I just spent two days in Chamrousse, a ski resort where I lived for a year when I was six.
I went to school on snow-covered roads, the fox would come around the house at night to find food, my father had to clear the garage door every morning, in short, a life “close to nature” as we would say today.
At the time, this mountain village was preparing to host the alpine skiing events for the 1968 Olympics. It was the year of Jean Claude Killy, gold medallist in the downhill, Marielle Goitschell, Olympic medallist as well and other great French sportsmen of the time.
Obviously today, the station no longer looks like the village I used to know. Lots of buildings, ultra-modern ski lifts etc.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the scenery. The mountains and the valley of Grenoble are in the same place.
A four-hour hike made me realize that I was unfortunately not six anymore. It was like a pilgrimage which made me very happy and I want to share this emotion with you. See you soon for the next ballad.
Today I went on a very nice hike that I want to describe to you. Between Lorraine and Alsace, on the ridges of the Northern Vosges, this hike offers views of the Lorraine plateau and the Alsace plains. I recommend it to you!
The starting point is near La Hoube. If you come from Dabo, cross La Hoube and drive another 1.5 km. Stop at the car park in front of the electricity pylon (be careful: it is located before the Valsberg Pass).
Follow the path marked with a blue rectangle and a blue disc. After 5oo meters, take the path at the right (blue disc). You pass near the Table of Giants: make the small detour to see it! It looks like a big dolmen.
Continue to the Geissfelswasen shelter, built by the Club Vosgien of Marmoutier, nestled under a magnificent and immense cypress. There, follow the pass marked by the blue rectangle to Geissfels (altitude: 596 m). The climb is very steep, but not very long. Courage! It is worth the effort because up there, you will enjoy a panoramic view: on one side, stands the legendary and majestic Rocher du Dabo, with its chapel. On the other side of the Alsace plain extends. A bench will invite you to rest or even to have a picnic.
Then follow the ridge path for around 500 m, then go down on the path. You arrive near the Maison Forestière du Haberacker, a peaceful place with its meadow where horses graze. The elderflowers were in bloom today rubbing shoulders with cherry trees bending under the weight of very red cherries.
The path marked with the blue rectangle will then lead you to the ruins of the Ochsenstein Castle (altitude: 549 m). Don’t forget to climb the metal steps which will take you up to the top. And there again, a beautiful view as a reward!
Now it’s time to go back. Return to the Maison Forestière, then turn right onto the path marked with the red rectangle path to the Geissfelswasen shelter. Then the blue rectangle will bring you back to your car in the car park.
You will have walked for four and a half hours, over a distance of 11km, with a positive elevation of 360m. In warm weather, the hike is ideal, because almost all the time in the forest. The paths, lined with pine trees, are very pleasant!
The Kings Path. Walk the Royal Château route, hiking via the green Sologne Forest, to the famous Touraine Vineyards, a route enabling you to enjoy the richness of the Loire. An easy to moderate walk in one of the most beautiful parts of France.
DAY 1: BLOIS.
Discover the town with its handsome streets and its château offering a brilliant illustration of the evolution of French architecture from the Middle Ages to the 17th century.
DAY 2: CHAILLES – CHAUMONT SUR LOIRE: 18 Km
After breakfast, take a short taxi ride to the village of Chailles where your walking route begins. The first day’s walk takes you along a winding path through a forest passing through several small villages all built of the local white stone, tufa. The final part of the day’s walk takes you along the banks of the Loire. If you have time on arrival, you may be able to visit the Château de Chaumont which overlooks the river Loire. This chateau was rebuilt at the end of the 15th and during the 16th centuries.
DAY 3: CHAUMONT SUR LOIRE – AMBOISE : 24 Km
The walk continues along the banks of the Loire, exploring some of the slopes and nearby plateaus before reaching the Forêt d’Amboise. You enter the Department of Indre et Loire in the district known as Touraine. At Amboise there is the opportunity to go around the chateau overlooking the Loire. You can also visit the Clos Lucé. This is a house where Leonardo da Vinci lived for a time.
DAY 4: AMBOISE – CHENONCEAU: 13 Km
Leaving Amboise, this short day’s walk takes you principally through the Foret Domaniale d’Amboise, and if you keep your eyes open you may see a good number of wild animals (deer, wild boar and birds). The shortness of the day’s walk should give you ample time to enjoy an unhurried visit to the Château de Chenonceau and its gardens.
