We left Rasteau and the vineyards of the Villages des Côtes du Rhône beneath Mont Ventoux and the Denterelles de Montmirail after an early breakfast and crossed the Rhône on the medieval ecclesiastical bridge at Pont St Esprit. Next the famous road along the belvederes and corniches of the Ardèche gorge and a stop for coffee and croissants at Vallon Pont d'Arc.
Onwards up Mont Lozère via Les Vans to a picnic halt at Le Mas de la Barque at 1440 m. up Mont Lozère, which overlooks the Cévennes.
We passed some vineyard tractors collecting this year's fine grapes but otherwise we found the roads largely clear of holiday traffic this last weekend of September, We saw the canoe trailers leaving Vallon Pont d'Arc whilst we were enjoying our coffee so no trouble there either.
Brilliant ride of around 300km in any case but especially brilliant as it's my first ride for over a year. Christophe kindly took me as pillion on his KLV1000: very many thanks to him for that (his bike is left on the bottom right photo). 300km on the comfortable pillion seat of a KLV1000 ridden by an absolutely top rider on roads that one dreams of, and in the best possible weather too! Also thanks to Henri who researched the route and to Simon, the leader of our group, all of AMA. Our club celebrated its 30th birthday with a grand cake and a special run of 30th anniversary shirts.
Ma carte postale de notre ballade de samedi au route des gorges de l'Ardèche, Mt Lozère et les Cévennes. Grand merci à Christophe et sa moto qui m'ont accepté comme passager, et de Simon et Henri de l'AMA qui ont proposé la ballade.
Some views of some of the vineyards of the Villages des Côtes du Rhône beneath Mont Ventoux and the Denterelles de Montmirail. These views are from Rasteau, the village on the hill in the distance is Séguret and nearby villages include Sablet, Vacqueyras and Gigondas. Also the Chateau d'Hugues at Uchaux.
Views of Mont Blanc (4810.02 m.) from around the Col du Pré (1748 m.) and the Col des Aravis (1486 m.), so views of two different aspects of the Mont Blanc massif.
We took advantage of a couple of fine autumn days to drive our hire car up the road passes and then hike a bit further up for our picnics. Great views of Mont Blanc in the autumn sunshine and with the new snow from the recent storms.
Autumn on the lac d'Annecy. There are some storms about so no longer the clear blue skies of high summer but still a very pleasant clear light on the water in this attractive location. I find Annecy is calm and polite and pretty, in a bourgeois way that is refreshing after London and Marseille. Maybe it would be limiting in the long term but it's been great for a holiday. The leaves are turning autumn colours now and there are mists on the lake in the mornings.
An early autumn ramble with GOC London around the water park at Rickmansworth, a short ride on the Metropolitan Line out to the north west of London. The venerable Grand Union canal (this section completed 1814), river Colne and some gravel pits are crossed by numerous footpaths which made a pleasant tour amongst the wildlife.
Our lunchtime stop at a pub alongside a canal lock was followed by a small hill up to countryside on the edge of the Chiltern Hills and then back down to Rickmansworth.
Me and my RR on the Corniche Kennedy in Marseille, the coast route between the Vieux port and the beaches at Borély and Pointe Rouge.
Fun to ride out at last. Not very far and still tiring far too quickly. But another milestone in the rehab project.
Hiking the Calanques underneath the Massif of Mt. Puget (564 m.) between Marseille and Cassis isn’t a lot of altitude and it’s not a huge distance. The scale of the rocks is big enough but the problems are the sun (and maybe the wind) and the loose limestone. The closeness of the sea, giving the impression that should one slip, the result would be an inevitable slide through seriously sharp scree and over a vertical cliff in to the dark turquoise Mediterranean. The cliffs being but 400m. is scant consolidation... it’s possible to drown in a puddle just a few inches deep etc. Cap Canaille is 394 m. (the orange cliff in the distance) and the Col de La Candelle that I was hiking is 433 m.
But this precarious but very solid terrain between cliff and sea is home to a wide variety of plants and trees, many apparently thriving on solid rock in blatant botanical improbability. The paths lead from view to view with, as coast paths do, the implicit understanding that the sea remains on the same hand. The daring heights and improbable passes thrill as much as the variation in vegetation with altitude.
The climbs, looking innocuous but actually many tens of metres of altitude and leading to a different botanical zone, beguile with their apparent simplicity only to ensnare with multiple successive pitches requiring true three point scrambling.
Looking back in a “did I do that?” manner was yet again thrilling. The South Downs path was never like this and the scrambles in the Avon Gorge in Bristol that I learnt scrambling on as a child are now fenced off and labelled dangerous. Full four times those scrambles counts in the Calanques a mere dashing of the line on the map. Something to be expected along the route of a grande randonnée. Not that I’d enjoy it more heavily laden than with a day pack.
Calanques are very Marseille: not glacial valleys that became flooded like the fjords but tortured and uplifted rock that was once sea bed.
And the final convenience of the Calanques is the bus ride home and dinner in a restaurant with a fine jazz saxophonist and xylophonist busking nearby...
Filterijng the digestif artisanale de vanille (= vanilla liqueur). The vibration from the washing machine under the kitchen counter seemed to help the progress through the filter.
Centre bottle is filtered digestif, the outer bottles are ready for filtration after a period of maceration.
Initial tastings have been encouraging. A sweet reminder of the French Îles of the Indian ocean: La Réunion, Seychelles and Mauritius (Île Maurice) and less alcoholic than rhum arrangé artisanale.
All ingredients sourced from sustainable sources.
I’ve been up in the mountains these past few days and reached the summit of Mt. Thabor (3178 m.) in the High Alps of Provence, not far from Briancon and the road to the Col du Galibier. This was the biggest hike I’ve attempted since the 1990s when Arlen and I backpacked and hiked up Square Top mountain (13,794 ft. / 4204 m.) above the Green River in the Wind River mountains in Colorado.
I took four nights out: one night in a CAF hut up and a night on the way down, plus staying in the Refuge Mont Thabor hut at 2520 m. to be sure to get to the summit of Mt. Thabor early enough in the day before the clouds gather around the high peaks.
Fine granite underneath crumbling limestone. The arrows show the summit of Mt. Thabor and the views are of the Écrins: the Meije (3,984 m.) and the Barre des Écrins (4,102 m.), which need ropes and ice equipment so I won't be up those any time soon.
This area has changed nationality several times between Savoy (Savoie), Italy and now France. The varied culture in the CAF (Club Alpin Français) huts and a number of antique frontier boundary posts reflect the many changes.