Beach Life at La Couarde sur Mer – France 2021, Part 4

Ah yes…

Summer holidays are best with a beach. And with 30°C, sun, the sea. While Hector tries to play it cool, I soak in the first beach day, with a green-blue Atlantic Ocean at my feet and sand all over.

Beach Time starts here

If I were to spend weeks and weeks between pool and beach with nothing to do but – well: nothing, it would annoy me within less than 24 hours.

But after four days of travel, having seen quite some places and people along the way, it is great to fall back in the sands and let loose.

The beach is huge with only few people around in the afternoon, and I count even less in the evening.

…then in the evening…

Low tide offers even more of a beach, with a wonderful atmosphere and a wide range of colours. These days (mid June), the sun sets by 10:00 p.m. only, but with no stressful agenda for the upcoming days, this is totally fine by me.

Low Tide Sunset

The beach of La Couarde sur Mer may not be the prettiest one around, but still, it is wonderfully relaxing and offers enough grains of sand for the handful of tourists sharing it. Not before long I will find sand almost everywhere, Hector’s couch included.

The rest of the village is above all: unagitated. White houses, some shops, markets and a small choice of restaurants. French pensioneers are aprox. 92% of the crowd, making me feel like a jeune fille during the first camping holidays. Just without the open air disco and less short on budget. Very relaxing, I’d say.

Is there Life on Mars?

Arrivée sur l’Île de Ré – France 2021, Part 3

1.570 km. Thereof around 320 during our 4th day of driving, most of them through beautiful landscape and only few on autoroutes.

En Route…

It would be smart to make another stop-over at La Rochelle. Now that almost everything has re-opened, but before masses of foreign tourists make their way. Still, I feel more like arrival with a beach and the sea and bathrooms and a shower. I definitely need a shower. Hence, Hector takes the bridge towards Île de Ré and we arrive at La Couarde sur Mer before noon.

Almost there!

The campsite “Le Remondeau” is a typical camping municipal: located between beach and village, proper and relaxed. Settling down gets more adventurous than I would have guessed: I plug in the 50m cable into the socket and jump back a few centimetres due to a flash of light and sparks all around me.

A quick inspection of the cable enfolds that it is broken with damaged isolation. No electricity for Hector or so it seems…

Basically: great. If only we could get electricity without the sparks and the shorted…

While I wonder how long it will take until the prawns in my fridge will start to annoy the surrounding with fishy odeurs, I realize that several campsite neighbours witness my misfortune. I receive recommendations for shopping possibilities (new cable drum), when out of the blue a guy approaches, quickly examines the cable, takes it and promises to come back. I feel a bit lost with my wonderful van and empty hands, but decide to wait before pannicking.

Fifteen minutes later, it is all solved: the cable drum repaired (miraculously!), a new plug + French intersection handed over and Hector is again satisfied. Not sure if the prawns are as happy as me, but at least they turn out to be delicious later that evening!

Preferred Evening Setting

Finally, we lean back for good. Hector, now charged 24/7, me with wonderful sunsets at the shore. Good to know that I have quite some time ahead of me in this scenery!

Périgord – France 2021, Part 2

A bonheur, I wake up and get Hector ready to go. Vineyard stop-overs are a quick win: wine, beautiful surrounding, nothing else. Consequently, all it takes is store the chairs in their compartments and turn the engine.

Early Morning around Sancerre

Obviously, Hector has decided to see mor of France’s rural parts. Tiny roads, marked as slim white lines on general maps, named with 3-digit-Dxxx numbers, make our way. We pass by fields, forests and more forests.

Deep down in France

Then around early afternoon, Hector comes to a halt at Brantôme en Périgord. The town is famous for the ancient abbey and the hand-deep canals. Another highlight seems to be the camper parking, half-filled with mobile homes and all kinds of camping cars, coming from all of France’s corners. I am the one and only tourist from abroad, at least until Frankfurt friends arrive.

L’Abbay de Brantôme

Brantôme is picturesque, but small. In former times, it might have been packed with people: monks, in medieval eras, tourists until 2020. Nowadays, it is a relaxed scenery for a promenade in half-deserted alleys before checking out the abbey and the huge roman church.

