Route des Grandes Alpes

Chapter 2 Route des Grandes Alpes
At Valloire the campsite is well equipped but internet fails to function for us. Early start next morning sees me greasing the king pins and brewing tea for Helen but just as I complete my messy work beneath the Mog it started to rain and packing the tent and gear had to be hurried along. The road south to the Col du Galibier and the twin Col de Lauteret was overshadowed by the rain but led onwards to Briancon where we spent time wandering the narrow streets of the old walled town. Too much to see and too little time in which to do justice to this historic garrison town, one little discovery was the heights to which French gastronomy reaches with pastry and chocolate. Heading down the central street which has a rivulet running down its center we came across a small café on the right hand side where the tasty morsels on offer tempted us in. The walls are paneled in wood and are adorned with mirrors but the delights to taste here are not to be missed. Three very small tables all occupied meant we are obliged to explore the inner sanctum of this highly decorated chocolatier and patissier. Certificates of prize winning achievements adorn the paneled walls and on tasting the savory little pastries we are in taste bud heaven. On our way out the chocolates are too tempting but not inexpensive so a choice is made of just two and, even so, the white frocked wizard of a prize winning chef is delighted to oblige.  Helen and I wander on down the street sharing the last morsel to come out of a tiny white paper bag. Never mind the chocolate box – none was needed.
The Col d’Izard was next on our itinerary and we took photos and met a cyclist as he reached the top too. Pumping the pedals for hour after hour, each rider  that reaches the peak of fitness deserves a medal and this one gets some admiration because he is not a young man; indeed there seemed to be an abundance of older men proudly taking photos and celebrating with one another here. This one we spoke to was a German who did speak English and has a daughter living in Windsor married to an Englishman. He took a photo of us to send to her and we took a photo of him standing by his bike against the Col d’Izard obelisk.
Heading down the other side the scenic picture is a wonderful experience. Through the Combe du Querias and Mont Dauphin Guillestra and the Col de Vars. Along this section the road passes through an amazing fast eroding crumbling rock that was once a sea floor. Vast scree slopes and weird shaped pinnacles are slipping and sliding downhill as fast as they are being raised up by the plate tectonics of this area.
Our next stop for the night is at St Paul-sur-Ubaye and our stay here is in a little chalet and quite comfortable compared to the tent which is soon dried off on the balcony. Then a meal is enjoyed at the nearby rural restaurant where we share the dining room with a retired Englishman now living in Sweden who walks the peaks around here on a regular basis. He declares these places are having a quiet time due to exceptional snow, rain and cold weather. There are other pastimes besides walking that go on in this region but he is oblivious to them.

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