Running-in completed, clock now showing more that 1000 km, it’s become time to show my new RR its first Alpine col; this was the Col du Labouret, 1,240 m., in the Alpes de Haut-Provence between Digne-les-Bains and Barcelonette. These clear blue skies are misleading, an hour out of Marseille I pulled in to a rest area and enjoyed a long conversation about bikes with a road maintenance guy whilst regaining the feeling in my fingers. He runs a 1200 Bandit and enjoys riding faster than 200 km/hr where he can; apparently the belly-pan is the first piece of that bike to scratch when you lean over... and the police don’t take much interest in you if you’re only doing 140 to 150 km/hr: bikers and cops (and biker cops) are very aware that the legal limit on an autoroute is 130 km/hr in fine weather and 90 km/hr on a Route Nationale.
It’s a fine road up from Digne-les-Bains to the Col du Labouret, cooler the far side, the chill coming down from the snowfields up above. Pushing onwards and up again to Montclair-St-Jean, a ski resort in winter but maybe better known as a major paraglider location in summer. I stopped at the overlook to the lac de Serre-Ponçon on the road to Barcelonnette, unusually quiet so I was able to hear the birds far below at the lakeside. Back the same route to Seyne-les-Alpes, able to push more now with confidence of the integrity of the route. I stopped for a late midday picnic and was chatted up by a ninety year-old who insisted on showing me her war medals on her key-ring, along with her supermarket loyaty card.. She’d parachuted in to Normandy and was able to assist soldiers landing on the beaches. Fantastic that she’ still able to walk down to the town to do her shopping. I got the feeling from the others around that she told the same tales to anyone who would listen but hey, what a story. I wish I could have got her to understand that one of my formative experiences in France was talking to the mothers of martyred members of the resistance whilst I was on location in France working on the crew of the ITV drama Wish Me Luck, which dramatised the experiences of women parachuted in the region just north of the Pyrenees to assist the French Resistance.
These days Seyne-les-Alpes would rather be known as a former frontier town (until 1713) on the border between Savoie and France, for which purpose the Maquis de Vauban installed one of his effective military forts and which the tourist office would like us to visit. Unfortunately Seyne-les-Alpes came rather more to the world’s attention in 2015 as the nearest town to the remote part of the Alpes de Haut-Provence where the deranged co-pilot chose to crash land a tourist plane, Germanwings Flight 9525.
Back down to Marseille, the Pernod factory near the A7 (one of the main routes in to town) was emitting the distinctive aroma of pastis brewing: welcome to Marseille!