Tomorrow we are heading north again, on the way home so today we have a final complete rest day. We do everything very slowly, drink coffee on the terrace of the campsite and talk extensively with the owners, Laurent and Martine. We like them, they are very friendly and ordinary people who like to talk about themselves and their lives and also pay attention to others.
Of course we also have to make some pictures and we promise that we will make some advertising for them (their website will be on the link page). This campsite was the nicest one we have had so far, camping Napoleon in Barrême, between Digne-les-Bains and Castellane. By next year, they also hope to have a swimming pool so we have to come back for sure. And now that we have just tasted the area we are certainly planning, we just do not know when.Yesterday we passed a small lake at Saint-André-les-Alpes, in another beautifully situated area. We drive there in the early afternoon looking for a nice spot along the water. There are no sandy beaches, but we have chairs and mats with us and we can immediately start searching for fossils again. There are more people looking for cooling down in the water, such as a few truck drivers who put their car in a parking lot and lie in the sun for an hour and occasionally dive into the water.
We do the same and have a nice quiet spot. Play with sand and stones, swim once in a while and then bake in the sun again. Although, what does that one big cloud do? Yes, it stays, for hours, just above our place because further on we see people sitting in the sun. But it is wonderfully warm and we are too lazy to move. We make it a real rest day.At the end of the afternoon we go back through the mountains to the campsite, completely rested. We are the only ones on the campsite today, so we sit in the evening talking to Laurent and Martine for a while and enjoy the summer weather. In the winter it must be cold here, after all we are at a height of more than 700 meters, and then the campsite is closed and they leave for the Alsace where they both come from.
Tomorrow we will go back, we have two days for the trip home, so we do not have to rush too much, that we have done enough the last few weeks during this holiday with long car trips.
Wednesday 28 June 2006, the journey back home through the AlpsIt is about 1400 kilometers home so we do it in two days. Soon we will be on the highway and can make fast progress, but we start calmly. The tent is dry and quicly packed and we're already sweating properly when we have completely packed the car, we are ready to go!
But first we say goodbye to Laurent and Martine and we do this while enjoying a cup of coffee and fresh croissants that they have taken from the village. By 10 o'clock it is time to go, because we do not want to take the shortest route to the motorway, since we first want to see a bit more of the Alps.
We drive via Digne again part of the ammonite route to the north to the Lac de Serre-Ponçon, and on the way we (again) pass through some impressive gorges. In this area and to the north of it are the real French Alps and after what we have seen on this trip that will certainly be a future destination. There is so much beauty to see here and we have only taken a small taste.
Just past Espinasses we see the barrage Serre-Ponçon, a dam at 750 meters altitude. Then we drive over the D3 to Chorges, while to the right of us we have beautiful views of the lake and the Alps that are already 2500 meters and higher. We are curious whether people came here to live here in ancient times because the area was so fertile or because it was beautiful since the Romans came to live here and even people lived here in prehistoric times.
From Chorges we drive to Gap and from there to the north over the N85. It takes some effort to get through Gap, but that will be the Wednesday peak, we think ... And we stay surrounded by mountains, high mountains!
Now and then we stop for a while, but we still have a long way to go, so we sometimes take a picture from the car and enjoy the scenery. We have a weakness for mountains. The sea is nice and beautiful, but is (normally) so flat and if it is too turbulent, we would rather not go with a boat. But mountains, we can not get enough of that. It feels wonderful to be surrounded by the majestic nature.
We see several mountain massifs on the road to the north that do not disappear from sight, they are so big. Again we are surprised, because again we expected to be out of the Alps much faster. We still need to freshen up our geography knowledge. How could we think that the Alps are only in Switzerland and Austria and only a very small part in France and Italy?
We drive through the Vallée du Drac along the edge of the Alps and it does not stop being beautiful! We are going a lot more slowly than we planned, but we have all the time. This feeling of having a holiday without having to rush is pretty good. A panoramic map along the road tells us that we are now in south Isère and we think it's time for a picnic, but not too long because it is hot again, over 35 degrees.But some time later we are approaching Grenoble and around 3 o'clock we are on the motorway near Lyon. We take the toll road (something we often avoid otherwise) and the kilometers and minutes glide by. The Alps gradually disappear from our horizon and make way for a slightly sloping landscape. We pass exits with names of places we have already visited and we look back a little wistfully.
In the North of France we see a very dark sky in the distance and when we drive towards ite it starts to rain, and we can only reach 60 kilometers per hour on the highway. The temperature suddenly drops from 34 degrees to 22 degrees and when we get out of the storm after half an hour that does not change anymore. It feels so cold to us and we have to get used to it. The holiday heat has now been rinsed away from us.
We have made good progress, so we will continue as long as it is light, then we will be home in time tomorrow. In Luxembourg we refuel and in Belgium we start looking for a motel, but we don't see any along the highway. When we see a sign of an Ibis-hotel a little before Liège, we decide to go there. We have spent a couple of nights this year at this hotel chain and we are happy with it even though the rooms are simple. Unexpectedly we follow a beautiful route with a climb in it and a nice village! We're going to find more that out tomorrow.
We are now 12 hours on the road, so it's time for a good night's rest!
Thursday 29 June 2006, breakfast in Tilff and then going back homeWe sleep well in the hotel and check out without having breakfast. That is what we want to do in nearby Tilff where we came through last night. And there are indeed a few hairpin bends in the way, as if we are back in the mountains! We have the holiday feeling back again, that had yesterday disappeared a bit after that downpour when the temperature suddenly dropped over 10 degrees.
And our breakfast is fine. On the square of the town, there are enough terraces and we choose one that has omelet and fried eggs on the menu. Because of the bright sun it is hard to see, but Elisabeth really has her favorite breakfast in front of her, soft fried eggs with toast. While we are having breakfast it is getting warmer and the sweaters can go out. Would we have taken the good weather with us anyway?
We then walk through Tilff, a small village along the Ourthe that is best known by cycling fans and we can imagine that with such a steep slope nearby. We are here at the beginning of the Ardennes but unfortunately we have to go the other way.After an hour we put ourselves back in the car and we are happy that the temperature rises when we enter the Netherlands. Later it will appear that the first heat wave is coming, and it will not be the last this year. At three o'clock we are back home, after a ride of 4 hours. We feel happy and satisfied, but we can hardly imagine that we are back again, it seemed so short.
One thing we have learned from this France holiday: it is a beautiful country and we certainly have to go there more often. We had been there before, but more in the north. The areas where we have been this year are more than worthwhile discovering further and who knows what other gems are still hidden in France!