple of Corvette Stingrays. Arriving shortly after 11 AM, we luckily bagged the last spot. The village was very busy, obviously a popular coffee stop for motorcyclists, so we stayed by the van with the chairs out overlooking the river, and spent the afternoon reading and watching the world go by.

St Hippolyte

Belfort

We’re now in the Alsace region of France, which has been a much disputed territory over the years between France and Germany. Belfort is a heavily fortified town with huge walls and a large moat (now empty), which was besieged by the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870/1.

The aire was only five minutes away and, luckily for us, parking, services and electricity were all free. When we arrived at the aire we met the first British family we’ve seen for ages, so it was nice to have a good old chat, They were a young couple from the south coast taking a year or two out and home schooling their three kids – I really admire people who are brave enough to do this, as travelling is so much more educational than the box ticking mentality of the UK’s national curriculum.

Deciding to treat ourselves to coffee and a cake out, we walked into the town and found a café. However, with temperatures in the 30’s we headed back to the aire and spent the afternoon sat in the shade, returning to the town in the evening once it had cooled down.

Belfort city wall

Belfort square

Place de la Republique

Tomorrow we cross the border into Germany.

Mike

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