DAY 5: AMBOISE – VOUVRAY: 23Km
Take a taxi back to Amboise and from there walk to Vouvray and its world-famous vineyards and its celebrated white wine. Further walking through villages and vineyards takes you through Lussault and then Montlouis, famous for its tradition of producing “Pineau de Loire”, before returning to Vouvray and its wine-cellars which are dug out of the living “tufa” rock.
DAY 6: ROCHECORBON – VILLANDRY: 28 km
This is a 26,5 Km day’s walk which takes you across the town of Tours. You can explore the town following various marked pedestrian routes through the old quarters, but you can equally use public transport to get straight out of town to the Le Pont Sanitas to the south of Tours, where you can get on to the GR (long-distance track, way-marked in white and red). From the southern side of the town, until you come to Savonnières, you will partly follow the cycle track known as the « Loire en Vélo» which goes all the way to Nantes. The track runs along the picturesque banks of the River Cher, where you can still see the old traditional boats (barges or lighters, with flat bottoms and cabins, known as “gabares”) moored, all the way to Savonnières. The final walk takes you through Villandry, where it is well worth stopping to visit the 16th-century chateau and its unique and famous gardens.
DAY 7: VILLANDRY – AZAY LE RIDEAU: 14 Km.
This final short day’s walk takes you to Azay le Rideau, which has a splendid Renaissance chateau on the edge of the river Indre.
Belleville’s narrow streets, ateliers, and garden passages remind us of the neighbourhood’s rural and working-class roots. Belleville was once a wine-making village well outside the city walls. It became known in the 18th century for its countryside guinguettes, where Parisians would come on Sundays to relax and drink a lot of tax-free wine. When it was annexed to Paris in the 1860s, Belleville was already heavily populated by the working classes. During the Paris Commune of 1871, the barriers in Belleville were the last in the city to fall to the Versailles troops. Almost 25,000 inhabitants lost their lives.
In the 1900s, Belleville’s population grew with the arrival of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and North Africa. The government started demolishing the most rundown quarters in the 1960s and built ugly housing projects. However, the neighbourhood has kept its traditional atmosphere and hidden pockets of history. By the 1990s, Belleville attracted a new wave of young artists who set up their ateliers in the old factories and workshops, and middle-class French families looking for inexpensive housing. Today Belleville is once again defined by its strong neighbourhood solidarity, as well as one of the liveliest alternative nightlife scenes in Paris.
Begin walking at the Métro Belleville, the heart of the local Chinese community, and walk up the Rue de Belleville. This street is lined with Chinese grocers, restaurants and shops selling hand-painted porcelain, Buddha statues and firecrackers.
Turn right onto Rue Piat, one last hill before the entrance to the Parc de Belleville. You will have the most extraordinary panoramic views over Paris. Because there are no tour busses, it beats the view from Montmartre! The Parc de Belleville was created in the 1980s on the site of an old gypsum quarry. Its steep hillside is softened by vine-covered arbours, the longest cascading fountain in Paris, and even a mini-vineyard in reference to the neighbourhood’s past.
Continue along the Rue Piat to the Rue du Transvaal. At #16 is the Villa Castel passage, where Truffaut filmed several scenes of the 1961 film Jules et Jim. Take the next right onto the Passage Plantin, made up of little cottages originally built for nearby factory workers. Turn left at the Rue de la Mare, to the Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville (32 Rue de la Mare, 20th M° Jourdain). This community art gallery represents over 150 local artists and organizes an annual Portes Ouvertes in May. Continue via the Rue de Savies to the Rue des Cascades, where one of the city’s old water points from a Roman aqueduct still stands. This street was the location for another classic French film, Casque d’Or, a drama about Belleville’s guinguette days of cheap wine bars, dance halls and the local gangsters known as Apaches. Follow this street to the Rue de Ménilmontant. Walk down the Rue de Ménilmontant, where, on a clear day, you can see the toy-like Pompidou Centre in the distance. Turn right at the Rue Julien Lacroix. On the corner is Ménilmontant’s local church Eglise Notre-Dame de la Croix. It was here that rebellious soldiers of the 1871 Paris Commune, who had taken over the church as their meeting hall, voted to kill their hostages, including the archbishop of Paris.
