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Grand Est A Week in Vittel

Pauline

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June 2024 - A Week in Vittel​

My husband Steve and I spent a night in Vittel last year when driving from the UK to Switzerland and decided to have a week here in June on our drive to Switzerland. Vittel is a small spa town in the Vosges department east of the mountains that run parallel to the Germany border in this part of northern France. It is a 2 hour drive west from Colmar.

I’ve been unwell the past few years (but am recovering) so this was planned to be an easy week doing some easy walking. Vittel has a lot of hikes and there are more in the nearby towns. This is a French vacation area with lakes, forests and spa towns.

The Town​

Vittel is small. There are two bakeries on the main street. L’Ami du Pain is the best. Our apartment was around the corner and I picked up croissants and bread most mornings. There are a few places with tables outside for morning coffee but some are only open on the weekends. There are a few restaurants but we only got takeout from the Chinese restaurant once. This town is active on the weekends and quiet during the week. There is a Carrefour but it was a bit grubby. We shopped at the small organic vegetable shop on the main street.

The best things about the town are the lovely Thermal Park that surrounds the spa and the surrounding woods for walking. We did not use the spa. After reading reviews it didn’t seem appealing.

The town attracts older visitors (like us!) who are there for the spa and its programs. These can be paid for by the French health system. We saw groups out exercising in the park.

Vittel has an old world feel with many beautiful older buildings. Parts of it seem very well off but there are several abandoned buildings, one right on the main street. We saw an abandoned hotel and then a big building being refurbished into a new hotel and casino. We saw 11 tennis courts, a football field and stadium and an archery park, all abandoned. Not sure what is going on.

The Water​

The Vittel water springs are owned by Nestle. The water tastes very good and my hair has never felt so soft after washing. You would think it would be the opposite being mineral water.

The Weather​

The weather was good. Not hot yet in the second week of June. Sunny. No rain.

Where We Stayed​

If you pass through here for a night or two the Mercure is really nice. It is in an older building at the entrance to the Thermal Park. Our room last year was large with wood floors and several windows.

For this stay I booked an apartment through booking.com. There are many apartments for rent but I couldn’t find one I liked. I did find one but they did not respond to my emails so I booked this one on booking.com. The apartment was nice and around the corner from the main shopping street but we had such an odd checkin that it soured our feeling for the apartment. The mostly French-speaking woman who owns the apartment spent 10 minutes showing us every bit of damage in the apartment. Marks on the floor here (because she had not put protectors on the chair feet), chipped paint on the wall there. Trivial things that we had to look at which she also had listed on the checkin paperwork. It was clear that she charges people for even the smallest damage.

We walked by the other apartment that I liked, which I could have booked through booking.com I realized after, and the road was being dug up in front of it. So that wouldn’t have been a good choice this time.

Hikes​

The tourist website has a good list of hikes. You can download a PDF for each hike (in French) and the KLM file to upload to your hiking app. I use Outdoor Active so I had to translate the KLM file to GPX (using a free website) then upload to Outdoor Active.


We did two hikes from Vittel and one from the nearby town Contrexeville, plus a few walks in the Park.

The first hike we did, Circuit 10, started out good and well signed, then there was a construction area and barriers and no more signs as the trail was supposed to enter the woods. We followed an alternate route that would meet up with original trail (using my hiking app) but then heard gun shots and realised it was Sunday, hunting day (but maybe only in the autumn), so didn’t go into the woods. We continued on then saw someone coming out of the woods at the end of the circuit and she said there were no hunters so we did the hike in reverse. It was muddy in parts. This part of France has had a lot of rain since last October, just like in the UK, so the trails were a bit muddy. It ended up being a good hike.

Another hike we did from the lakes near Contrexeville, Circuit 20, was very nice. We walked along the lake then up into the woods. We did this during the week and there were not many people about. This was a good, pretty easy, hike.

The last hike was not on the website but was displayed on a board in Vittel and one by the lake in Contrexeville. This is a 6km hike one way. We walked out about 4km and then walked back. The trail was well marked, good trails, fairly flat. A lovely walk.

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Our Activities​

We had croissants every morning until I couldn’t stand another one. We went for walks twice a day. We mostly cooked our own meals. We didn’t bother driving to other places but there are a lot of other interesting looking towns and recreation areas nearby. The two day drive from our home in Dorset wiped us out this time. I can usually power through a long drive but this time I was so tired on the second day that Steve had to do a lot more than his share of the driving. So we avoided any driving trips.

We left a day early so that we would have two short days of driving to get to Switzerland and rain was forecast for the next day. We drove through the mountains to Colmar, where we frequently overnight on these drives. It was a beautiful two-hour drive on a lovely sunny day. Spent the night in Colmar then drove on to Zweisimmen in Switzerland the next day. My big disappointment - there is a Thai restaurant in Colmar that I love but our takeout from there was not good! Maybe they were too busy. Colmar was very busy with tourists, as it always is when we are there. We had a very good walk around Colmar.

Final Thoughts​

I’m glad we stayed there but I don’t really recommend it as a place to go. Too small. Not a good cafe scene. Nice walks through. I can see us staying here again on our way to Switzerland - in a different apartment!

I’ll post photos tomorrow.
 

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