Sunday, 16 December 2012


Friday 14 December

Die!  I think that will be the shortest title I can come up with. ;-)  It's probably also the shortest name of any town or village in France, and we've been there yesterday (I'm writing this update on Saturday...)

So, back to Friday morning.  We decide to do some sightseeing two days in a row, because on Saturday we always have to wait for the baker to deliver our bread and we mostly do our weekly shopping then as well.   So, a second day of sightseeing on Friday and we get up early again, since we have planned quite a drive.  Not as far as Avignon, but a more scenic drive and probably one that will take a lot longer than a motorway.  We are going through the mountains!  It is a bit risky, but down here, in the valley, most of the snow has gone, so we hope it will be the same at the lower levels in the mountains (not knowing that we will get up as high as 1300m!)  I had checked most of the way in Google Earth, but forgot all about the altitude!

The day starts well with a bit of sunshine, the sun peaking through a gap in the distant hills:

Once we have crossed the river Isère we enter the mountainous region and pass through a picturesque township: Pont-en-Royans where the houses are built along and over the water:

The next picture just shows the surroundings once we have left Pont-en-Royans, and we are climbing!

As we can't stop everywhere, and most certainly not on those narrow mountain roads, I have included a few pictures pinched from Google Earth.  The first ones are of a series of short tunnels that we pass through, Les Petits Goulets:

# 1

# 2

# 3 & #4

between #3 and #4

# 5
We're still climbing and I have to get used to the idea, being scared of heights, so I am not taking too many pictures yet.  I am also in the passengers seat, which is on the side to the steep slope down! Once we can stop at a small parking area where I take this picture:

We're at about 600m I think. Next we get a very hairy moment.  We come across a pilot car which approaches us on the narrow road and stops.  The driver gestures that we have to go to the side of the road (which side? still closer to the edge?  arrrggg!)  Anyway, we know all about pilot cars from back home.  They clear the roads for wide loads!  Oh boy....  Well, Frank decides to keep going for a little while longer and all of a sudden a large snow plough looms, its 'wings' folded alongside, but still quite wide.  We are so lucky!  Just as Frank wants to move over to the right (over the edge???) the truck is able to stop at a cave-like hollow in the mountainside and lets us pass...  Oh holy.....  I have nearly sh... seven colours of you know what, but......... we made it and are on our way again.

Frank casually mutters:  "Is that a good sign of a bad one?"  Meaning, is there no more snow to clear away or is it that bad ahead of us?  Well, we'll just have to wait and see.

Next we get to a sizable tunnel: the Tunnel des Grands Goulets and it is 1770m long.  It's quite a new one, having been finished in 2008 at a cost of 50M euros.  It replaces a very scenic old tourist route Les Grands Goulets - Vercors

le Tunnel des Grands Goulets

So far we have had a good drive, no snow on the roads, no snow anywhere in the fields.  But.....  There is always a but!  But, when we exit the tunnel at the other end it's snow all around!

Fortunately most of the road has been cleared of snow.  Only in some places, where we are so high that we're almost in the clouds, snow must have fallen only in the morning, because there is a thin layer of 'slush' on the roads, so Frank takes care to drive slowly and avoid having to hit the brakes.

Next picture shows the entrance of the tunnel Col de Rousset. At the exit of the tunnel we are just about at the highest altitude of the drive before we make the descent towards Die.

Col de Rousset

Entrance to the tunnel

Exit of the tunnel
Next part is the most fantastic part of this drive.  Has most of the road been quite straight, albeit along the edges of the slopes, this part consists of plenty of hair bends and it's going down, and down, and down...  But the view is something to be seen to be believed.  We've never been in the mountains, least of all this high, and the view is just fabulous.

Starting the descent at the top coming out of the tunnel

One of the many hair bends accidentally captured on the GPS in the photograph

He we are, nearly down in the valley
Finally we arrive at Die.  We have to drive through the narrow streets of the town before we find a parking spot.  It's no mean feat as is evident from the following pictures:

We already have a map of the town, so we can skip the tourist information office.  There are two walks available as was the case in Crest.  One around the town's ancient walls and one in the town centre.  We go for the town centre walk first, which leads through the narrow streets with a number of sights that are explained on the map. The amazing thing, when you look at the dwellings in the pictures, is that people actually still live there.

An old water pump which gets activated by swivelling the brass knob on top of it

Look down this street towards the blue door at the end...

...and in this close-up you see an arch which one can enter to get to the houses behind it

La Porte Saint-Marcel

Buste en Bronze de la Comtesse

A 12th century protestant temple

A 12th century  mosque

The mosque's facade

Maison Engilboud de Saint laurent
After a cold and windy, but enjoyable, walk through the town we are ready for lunch.  At the start, and finish, of our walk we had noticed a pretty restaurant.  The owner kindly explains the plat du jour to us and the various choices we can make, so we settle with a nice glass of wine and wait for our order to arrive while we are warming up.

Bar de l'Etape
I managed to take a picture of the entrée, but we were in the middle of our main meal before I remembered, so the picture isn't quite what I had in mind. 

Terrine Chevreuil au salad  (Venison Terrine)

Queue de Potte roté, riz, beurre blanc, épinard crême (fish of some sort, rice, butter sauce and creamed spinach)

And of course: café
After this delicious lunch we are ready for our next walk, which leads around the town's ancient walls, dating back to Roman times.  They are indeed very old and crumbly as the pictures show.  It's quite a climb again, but good exercise after lunch. ;-)

By 3pm it's time to go home again if we want to be back before dark.  The next picture shows you how the French decorate their roundabouts.  We've seen plenty of them, but this is the first time I had a chance to take a picture:

This is all (and enough!) for today.  Tomorrow a short update and most likely you may have to wait till next week for the next one as we are going to Paris on Monday and I am not taking my laptop.

Bye for now.

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