Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Saturday, 15 September 2018

'Summer in the Alps' - Day 52 - Montreuil-sur-Mer to Timperley  (The End)

Saturday 15 September 2018

The Tannery was a good place to stay, if a little run down. It certainly provided good facilities for last night's al fresco meal. Not all B&B rooms sport a kitchen and a dining table, albeit this kitchen was hidden in a wardrobe! Like most rooms we've stayed in, it had a TV. Quite unnecessary, as we haven't switched any of them on since watching the 'Adrian Chiles - Alcoholic' programme with Jill and James three weeks ago. Only three weeks? It feels longer!

Breakfast was in an outhouse in the garden. Then we paid our tourist tax (€1 each), topped the car up with coolant (aka water), and headed off to refuel for the last time. €1.46 a litre - about £1.30 - prices at home are £1.34, so not much difference.

The toll free drive to Calais, during which the white cliffs of Dover shone in the distance, took about an hour and we were placed on the 11.20 train that we'd booked. It was running 20 minutes late so we had time for coffee and we bought some cooking wine - €30 for 12 bottles of J P Cheney plonk. We'll need that when we receive the speeding fines!

Incidentally, I don't mention costs very often here as we don't work to a budget and they aren't of any great interest to me, but I do keep a track of them and anyone wanting more information regarding such sordid details is welcome to ask.

Back in the UK on a sunny day, I have noted that I omitted to record yesterday's incident with some police. We thought we were being stopped so that they could check that we had all the paraphernalia required in France - high visibility jackets, breathalyser, warning triangle, GB sticker, etc, but we were quickly waved on before a huge peleton of cyclists whizzed past just behind us.

The police could usefully have been deployed on the ramparts of Montreuil, where sadly many of the viewing benches have been vandalised.

The drive TO Calais was rather easier than the drive FROM Folkestone. We planned to travel on Saturday rather than Friday because we thought the traffic would be easier. We failed to factor in the closure of the M20 motorway this weekend. That cost us an hour and a half.

Never mind, we got home before dark. Just!

Today's pictures:
The Tannery B&B - our quarters are the first floor rooms with the four shuttered windows
Inside the B&B
View from the ramparts
Evening by the ramparts
The Tannery from our breakfast room in the garden

So that's it. 'Summer in the Alps' is at an end. Almost time to move on, but there are a few photos to process, etc.

Thanks to Mike for looking after the house, and thanks for the comments, those of you, my dear readers, who had not only the stamina to follow our journey, but also had the tenacity to interact... And to the silent majority:
"Hello, I hope you enjoyed it."

Friday, 14 September 2018

'Summer in the Alps' - Day 51 - Barbizon to Montreuil-sur-Mer

Friday 14 September 2018

Presented with yet another sunny day we tucked in to the lavish breakfast provided by Chambre d'Hôte Petit Angelus. No more food was needed until supper time.

On our host's recommendation we drove a little way back down the road and parked near a visitor centre, from where a 5 km walk called the Promenade des Gorges de Franchard provided a typical example of walks in the Fontainebleau Forest. We followed some blue waymarks through the silent forest to a viewpoint. Sadly the Alps were just a little beyond the horizon.

Occasionally we misplaced the waymarks and had to backtrack. This was perhaps due to the distraction of other marks on some of the rocks. Fontainebleau Forest ranks highly on European climbing maps, being a first rate venue for bouldering. It has its own grading system. Sue whizzed up an 'orange' whilst I completely flunked a 'yellow'.
 
The place was deserted, or so we thought until we got mixed up briefly with a coach load of French pensioners.

After a while we found ourselves back on the sun scorched earth by a ruined hermitage near the visitor centre. Here there is a large plaque on the ground commemorating 'UICN 1948 to 1998', being 'Union International for the Conservation of Nature'.

Returning to Barbizon, we took a stroll down the high street before enjoying a coffee at one of the village's many hostelries. Barbizon seemed to us to be France's version of Broadway, for those familiar with that Cotswold village. There's a fête here on Sunday - the place will be bursting.

The afternoon was spent travelling about 200 miles to Montreuil-sur-Mer.  We've managed to get through France from Geneva without using any toll roads. That's made for a pleasantly scenic journey and in theory has saved us a few euros. But that doesn't take account of the speed cameras that have flashed us when doing 31 kph in a 30 kph speed limit zone. The penalty is €135. We might have a few of those! Luckily, I'm not having to pay for any root canal treatment this month.

