Hiking in the Alpes
Peter Beers

Believe it or not, there was a day where I took NO PHOTOS!!! That was June 20th. I did write a little though. It was a mellow day to walk araound and relax before going into the Alpes.

6/20/2007: Today was a lot more relaxed. I worked for a few hours this morning and then walked around town with Josy and Laura. I needed an Internet Café to log in so I could send the work in that I’d completed. I also wanted to check and see if we had a ride home from the airport and see how the kittens were doing at home without us.

We found a cool shop that I must go back to. The woman who ran this was so awesome. She just had lots of cool household items and funky designed things. It was really neat. They had everything from back massagers to cheese graters where the handle was a woman’s body and the grater was her long skirt. They had a few playful adult things too. They had nipple mints and little chocolate penises. Remember the candy necklaces from when you were a kid? They had bikinis made out of them. How many licks would those take???? Sorry for the off color humor... when in France. ;)

By this time Laura and Josy had left me to my own devices, so I wandered around looking for a different way home. I stopped in an Internet Cafe to get some work done. That was really helpful. A few hours of catching up on things from the office made it so that I could rest at night. That done, I climbed up over the ridge to the cathedral at the top and then wound down the tiny little streets (barely wide enough to walk through and short enough that I had to duck half the time) and found my way home. I’m going back with the camera in a day or two. :D It was a very relaxing and mellow day.

6/21/2007: We got an early start and headed to Monte Carlo. I needed to get added to Herb’s rental car as a driver so that I could legally drive around. I hopped behind the wheel and we headed North of Nice to a town called Valberg. We had an AWESOME lunch in a little café. The waiter was a riot. We saw tons of cyclists coming up the pass and stopping for lunch at the same café. Dang that made me want my road bike here. It was cool to see them riding. These guys had some pretty fancy bikes too. The guys we sat next to were all riding top of the line Look or Scott frames with Campy Record components. They easily had $8000 each into their bikes and probably $800 each in clothing. They were definitely serious riders.

After lunch we drove down into the next valley to the town of Guillaume. We didn’t stop, we just continued on to the destination of the day… the Nordic ski village of Estenc. When I say village, I really mean that it is a ski chalet with a restaurant attached. There were a few other chalets up the valley, but this one building was pretty much it. In the winter people come from all over to ski on the trails. In the summer, people come from all over to hike in the mountains. The trails were AWESOME.

Herb and I walked around while the women snoozed. I took a bunch of photos and seriously got the urge to do some high altitude climbing. We drove to the top of the Col de Cayolle (2300 meters high). We were way above tree line. We snapped some photos, then headed down for dinner. We talked to a guy who had climbed that day and he showed us the maps… showing us a great hike for the next day.

Dinner was almost perfect. Rabbit with Provencal herbs, veggie soup and fresh veggies definitely topped off the day in style. I had a few beers and the others drank some wine and we went for a short evening walk before bed. Laura and I both slept like rocks.

6/22/2007: We got up early on Friday morning to get a hike in. I’d really wanted to climb Mt. Pelat (3052m), but I really didn’t have the equipment or clothing to do that. I had my Keen sandals and a wool cycling jersey for hiking gear. That would have been okay at lower altitudes, but not getting close to 3000 meters this time of year.

It was a lot of fun to do a group climb. The four of us started together, then Josy stopped to draw and write for a while. She later climbed up to the side of an alpine lake where she sat and drew for an hour or two while we climbed.

Laura, Herb and I climbed to the saddle below the peak of Mt. Pelat. The saddle topped out and just under 2700 meters. The last ½ mile was quite challenging climbing too. It was very steep and narrow. Since the three of us were basically in street clothes, that was plenty of challenge for us.

All 4 of us vowed to come back next year with proper gear, footwear and fitness to do more climbing. The climb definitely rekindled my love of mountain climbing. I’d been away from Colorado for so long that I hadn’t been bitten by the climbing bug for many years. It brought back some wonderful memories.

The drive home was great. We stopped in Guillaume for lunch and to look around. Lunch, as usual, was great. We ate at a little café right next to a person that collected exotic birds. We walked through their little room where they had a huge bird enclosure that went up through the roof so that the birds could be indoors and outdoors and get a little flying time.

Guillaume is also home to Le Château de Reine Jeanne. It is the ruin of an old château placed on the top of a hill. We got to climb up inside it and look down over the town. The photos turned out pretty good. For a quick lunch stop, it was pretty cool.

Let me say a thing or two about quick lunch stops. In France, they don’t exist. Lunch is a serious meal that takes an hour or two to eat. The idea of dashing in, grabbing a burger and fries exists, but we haven’t done it since we arrived. Herb and I might do it today (6/24), but you’ll have to read about that later. Lunch is usually a 3 course meal that is often ordered off a set menu. They have a selection of salads, main courses and desserts that you can get for a set price. Some places have a few set priced meals that you can choose from at different price points. They usually go for 13, 17, 20 and 24 Euros depending on how fancy you want to have lunch or dinner and how fancy the restaurant is. We usually order from the 13 Euro menu.

We drove down the valley to le Gorges de Daluis. It is a deep, red valley cut by the river Var and it was beautiful. The road was narrow, winding and went through 17 tunnels to get through the valley. There is a bridge called “The Bridge of the Bride” because at some point someone got married and on the bride fell off the bridge. We don’t really understand how that happened because the sign telling the story got wet and was illegible.

Continuing down the valley we got to the town of Entrevaux. This was the exception to the rule when it came to little mountain towns. The town was down in the valley, but there was an awesome citadel up on the hill. Laura and I did our second mountain climb of the day by climbing all the way to the top of the Citadel. We hiked around it and I snapped a ton of photos. The construction of the citadel was truly amazing. These guys did good work and much of it has either been maintained or restored. I climbed through the catacombs in the prison under ground. It was kind of cool to be both claustrophobic and agoraphobic at the same time. I could have gone for a triple had I been arachnophobic. ;)

From there we drove home. It was peaceful and nice and we thoroughly enjoyed relaxing and having a mellow dinner. It had been a very long day.

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