A Mountain Pass Safari in the Western Alps
2. Ubaye Valley and Savoi Alps
The Arc angel of Cycling
The next valley I cycled through, was the Stura Valley. A short day
ended in Demonte, where I accepted a chance to crawl into the lap of
luxury and take a Albergho host's offer for a half-pension (room with
breakfast and supper). It was the best offer for such a combination, I
had so far. The price included a two course supper (three counting
dessert). I am no expert in cuisine, everything tasted just fine. I just
wished that the amount of food could somehow match the high number of
courses that it was divided into. Three courses, four or five, it didn't
really matter. It would have been better if I could just have eaten as
much as I wanted from any one course. I finished the last water, hoping
that possible trace minerals contained there in, would maybe yield a few
more calories. The bread was exhausted already. The bread was good, but
eating all that bread inevitably leads to the European bread belly
feeling; and then, after a while, you just can't eat any more bread.
Instead of a gluten free diet, this is a gluten only diet. But the
friendly woman must have read my mind. But maybe mind reading skills
were not even required. All that was necessary was, that she observed
how entirely free of crumbs, or other signs of food remnant every dish
was, that she took back into the kitchen after having delivered it with
such pride. The second night the portions seemed bigger already. Again I
cleaned the plates until they were practically sterile. If rain would
force me to stay a third day again, maybe the portions would have been -
even just a tiny bit bigger.
This fine one star albergho in Demonte was the perfect starting point
for another loop ride, that looked too appealing on the map to just pass
by. As it turned out this was the most thrilling ride sofar on the trip.
I think that the ride over the Colle
Fauniera/ Col de Morti at 2481 meters is a favorite for many
cyclists who have done it. In this ride also, snow and rocks played a
major role; more details on the Colle
the return trip, a nagging mechanical problem found a resolution, with
the help from a sort of Arc Angel for Cyclists. His name was Marco, and
his shop caught my attention through the variety of restored bikes
parked outside. I was ready to buy new shoes and have new cleats screwed
onto them. The old cleats were worn so much, that they couldn't get a
firm grip in the pedals anymore. When Marco understood the situation, he
promptly tried to get the cleats off the old shoes, something that I had
given up on a long time ago. He couldn't get them off either, but he
jumped on his "around town" bike with 16 inch tires and a horn
for crossing driveways on the sidewalk, and signed me to follow.
Promptly we arrived at a friend's house, who fired up his electrical
metal saw, to liberate the shoes from there disfunctional cleats. But
this would take a little time. Meanwhile Marco and me rode back to his
shop - me in socks. But Marco had some spare shoes to lend out at his
shop - for just such an occasion it seemed.
Meanwhile, I got the grand tour of the store. Of course everything was
Italian, including a vintage 72 bike, with what may be the first attempt
at suspension. The front fork was able to bend forward, creating a
scissor effect between the frame and the fork. Marco was also a guide
and active in helping organize races. From him I learned that an Italian
apparently won a stage in the Tour de Colorado, something that I should
be able to tell him instead. Apparently the metal saw had its work cut
out for it too. But in the end the Arcangel and his friend won, and I
completed my loop over the Colle
Fauniera and arrived back in Demonte with newly gripping cleats, and
one great pass cycle experience richer. Marco has a web site in Italian
. His speciality is restoration of historic racing bikes.
The Ubaye Valley
and the Belvedere
It's not the hills you know about, that wear you down. It's the ones
that come as a surprise, usually at the end of the day. From the Stura
Valley I followed the centuries old, historic route over the Col
du Larche/ Colle della Maddalena with all my cycling baggage, and
crossed to Jausier in the Ubaye Valley in France. Again a friendly
couple at a chambre d'hote made a few telephone calls on my behalf, and
I had a room more to my liking near St Anne la Condamine, at the
Belvedere de St Anne, about 4km back on the road. I didn't know at the
time that it was also 350 meters above the road. This was not a Gite on
a hill, it was a Gite on a mountain. But once I was up there, it was
impossible not to like it here, with the view of the main range in
Mercantour Park out the panorama window, this time from the northern
side. Again I was the only guest, except for couple who stayed two days.
The next day I rode a food shopping ride into Barcelonnette, since I had
use of the kitchen. All the other food shopping trips before, were only
training for this one. I came back with 2 liters of milk, 1 liter of
juice, 3 liters of wine, 1 liter of sauce or soup to make dinner - 1kg
of frozen vegetables to fight the European bread stomach, and more foods
too numerous to mention.