Inside, it is huge – and dark. And puristic.

The canals may be a bit of a bore, still slow motion-boat tours are offered, ensuring that inquisitive tourists do not miss an inch of Brantôme’s beauty.

Despite all the charm of this town, I am not here for history or architecture. I came here to see friends for dinner and it starts with a big hello and an apéritive. Usually, we live 400km apart, while now we manage to meet 1.300 km away from home.

Moulin de l’Abbaye

What comes next is a wonderful evening. Although other star-topped restaurants come with better service (or with a sommelier that really knows wine), the queen of the day sparkles with mildness when waving down from her chambers. The dishes are great, the wine acceptable and we enjoy our company during the delightful evening.

Gourmet Queen of the Day

Lucky us that the couvre-feu has been shifted to 23:00h, enabling a full menu before we have to split up. I pity my friends who have to stay in a high-price-mid-class hotel room while I climb up into Hector’s comfy bed, all satisfied with the day.

Bonne Nuit

En Route – France 2021, Part 1

Finally!! Hard to tell, who is more excited, Hector or me. The entire crew is tested negative on Covid19, even though the results of the PCR test are not to be delivered before late evening. Me, usually known as unpredictable danger seeker, do not want to play at risk and spontaneously add on an antigen test with result notice in less than 20 minutes. Hence, a load of good vibes is part of the first voyage since June 2019.

Here we go

First stop is Pforzheim. A friend I have not seen in 16 months and his wonderful girlfriend. Not to speak of the villa, the garden statues, the oh-so-eighties-bathrooms and delicious barbeque. It is fantastic to spend the evening with friends, something we have missed for way too long.

The next morning is a relaxed one, at least for the non-working ones. I scrounge a shower and start fresh and fragrant towards France, all formal documents at hand and ready to meet the armed border patrol.

…but then, in France…

If not for the different style in road signs, I would not have noticed the border crossing at all. So this is what I have made a fuzz about, with testing and prefilled entry forms and a well-studied, harmless look? Anyway, better safe than sorry, and so we move on, enjoying kilometre for kilometre with splendid music selection and a moderate volume of Diesel.

The second destination of the trip is Sancerre. Chavignol, a small village right around the corner of Sancerre, to be more exact. In other words: Of course, we do not stop until we reach a Hector-worth setting.

Just the right Scenery

A walk around the village proves that you can reach anything of interest within 2 minutes (max.). Still, Chavignol proudly presents a nice fountain, comfortable benches and a luxury public toilet. The best (and only) hotel is closed for the time being while the bistrot offers a fast-and-delicious menu, all finished by 21h = time of “couvre-feu”. Right in time, I sneak into the cave of today’s vineyard of choice and drink my way through all wine colours offered.

30 minutes later, I sway back to Hector, store 18 bottles of wine in various compartments and wait for the next day to enfold. By now, we count 970km since our departure, and today’s 9 hours of driving + 3 glasses of wine come as an exhausting combination.

Chavignol, Downtown

Via Ferrata Hausbachfall – 2021

…then along the way…

What a week! The pre-holiday-days get by just fine. Finally, summer settles in. Last working days are accompanied by multifaceted sports: Climbing with a friend I have not seen in 15 months. The first mountainbike tour since 2017. And now: the via ferrata challenge.

The Hausbachfall Klettersteig in Reit im Winkl is always a good option: interesting enough when it comes to the C/D climbing sections, not too long and easy to reach. If not for the misleading navi and three blocked roads, that is.

Having Fun

While some people fear to fall, I think a via ferrata is quite a simple thing: you can hardly get lost, holding on to the steel ropes and cliffy walls. Hence, I consider it more harmless than black hikes – best is a combination of both, anyway.

After a mere hour, the fun is over. Despite some bottleneck passages, waiting for others to find their way, my arms and muscles feel fresh as a daisy, thanks to my personal fitness trainer. With a little help from my friends, I managed to keep up the routine of sporty action with at least 5 hours per week, and now it starts to pay dividends.

