Crête des Vosges en hiver: Villé-Blancrupt (étapes 1 & 2)

 

😀 Des Croûtons dans les Vosges 😀

Preamble/Préambule

Bill & Christine

As if  the traverse of the Vosges in winter was not challenging enough we decided to up the stakes by daring each other to write an account in the other’s language, Martine in English; Christine and I in French – and of course in accordance with some very strict rules:

–  We don’t employ our mother tongue at all

–  We write our articles quite separately

–  We don’t correct each others mistakes unless a passage makes no sense at all. (No corrections have been made)

Now see the results below. Read them with compassion and in the spirit in which they are presented. And, if you feel inclined, have a good laugh!

😀   😀   😀

Martine

Pour prolonger ce moment de complicité, nous avons décidé de relater par écrit le vécu de cette escapade de six jours sur la crête des Vosges. Le défi était:

–    de ne pas utiliser notre langue maternelle,

–   de rédiger nos textes séparément, sans nous concerter,

–  de laisser en l’état le récit de chacun, sans effectuer de corrections, sauf dans le cas où les phrases perdaient de leur sens.

Je dois être honnête et avouer que, n’ayant que très peu de souvenirs de mes deux années d’apprentissage de l’anglais, je me suis aidée de quelques béquilles nommées « Google traduction », « English for dummies » et Harraps. J’ai aussi glané quelques renseignements auprès de mon entourage.

Le résultat n’est probablement pas très glorieux, mais je me suis beaucoup amusée à ce petit travail. Ne vous génez pas, riez de bon cœur de mes fautes et mes maladresses et sachez que toutes les petites allusions et taquineries à l’égard de mes coéquipiers écossais sont une preuve de l’ambiance décontractée qui régnait entre nous durant cette randonnée entre Villé et Thann.

😀 😀 😀


Étape 1: Villé –Sainte Marie aux Mines

09.00 Heures.

B & C : Nous nous trouvons, Martine, Christine et moi, Bill, dans la place principal de Villé ; derrière nous un petit marché bien animé, avant nous six jours de traversée – dans la neige(!) – aux raquettes (!!).  Notre guide Martine fait un court résumé du balisage Vosgienne- apparemment une composition de la géométrie d’Euclid et la palette de Picasso. L’explication est forcement pressé – nous n’avons que six jours.  Ainsi préparés, nous entamons le labyrinthe de sentiers ; triangle vert, cercle bleu, losange blanc, anneau jaune, petits sabots blancs- sabots blancs ? -non, non, pas de sabots blancs, ça ne nous regarde pas- carré noir, rectangle rouge et blanc, duodecahedron barré a dominance rose……

Féerie sous la ligne bleue des Vosges/Enchantment under the blue line of the Vosges

Féerie sous la ligne bleue des Vosges/Enchantment under the blue line of the Vosges

 

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16.00 Heures.

Depuis une journée traversant un paysage féerique, les arbres en tenue de givre, nous arrivons à Sainte Marie-aux-Mines, ville abattue, les mines depuis longtemps épuisés, l’industrie en fuite, abandonnée par les jeunes que sont allés ailleurs pour chercher du travail. Pour moi c’est un scenario bien connu ; en Ecosse, villes comme ça nous en avons des tas. Mais il est trois heures de l’après midi, chez nous à cette heure on prend l’ afternoon tea. Martine, notre guide, fiable comme toujours, trouve pour nous un salon de té haute de gamme. Après une longue journée de marche et en assez mauvaise forme, un Darjeeling avec un nuage du lait – ah  ça fait du bien !

Le soir, à la chambre d’hôte, nous dinons ‘en famille’ avec nos hôtes, un couple accueillants et déterminés qui fait ce qu’ils peuvent ici pour gagner la vie.

Wednesday, Februa ry 23th

M : After a short travel by train and bus, the walk began on the place of Villé. The start was given with some equivocations to find the north.

I became aware that I was a casual guide and my mission could be summarized in four points:

Mainly

– to bring “l’entente cordiale” safely to Thann without too much damage by a ridge path between Alsace and Lorraine.

Also

–  to give the crew all informations about the specific markings in the Vosges
–  to let him know and if possible, to enjoy culinary specialities and wine of the region
–  to familiar him with the current French vocabulary, that is to say not very Catholic or unorthodox for the islanders of the North Sea.

The first day  was an opportunity to discover the diversity, the meaning and use of tags. It was a real festival. Quite simply, we were faced with all or substantially all of the signaling invented and implemented by the Vosgian’s Club. At each crossroad we had to put our noses in maps, scan all the trunks of trees to detect a small sign, consider in which direction we had to go (the same marking could be on the roads not necessarily opposed), exchange our opinion (remember that it was the “entente cordiale”), to find the right path.
For information, we followed the yellow rectangles from Villé to the paved road, green round  in Fouchy, yellow triangles from Fouchy to a crossroad, green triangles and red crosses to Col de Schlingoutte, rings red on the way to Col de Hingrie, blue triangles up to Creux-Chêne and finally yellow crosses for the last part of the stage !

