My last couple of days in France were very mixed. It took me a while to get to grips with what was wrong with the feeling in Gap and then it struck me- the people had the same odd attitude of those in a German Kurort or Spa town.
There is a huge hospital meaning large numbers of people who walk around town with various monitoring devices attached typically attended by one or more family members eating ice cream, but its the attitude of the locals that I always find strange and difficult to describe in appropriate terms.
I had a clean room to myself which I shared with my bike, there are two old Italian Nuns there, the one I did not deal with was ok, but the one on duty when I arrived was quite strange, I didn’t bother to hang around Gap.
Even with the heavy traffic, the day to Embrun was good and I felt a little stronger despite the fierce sun.
The town had an immediate positive feeling, my reception at the tourist office was good and I easily organised my room for the night. The Gite is associated with a paragliding school and I spent my third night in the other part of the Gite that was less salubrious, but there was great camaraderie with the lads that were staying there.
On my last night I made the previous post at the TYS bar where there was a very relaxed atmosphere, I sat in the back working on my blog and it was when the bar was closing that a conversation began between the last few customers and the staff.
I was trying to have a conversation on Skype at the time and had to give up on it. The owner Marie Therese pictured in the middle below insisted I have another beer and I told them stories as best I could in my poor French.
The next day as I left I went back to the Ti office to organise my room for the night, to try and keep costs down I have been arranging my route to make best use of places that accept a donation. During the call the expressions on the face of the woman at the Ti suggested that it was a very odd conversation with whoever answered the phone but I agreed to be there at five.
Taking the advice of the Gite owner in Embrun, I followed a secondary route when I left for Briancon. It was good advice, tougher than the main road but little traffic and excellent views, though I didn’t take so many photographs because of the clouds & rain.
The wind, rain and steady incline were making for a tough day, the traffic was not helping and the sharp, bright sound of the cars on the wet road was giving me a fierce headache.
I arrived at the community hall just before 17:00, calling my hellos, I received no answer. I could hear a woman talking and so went to the stairs and again shouted hello, but she kept droning on. In fact she kept droning on even when I was in the room and the poor mesmerised people who were listening to her were no longer paying attention.
I asked for who ever was in charge, to which they all looked at the floor then suggested I find a hotel, after explaining reasonably well that I had arranged an appointment at 17:00, was cold and wet and needed to get warm.
One guy suggested I cycle up the hill to the fortified city a solution I wanted to avoid at all costs, the rest of them continued with their general disinterest, shoulder shrugging with a sympathetic “not my problem styled attitude”. I asked if there was a phone available but that was just too much to ask and so considered waiting for the priest to arrive.
The general lack of interest was impressive, I began asking each person that arrived at the church for some help in tracking down whoever was responsible for my 17:00. I eventually borrowed a phone and called the number I had called earlier but only had the answering machine.
It was then that I met woman in picture. I had asked her where the second cheap possibility was on my list and she urged me to wait on the priest as he was a good guy.
Well I waited till 18:30 mass was over, but my mood was far from good and I was really cold and it was approaching 20:15 when he sent me up the hill.
I met him outside the parish house and he showed me to a room that was obviously for the unfortunates that appear at his door, either swimming in beer or floating in a sea of drugs. There was no shower, just a washbasin in the cleaners cupboard. So I first cleaned everything, the sink the bed, surfaces and table in the room and then I washed myself, had something quick to eat and went to sleep.
I had a slight cold and slept most of the next day and realised the morning after saying goodbye to the priest with the intention of leaving that I was still very tired.
I packed my bags in preparation for leaving and had another easy day. He was not that happy that I was still there, but I explained to him that if it was a problem that I was ready to leave, otherwise I would leave with him at 8am the next morning, which I did. He never looked so pleased as when he saw my bike an bags outside and ready to go when he came down the next morning.
The old city in Briancon is well worth a visit, the views of the mountains from the old city walls are spectacular.
I was a little concerned about the cycle to Montgenevre but had decided to take it easy and spend the day at the top. It was then that a bloke from the north of England on a bike that weighed less than my left testicle pulled in front and started grilling me about the road ahead. He was worried about the climb, I was trying not to laugh and told him that the climb to Montgenevre is not that tough, go at your own pace and you will be fine, I was still laughing as I arrived in Montgenevre.
The summer ghost town of Montgenevre is not that interesting, though the ski-facilities look to be good. I though about heading on to Italy but liked the idea of spending the night here and had lunch, served by Sophie who by the way she moved is a natural belly dancer.
With the help of the pretty and fabulously presented Jeny at the Ti I had a room, a little expensive but good. The bloke who runs the hotel Philipe is an interesting guy. I spent three nights there as we came to a price accommodation, there was lots of rain and I had internet so I felt no great rush to leave. I really enjoyed the altitude, clouds, mist, rain and Sohpies exquisite movement as she served lunch.