Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Back to France (guerrilla herb gardening}.

We spent the last two days in Turckheim, the renowned Alsace wine village a few kilometres from Colmar. Camping Medieval, a short stroll from the village centre, is an ex-municipal which has been recently re-developed. It is as good a place to stay as anywhere we have been, large pitches, nice view of the vineyards, excellent sanitary block, well designed motorhome service point - perfecto!

The motorhome blogger Maggie Bevis rails about the variable quality of sites and aires. She is right, there is no relationship whatsoever between quality and price. The last place we stayed, Camping Cowpat in Switzerland charged €20 per night for facilities that were barely sanitary. Here, with clean, well designed facilities, a friendly welcoming receptionist and a lovely position, the nightly rate is only €15. 

As well as having a great view of the terraced vineyards and being a short stroll from Turckheim's old streets the site is surrounded by storks nests. Some are perched precariously on pylons and WiFi masts, others occupy poles with baskets on top, specially designed to attract the storks. They remind me of pelicans a little, not just because of their big beaks, but because when  grounded they look awkward and slightly comical. However, in flight they are magnificent. Only then do you appreciate their size. They look prehistoric, reminiscent of pterodactyls. Like many birds they use sound to delineate territory. Storks do this by snapping their beaks making a loud clicking noise. Happily, they don't seem to continue this after dark.

We arrived in Turckheim in the early afternoon. I suppose we could have opted to get the bus to nearby Colmar. We remembered it as having an attractive medieval centre and flower decked balconies overlooking narrow canals. In the end we opted to walk into Turckheim itself. I wondered if it was the village we stopped at in 2000 on the way to Garda. I have some holiday video of somewhere in Alsace all decked out with Easter garlands with fancy cakes in the patisserie windows. As soon as we approached the Porte de Munster, the east gate into the old walled village, I recognised it, though it had changed in a rather unusual way.

The architecture of Alsace's villages is similar to those over border in the Black Forest - medieval  tall timber framed houses infilled with colour washed stucco. It all looks a bit Hansel and Gretel. In the pictures of our previous visit here though the houses were brightly coloured, they were not garish. These days the pinks, mint greens, buttercup yellows and tangerines are positively luminescent, an effect, one supposes of advances in day-glo technology that also brought us one of the defining symbols of our age - the hi-res jacket. Many streets in Turckheim look ineptly photoshopped for real with the saturation set on 150%.

I wondered about this on-line connection. In the same way tourist hotspots are beginning to install five foot high sculpted letters next to a heart - "I LOVE WHEREVER" in order to promote themselves in selfies, perhaps the next stage is to give the actual buildings a makeover so they appear 'ready photoshopped' and startlingly photogenic. It is all a bit dis-spiriting really.

Nevertheless, Turckheim remains an interesting town, almost a suburb of Colmar, which means it has a clutch of gaunt abandoned factories in the outskirts. The 'Cave' too is massive and industrial looking. For all the cutesy houses the place produces excellent wine on an industrial scale for the world market. That gives the town a life and vibrancy that more than compensates for the odd mass tourism blooper.

The campsite reception had a table full of brochures advertising local attractions. One listed a local walk - 2hrs through the hillside vineyards that overlook the town. We debated whether to unload the bikes and pedal to a nearby village or take the walk. I am pleased we chose the latter. The weather cleared, became almost too hot, slowing us down enough to appreciate the views across the terraces towards the Vosges to the north and southwards beyond Colmar, across the broad plain of the Rhine valley towards the misty outline of the Black Forest.

The footpath returned us to the opposite end of Turckheim to where the campsite is situated. The area is just as ancient, particularly the Rue de Vignerons, which as the name suggests, is full of old half timbered wine grower and merchants houses and storage barns. This end of town was much less frequented by tourists. Nevertheless the houses were still daubed in day-glo - which puts the kibosh somewhat on my previous theory about it being a tourism related trend. Perhaps its simply a cultural change, a matter of fashion. Maybe garish is the new pastel.

Day-glo houses are not the only kitch feature around here - these are some very odd tableaux on the balconies too...

This place has been a great stop-over. Originally we planned to stay at the free aire at nearby Kayserberg, another of the areas famed medieval wine villages. It too is beautiful, but we needed a two day stopover to clean the van and do some laundry. Camping Medieval has great facilities and one of the best service points I have seen. It is inexpensive - 15 euros - in a great position, I am sure we will use it again.

We did leave the place a small gratuity. Gill's portable herb garden proved a minor Instagram hit over the past few weeks. Sadly the mint plant bought at Morrison's before we left is looking a bit straggly. What it needs is some ptoper soil and a bit more natural sunshine - so we planted in the hedge at the side of the pitch, where hopefully it will thrive and be well used by others.

The on-board portable herb box

Now minus a mint plant donated to Camping Medieval, pitch 115

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