Our 'road trips' to Europe often use Montreuil-sur-Mer as a springboard to the Channel Tunnel, less than 50 miles away. So it's easy to get home in a day from here. We passed through on days 30/31 of this very trip. Tonight we are staying in the old Tannery (La Tannerie de Montreuil). This is outside the city wall that was built in 1567, but is actually part of the earlier city wall built in the 13th century to protect the seaport, as it was then. The town has a colourful history, and we always enjoy the 3 km 'Promenade of the Ramparts' walk. Today that took place after dinner, which comprised a number of tasty, locally sourced, items. Except the smoked salmon - that was Scottish. Luckily our room comes fully equipped with kitchen (hidden in a wardrobe!) and dining facilities.

Stats:
We walked about 5 km in Fontainebleau Forest, and a further 5 km around Barbizon and Montreuil-sur-Mer

Today's pictures:
In Fontainebleau Forest
Viewpoint in Fontainebleau Forest
The UICN plaque in Fontainebleau Forest
House in Barbizon
The Town Hall in Montreuil-sur-Mer 

Thursday, 13 September 2018

'Summer in the Alps' - Day 50 - Troyes to Barbizon via Fontainebleau

Thursday 13 September 2018

Overcast and 18°C! We can't remember the last time we had the temperature inside the car higher than it was outside.

We were breakfasted and away from the apartment by 9 am, bumping into Edwice on the way out.

An easy two hour journey saw us enjoying café au lait outside a bar in Fontainebleau, where we had found easy parking on the edge of town by the chateau. A few postcards were written and sent, then we wandered along to the chateau. There's renovation work going on, and the dull overcast day did nothing for the external attractiveness of the place. But once inside, the Napoleon Museum and a tour of the Great Apartments took about three hours to get round. Helpfully, the information boards were in English as well as French.

All good stuff. When I get home I'll have to get out the timeline of French history. The decorations and contents of the rooms, including many remarkable ceilings, was astounding. Frescoes and stucco work, huge tapestries, and lavish furnishings....

We'd had our fill by mid afternoon so we enjoyed a walk in the gardens and the ornamental woodland, returning to the car beside the ornamental canal that was well stocked with water lilies and coots.

A very short drive to the smart artisan village of Barbizon was punctuated by a stop in a lay-by where Sue spotted a man in need of help. He had Parkinson's disease and had entered an 'off' state whilst returning to his car. Sue helped him shuffle very slowly back to the car, and he managed to drive away.

We still had plenty of time after the short journey to settle in at Chambres d'Hôte Le Petit Angelus, before strolling to the centre of the village for a really excellent meal at l'Ermitage St Antoine.

Stats:
We walked about 7 km around Fontainebleau.

Today's pictures were all taken at the chateau in Fontainebleau.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

'Summer in the Alps' - Day 49 - Around Troyes

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Seemingly perfect weather again, but today's walk in temperatures of 30 to 35°C had us reflecting on how grateful we are to have spent much of the summer above 1500 metres, where it's a bit cooler. Today's walk, despite being on flat surfaces, was hard work under the burning sun. We were pleased to have some respite provided by woodland sections.

Since Edwice had paid for our parking* outside the apartment until 11 am, we could afford a slow start (thanks, Sue for popping out yet again to source some croissants) and a short wander before heading out to the Petit Orient.

The focus of this morning's wander was the Cathedral. Yes, Troyes is a city, not a town as I suggested yesterday. St-Pierre St-Paul Cathedral was constructed between the 13th and the 17th centuries. It's a magnificent building some 114 metres in length, 50 metres wide, and nearly 30 metres high. It contains a remarkable 1500 square metres of stained glass, and many treasures and artifacts. Well worth a visit.

Returning via the disused canal where artworks and sculptures are on display, we then set off into the nearby countryside. A walking guide in the apartment attracted us to a 15 km meander in the Parc naturel régional de la Forêt d'Orient, a half hour drive away.

Parking at Géraudot, we set off down a hot and dusty track that thankfully led into some cooler woodland. The paths were deserted apart from a lone mountain biker. Mud skippers dived into some puddles as we passed by. There must have been some rain here to have created those puddles, and the track may be a quagmire in winter.

Eventually we left the wood and joined a farm track where some pear trees were shedding their fruit. Nearby, some bright green frogs played hide and seek with us in a wet trench outside some farm buildings. Further on, a pile of windfall apples puzzled us. There was no apple tree on the vicinity.

We reached a tarmac track that ran beside Lac du Temple, a reservoir and bird reserve. Lunch was taken on dried up mud flats under one of many white willow trees that litter the shoreline beyond the stretch of dried mud that's proof of a hot summer.
There were lots of birds on view, including Great and Little Egrets, Swans, Lapwings, Gadwall, mewing Buzzards overhead, Cormorants, ordinary Herons, etc. Mating dragonflies surrounded us and it was
very peaceful with no discernable noise (except my tinitus!).
 
After lunch we returned to a stretch of tarmac beside the reservoir, picking our way past puddles of melted tar, and dodging the occasional cyclist that was speeding along in a bid to avoid getting bogged down.

