Over recent years it has saddened me to see how much the rural France I loved has grown shabbier and more abandoned. We drove though mile upon mile of La France Profonde where there were old agricultural buildings with collapsed roofs, more empty cottages for sale than lived in, and the vital shops which keep villages alive all closed.
We had chosen to spend the first night in St Mihiel in the Vosges because I had read about a wonderful piece of sculpture by Richier in a church there. I had also found a beautiful art nouveau B&B there so we had lots to look forward to. The house was indeed a treasure, but the taste of the new owners left much to be desired. There were some good pieces of original furniture, but the purple wall panels, festoons of drapery and weird light fittings didn’t do justice to the lovely rooms. Worst of all, the house felt very cold. There only seemed to be one place open for an evening meal, but luckily the Lion d’Or Pizzeria served unpretentious good food.
By contrast the next night at Weil am Rhein was comfortable and enjoyable. That location was chosen because it’s the home of the German Design Museum, which of course we visited, but I have to say, it reminded me more of a visit to Ikea. The hotel, called Ott’s, provided us with a great room and meal, as well as an excellent breakfast.
Then it was a slow drive to Bavaria on ordinary roads with views of the Alps. In Obammergau we found ourselves surrounded by shops selling wooden figures and cuckoo clocks, and after heavy German food, amazingly found a Chinese restaurant where we enjoyed crispy duck instead of sauerkraut.
As I write, we have the last day’s drive ahead of us, over the Brenner Pass and towards Verona. It will be good to be ‘home’ again, especially since this will probably be our last drive all the way there. Having had a horrendous accident on an Italian motorway 2 years ago, this long drive now seems too stressful. But we’ll enjoy the views today, and hope to get there safely with all the ‘Cose Inglesi’ safely packed in the boot ready for the market on May 1st.