However we were concentrated at our highest level, but at Col of Schlingoutte we  embarked on a bad path which lengthened our stage of 4 kilometers. Name of a Pipe!

Grand Rombach

Grand Rombach

 

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Too bad for us and finally it was not a big problem because , despite the predictions, the weather was glorious and it was a pleasure for eyes : the trees wrapped in icing sugar were very elegant, the paths and meadows covered with a thin layer of snow that fell two days earlier were of a ceremonial beauty. Everything was wonderful and this step was a very good begining.

We were going in the playful mood. The small amount of snow didn’t require the use of snowshoes which made a quiet walk, hanged on our backpack. The scottish team member progressed bravely without any complaint, were attentive to my explanations and brilliantly discussed the origin and fanciful translation  of place’s names. As Schlingoutte example, which does not mean drop (goutte) that stinks (schlingue), but comes from the German « Schlingut ».

For the first stage through the Vosges, nearly 29 kilometers or 18 miles, it was an honorable performance for the “vieux croutons” who we are.

After a day of pure happiness, we arrived at St. Marie aux Mines, almost exactly to the hour of the afternoon tea. Against all odds, we found a small tea room (and not a vulgar bistro) filled with natives who made us a good welcome. Not precisly to me who was no special curiosity, but to Christine and Bill with their british accent. They seemed much more exotic than the Germans or Belgians who temporarily invade the Vosgean mountains. Everyone thought they were English! Oh, my God, what a terrible mistake ! We must say, for their excuses, the Alsatians (like almost all French!) don’t make a difference between England and Scotland. Except for rugby’s fans! I regret that Bill was not wearing the kilt, in this case, confusion would not existed.

Because of the closure of most hotels, I had decided to reserve bedrooms in a “B&B”, and it was a great idea, because the house was comfortable and we received a warm welcome. We had diner with our charming hosts who served us a delicious salad of lentils (hearty Alsatian specialty). They had the delicacy not to submit only one of those stinky cheese which makes the pride of the region and the repulsion of foreigners, but add a cheese species that the French find rather insipid.

With incredible courage, Bill and Christine made use of an homeopathic dose of Munster’s cheese and swallowed it with a smile!

More after the map…

1 Ville-SteMarie

Sainte Marie – Blancrupt

Jeudi 24 Février

13.00 Heures – Col du Bonhomme

B & C : Enfin ce matin on a gagné la crête. Nous avons suivi l’ancienne frontière, une chaussure en  Allemagne d’autrefois et un sabot passant par La Lorraine (Ho ho ho !). Le sentier était une longue, ‘Montagne Russe’ qui montait et descendait doucement dans le foret. Partout il y avait des traces du grand conflit qui avait eu lieu ici, presqu’il y a un siècle ;  autour de nous les grands entonnoirs d’obus, lissés par le passage du temps mais toujours évidents. Le silence du foret et la conscience qu’on foulait un grand cimetière m’a plongé dans une humeur réflective. Le sac à dos pesait, les jambes manquaient d’énergie et j’ai occupé la serre fil pour toute la matinée.

Deuxième jour: Gros flocons sur le Col de Sainte Marie aux Mines pour commencer la journée/Day Two: Large flakes on the Col of Sainte Marie aux Mines to begin the stage.

Deuxième jour: Gros flocons sur le Col de Sainte Marie aux Mines pour commencer la journée/Day Two: Large flakes on the Col of Sainte Marie aux Mines to begin the stage.

 

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A l’heure du déjeuner nous sommes tombés sur le Col du Bonhomme et deux hôtels. Le premier présentait une nette absence de bonhommie, de chaleur ou de soupe. D’autre part, dans celui d’en face, la hôtesse nous a offrit un bon accueil ; une dame géniale et ouverte qui me rappelait à la belle mère de Mozart dans le film Amadeus qui s’est transformée en La Reine de la Nuit – je ne sais pas pourquoi. Nous prenons une bonne soupe fortifiante et une délicieuse tarte aux myrtilles sauvages – myrtilles avec une sauvagerie admirable !

16.00 Heures – Le Lac Blanc

Nous arrivons à Lac Blanc, petit domaine de ski peuplé de familles qui marchent péniblement dans la neige fondue avec le pas typiquement maladroit du skieur.  Partout il y a des grands hôtels huppés mais nous les passons pour trouver notre petit refuge plus modeste. Là nous trouvons notre chambre pour la nuit, un placard à trois lits. Mais on s’adapte très vite à la vie de refuge. C’est chaud, confortable et bien équipé ; et, après renversant une carafe du vin, presque bachanalian ! On n’a pas besoin de beaucoup plus.