Sue was navigating. She was distracted by a strange concrete artifact about 200 metres long, from which a mechanical sweeper was scattering stones onto the otherwise pristine cycle/walking track. Very puzzling, and not on the planned route. A compass bearing helped to re-locate the correct route, thankfully through more woodland with yummy looking mushrooms on a beech tree, and active red squirrels.

After the four hour walk, we drove a few metres down the road to a convenient hostelry to re-hydrate, having exhausted our flask of tea. Here we met Martin and Ken, road cyclists from Leeds. They were on an interesting trip and we enjoyed a banter with them for an hour or so. Curiously, there was a link between Martin and our 'Project 1949' in Zermatt. (He knows the individual who was the cause of the problem in relation to which the favour I gave was repaid by way of the Zermatt photo album.)

They headed off to their five star hotel for a jacuzzi, and Sue and I continued our exploration (or 're-exploration', we've been near here before) of the area by visiting the village of Montieramey. Pretty enough, but no stunningly distinguishing features.

Back via a supermarket for the ingredients of an excellent salad supper on our patio, then a stroll down to the canal to see 'The Heart of Troyes' beating at night.

Stats:
We walked about 15 km, with 50 metres of ascent on the Petit Orient walk, plus sundry bimbles of about 4 km.

Today's pictures:
A detail from the Cathedral
Resting in our apartment
Woodland in Le Petit Orient
Lunch by Lac du Temple
The Heart of Troyes

* Parking in Troyes is a thorny issue. It used to be FOC, and that's how it's advertised for this apartment. But in an effort to reduce the chaos, the city has introduced charges. It didn't look too chaotic to me, so perhaps the new system is working. Edwice said it shouldn't be a problem for us anyway due to 'Brexit sympathy' towards friendly visitors, whereby the wardens wouldn't dream of ticketing a car with a GB plate!

'Summer in the Alps' - Day 48 - Saint-Claude to Troyes (pronounced 'Twa')

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Another lovely day with wall to wall sunshine. We made the best of it despite a 190 mile drive.

Yet again we started slowly, leaving it until around 9.30 to leave Hotel Jura and wander down the road to the convenient Café des Touristes, into which we were encouraged to bring our croissants, sourced from a nearby boulangerie. It's great in France!

After a while we sprung into action and walked up to the 'Belvédère de l'Hermitage' and the belvedere 'Chaumont' to reach the Sainte-Anne Cave, about 2 km from the café.  It was a bit like Thor's Cave in the Peak District, but easier to access. A rope dangled enticingly and clearly had we been able to get over the choke near the cave entrance there would have been more to explore.

On the way up, we noticed that the vegetation was covered with moths. They also covered the roof of the cave. That might have been the attraction for what appeared to be a lone bat with a taste for 'moth'.

Far below, a massive cemetery and the cathedral, with modern housing in the middle distance and the sounds of children playing mingling with the sound of motors. Quite a contrast to the relative silence, apart from the sound of bells, above Zermatt.

Just beside the cave is a receptacle carved into the stone, with water that is considered miraculous. Louis the 11th apparently drank some. We didn't have that level of bravery.

After walking back down and topping up with coffee we recommenced our road trip by travelling over the splendid Jura countryside. Lovely quiet roads through wonderful scenery with lakes and woodland.

I haven't mentioned temperatures for a while, but again today - as often on this trip - they were showing at over 30°C.

We scooted down a side road in search of a quiet spot for lunch and found ourselves passing twelve stations of the cross and arriving at the Mont Roland retreat. An ideal spot, with picnic tables and wide views over the rolling countryside.

Beyond Mont Roland the countryside looked pretty flat but it was actually quite crinkly, at least as far as the source of the River Seine, which we then followed most of the way to Troyes.

Our host, Ed, turned out to be a lady. She soon installed us in her town centre apartment, and by 6.30 we were strolling around the ancient pedestrianised streets of the old town.

Dinner at Felix's had been recommended by Ed, and it went down well. Booking was necessary. We sat next to a French family whose grandma seemed to prefer talking to us than to her own family.

Then it was a wander around the still vibrant streets before a not so early turning in.

Stats:
We walked about 7 km, with 250 metres of ascent.

Today's pictures:
Sainte-Anne Cave entrance
View from Sainte-Anne Cave
Lunchtime view from Mont Roland
Old buildings in Troyes (2)

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

'Summer in the Alps' - Day 47 - Zermatt to Saint-Claude

Monday 10 September 2018

Clear skies with wisps of cloud greeted us this morning. Another beautiful morning in the Swiss Alps. Leisurely packing, disposal of rubbish, tidying apartment, etc, so it took us until 9.30 to catch the shuttle train back to the huge covered car park in Täsch. We will miss the quiet ambience of motorised traffic free Zermatt.

