Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nice to Alpe d'Huez

Phew, quite a long day. Traveling around France isn't that far, it's just really time consuming.

At the start of every town there is a road sign with the name of the town on it and at the end of each town there is another road sign with the name and a diagonal line through it indicating that you have now left the to town behind. I really wanted to get a photo of the exit sign for Nice but I must have missed it. I did however find the following sign; now which way would you run?

I would have liked to have spent another day or so on the riviera but we have at least had a taste and it's been pretty good. I quite enjoyed the vibe of the hostel which is by and large populated by people that could almost be our children. What a strange thought!

Caron didn't sleep too well last night because there was only one blanket and she was that inbetween temperature where you aren't cold enough to get up and do anything about it but you aren't actually warm. I slept like a log. We had a long chat with the hostel owner who recommended that we take a look at Entrevaux on our way up which, although we knew it was going to be a long day, we did. We don't regret it either.

The picture below is of Entrevaux, the town itself is a walled village at the bottom of the hill and the fort on top of the hill is reached by a series of switchbacks which was enough effort doing it once. I wouldn't want to do it every day or worse, multiple times a day.

The walled city is amazing and looks to be relatively un-touristy and actually exists as a town rather than a tourist attraction. Generally, the houses are four or five stories high with very narrow streets between them. Caron couldn't resist putting her head inside the one and only church and it was pretty ornate and lavishly decorated.

At the top of the hill, inside the citadel, are the most awesome views up and down the valley. It seems that historically this town, along with a half dozen others control the access points over the alpes and into italy so at one time it would have been quite an important town. Around the bottom of the citadel were jails which shared the same views that today people pay small fortunes for. The cells all had sloping beds for some reason and a small hatch through which food could be passed so that the door didn't need to be opened all the time.

From Entrevaux we set course for Grenoble which is quite close to Alpe d'Huez and we learnt something more about driving in France, sometimes the passes are still closed even though it is already summer. The first pass we were intending going over turned out to be closed so we wasted about an hour driving up and then all the way back down although I didn't think it was such a waste since it was such a beautiful drive. The valley that one drives up has narrow gorges that then open out to flat bottomed valleys with the obligatory picture perfect town and then the next gorge. Caron was taking a little strain on some of the roads which were very windy and just a little precipitous. The photo below shows a strange arrangement where the one side of the road goes through a narrow tunnel and the other goes around the outside of the ridge.

Once we had finished the detour, the second of the day, it was all the way to alpe d'huez where we arrived at 19:00 having started driving at 09:00. We stopped briefly for lunch and to buy some pastries. I had a custard slice which was very tasty but by the time we finished driving I was coming off the sugar high as well as being quite tired from the drive so I sat quietly with my book and some wine while I unwound.

This is the view from the front of our tent, pretty amazing!

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