"Belvedere" sounds like a hotel, and there probably are lots
of hotels named that. But this Gite had things that no hotel could
offer. For one, it really had a Belle-vedere, a great view onto the
southern side of the Ubaye valley. With Binoculars you could see the
highest road cut in the alps, the road over the Cime de la Bonette,
slightly lower the highest pass the Col de la Bonette/ Restefond. It
looked like it still had quite a bit of snow on it. A few hundred meters
difference in altitude and the exposure made all the difference in the
world. On the classic loop ride over Cayolle,
Champs and Allos,
it was hard to even find views with snow.
This last day excursuion is one of those classic rides, that you really
have to do while passing through this area, if you want to consider
yourself a bicycle tourist. It is sort of like having to tour the
Alhambra palace when you are in Sevilla, when you consider yourself a
regular tourist. At this point, I would like to think of myself as a
bicycle tourist, at least more than I like to think of myself as a
regular tourist, even if this ride turned out to be a little more than I
had bargained for. Sometimes it's a good idea, not to do too much
research into the rides one wants to do, because if you really know what
you are getting yourself into, you might never do it. This ride was such
a ride. It was not a dangerous problem, it just turned out to be
much longer and higher than I had guessed by purely looking at it on the
map, and therefore much more exhausting.
But not since the ride over Colla Langan
on the Italian coast, had I seen this many cyclists per km, and these
were many more kms. Quite a few cyclists on the circuit also seemed a
bit on the nervous side. One group of Germans I rode with only briefly,
seemed to sprint individually to the tops of the passes, but then had to
wait an extraordinary amount of time, waiting till the entire group was
assembled again. In order to not get cold from the wet jesrseys, they
had worked out an elaborate plan to change jerseys for each climb and
decent. All that changing clothes takes time too.
Also - I have never seen photos of a bicycle tour, covering all three
passes without exceptionally good weather. I don't think that the
weather here is so exceptionally great. But - you want to make sure that
you can actually end this ride where you started it. Consequently most
people wait for stable weather conditions.
The one other dayride, I started from here, was still higher than the
highest point on the previous route, the Col
de Cayolle. But it was still a little lower than the snowy panorama
of the Cime de la Bonnette. But the snow and ice on the following summit
point was particularly well shielded from sunlight, because it went
through an old military tunnel, the tunnel de Parpaillon. This route is
a well publicized cycling goal with a sort of cult status for mountain
bikers. But generally cyclists wait till the all the snow has melted in
the fall months. How I faired on that crossing is on the Tunnel
de Parpaillon s(u) page (return over Col
was getting quite spoiled by the fact, that since leaving the coast, I
had always been practically the only guest at the Gites. I spent quite a
bit of time inside this gite, the Bellevedere. The last two day rides
also resulted in two rest days. Luckily they coincided with rain days -
actually not entirely out of pure luck. I had wifi access and so
planning rides for good weather days was much easier than without the
internet. Here in the Belvedere an entire family worked to keep the Gite
open, fix it up, and and so to speak entertain the guests, or in this
case - guest.
Marie, the mother in the family business, had a real talent in coming up
with good French sentences, just difficult enough for me to just
understand. I understood them, but I won't venture to write them down in
their original French: "The woman is taking the dog outside for a
walk, because we don't have a toilet for dogs" she observed about
the one other guest, who was about to leave. I had to laugh about this
example, thinking about bike rides in less civilized continents, where
you had to dispose of the toilet paper in a bucket next to the toilet,
because the plumbing couldn't handle the challenge. Well on this bike
ride, even a toilet for the "chiens" was not out of the
question, and the plumbing was taken for granted. She would make a great
French professor, and I told her so.
The next rest day we were bird watching through the panorama window,
with the view of the Col de la Bonnette obscured by clouds. These
sentences were getting very difficult. She observed "I use this
book to identify birds with the eye, because I don't know their
"songs", except for the cookoo, the duck and the woodpecker.
She explained the meaning of the last three words with the actual sounds
the birds make. Now how come my French teacher didn't do that ?
As for Sylvan, the caretaker, he asked me if I needed anything
periodically. On the second day this included an unusual request for a
volt meter, to check continuity in the power cable to the computer I am
currently writing on. Continuity was not there. But since I am still
writing, you can probably guess that Sylvan had an extra cable for an
old computer with the same connectors, which he even gave to me. He also
let me use a flashlight so that I could get through the Tunnel
de Parpaillon. What Belvedere Hotel could you say that about ?