Cross the street to the Place Maurice Chevalier and follow the Rue Etienne Dolet to the Boulevard de Belleville. The colourful Marché Belleville, one of the city’s largest outdoor markets, spreads out along the boulevard every Tuesday and Friday morning with fruits and spices from around the world. Just below is the Rue Oberkampf, famous for its lively strip of gritty bars and wild clubs stretching from the Métro Ménilmontant to Métro Parmentier. But it’s also an interesting street to visit during the day, with its mix of typically Parisian food shops, ethnic cafés and quirky boutiques.
Marie-Josée grew up in an oil-producing town in France. Here, she tells how it was.
Hello, my name is Marie-Josée and I live in Merkwiller-Pechelbronn, a municipality located in the north of the Bas-Rhin which is part of the district of Wissembourg. It is a village of 1000 inhabitants with the annexe of Hoelschloch.
This history of the village is very closely linked
with that of petroleum and hydrotherapy, first mentioned in 1498. The
Pechelbronn mining industry is the oldest of all the oil companies in the
world. Thanks to its oil deposit, the village experienced great prosperity from
the 1920s until the end of the Second World War. On August 03, 1944, the
village and the refinery were subjected to a terrible bombardment. 1600 bombs
were dropped by the Americans in a few minutes.
The refinery was rebuilt, but the exhaustion of the
oil field led SAEM to stop all activities in 1970.
Our family farm was located 50 metres from the refinery and my childhood was filled with intense activity around the site. The images I have of this period are pumps all around the village, each bearing a number, pendulum pumps throughout the surrounding countryside, very tall chimneys, large cisterns.
Next to the house, there was a railway and throughout
the day we witnessed the passage of the steam locomotive which pulled wagons
with large tanks.
Our day was punctuated by the siren which called the workers to the mines and the workshops. At that time, there was a constant passage of bikes and pedestrians. There were always people on the road, and it was better for us children not to be there, otherwise, we risked ending up under the wheels of a bicycle. And I won’t forget all the tankers that went to and from the refinery all day long.
Another very important presence in the village was the
thermal cure which welcomed many people throughout the year. The Helions source
was thermal water which gushed from the ground at more than 60°C and was the
warmest thermal water in Europe. It was used to mainly treat rheumatism. It was
very sulphuric which corroded all the pipes. The thermal activity ceased due to
a lack of buyers.
The young generations did not experience all of this.
Fortunately, we have the petroleum museum with its volunteers which serves as a
In a tremendous spirit of cooperation, which symbolises my vision of the
Brida Project, Marie-Josée was asked several questions by other people. Here
are her answers:
Michèle: Did your father or your mother work in the refinery? No, neither my father nor my mother was employed at the refinery.
Were there many foreign workers? I am not aware of any foreign
workers employed at the refinery. Employees of the refinery came from all over
Pechelbronn, from north to south and from east to west.
Were they welcomed in the village? I
could not say, after the war, if the population was ready to welcome
foreigners, I have my doubts.
Astride: Are you nostalgic about your childhood? I am a little nostalgic for this period of my life. Life for me was simple and natural. There was entertainment in the village, and we were popular.
Anny: Do you like living in Merkwiller or would you have preferred somewhere else? I loved living in Merkwiller, I never asked myself that question. At that time, we didn’t travel too far so I hadn’t discovered more beautiful places. Once a bigger life in a big city would have pleased me but……
Roger: Marie-Josée, would you like to relive these beautiful old years? Yes and no. That time I knew it during my young years, technological progress, we did not know, for us children, this life was simple and easy but think it was less so for our parents who had to work a lot.
Henri: During Pechelbronn’s heyday, how many employees were employed in the refinery? At the height of Pechelbronn, there were about 2000 people who were employed in the mines, workshops, offices and refinery.
What was the name of the oil group that operated the
The name of the oil group that operated the refinery was SAEM or Société
Alsacienne Etudes Minières.
What is “Karischmiermann”? The Karieschmiermann was a mythical character from the area of Pechelbronn. This character was Louis Hebting (1854-1933) who pushed his wheelbarrow loaded with a barrel filled with bitumen from village to village.
What were the first virtues of bitumen from Pechelbronn? The first properties of bitumen were used for medical purposes. Bitumen was used to treat infections, wounds, toothaches, gout, skin problems and eyes