St-Quentin proved to be a pleasant enough town. We enjoyed a quiet evening and sleep alongside the canal. In the morning we were up early for a walk along the canal. A man walking his dogs our only meeting. The canal reminded us of our Midi-Canal adventures last year.
Soon enough we were fuelled up and on the road. We need to put some distance in today, so we decide on the tollway for the morning. In France there are Tollways seemingly everywhere. They run virtually along side the existing roads, but avoid the villages. The Hymer sits comfortable on 100kph, the tollways maximum speed is 130kph, so cars slide past very fast. Trucks are limited to 90kph so at least we get to pass something. The tollways are in long sections 60-80klm and cost about €6-8 per section.
Lunch time approaches so we exit onto a D road. The D roads are much more picturesque, passing through small villages every 5-8 klm. But as you can imagine they are much slower. On the map we see a large lake not far away and think this will do for lunch. We drive through Lusigny-S-Barse to find the most unusual weir feeding the canal from the large wetland. It is a most lovely picnic spot there are several camper-cars already along the track and we join them.
We drive the rest of the afternoon on the D roads, passing through numerous little villages. Typically French, narrow streets, old stone buildings, raw tile roofs, a steepled church in a prominent spot a small square with a memorial to the Morts. Those who perished for France in the Great War. We note many memorials have had a makeover for the centenary years. I should also make comment about the flowers, the bridges everywhere are adorned with long troughs full of flowers as are the parks and round-a-bouts.
Late in the afternoon we arrive at Dole, it’s hot, seemingly very hot as we have had the AC running all afternoon. We find an aire adjacent to the canal, as they often are. It’s free, Pam’s favourite price. We secure the Hymer and walk off the explore the town. It is a classily beautiful town, once the capital of the region. I will let the pictures do the talking, but I would recommend a visit.
We rise reasonably early for camper car people, going for a walk across the canal up the hill into the Old City. The Cathedral is open and we have an unsupervised poke around before continuing on. We follow a pathway of bronze pointers embedded in the cobbles, a local tourist route. Soon enough we say goodbye to Dole and continue east.
It’s another hot day, but as we steadily climb toward the Swiss border the temperature tempers a little. There is a frontier into Switzerland, so we expect to be stopped and checked. Pam holds our passports up as we approach a very uninterested guard just waves us through. A tollpass or vignette is mandatory in Switzerland so we head to the next service station to by one. €40 for a 15 day pass seems reasonable, except we’re passing through today and hopefully don’t return for 10 weeks. We are exited anyway, Switzerland is a new country for us. Another country off the list even if today’s crossing is only a fleeting one.
Our goal for today is Grand Saint Bernard’s Pass, as recommended by my good friend Paul. As we pass through Lasserne we start the climb into the Alps. Lake Geneva on our right has a layer of mist and the far shoreline is hidden. As we climb we pass through several long tunnels, breaking out into the daylight with fabulous view of the alps and the lake. Pam keeps reminding me to watch the road. The road forks we take the road for the Col (the pass) rather than the tunnel. This is where the real climb begins, most of it at a10% grade. The Hymer groans on, back to second gear on a couple of hairpins.
Soon on after we settle into our spot, we hear some dogs and a man walks past with two Saint Bernard dogs. They are happily strolling past just ignoring us on there afternoon walk. We later find there is a small museum with the history of the dogs and the pass nearby.
The temperature has dropped 10c in 20 minutes when we go over the crest and the lake and the Italian Alps are in full view. We cook in, have a beer and wine over looking the lake and the Alps. It doesn’t get much better than this as far as where concerned. It’s a cold night and we enjoy a good nights sleep with the dooner.
Michael and Pam