Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Saturday 1 September 2012 - GR54 Day 1 - Bourg d'Oisans to Clavans-le-Bas

Approx 20 km with 1400 metres ascent, in 7 hours 50 minutes including breaks totalling 1 hour 50 minutes.

An excellent first day in weather that belied the forecast showers and wind.

Bourg is a pleasant place, full of cyclists attempting some of the classic Tour de France climbs such as Alpe d'Huez and the Col du Galibier (thanks Robert for your card btw). Today's extensive market also brightened up the town centre.

Shortly before we braved the streets of Bourg the rain kindly eased, leaving us with the minor inconvenience of damp pavements on which to commence our journey.

After some entertainment from Roy, who thought he had wet himself - but it turned out to be a leaky Platypus, we started steeply up a rock face littered with wires that some would argue were unnecessary. This brought us past Autumn Crocuses and Solomons Seal to the fleshpots of Le Châtelard, namely Hotel la Fôret de Maronne, just in time for elevenses. The owner, Frank, a Belgian exile, explained that the reason we hadn't seen any other walkers on this fine Saturday morning was that we had chosen to visit the area 'out of season'. Fine. We'd understood GR54 to be a popular and challenging undertaking. We encountered no other walkers on today's well graded paths.

Frank commented that Alpe d'Huez houses some 37,000 (do we really believe that?) occupied beds in the height of the winter season, and that his restaurant serves over 100 lunches every day at that time. We may well have been his only visitors today.

After elevenses we continued past a vintage Simca Aronde and through some pretty hamlets before dropping down to Pont Romain in the Sarenne gorge.

It was then a long but easily graded walk, initially past old mill paraphernalia, then through pleasant woodland where we found a bench for lunch. That was because the nearby Auberge de Combe-Haute was shut, its summer season being from mid July to mid August.

Soon after that we moved above the tree line and headed gently through open country (pictured - top) up to the heady summit of the 1999 metre Col de Sarenne, about the height from which overnight snow had receded this morning. A cold wind (today's temperatures didn't exceed 10C) encouraged us to seek the warmth of the nearby Refuge du Col de Sarenne, where we received a warm welcome and were relieved of €25 for five hot drinks, twice what Frank had charged.

The descent to Clavans (pictured - bottom, below an impressive slab of rock) was steep but easy, undertaken in the company of a dozen or so vultures.

A wrong path was taken - my fault - resulting in a direct descent to Clavans-le-Bas and missing the excitement of a visit to the Cimitiere des Huegenots.

The Auberge du Savel was easily located, at 4.50 pm, just before the arrival of a long awaited shower, and we were soon enjoying our own en-suite showers.

Dinner was acceptably appetising, if not exceptional - soup, pasta and veal, tart - and the house red was agreeable. Any residual jet lag was disposed of by way of an early night.

Grass of Parnassus graced much of today's route and is undoubtedly 'flower of the day' - but don't expect many such accolades as most of the remaining Alpine flowers are definitely past their best.

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Friday, 31 August 2012

Tour of the Oisans - Getting to Bourg d'Oisans

Thanks go to JJ for taxiing us to T3 at Manchester for a leisurely 10.10 departure on our BMI flight to Lyon.

We hope you enjoy your trip to Spain, JJ. Hopefully JJ will be providing further commentary on his own exciting activities at adventures-with-jj.blogspot.co.uk/

The little Embraer 135 got us safely to Lyon, where it was cooler and cloudier than in sunny Manchester. Susan and Roy duly appeared on time from the direction of Zurich, and the 3pm bus to Grenoble that we'd booked ran smoothly and on time.

Grenoble bus station, in rain, was the scene of some confusion as we queued for 25 minutes to get tickets for a bus to Bourg that we could just as easily have got from the driver. Anyway, we caught it in the nick of time, then spent the next 45 minutes in Grenoble's friday afternoon rush hour. It's not a pretty city.

Racing driver tactics, supported by blaring raucous sounds from the bus radio until reception faded, enabled our driver to recover 15 lost minutes, and by 6.15 we had been dropped off in Bourg d'Oisans more or less outside Hotel des Alpes, our chosen lodgings for the night.

A stroll around Bourg revealed a rather damp Alpine village, pictured, and Roy, Susan and Sue posed for me outside the hotel.

The rain, and the fact that it was well past beer o'clock, soon drove us indoors.

