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We follow a fossile route from Digne-les-Bains


Home -> Europe -> France -> Travelogue France -> 24 June 2006

Saturday 24 June, we follow a fossile route from Digne-les-Bains

We slept well and we wake up late. Barrême is situated at a height of 470 meters and it has been nice and cool tonight. But when we get up, the sun is already over the mountains and it soon gets warm, very warm. We take it easy today and start with fresh bread and a cup of coffee at the restaurant. We collect some leaflets and soon see that we will again run out of time here.
Barrême is a small town but was once known for its lavender distilleries where the lavender oil was made. This area is rich in fossils and there is a small geological museum. There is even a geological era named after Barrême, the Barremian in the early Cretaceous period (125 - 130 million years ago). And everywhere we are made aware that we are now on La Route Napoleon! After his expulsion to Elba in 1814, former emperor Napoleon Bonaparte immediately began working on a comeback, and a year later he traveled to Grenoble via this valley to finally take power again in Paris. That did not last long, after the Battle of Waterloo in June he surrendered to the British who also expulsed him. La Route Napoleon is now a famous tourist route, also because it goes through a breathtaking region. The consideration of Napoleon was more to circumvent any royalist towns and villages by taking a then still difficult and unknown route.
First we go to Digne-les-Baines (where Napoleon had a 3-hour afternoon sleep, so you know), the one and only reasonable city in the area. We refuel and search for something to drink on the terrace. If we come back to the car, the indoor temperature is almost 50 degrees C. We do not use our air conditioning often, but we do not, but outside it is well over 30 degrees. Why didn't we have this weather at the coast?
Mountainwall with ammonites Fossile of an ammoniteFrom the town we drive into the valley of the ammonites, the valley of the river Le Bles. Soon we pass a wall that has been opened up so that thousands of large ammonites are visible. Honestly, we have to drive forth and back three times before we see them. Then we suddenly see a dry river bed and a better place to find fossils is almost impossible. After an hour of searching and searching, we have two pieces of stone, one with a small print and one that may have been part of an ammonite.
Red rocksThe wall is certainly impressive but a little later we come across more signs with a small ammonite on it. These point to places where exceptional fossils can be seen, such as an ichtyosaurus, a swimming reptile, and many other prints. You have to make long walks sometimes because not all places are close to the road.
Mountain river Mountain riverThe valley becomes narrower as we go further north and the river a little more wild. With this hot weather we can not resist sitting around the river for a while, there are very idyllic spots and the water is wonderfully cold.
Looking for fossilesAnd well, we can not resist it, we go look for stones again. There seem to be quite strict rules for the search for fossils in this area because there has been a lot of vandalism caused by fossil seekers in the past. Probably not because of the enthusiastic amateur, but more because of professional traders who only wanted the things that would make money. Complete boulders were dug away with heavy equipment and of course the authorities were not happy with that. They can rest assured, we find nothing here except much peace and cooling.
GorgeAs we drive further, we are often surprised by pieces of natural beauty such as this gorge, the Clues de Barles. And the village of Barles is also charming. On our way back to the campsite we pass many signs with references to fossils, but it's a good thing that we do not have a hammer and chisel with us, because then we would not have been able to hold back!
At Digne-les-Bains we dive into a supermarket to cool down at the freezers. And back at the campsite we first sit down on the terrace for cool drinks and talk for a long time with Laurent and Martine, the camping owners and with some other guests. There is a very pleasant atmosphere here and we have a great time.

 


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