Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Stage 5 Guillestre to Briancon

Stage 5 Guillestre to Briancon and the Footy!

With the need to find somewhere to at least get reception for footy, or at best wide-screen tv, we arranged to overnight somewhere big, so the main town of the national park of Les Ecrins, Briancon fitted the bill.
But it was only a short hop for me, so there was still time to pop into Guillestre, this time complete with camera. Just about coming alive at 10am, I retraced my steps towards the old church, which looked even more splendid in the morning sunshine. On the way back I passed the same madame working hard in her allotment, and asked if she’d mind me taking a photo of her in her garden. She was embarrassed about wearing her working clothes, but I said not to worry. Then we got talking, or rather I listened, interjecting a few words of comfort, as she explained that her husband had died last year, and she was very sad and lonely. She grew the vegetables for her children and herself. She didn’t like courgettes, but they did. She lived next to the bridge of Saint Esprit, in the village, and I would recognise her house by all the roses growing outside. I must go and take a photo. I promised I would and so turned around and walked towards the bridge. Sure enough her house was a pretty one I’d spotted earlier, covered in roses and lots of little bits of vegetables and herbs, growing in sundry containers. I took a photo, memorised her address and though unnamed, I felt sure that a couple of photos and a thankyou message would probably reach her.
Then I packed up and set off for campsite du cinq vallees, about 20mins or less by bike from Briancon. On the way passed a fantastic sculpture dedicated to Edward Whymper, who “gravissait La Barre des Ecrins”, so I guess he did it!
Once Ian had arrived and recuperated, and we’d shared our experiences of the morning, we set off early for a walk around Briancon, before the footy started.
Briancon is a Cite Vauban, in that Vauban (1633-1707) was the engineer behind the fortification and building of over 300 sites along the border with Italy, which is only away. He was commissioned by King Louis XIV to build fortified garrisons and towns to defend the Alpine border. He travelled the whole length and breadth of France, inspecting the borders and engineering fortifications. You can see these garrison towns and villages dotted all over this area of the Ecrins and they’re really imposing strongholds.
After that bit of culture and a descent to the pub through the lovely Schappe park and lake, we ended up rushing to find a pub which showed the England match, as the French were loyally supporting the Algerian match! In the end we found a pub, not too badly taken over by Brits, but there was some dissent from one sulky French man, who was clearly miffed at having his local taken over by the Brits, especially as the French are a bit sore at being knocked out, and still going through the post-match autopsy in the media. So just occasionally he added a little “Vive la France” when Rooney’s efforts were scuppered! Another lovely French guy, to my right, was happy to make conversation, whilst his buddy was on his mobile, “James is not very good. Calamity James!” “Gerrard is going to Real Madrid” “I love Ryan Giggs, he is the best!”
1-0 England. Next stop could be Germany!!!

Ian says:
Another day- another 2000m pass….this time it’s the Col d’Izoard, at 2360m. I wasn’t chased up the mountain by the gentle sex this time, but by a group of hardy, male septuagenarians! Dark brown and sinewy, they looked like they had been sculpted out of bronze, and were indeed not human! They were French also!!
Fortunately their age necessitated a comfort break, giving me the opportunity to sneak ahead! It was unusual terrain, climbing up through forests and arriving at the Casse Desserte- a desert-like landscape.
Just over a third but not quite a half, most of my body’s holding up well, apart from my back-side! At least I’m on a different map tomorrow!!

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