There followed a leisurely 170 mile drive, studiously avoiding the Swiss motorways for which we had no vignette. The journey was broken by an idyllic coffee stop at Riddes, and lunch beside Lake Geneva. We travelled along the south side of the huge lake for a change, enjoying some of our last views back to the high Alps.

We also had to stop to top up the car with water. Last time it was an oil leak, now it has a water leak, and those are the least of its problems. Based on our experiences with this car, don't buy a Skoda.

We went through Geneva beside the lake, then past Cessy, where my cousin and his wife live. Sadly they weren't able to see us on this occasion.

It's a steep climb from Geneva into the Jura mountains. We stopped to admire the views and could just pick out the summit of Mont Blanc in the distance.

The Jura Hotel in Saint-Claude was today's destination. We have a nice room here and enjoyed a more than adequate 'Menu du Jour' in their restaurant with the same panoramic view as are enjoyed by our room.

Before dinner we enjoyed a stroll around this interesting town that used to be a centre of pipe manufacture. It probably still is, but on a smaller scale. We've been here before, in 2014. Then we were camping, now we are more central. There is a huge cathedral, interesting bridges, large wall paintings/graffiti, and some nice local walks. But that's for tomorrow.

Stats:
We walked about 4 km, with 100 metres of ascent.

Today's pictures:
Idyllic coffee stop at Riddes
Lunch by Lake Geneva
A view from our hotel room
World's largest pipe and diamond
Graffiti in Saint-Claude

Sunday, 9 September 2018

'Summer in the Alps' - Day 46 - Zermatt - A Visit to Trift and Höhbalmen

Sunday 9 September 2018

Another fabulous mountain day. We awoke to blue skies once again, and they stayed that way all day.

The plan for a relatively easy day offered a good excuse for a lie in. So it was 9.30 by the time we set off from the apartment, heading for the main street and a footpath leading up the Trift Gorge.

After yesterday's exertions, and with our first destination hovering seemingly directly above us, a very leisurely pace was in order, with frequent pauses to read interesting information boards. Did you know that Bearded Bellflowers (the hairy ones) are warmer inside the bells and provide a warm home for overnighting insects?

After a while we had somehow gained the 350 metres necessary to reach the Edelweiss Tea House. Coffee and cake went down well, and some Project 1949 photos were taken. The Tea House (aka Edelweiss Alterhaupt) has been there since 1898. The route ahead was debated and after a long break we headed on directly to Hotel du Trift, a further 400 metres above us at the head of the gorge. More drinks, but as we were carrying our lunches the owner was foiled in his bid to sell us any food. He did show us some nice pictures from 1909 though.

There were some mountain bikers here, and a Swiss chap from Thun who had bivouaced overnight somewhere high up between here and the Matterhorn. Bravo!

A plan to return the way we had come was foiled by the brilliant weather. We decided to continue by way of the well graded path up to Höhbalmen, some 300 metres higher at around 2700 metres.

We reached a high corner at around 1.30 and stopped for lunch. The mountain vista was virtually matchless, a wide horizon of snowy peaks under a deep blue cloudless sky. From Dom, right across the horizon to Kleine Matterhorn, we could feast our eyes on at least eleven 4000 metre summits. Our entire visit was put into perspective as we could see virtually all of the routes we had walked. Only the Matterhorn was hidden from view, and that revealed itself (as if we haven't seen enough of it) immediately after we started walking again. In the distance we could see people on some of the peaks, and also descending the glacier from Monte Rosa.

After almost an hour we dragged ourselves away and continued to Höhbalmen, passing the time with a lady who was the only person we saw on this path. The air was crystal clear. What a contrast to our visit last year to the Rockies, with their crowded paths, smoky air, and long drives to some of the walks. And Zermatt is one of the busiest resorts in the Alps.

The well graded path got us quite quickly back to the Edelweiss Tea House, from where we returned to the admittedly busy high street. We then diverted up towards Zum See to secure the last of our 'Project 1949' photos of the trip. It has been a fun project, the success of which will be judged later. We failed to reach quite a number of the viewpoints so may well return. We would certainly use this Dolomit apartment again. It lacks a view of the Matterhorn, but it's very comfortable and everything works. But we will bring a chopping board next time!

We took some time to find the view to 'Old Zermatt' pictured in the 1949 album. It has changed, but we think our last image was taken in roughly the same place.

We were back at base soon after 5 pm, and soon after that we were enjoying a sumptuous feast in a bid to lighten the load that we take back to Täsch.

Stats:
We walked about 15 km, with 1100 metres of ascent and descent.

Today's pictures:
Edelweiss Tea House
Hotel du Trift
Sue with Trifthorn backdrop
Sue at lunchtime
The lunchtime panorama