After 6 days I said goodbye. My French had progressed to the point,
where I could explain to Marie the origin of my uncivilized coffee,
which consisted of pouring hot water onto regular, ground coffee..
"The coffee I drink is called Shepard's Coffee in the United
States, because the sheep herders did not have coffee filters". I
write the sentence in English, because I am too embarrassed of all the
errors I would make in French. At this point Silvan and Marie were even
daring me to put more Spanish words into my French, something that they
had persistently corrected in the past. "You said muy instead of
tres" Sylvan had said about a 100 times. Oh well, it's not pretty
but it works. Their gite has a web site at ete.belve.fr
, and is just about perfect for a loop ride through the Parpaillon
tunnel. For the Cayolle, Champs, Allos loop the location adds
considerable distance and climbing.
In the end Sylvan made a few telephone calls and even got me another
room in a town, I thought I would reach in a day ride: St Leger les
Melezes. My mission for the day, according to the directions, was to
find the roudabout in this town, then proceed 50m direction Gap, then go
right into a driveway and look for a glass door with a piece of paper,
having my name written on it. If noone was there I was to go in and
everything else would be settled later.
As usual I overestimated the distance I could cover with a heavily
loaded bike and a back pack with a computer on my back. My route led me
over two more low passes: Col de Pontis
and also Col
de Mousiere. I could have easily skipped the first one. But it would
have been a shame. It was like a dessert, small and sweet, with a
lake below it as special attraction.
I did get to the finish eventually, and a friendly girl came out from
behind the glass door with the paper with my name on it. Everything was
ready for my arrival, but she still had to put the quart of orange juice
in the refrigerator, she said. Even without a common language, I somehow
felt very "understood". I often find it very difficult to
explain the lust-like thurst with which I consume a quart of orange
juice after a long hot ride. But I think she knew, and she understood,
without even making an attempt to explain it to her.
It had been a long day, especially after another unexpected 6km grocery
shopping trip into the valley below. For this and other reasons, I chose
again to linger another day and rest. The house was built on a hill, and
I could enjoy an incredible view in 3 directions into the mountain
ranges of the Ecrins National Park, while taking advantage of the modern
appliances to fix things to drink and eat, on what must be a balcony
with one of the best mountain views in all of France. The next morning
the actual owners, the parents of the girl who had shown me in, showed
up and introduced themselves. They offered me more foods for breakfast
and promptly also lowered the price of this luxurious balcony home by 10
Two more days led me over three, not too high passes to Bourg d'Oisans.
These were Col
de Noyer, Col
de Malissol, and Col de Morte.
The second one in the list, Col
de Noyer, is a personal favorite of mine, not because it is
extraordinarily long or high or low. But the landscape around the pass
is in transition in every direction, giving a ride in this region a
special variety. All sorts of different landscapes are not far away, the
high Ecrins mountains to the west, Bourg d'Oisans and the deep canyons
around the Gorge de la Romanche to the north, the many low passes of the
coast to the south, not to mention all the mountain faces and passes of
the Devoluy region in every direction.
In between those two touring days I also had the chance for a new
overnight accommodation experience. This involved sleeping in a camper,
rented out in a campground, or caravan as they are called here. For the
first time on this entire tour I managed to not stay at least one day
extra because of an additional day ride that I just had to do, or a day
of rain. I had this determination to keep moving north in spite of the
fact, that I could have covered at least 3 new passes, so obscure, or
better - such novelties - that they were not even listed on
Quaeldich.de. I resisted the temptation and pushed on north, in spite of
the fact that light rain started coming down. I think this marks the
beginning of the second phase of the trip, the time when you begin to
internalize that time is final, and you have to keep moving. It's like a
midlife crisis, but the life is the trip. However, mid trip crisis or
not, I would have found it difficult to just ride through the next
day's end destination: Bourg d'Oisans - especially after having done
just that on a previous tour.
Cycling Resort: Bourg d'Oisans
I sometimes feel a little self-conscious, going into grocery shopping in
my cycling attire. But in Bourg d'Oisans there really was no reason for
that. There were many people with noisy footwear and colorful
advertising jerseys, running down the supermarket isles, looking for the
cheapest quart of orange juice for example. In the check out line a TV
showed the pitch for the town, made by the bureau of tourism. It was
mostly about bicycling, road climbs, paradise of the mountain biker,
phrases like that appeared a lot. It's the tour de France that brought
all this publicity.
