11 June 2014

The Grand Canyon du Verdon was seen under an almost cloudless sky and the 4/4 side-screens were discarded, left behind at our chalet near the town of Castellane. This is another of those places which deserved much closer inspection but we did wander through the center and discovered an antiques shop with chaotic heaps of old things including clocks, bronzes, beautiful furniture,   pictures. The building itself seemed untouched, little rooms lead off to larger rooms and surely the chaos was deliberate to suggest the buyer may discover something beneath something else. The old sign outside the front door was a scrappy piece of plywood about 2ft high and 4ft wide just laid on the pavement and would itself have been collectible.
The east side of the canyon was approached first and the road slowly climbs away from the river bed in a series of blind bends, sheer limestone cliffs to our right and sheer drops to our left.  The weight of traffic was not the problem but the type and manner of its driving was slightly hazardous. Buses, lorries, cars and motorcycles pass where possible but are often blocked by narrow sections, short tunnels and the occasional overhanging rock-face. The experience felt like being a big ball skittling through a small bowling alley.
The Lac de Ste-Croix which feeds its water to the Canyon is a vivid azure blue and is still visible from the village of Aiguines where we break for a sandwich. The D71 heads back down towards the south east and reaches a high point through a series of short tunnels cut into a sheer cliff face in spectacular fashion.
A second night was spent at Castallane due to a tummy upset so the Mediterranean and St Tropez was scratched from the schedule. The following day we decided to head for home in leisurely fashion not knowing how Helen might react to a long day on the road. We stopped our final night in France at a little farm campsite called Terra Ferme at Cormoz a few miles north of Bourg-en-Bresse. Run by a Dutch couple who have made this their home and little paradise on the hill. Run as a family site with plenty of space to roam and enjoy. Our night here was marred by a cloudburst and torrential rain found out the weak spot of our aged Kayam tent. The integral waterproof ground sheet was porous.  From here next morning before continuing the treck north we chose to visit a museum and preserved 17th century farm buildings,  a monument to agriculture at St Trivier-de-Courtes.
The whole village is one rich architectural gems. Several of the timber framed buildings overhang the street pavements and have the open first floor balconies typical of the region. Re-joining the motorway we dash for the port of Calais and manage to catch the 6pm ferry. As for the 4/4 and its performance we needed no tool kit except for the greese-gun which was deployed twice. The spare bulbs, fluorescent jackets, warning triangles, breathalizer kit, tow rope, and those little bits that might be needed “just in case” will do for another day.
“Rev Hang” remains a slight niggle with the Mog. Affecting the way it behaves on twisty mountain roads due to the frequent changing of lower gears and slight delay in throttle response  which I hope to resolve by re-programming its ECU before too long.
Attempting to keep up with a Frenchman familiar with his own road is not a good idea, whether he is driving a twenty ton lorry or a small saloon car, move over and let him pass, enjoy the scenery, not just the pace of travel. Most motorcyclists are polite and give a wave of thanks with the right foot as they go by. There is some satisfaction in counting such foot signals from each happy biker.
Links below lead to five Photo Albums   Best viewed in slideshow mode :


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