Date: 20th July 2018
Travelled: 24 kilometres from Briançon to Col d’Izoard, both in France.
Stayed: Col d’Izoard car park, free. N44.81903, E06.73548
Our night in the aire at Briançon was quiet. Surrounded by a 10-12 other motorhomes it felt safe enough. We knew very little about Briançon until we drove in late yesterday afternoon seeing a fortresses on the surrounding hillsides. Briançon is arguably europe’s highest towns at 1350 metres asl. Which is good for sleeping, as it cools quickly as the sun sets.
The old city of Briançon (Ville Haute) stands high on the hill above our overnight aire but it doesn’t appear to be that motorhome friendly. So I roll the scooter off the rack and I take it for a spin into the tourist office to look at our options.
The young lady in the tourist office advices parking in the Champ de Mars carpark above Ville Haute, it’s expensive for a motorhome but free for scooters. Our little scooter gets us up the steep hill safely. Pam loves the big bike. We find the gateway to Ville Haute easily enough and start exploring. The fortress and the layout of the town was designed by Louis 14th’s chief marshall and designer, Vauban. Given he designed and built 32 others across france he was a busy fellow. We start by walking down the Grande Rue (main street). Love this spoon channel that runs the length of the street. Later we see several people get a wet foot. Off the Grande Rue there are a labyrinth of narrow laneways. We find the Collègiale Notra Dame St.Nicholas. The small square outside doesn’t allow me to get a good photo, but it has a sturdy look. Not surprising as it was designed and built by Varban in 1703, the same fellow who designed the neighbouring fortresses. Inside the Collègiale, looking forward to the altar. The coloured plaster in pale green and mauve are an unusual combination. I turn my back for a moment and Pam has found another soap shop. Following the little green line in the tourist map we find ourselves at the fortress or citadel or Fort de Chàteau (depending on the map or sign) which overlooks Ville Haute and the rest of Briançon for that matter. So we pay the princely some of €6 pp to enter the citadel and walk the ruins. By now it’s getting hot and there is little shade except for the odd passageway or staircase. The view from the high casement reminds us of how many steps we have done this morning. This unusual bronze was added to the casement in 1920. As I cannot fly, you can only see it from behind. So we continue to follow the green line on the map and say goodbye to Ville Haute and Briançon. Fountaine Persens and its little garden make a lovely last photo. We find a Carrefore supermarket, stock up with some provisions and fuel before turning on the D902 and the Route de Grandes Alps again. So we start the long grind back up the next mountain pass. It’s only 20 kilometres to Col d’Izoard but it takes us an hour to reach the top. We find a parking spot with a couple of other motorhomes and take in the view (out the front window). It’s still only mid afternoon however it’s a long drive through the area known as the Casse Dèserte to the next possible stop, so we call it a day.
Michael and Pam