 

Thursday, February 24th 2011

 

M : I concluded after the first day that the results were promising on all fronts and that the rudiments of navigation in the Vosges were acquired. Now, my teammates knew enough of the concept of markup in the Vosges and could have come out of any unfortunate situation, … still made few mistakes, but not too often.

We were going to tackle the following issues and as with all experiments, we must limit the number of variables. For the second stage, the markup was reduced to its simplest expression: a short part of “red circles” path to the Col de Sainte Marie and “blue rectangles” (GR531) for the rest of the day.

The first difficulty was displayed in the living room’s window: At our getting up, it was snowing with large flakes since a few hours, which suggested  the tracks have disappeared, and visibility would be zero. This bothered me a little because I didn’t know the first part to go to the Col de Sainte Marie and I feared it was badly marked. More, the step seemed a bit long and this layer of snow increased, our progress would be slow, especially if we needed  to learn the walking with snowshoes.

Very nicely, our hostess offered us a drive by car to the Col de Sainte Marie. His service which saved us three kilometers and it placed us directly on the blue rectangle’s itinerary that I knew.

The snow fell less strong top down and stopped after one hour’s walk. The view was larger, but the sky remained grey with many clouds and fog reappeared every time we take the height. With laziness, we balked at to take the snowshoes out of the bag. Fortunately, the layer of snow on the floor was still not enough to force us to put them.

During most of the morning, we were walking on the crest, border between Alsace and Lorraine, on a path full of history, which was during the last 3 wars the scene of fierce fighting. The path  was winding through the shell craters, going to symbolic places (the Head of Violu, Liberty’sTree). We saw some graves and stele in memory of fallen soldiers to have had the misfortune to be twenty years old in 1870 or 1914. Our  path was alternating steadily the descents that were ending with anonymous or identified col (Col of meadow’s raves, Col of Bagenelles, Col of Bonhomme) and ascents that was finishing  atop  prominences without name.

Many times, it was hampered by trees uprooted by storms which forced us, to make detours, climb over or crawl. A real steeplechase ! Exercise a little difficult when you are buried under thick clothes and you are loaded with a bulky bag.

Around 1.p.m. we arrived at the Col du Bonhomme, happy to find two restaurants open, because we wanted to warm us by a good hot soup.

Instead of warming, our entry into the first hostel caused us a severe cooling. Because I didn’t close the door of the room fast enough  (between the restaurant room and  a temperate airlock!) the innkeeper, without the slightest smile and hello, took sides against me in sharp terms , saying he didn’t heat the road.

50 Nuances de gris/50 Grayscale

50 Nuances de gris/50 Grayscale

 

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The tone was set, and at this moment, I should have preferred leave than stay. But not wanting to create scandal, I closed the door before Christine and Bill, who got rid of their things in this famous airlock. When they came on in their turn, they received the same criticisms. We sat  and asked soup, but he didn’t have. Given the bad welcome and knowing there was restaurant opposite, we took our things and left this unpleasant guy . Upon leaving, a customer, mingled for some strange reason ( but perhaps because he was the boss’s friend?) of the conversation more and more lively.

Before leaving, the boss said to me: “And when you go out,  I ask you to shut up! ( quand vous sortirez, je vous demande de la fermer !) » I didn’t understand if it were the mouth or the door!

A road to cross and hop ! we rushed into the “Auberge du Col du Bonhomme” which appear in the input a message of welcome and a smile on the head of the a cheerful innkeeper.

We were served a generous vegetable “multigenerational” soup accompanied bacon (lardon in french means baby in slang) and croutons (croûtons is old person in slang).
Change maps, we returned to the dreariness , full of life, towards the Col de Louschbach.

We discovered this pass before a crucial shortcut that made us win. … 10 minutes.

Blancrupt is not exactly a hotel, but more accurately a big hut or family vacation home, populated by skiers. The rooms are small, clean and well heated dormitories.

The kind of food was announced on the panel at the roadside: Mountain’s Cooking !

Photos de la randonnée

I suspected that they served us the inevitable “roïgabrageldi” and smoked “Kassler”.

It was much worse ! Cruel cooks had no pity for the Scots. At seven o’clock sharp, the room waited with impatience and ballet of servers began in smells that were to be apocalyptic for the unaccustomed noses: the tartiflette of Munster ! Worried, I looked at my friends, to detect if they intended to pass out.

After the first excitement, we agreed that the smell of melted Munster, estimated at 10 on the Chlingomètre’s scale was much greater than its taste. As hiking stimulates the appetite (  🙂  and maybe because there was no other choice !), Christine and Bill even took one second part. I must admit I am admiring before their courage and selflessness.

Courageous people, but also hard-working! I believe that probably, before coming they had  follow one intensive training for drinking the Alsatian’s wine because their habituation seemed to me so much easier. I’m kidding, of course ! 😀

Another beautiful day was ended. And I thought, seeking sleep, that their company was very pleasant. Often silent during walking and  always cheerful during breaks and meals.(lire la suite)

2 Ste Marie-Calvaire

 

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