Monday, August 31, 2015

French Alps

Our last day in France was a spectacle. Beautiful warm weather and the mountains of the French Alps.

We looked at the map and selected a pass through the mountains east of Grenoble. It was a minor road on our map but actually we had accidentally chosen a pass that had been a King of the Mountain point for the Tour de France. So there were bike riders by the dozen attempting to emulate the professionals. We were dodging them all the way. Col du Glandon is almost 2000 metres high, above the treeline and the road up and down is quite steep as you wind up from the valley.

As with most passes there was a restuarant at the top, good for a coffee while Gemma went for a walk along one of the trails. I was much entertained by the bike riders celebrating when they reached the top of the pass, by the paragliders launching from the top and the beautiful views that included Mont Blanc.

King of the Mountain shirts decorate a balcony for The Tour.

The cheese-tasting plate in a little street market.

Mont Blanc on the horizon

Provence, France

This is a tale of two bridges in Provence.

French families were still on holiday in France so we avoided the coast of Provence. Instead we drove through delightful rural countryside with olive groves, lavender fields, deep valleys, goats and sheep grazing in fields enclosed by rock walls or hedges.

And we saw two amazing bridges separated by 2000 years of technology.

The first one was the Millau  viaduct designed by British architect, Norman Foster. It's ranked as one of the great engineering achievements and is the tallest bridge in the world. We didn't drive on it because of the toll and you can't actually see it if you're on it.

Millau Viaduct, a toll bridge.

The second bridge we saw was the Pont du Gard, a Roman aquaduct bridge near Nimes and the highest of all the aquaduct bridges. It's an awe-inspiring structure. We also enjoyed the museum that explains how it was constructed.

Pont du Gard aquaduct
Gourdon, one of the many perched villages we saw, and probaably the most well-known.

Pencil cypress amongst the vines.
Van Gogh lived near here and drew inspiration from this landscape.

Moving from the Mid-Pyrenees and Provence towards the French Alps.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lot, France

The area of Lot is divided by the Lot River and the Dordogne River. France has a number of designated 'beautiful villages' and there are about six in the Lot area. We saw several but they were very crowded and touristy so we didn't hang around and, anyway, their neighbouring villages were just as interesting and much quieter.

Dordogne River

We walked on a towpath next to the Lot River.
About 500 m had been carved into the limestone cliff.

An ancient path near a village.

Dordogne (Part 2)

A menu with several Aussie specialties, beetroot and kangaroo.

Dordogne, France (Part 1)

A day in the Dordogne region in south-west France. Chateaus, castles, beautiful rivers, delightful villages and paleolithic cave paintings. A real feast for the eyes.

We toured one of the caves still open to the public, just south of Montignac. The paintings in the cave are black only, unlike the most famous coloured ones at Lascaux nearby, but they were still very impressive. I was also very surprised that very deep in the were sleeping nests of cave bears who occupied the caves before man arrived on the scene. The large bears scarped out a hollow with sides about 30 cm high in the clay floor of the cave before settling in for a period of hibernation. The floors were covered in the 'nests'.

A village we passed through on the way down to Dordogne.

Our hotel at Saint-Suzy
Foie gras (liver of duck or goose that has been specially fattened) is a
speciality of the area. It was on every menu.

We met these two locals who were happy to show us the fungi they had just harvested in the forest.

The creperie where we had lunch. Their creme fraiche was extra special.
Village market place

Yes, I climbed up to the castle.
We love the water fountains, although this one is non potable
so we couldn't fill up our water bottles.

She was harvesting grapes and gave us a bunch.
(to be continued)