Alpine Traffic Jam

This being said and done, I feel prepared for new detections with the foreseen exploration of foreign countries, distant islands and unknown vineyards.

Light-Blue: Hefteralm Circuit

Eight days of anticipation lie ahead of me. Hector rolls back and forth, restless and full of expectation. Still, 8 days are fine for mountain action before we head for the sea.

Starting at Grassau / Chiemgau

Weeks of rain have left the clouds white and empty, hence I put on my new hiking shoes and get going. I love the Chiemgau with its relaxed villages, and the friendly man I meet along the way proves me right. Meditation-like, calm and steady he takes care of his vegetable patch, greeting friendly while continuing his work. Yes, those who live here seem pleased with life and right they are.

Easy paths through forest and alps lead me towards Hufnagelalm and Hefteralm, the latter being open for starving hikers. It is one of those harmless circuit tours with happy cows, sheep, goat, dozens of families – but no summit. Over-motivated outdoor fans might combine the Rachlalm and/or Hefteralm with a walk up to Hochplatte, although you might be tempted for yet another pasture stop-over at the Oberauerbrunst-Alm. Given the variety of alps, the Chiemgau region could advertise for gourmet summits and relish hikes.

Idyllic between Rachlalm and Hefteralm

In south-eastern direction lies the prominent peak of Hochgern. Been there, done that – but strange enough that by end of May even mountains below 2.000m still glisten with snow.

After a sunny break (spring-like feeling, yet with three layers of Merino wool), I am filled up with fresh energy, food and coffe, and hop down towards Grassau. Later that day, when I try to combine hiking + jogging appointments on the very same day, I will learn about the improvement possibilities in my personal fitness. But before that, I get back to my starting point and feel hell of a hiking girl in super-speed shoes!

380m altitude diff.7 km2,5 hharmless

Shoe Test Hike: Wildbichler-Alm

While most of my hiking companions hop up and down with chamois-like lightness, I feel like a  snail with slow, steady movements – especially during uphill passages. Given my present youth and fitness, only one reason seems logic enough: my hiking-trekking Himalaya-proved boots are way too heavy.

Starting easy enough

Now here I go, if not: float, with brand-new hiking shoes of the light kind. Remembering that it took about 6 months in 2017 to adapt mountain boots to my feet (hurtful experience, umpteen plasters and wounded toes), I make the best out of instable weather and the prealps around Tegernsee. I always wondered why blue tours are, among red (mid-level) and black ones (difficult / interesting), presented in common outdoor books. Today, I take advantage of it when stepping in for a promenade with modest 268m altitude difference and moderate gradient.

Romantic Waterfalls along the Way

Starting at Enterrottach towards Moni-Alm, we are rewarded with unpredicted sun and t-shirt temperatures. No idea why everybody complains about the rainy, cold May?! If not for the waterfalls along the way, we would not have seen vertical drops at all.

Rechtzeitig vor’m Urlaub: Köpper üben!

All it takes for easy hiking promenades is a tempting destination and good company. This being set, the Wildbichler-Alm (close to Moni Alm) is just perfect with offered food, cake and coffee plus improvised benches at the chairlift station. The sun is smiling and so are we during our comfortable rest.

Hiking the Alps
Gumpen = kitschige Idylle, aber eben auch schön

Two hours later, I can confess that a light-blue tour does not hurt. Not even my feet. It is a delicate way to spend a spring afternoon, even more as further hikes will certainly follow.

268m altitude difference6 km2 hvery harmless

No. Yes? Perhaps! The Rising of Expectations

Three weeks ago, I had made my peace with the improbability of travel-based holidays in 2021. Days and weeks later, I am looking forward to 1.700 km with Hector, singing along to my holiday soundtrack of the year, heading West until I reach the sea.

Uncertainty remains, though. The variables are: negative PCR test before leaving. A stop-over at a friend’s place along the way. Incidence-thresholds here and in France. Surfable waves and general weather around the Île de Ré. Quarantine restrictions when returning.

