Walking out in daylight this morning, gave us our first real glimpse of the town of Modane, where we’d stayed last night. What a lovely little town, sitting in the Alps and high above, looking down on the main street, were the mountains with their snow-capped peaks. Beautiful. The air was mountain air too! It was certainly brisk and there was snow blowing that air down to us! It was great though, crisp and clear and a lovely way to start the day.
Our drive through the Alps was ab-so-lute-ly beee-yoo-tee-ful! The grand mountains looked down on us, we drove through beautiful autumn colours, through gorges and countryside. It was quite spectacular and we were so glad we had to detour yesterday and ended up in this area, because we would have hated to have missed this glorious scenery.
We drove through some lovely little towns and villages too, with their quaint stone cottages or chalet stye houses sitting on the hillside. It was all beautiful, but along with this came disappointment. We were just disappointed that we weren’t riding through this gorgeous country, because it would have been a wonderful ride. It was a shame to be stuck in the van, rather than on our bikes. There weren’t even any hills to speak of really, and it would have been so good to ride at the foot of the mountains, through the villages and under the golden ceiling of the trees. This made us think about the pros and cons of touring by driving and touring by cycling. This is what we thought:
Driving: The Pros
- You can make forward progress regardless of the weather.
- Hills are easier to climb in a car.
- Ummm, errrr, hmmmm….that’s all we could think of
Driving: The Cons
- It’s harder to stop and look at things in a car, since there’s rarely places to pull over on the side of the road.
- It’s hard to take photos in a car, for reasons above – it’s too hard to stop in a safe place or stop in time to capture a scene, so photos are usually taken out of the window of the moving vehicle!
- You don’t’ get the full sensory experience in a car. You see things, but you don’t get to hear, smell and touch your environment in a car, like you can on the bike.
- It’s harder to get to little back streets, lanes or tucked away places with the hidden gems, in a car, like you can on a bike.
- The list goes on…!
The clear air was soon replaced by fog. It wasn’t gloomy fog though, it was a beautiful, gossamer mist that enveloped the landscape in its elegant folds. It made that already beautiful scenery, even more gorgeous. We stopped in a small town, beside a lake for elevenses and sat at the water’s edge, in the chill air, looking at the boats and ducks sitting in that magical mist. We discovered how cold it had been when Steve tried to squeeze honey from the bottle, onto his bread. It took a very firm hand, to get it to run through the nozzle! Instead of drizzling out, it was like trying to squeeze toffee out of the bottle, it had set so cold!
The journey continued with more beautiful scenery and quaint little towns. We kept spontaneously sighing, “Beautiful…that’s very cool…lovely…” It’s been a while since we’ve made exclamations such as that, but today just gave us such a treat, with the stunning scenes.
We stopped for lunch beside a river, in the still crisp air and then on we went. We drove past a touring cyclist, who was pedalling furiously along the road. Steve gave a honk of the horn, which got the cyclist’s attention and he looked our way, so I gave him a double thumbs-up and he gave us a big smile in return. I hope our little cheer gave him the warm glow that we get when passing drivers and people give us a toot or a wave or a sign of encouragement. I’m glad we gave him a smile.
It was getting on for dusk when we arrived in Chalon-sur-Saone, so after yesterday’s arrival in darkness, we decided to stop before the sun went down. We booked into a cheap and cheerful hotel and settled in, before walking down the street to gather supplies and that was the day.
I really like France. Sorry Italy, but it beats you hands down! The towns are delightful, places are tidy and clean and well cared for, there’s a feeling of pride in the surroundings, with the flowers in pots in the towns and around buildings and the scenery is varied and beautiful. It’s just a lovely place to be. It’s now our third time in France and we’ve been to different places each time, each part of the country giving us its own sense of style and landscapes. We’ve ridden the coastlines, the canals, the countryside and now, although not riding, we’ve travelled through the mountains. All has been stunning in its own way. It’s still a shame we aren’t on the bikes to experience it more fully, but we’ll take what we’re getting, because even cooped up in a van, the experience is wonderful. The journey continues tomorrow, still heading north toward Dunkerque. Even stuck in the embarrassing, hideous, feral van, I’m looking forward to it, because the scenery and experiences are soul food and France is serving us up a splendid feast!