Ken, who had travelled from Ottawa yesterday, materialised an hour later having repeated our bus ticket queue scenario in Grenoble, and our now quorate international quintet happily chomped its way through everything that Hotel des Alpes could throw at us.

The weather hasn't quite realised that we've arrived. It's raining hard, and occasional glimpses above us reveal lots of fresh snow at low levels.

Just as well that we start walking tomorrow, and not today...

Comments:

Gibson - have a great trip - I'll catch up with your own postings in a couple of weeks.

Alan R - shame about the rain in Gairloch, but hopefully it washed the midges away! The picture of Sue is from five years ago - you'll recognise some more familiar clothing over the coming days...

Helen - I'll get back to you in a couple of weeks when we've returned from the Écrins.

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Tour of the Oisans – the GR54 round the Écrins

Sue in the Vanois
We are on our travels again.  Hopefully on BD1343 to Lyon by the time you read this.  We plan to walk around the Écrins by way of a 13 day ‘hutting’ tour.  Our itinerary is here.  The weather forecast is good, as is normal for this time of year in the Alps.  It’s an International Expedition, with TGO Challengers Susan and Roy joining us from Glastonbury, Connecticut, and Ken is popping over from Ottawa.
I’ve not replaced my phone since our E5 trip, so postings may be brief, and I may have difficulty in picking up your comments.  I’ll try, though.
The route is one of Kev Reynolds’ favourites.  We are looking forward to it.
The picture above was taken at the Col de Chavière, in the Vanoise region, on 1 September 2007.  That’s about as close as we’ve been to the Oisans, which have appeared enticingly in the distance on a number of our Alpine trips.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Wednesday 29 August 2012 – An Evening Walk from Redesmere

Redesmere

Andrew’s ‘Deepest Cheshire’ summer’s evening series of walks concluded with this stroll from Redesmere, where we caught the last rays of sunshine just before starting at 7.30pm on a sunny evening.

Redesmere is next to the extended village of Siddington, and this posh set of steps, commemorating the Queen’s diamond jubilee, lead from the lakeside up to the village hall and a pristine bowling green.

The diamond jubilee steps at Siddington

Andrew lives next door, in Lower Withington.  As an erstwhile Parish Councillor he’s always been puzzled as to how Siddington has managed to gain so many Best Kept Village in Cheshire awards when his own parish fails miserably to win anything!

Siddington, a Best Kept Village

The haziness in the above picture isn’t deliberate.  Whilst my Canon Ixus 105 has recovered from its dunking earlier in the year, the picture quality leaves a lot to be desired, so a replacement is imminent.

The three of us followed a little loop through the village, emerging at the church, which was consecrated in 1521.  It was originally timber framed, with wattle and daub infilling.  In 1815 the walls were encased in brickwork to help support the heavy stone roof.  Parts of the church were later painted to resemble the many timbers that remain encased.

All Saints Church, Siddington

Sadly, we were unable to gain entry, but Andrew assured us that the church is currently full of corn dollies.  That’s another story, worthy of a posting in its own right.  As is the tale of two WW1 Canadian airmen who befriended the villagers after making an emergency landing in the vicinity.  They returned several times, but on their first post war visit in June 1918 they sadly crashed and were killed, to be buried side by side in the church yard, next to their friends, the Nield family.

The graves of two WW1 airmen at Siddington

We continued through fields in increasing gloom, and were delighted to discover that one farmer at least had been generous in preserving the right of way through his crops.

A Cheshire pathway

Night fell, but the nearly full moon meant that torches were needed only once or twice, to negotiate our way through particularly boggy sections and to find our way across an electric fence – no problem with that as we were happy to be on the other side of a large herd of cows.

Here’s our 8.5 km (5+ miles) route, which took somewhat less than 2 hours, after which we adjourned for a welcome beer, etc at the Blacksmith’s Arms in Henbury.

Our route - 8.5 km, with minimal ascent - allow around 2 hours

Thanks go to Andrew for providing this excellent little route.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Train from Platform One Departs at 15.20 Precisely

Walton Park on 25 August 2012

We don’t usually travel far on Bank Holidays.  Today a walk to Walton Park to catch the 15.20 train to London was all we could manage.  Simon, Kate, Oscar and Jacob came along.  We bumped into Trisha, one of my old work colleagues, looking very well with a big bump and her soon to be expanded family… Hello Trisha!

The London train arrived back at Walton Park at 15.23.  A very quick trip, but everyone seemed happy and the fares were quite cheap really.

Walton Park on 25 August 2012

Happy Days