Gateway to the Alps
Trip Start Jun 18, 2010
14Trip End Jul 17, 2010
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The next day (June 25th) dawned clear and warm (yawn). A friendly Parisian taxi-driver delivered us to the train station in good time for our TGV to Lyon. What a way to travel – who would bother with airports, check-ins, flights, when this alternative is available? From Lyon we collected our Peugeot wagon and set out for Grenoble – except we didn't because we immediately made a directional mistake and headed off up the motorway in the opposite direction. Paris here we come again! Eventually sorted, and paying more attention to the clipped consonants and clearly enunciated advice of the woman inside our Peugeot GPS navigation device, we arrived in Grenoble
Grenoble’s a modern city, a university and ski town on the fringes of the French Alps
It was mid-afternoon when we arrived in Grenoble and, after a few loops around the one way system, reached our apartment. We then headed out for a stroll through the oldest part of the city and a visit to the elevated vantage point of an old fort across the river. It was hot and we were feeling lazy so we caught the cable car up.… a cosy, sauna-like, plastic bubble that ensured we arrived at our destination bathed in sweat and having created yet more laundry to add to the growing, unwashed pile. Pig-French obtained us a couple of very welcome cold beers (and a coke for she who has been drinking way too much of it on this trip).
Next morning, coffee, croissants and pastries at a café for breakfast, a stock-up on cheeses and fruit at the local market, then off for a driving tour in the Vercors
We set off to intersect with the ‘backroads’ route, consulting Madam GPS for the ‘shortest route’. We quickly discovered this is the maddest option, leading you as it does through the narrowest and most convoluted village streets, seeking the shortest kilometer distance. Geoff, new to his left-hand drive Peugot, uncertain of its edges, and tending, when under pressure, to indicate fruitlessly with the windscreen wipers, found this quite a challenge ( especially in a teeny street in the village of Montaud, where a 2m x 2m gap between buildings required that we flatten the wing mirrors to get through!). ‘Fastest route’ by Madam GPS, we discovered, takes you quite far out of your way to seek the biggest roads (By elimination we have now settled on ‘optimized route’).
Having squeezed through Montaud and squiggled our way relentlessly up the very steep eastern flank of the Vercors Massif, we joined our designated route….
The next day dawned clear and warm (Are you hating us yet?) and we set off on the next leg of our journey (27 June) to Provence. We had another backroads tour planned enroute, into the Northern Ardeche (north west of Montelimar). Successful this time, this route took us up onto the rather bleak, volcanic landscape atop the Mezenc Massif and to the foot of ‘Gerbier de Jonc’, a weird cone-shaped rock pile that juts from the plateau. It’s composed of the rock-type phonolite, named for the ringing sound it emits when struck (There’s a chunk hanging in the volcanics section of the Auckland Museum). The rock lump proved to be a bit of a destination for French tourists as they were swarming all over it in large numbers, as they were in the market sited somewhat incongruously in the middle of nowhere at its base. Incidentally, the River Loire has its source here and the watershed between the Atlantic and Mediterranean can also be observed. On noticing the huge swarms of flies outside the car at that spot, Stef and I pushed Geoff out to take the photo.
Back down to the motorway and off to Provence (with a quick detour to a roadside nougat shop near Montelimar – You have never in your life seen so many varieties of nougat!).