Bonsoir mes amis, ce soir nous sommes en Auvergne.
Had a generally cracking day racing through the different geography and geology of southern mid France and yes, we did dodge the rain!
From Gap we set off East with our first target Col De Cabre on the very edge of the South Eastern Alps. The Col at 1180m is quite unlike any other that we have visited so far this trip, it’s very nondescript and lies in a break of thick mixed forest. It marks the boundary between the Haut Alpes and Drôme Departments and is very near the source of the River Drôme.
From the Col the road drops down into the gorge of the River Drôme. This is limestone country and the passage of the river has cut some amazing landscape features. At Le Claps the most incredible debris field almost blocks the valley, it was caused by a small earthquake in 1442 that brought down part if the mountainside. For a few centuries a lake developed behind the fall, but post the French Revolution the area was drained.
When the railway line from Valence to Briançon was constructed at the beginning of the twentieth century the site caused a major problem that was overcome with a viaduct 244m long and 44m high, pretty impressive.
Beyond here the valley opens out with fertile fields, though in one or two places geology wins and squeezes in. There are fields of lavender, groves of walnut trees and if course vineyards, it is France ya know! The villages take on a Mediterranean feel and almost defy modernisation, there is a very special sense of place in the air.
We crossed and said goodby to the Drôme at Crest, then made the quick sprint to Valence, the City that my friend Sandra calls home. Hey Prof, gotta say its one of the trickiest places I’ve ever driven around! Very few road signs and it’s as if the main centre is some kind of secret that you Valenciennes don’t want to share with us outsiders! Once I got in I didn’t exactly get lost, but couldn’t get out!
Whilst near Valence I dropped in on the local Harley dealership for a coffee and nose round. Bike pics in separate report!
Then crossed over the Rhône and wondered when the water that we rode through by the glacier on the Furka pass would get to Valence? The river here is about 300m wide, it was about three last time I saw it upstream!
Great thrash up to Lamastre, Eastern terminus of the Chemin de Fer Du Vivarais and Sandra’s Granny’s birthplace as well! The Vivarais (CFV), nicknamed The Mastrou, is now a tourist railway, the metre gauge line is 33km long and runs between Tournon, in the Rhône Valley, and Lamastre. Originally part of a much bigger network, the original line ran a further 19 kilometres to Le Cheylard. In recent years trains have been suspended, but a lot of infrastructure and other works have been undertaken, it is planned to reopen later this year, can’t wait, it’s steam! Pics in separate post eh? The country up to Lamastre is lovely and the road famous for its motorcycling fatalities, gulp!
Lemastre to Le Puy should have been easy…but…first off, six miles of road with new loose chippings, joy, not! You always know when it’s bad, cos even the French slow down. Next a diversion, the road was closed and that put another twenty miles on the schedule.
The best thing about Le Puy, in my view, is the by-pass which got us on the N102 quickly. The traffic gods smiled on us today and we breezed swiftly to our overnight, a B&B in the hills above Vieille Brioude, a charming little place with a stunning 19th century arch bridge, which it a rebuild of a much old structure that unfortunately collapsed! Looks good to me though.
…and that’s it for today!
Today’s mileage: 239
Trip Total: 1715
Bloody long one coming up tomorrow, with a little encouragement from you guys we should do it!
Do you remember me, on the street of dreams?