As usual we surface around 8.30am when it becomes a bit warm and noisy. I cant believe I always feel so jaded maybe the heat but i seemed to sleep alright. Vicki says for Polly to put the kettle on so I get an extra 5 minutes while the gas jug boils to pretend I am still sleeping, a bit like your snooze alarm. A cuppa always makes the difference and after brekky with the customary stowing and check we head off.
We try to find the aire near Ribeauville but find it is closed so we find a carpark near the local pool. This has a few campers in it so all ok. We bike into town which unlike the past few is one long street with short private streets branching off. It is also very pretty with contrasting pastel colours, lashings of flowers in baskets, troughs and tubs with some very original art work decorating the facades. This is a little bit more touristy with shops and things but it never gets that chintzy, cheap & nasty feel. We really enjoy the artisan shops with local art and crafts which I find quite original and I am getting lots of ideas for future inspirations. I think I have a lifetimes of photos for this. Even though the gifts can be repetitive in shops every now and then one is a class above and we curse that we cannot bring all the things we love home.
After walking up and a walk back we grab a placemat we are sort of collecting as reminders as everytime we see one we want we say we will get it on the way back or a cheaper one will be down the road and we miss out. We get back to the van and for a change we have a baguette for lunch. Lo and behold we are at the point of debating whether we will bike to Bergheim or give it a miss and head straight to the castle when our swede friends bowl on up. Now I think they are stalking us!
We have made up our minds to go and they are already sizing up our park which is under the trees so cooler. So we say Au Revoir, unfortunatly not in swedish, till we see them again and head off up into the mountain. We can see the chateaux way up on top of the mountain as we wind past the sea of vineyards and then into the thick forest with glimpses of the surrounding countryside which gets more and more expansive the higher we get. Poor Morrie churns his way up the steep roads as we try and find the gear that suits the incline hopefully 3rd as second can be tough but when we hit the hairpins we have no choice. 1st gear is the one we like to avoid so it is often a choice of carrying speed into the corner and risking van contents or slow and steady wins the race. No guessing which one Scot is!
We park a little way from the castle as it is always a gamble to how far to push for a park. This castle is huge and was rebuilt in 1903 by a very clever architect and luckily with the open coffers of King Louis the whatever and unlimited gov money. This one costs 9 euro to get in but given the size and the fact we have come all this way it is cheap considering what we have paid in the past. As it is new but fastidiously rebuilt to exacting research it is heavy on architecture and substance which is awesome but obviously a bit short on paintings, everyday items etc but has a good range of cannons, weapons and beautiful furniture and also examples of the huge spectacular ceramic tiled fireplaces/ovens that have been remade I think. At the end of the tour you can see the excavation & archeological history and how it was rebuilt. It was in such disrepair this 10 century castle took 8 years to rebuild, had its own railway to it from the quarry, a forge and pioneered its own building techniques that were cutting edge for the day. It basically had a whole community supporting the build. Even after the beautiful chateaux in the Loire this one is right up there and thank goodness for the foresight of these people on behalf of the next thousand years of visitors.
We slowly drive the steep descent down and Vicki uses the gears well as we do not want to overheat the brakes as we did in Norway. We have been told that you should use the gear you came up in for the way down which is sound advice. We head away from the Alscace with a bit of a heavy heart and head to the Lorraine region. We have so much enjoyed this wine region with the germanic and prussian influence with its amazing vineyards and outstanding award winning colourful towns and know we will never forget this special region of France. We could spend a few more weeks here seeing the many other similar villages as we have seen but perhaps another day, another time.