Honestly, the first few days, driving through France towards the Vosges was not all that exciting (compared to what was coming). The landscape was flat, the weather gray. We drove big distances up until Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, where the mountains really start.
That night we started having some issues with the heater, our number 1 luxury when doing these trips in winter. I managed to get it going only when I let the engine run at startup. The next day we awoke to snow everywhere, really giving us that proper winter feeling! It did mean our route would be a bit limited as some roads are not cleared of snow and I wasn’t equipped to drive on those with the van. Jolien also started fantasizing more and more about going skiing, to my own dismay as I don’t ski at all.
When we reached the other, Eastern side of the Vosges Mountains it felt like things were quite different: still cold, but much sunnier and clearer. We went for a hike to some cool castle ruines (Saint Ulrich and Girsberg), we even skipped the third one higher up the mountain. It seemed like every other hill here has a castle or ruin on top of it!
We found a nice spot between the vineyards, thanks to an app we learned about on our travel to Portugal, called Park4Night.
We visited the magnificent Haut-Koenigsbourg castle, an amazingly restored castle that attracts a lot of visitors. We usually don’t do these kinds of things, but in this case the admission was wel worth it. I didn’t manage to fly my drone there, so a picture of the model will have to do.
High on the list, and sort of the main reason we chose to come to the Vosges, was an abandoned mansion nicknamed “Chateau Lumiere”. Jolien had been fantasizing about it last year, how amazing it would be, but we never made it. This time we did, and got in without issues.
The place was a bit empty, but not too vandalized. To really get the most out of it one would need a tripod, and personally I’m just more a fan of rusty decay instead of forgotten glamour, but it was an alright visit.
After the abandoned mansion we were sort of in a situation where we could chose to go back, or stay longer. Jolien convinced me to stay longer in the area, and we decided to head for Colmar and the christms markets there. That turned out nice, Jolien said it was “the cosiest city EVER”, we saw like 10 Christmas markets and ate Belgian fries afterwards. The day was saved after me feeling a bit down.
We passed by another ruined castle and did a small hike up to and around it. Felt like a much creepier place than the others we’d seen so far.
Skiing was still very much on Jolien’s mind, so we agreed I’d drop her off at the Gerardmer Ski slopes for a day, while I’d go do my own thing. She skied for the whole day (never so much in her life before!) and I went for a hike to a tower overlooking Lake Gerardmer, you could even see the ski slopes in the distance.
After the skiing we’d agreed to drive a bit longer and later, to make up for staying longer, but not before stopping a few times to take some golden hour drone photos. It felt like the weather had only improved towards the end of the trip! That night was the last day of 2017, and we cooked a pretty nice van dinner on a quiet parking spot somewhere near Thionville. For some weird reason I actally much prefer these quiet, low-key end-of-year moments over some big party…
One last stop on the way back the next day (new years day) we wanted to see the impressive looking “Bureau Central”, but we didn’t get far (not even inside) until a security guy showed up telling us to leave, or else! I think that’s the first time ever that’s ever happened to us.
All in all a good trip: longer, more interesting, better planned and more comfortable than last year!