Our phones informed us that the temperature would drop 10 degrees today to the high 20’s. It was time to move on. A cold campsite shower and a leftover breakfast of Metz market goodies got us on the motorway heading east across the Maginot Line. It was an easy drive to Hombourg-Haut, a fortress town nestled into the German border.
The aire was empty but well laid out and with a new service area. Simon looked up tourist information and cheerily informed me that ‘due to a 40% rise in crime in April, the Marie employed 15 guards to patrol the town to stop random acts of graffiti and arson. This is all down to the lack of local employment and transport links to possible places of work.’ Oh, great.
By the time I was pouring coffee fresh from Bertha’s stove I’d counted three buses passing by. We’d found the railway station on the map and the links into and out of Metz, and a sparkling new Intermache within a stone’s throw of the aire. It didn’t seem that hopeless a place.
Locking Bertha up securely, we marched up the steep and overgrown hillside path to the old town and its gorgeous St Etienne Collegiate Church. Inside the classical Redstone church the Romanesque pillars and arches proffered a simple and cool calm. The day’s hot sun sent spiralling motes of dust billowing through the knave and we both enjoyed some slow moments of soothing tranquillity.
Outside an untended herb garden gave some pickings of fresh fennel fronds (dinner would be planned around this) and feeling cheered we meandered down the cobbled streets of the old town being greeted by locals enjoying the heat from their ancient doorways. Passing through the impressive fortified gate, the valley views were of forested hillsides and, look, another bus!
The sun beat down and the temperature soared back into the late 30’s as four more vans joined us, but not too closely, as Simon cooked up a feast of white fish fragranced with the fennel.
A driving lesson took place in the car park next to us, but for that it was a quiet night. No security patrols, no arsonists, just late night buses passed by. We wished the town well and hoped the new aire was a sign of its turning a corner.