Pretty cols but the clearest of the clear days are gone now as the summer haze builds up, which will eventually lead to summer thunderstorms. First out of Bourg-Saint-Maurice to the Cormet de Roseland (1967 m.), one of my favourite col routes. It's a satisfying mix of a challenging and varied road plus massive scenery. There are good views of Mont Blanc (4808 m.) if you know where to stop.
I turned off the Route des Grandes Alpes to met up with Arno (out from Annecy on a day trip) at a petrol station in Albertville, the town which hosted the winter Olympics. We rode up to the Col de la Madeleine (1993 m.) together, another fantastically pretty route but now riding back south. It links the Tarantaise and Maurienne valleys so at the col you get views of Mont Blanc one way and the Ecrins the other way to the south. So a fine place for bikers to stop and chat. The chalet did a Salade Savoyade - Beaufort cheese and ham with walnuts - for me (as I'd just ridden through the Beaufortain, the Savoie valley from where the Beaufort cheese comes; meanwhile Arno enjoyed an Assiette véloiste - pasta with a fondue sauce and also some ham.
Down the southern road of the Madeleine, not in good condition. The air temperature at the valley floor showed 36'C so we didn't hang around. Up the road to the Col du Glandon. Minor mayhem at the col with bikers and véloists jostling for position for photos. Just as a polite turn-taking sequence got established then another group turns up and busts the system.
Last coffee together, Arno rode on to the Col de la Croix fer (2067 m.) and back to the Maurienne while I rode down in to Bourg Oisans, then up to here at La Grave. Interesting riding with him on my new bike. He's riding a GSX750 so a similar sportsbike and he's also an experienced rider of Alpine cols. I have the impression that with my new bike we're riding more similarly, previously he could always out ride me.
Highest altitude hotel so far (1520 m.) and the most peaceful, the trunk road outside is currently cut in two because a tunnel is closed. So all the route planners and signs show it as not a through route. Except that there's an emergency route which is open. It turned out to be single lane with traffic lights and very bumpy, seemingly liable to slide down the mountainside in to the big Lac du Chambon, behind a high dam.
Lots of cols yesterday, big ones and not empty of traffic. Word is out that summer has arrived in the mountains.
Col de Vars (2108 m.) and Col d’Izoard (2764 m.) are classic “Route des Grandes Alpes”. Part scenic and part sporty. The Tour de France comes along here in couple of weeks’ time so the surfaces are all in good nick.
Gendarmes lurking in the shade at the start of the Combe de Queras; the massive limestone gorge between the massifs on the route. Looked like they were checking and turning back overloaded or unsound bikes (eg tyres).
But the Col de d’Izoard is mythic for pushbikers and they were here by the van load. A lot from the Netherlands. Not badly behaved but just so many of them. On the other hand, one of the Dutch saw me with my camera and asked me to take photos of him on his pocket Leica . He did a good one of me too on my Nikon.
Lunchtime: GPS shows 1250 m. altitude and the Cime de la Bonette is 2802 m. altitude so I still have more than a vertical kilometre still to climb since breakfast café & croissant at the Carnolès beach (Menton). Weather now ideal: blue sky and no wind.
Bike riding fantastic. This is the first full week this route has been open since the winter so it’s not yet got a lot of traffic. Indeed hardly any.... Sweeping curves and open straights. Lots of opportunities for low-gear high-rev riding except that the blue sky, jagged cliffs, cascades and thrusting mountain peaks are so attractive and distracting... Nice problem to have.Quiche Lorraine, Myrtille tart and can of Zéro finished so onwards and upwards.
Now in Carnolés on the Côte d'Azur, it’s a suburb of Roquebrune for administrative purposes but feels more like a suburb of Menton as it’s on the same bay so gets the same gentle Riviera weather. Carnolès is usually the beach people mean when boast that they slept on the beach at Menton on their Interrail or hitching trip.
Long hot ride across the Var from Marseille yesterday. I took the direct route - ie the autoroute - as the forecast showed storms spreading down from the mountains from lunchtime onwards. Even so, having left Marseille at 28°C, I saw 35°C en route but by the time I was passing through Nice the blue sky had gone, the mountains were shrouded in dark clouds and the thermometers were showing just 25°C.
Hike up from Thrushwood round Latrigg and Lonscale Crags for a picnic at the bridge over the Glendatarra Beck, that runs between the Skiddaw and Blencathra massifs. A stiff breeze whisking the sunny intervals through the view over Threlkeld Common and Bleaberry Fell, with Keswick and Derwent Water in the distance: the main thing about this path is the spectacular view. It’s not a particularly high route (max 450m. altitude), also this path is shared with mountain bikers on the Glendaterra & Lonscale Crags Mountain Bike Route. Events this Sunday included a run up Skiddaw, being passed at Latrigg Saddle by packs of runners evoked memories of my own running days, cross-country and a few fell and moorland runs.
St. Bega’s church resounding once again to Baroque music; David Gibbs bringing the delights of Buxtehude, Telemann and JS Bach’s music to this ancient lakeside venue dating from around 950 AD. An appreciative audience, filling the pews and outnumbering the sheep in the field outside where the cars parked, heard a rich programme of excitingly chromatic pieces from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the programme arranged in a symmetric format from Buxtehude to Bach and back again. Magdalena Loth-Hill (violin) and David Gibbs (harpsichord) finished the first part of the programme with an excellent performance of J.S. Bach’s Sonata BWV 1014, their ensemble and interplay fluidly throwing the counterpoint challenges between the players as the piece developed.
Tourists looking through the railings at the “La Villasse” Roman site to avoid paying the admission charge in Vaison-la-Romaine at the foot of Mt. Ventoux in Provence. The Roman sites at Vaison were mostly excavated and reconstructed with scant regard to academic archaeological practice by Canon Joseph Sautel and his team between 1907 and 1952; what we see now is to some extent a theme park rather than an accurate reconstruction. This arch was dubbed “The Basilica” but it seems more likely to have been the baths. The rest of this site are thought to be a street with shops and nearby villas. Nearby are the Praetorium, Nymphaneum. Vaison’s open-air Roman theatre has been mostly reconstructed (and is now active with modern shows) after the decommissioning of the railway line which had been was built across what had been the stage.
A major retrospective of the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe drawn from the Getty collection. The curators are proposing Mapplethorpe as an artist: his photographs are presented in an art gallery. By featuring his commercial portraiture as much as his more well-known (notorious) leather subculture photography, the curators are rebalancing his oeuvre and particular reputation as well as advancing the general cause of the photographer as artist. This exhibition was originally mounted in New York, then Los Angeles, followed by Montreal.
This is light touch curating, it would have been useful to have commentary remarking on the various visual references Mapplethorpe employs, from David Bowie to Andy Warhol. Equally the way in which Mapplethorpe’s work has influenced and inspired a generation, from Grace Jones’ cover for “Portfolio” through to the adoption of leather fetish imagery by mainstream fashion image makers.
Saint-Julien clarets are reckoned to be amongst the finest available because of the well-drained soil and their many generations of experience since the growers were listed back in 1855. My Father first bought bottles of Château Léoville-Barton in honour of our neighbours in Cambridge, the Bartons. This bottle of 1989 vintage was one of the last bottles of Léoville-Barton he laid down for drinking much later. The same year, 1989, he also inscribed and presented to me a copy of Féret’s classic guide Bordeaux and its wines.