Week 16: France

Col du Grand Colombier

We left St Tropez, with the weather app and the radio giving weather warnings for bad weather for two days. We knew we would be unable to avoid it completely but we decided we would start our trip back to England.

We headed north and picked up the Route Napoleon at Castellane and headed up to Digne-les-Bains, a thermal spa resort in the Alps. The Route Napoleon follows his route from Elba to Grenoble to ready himself for his battle at Waterloo. The weather wasn’t too bad on the drive north and was even sunny when we arrived, but the rain was still due.

The rain did arrive, just as we were starting to cook dinner. Thankfully, the awning was able to provide protection to the chef and his barbecue. Expecting worse weather, we put away the awning before turning in for the night and we were glad we did. The weather got worse throughout the night, including the start of the thunderstorms. Waiting for the gaps in the rain and the storm, in the morning I was able to take the dog out for his walk… but a few steps in the rain started again and even heavier. The paths were flooded and I was drenched through. I was taught an expression in my school french lessons, which I have never deemed appropriate to use before, but today was the day – “je suis trompée jusqu’ aux os.” (I am soaked through – literally to the bone!) After having returned to Nortia, and drying the dog, we decided to move off the grass onto the roadway and continue getting ready to leave. As I was already soaking wet, I continued to do the outside jobs, whilst Ric carried on inside in the dry! Once moved I was able to change, have a lovely warm cup of tea and plan the day’s journey.

We continued up the Route Napoleon towards Grenoble, stopping for a nice warming bowl of French Onion soup in Gap (all cooked in the MoHo in the Supermarket car park – we weren’t the only Motorhome there either)! We continued on to the chosen campsite, but despite it looking open the office was closed and despite ringing the bell as requested if it was closed, there was no response. It was definitely becoming one of those days! As we returned to Nortia and reversed up the steep slope onto the road, a figure appeared at the office but stubborn as we are it was too late we were moving on! We found another overnight stop at Lépin-le-Lac, a small campsite on the edge of a lake in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alps.

The following morning we thought about visiting Geneva, as we were so close. After a lunch on the banks of the River Rhône, we followed signs to the Col du Grand Colombier. Neither of us knew what to expect, but as we got higher and higher, we checked the internet and it turns out that it was a mountain used for the climbs in the Tour de France 2012 and the view at the top were worth the trip, so we carried on. The top is 1412 metres above sea level, not one of the highest we have been up, but the road was very steep and twisty with a number of switchbacks. There were a couple of hairy moments, especially where you could see the drop down, those cyclists definitely have some balls! The climb is rated HC ( hors catégorie) which is the most difficult hill climb.

The view from the top was just amazing, you can see Switzerland and Lake Geneva, the Alps and France. We were even above the clouds.

We headed off to our overnight stop in Gex. We’d told Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav that we didn’t want to go to Switzerland anymore and yet we saw the border approaching. Oh well, another country for the list. We continued on along the outskirts of Geneva and then we had to park up at CERN. We seem to be having an unprepared day, neither of us realised it would be on our route and even better it was free to visit. CERN is the European Organisation for Nuclear Research and it is home to the Large Hadron Collider.

After Gex, we headed to Besançon and travelled up through the Jura Mountains National Park . The National Park does not allow dogs! The signs even say leave your dog at home! We climbed higher up the mountains through the ski resorts and descending down into the valleys below. There is a more autumny feel here and the leaves are turning orange and red. There are more signs indicating activities for Halloween and Toussaint – All Saint’s Day 1/11, a national holiday in France). The french schools also break for the holiday on Friday for two weeks.

Next we headed up to Colmar. Neither of us has travelled along the eastern border of France before and Colmar, was just so beautiful. We headed from the campsite a short walk to the area known as La Petite Venise, with the canals and historical houses. Colmar even has a minature Statue of Liberty on a roundabout on the outskirts of the town, in honour of the designer who was born in the town.

We headed west from Colmar towards Compiègne, stopping at a lovely campsite in Andelot. We were the only people there and there were cows in the field in front of us and behind.

As we continued towards Compiègne, we started to see the World War One memorials and grave sites, the area is known for. There are cemeteries for all nationalities here. We stopped at the Necropole Nationale – Cormicy and then the Berry-au-Bac Memorial to the Armoured Cavalry (tanks). The campsite for the night had a Wild West Theme.

Next week’s adventures will be following shortly – we haven’t had WiFi for a long time and our internet providers say we’ve been out of the UK for too long. We’ll endeavour to deal with this on our return to England, but for now, thank you as ever for reading – we’ll be back soon….

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