Still, some time will pass before departure, and even more until I return. The main thing we have learned during the past 15 months is to cut down plans to a time frame of max. 2 days. Hence, I hope for the best while keeping my inner flexibility on guard.

What about… an island?

Exceptionally, I will not move much during my vacation. It might be more precise to call it a holiday rather than a travel. Consequently, I aim for being an island of calm and happiness on an island in the Atlantic ocean. Good books, my precious ukulele and a folded bike will make my days, hopefully added by a rented surfboard and wonderful waves.

Juggling Options

Hector already sparkles with expectation, justified by the fact that I should leave home either way: Friends plan to move into my appartment. This being set, I am positive that not before long, Hector will turn towards the coast.

Until then, I am counting down the days in anticipation.

Cold as Ice? Hot as Summer! The Kofel Hike

Today’s Destination

Light-hearted, I wake up: Today is hiking day with Barbara and there is hardly anything that can derange a dream team on the way to the peak.

Up! they say…

Facing fresh snow (May!) and risky conditions on our option A-mountain (Zinken, Allgäu), we spontaneously change our mind and go for the Kofel at Oberammergau. Apart from Passionsfestspiele and a limited number of ski slopes, the place enfolds quite it’s charm. However, we are not here for an expedition of the village, but rather for the most prominent summit around.

Local Charm may be a Matter of Perspective

We cross the stream Ammer, pass by the Mariengrotte and continue up, always up. Forest paths zig zag towards the upper part of the Kofel, bringing the Alps down to the core: rock. Plain rock with steep, almost straight walls. Diligent souls installed steel ropes along the way, turning the peak sprint into a hand-and-feet-challenge without any real danger.

Done! 24°C, right on top

It comes as no surprise that Barbara is the perfect hiking buddy for thoroughly planned, last-minute-changed tours that are marked black = difficult. The Kofel is a great hike that ranges slightly below via ferrata-standard and makes us lust for more intense challenges.

Cold as Ice! or: How long do you bear?

The way down is a relaxed promenade with gravity on our sides. Once back at Oberammergau, the cold water of the Ammer marks the perfect finish of the day, bringing together happy feet and smiling faces.

wonderful! For a few seconds… Hope you notice my inner smile.
700m altit. difference6 km<4hchallenging

Limitations and Possibilities

June. Preferred month for pre-season travelling. Between “Pfingstferien” and crowded July. But this year: too soon, too close.

Hard enough that the general camping lust has increased significantly, exceeding the number of available campsites and places. Annoying enough that you need to reserve and plan, disrupting spontaneity. Irritating enough to calculate the minimum number of FFP2 face masks needed for a 2-weeks-beach holiday, counting in the impact of sunscreen leftovers when wearing it during sunbaths.

Following the Covid rules in France, the development in Germany and the worldwide situation, I have decided to let loose. Finding a niche for a package holiday, best without ever leaving the hotel area, is so not my style. The same is true for standard cruises, holiday apartments and Mallorca. Almost two years have passed by since my last travel, and yet I refuse to step in the pile of standard tourists. Instead, I will benefit from the Alpine playground beyond my door step.

Hiking, lately: Alps around Eschenlohe

With friends, mountains and an almost infinite range of hiking possibilities, I will dive deep into the sensation of outdoor effort. What is it that triggers endorphins from exhaustion? The thrill of “how far will I get”? Steadily aiming for new summits, new peak crosses and new outlooks? The hours of fellowship with hiking buddies, the pride after intense tours?

Probably, all of it. And even more.

Feels good to be here – Rewarding Views and Good Company along the Way

Consequences are, that this so-called travel-blog will continue with outdoor actions that might or might not be perfect for travels, for holidays or for the sheer fun of it. Fantastic trips across Europe (or even more exotic) are not yet to be expectable.

So, here is the first exercise hike of the year. Apart from 2x Hirschhörnlkopf, that is, but still. A relaxed walk towards Osterfeuerkopf / Osterfeuerberg is just right for meeting a friend I have not seen in months – and the 350m altitude difference may mark the kick-off for more serious training.

What You See is What You Get