The most heavily cycled road in the area is the climb to Alp d'Huez. It
is the most distributed image, it's what's first on the list of things
to be done by nearly every newly arrived cycle tourists, myself
included. Many hours have been spent previously dreaming about riding
this famous racing climb. Consequently people take themselves fairly
seriously, when they finally do take on the "21 levels" as the
signs call them, or switchbacks for non French English speakers.
Human interaction on this ride was limited. I had two of them. First,
when a girl passed me and she dropped her leg warmers from her small
under-the-saddle bag. I picked them up and tried to catch her. But my
mountain bike with two panniers was no match for her carbon frame, not
even mentioning my clearly inferior legs (as any fool could see).
"Hey Mademoiselle vous avez perdu votre legwarmers" I yelled
after her. But it was no use. She kept on riding, never turning around,
while I swung her cycle clothing in circles above my head. I concluded
she didn't speak French, or English for that matter. I later found the
car accompanying that group of riders and gave the leggings to them. She
was the only woman in this group of riders, so she was easy to identify.
The second human interaction really wasn't one. Enterprising
photographers place themselves at strategic switchbacks, taking oh so
personal momento photos of the hundreds of cyclists going up. They can
then buy this photo on a web site. They put their business card in your
jersey, as you pass.
More about the Alp d'Huez climb is in the Col
de Sarenne page. Even though just a few km away from this ski resort
spectacle, this pass is really something quite different, but the road
to Alp d'Huez is the most direct approach to the pass from the east.
Bourg d'Oisans seems to have something for everybody. For me it also had
one of the most exciting dayrides on this entire tour. It is not a big
pass, but the views and the experiences along it sure makes you think
so. It took me two tries to get over it, both in the same day. The first
time I started following the Villard Notre Dame sign, and passed the
sign warning cyclists of 4 dark tunnels, I paid little attention.
Half an hour after venturing into the dark hole in the mountains, I was
back down in the village supermarket, looking for a cheap wearable
flashlight. The tourism video about cycling was still playing at the
checkout counter. Back in the TV section, which just happened to be
adjacent to the flashlight section another cycling related video was on
the news. Lance Armstrong, five time winner of the tour de France, was
suspended from cycling because of doping. I hope it won't take away from
the enthusiasm, with which thousands of cyclists attack the 21 levels of
the Alp d'Huez. But I really don't think so. I think they like to suffer
even without drugs. - I found an 8 Euro helmet light at the supermarket.
I'm sure I wasn't the first cyclist, returning from a failed attempt to
ride to this pass, and then look for a light here. After all, how many
other supermarkets have helmet lights ? How I fared on the second try
through the four dark tunnels, and what else makes this road so special
is on the Col de
In Bourg d'Oisans my accomodations were also in a gite. At least it said
"Gite" on the outside. In this case I would translate the term
with "Conference Center" rather than "mountain hut".
On the western outskirts of Bourg d'Osains about 5 to 10 bungalow style
houses are grouped around a large park like meadow. It gives the
appearance of a modern rendez-vous spot, where people can cook and sleep
in groups of 3 or 4 around the perimeter of a grand park, and then
entertain each other and their common interests on a common ground,
surrounded by magnificent mountain walls. In terms of scenery in the US,
I would describe the natural setting as Yosemitish. The next-rendez vous
was scheduled for next weekend. Until then I could have one of these
apartments for 30 Euros a night the owner told me. This gave me two day
trips in Bourg d'Oisans, really not enough, but it will have to do for
now. These two days caused me to think differently about my entire
cycling experience in the alps. Prior to those two days I thought, that
I had actually already seen quite a bit of the roads the alps have to
offer. Afterwards I realized that I had just barely caught the smallest
glimpse of all the cycling opportunities in this region of the world,
especially if you add the MTB or VTT dimension.
Leaving Bourg d'Oisans I had to work much harder for my scenic views the
next day. If I were at 1200m in the Bourg d'Oisans region, I would have
been on a high balcony overlooking the gigantic Gorche de la
Romanche> But today I was at 1200m and still on the valley bottom,
working my way up the Col de Glandon.
What can happen
when you think it's Saturday but it's really Sunday
Thinking that it's Saturday, when it's really Friday is not so bad, I
don't think. But thinking it's Saturday, when it's really Sunday can
have consequences. The story starts on what was really Friday.
By now I had learned that gites are generally located in out-of-the-way
places, and here that means in the mountains. Grocery shopping rides
became climbing workouts, categorized by vertical feet and quarts of
liquid, carried back to the gite. Even the woman in the tourism office
in the Vaillard valley said that the grocery shopping situation was bad
for this particular gite. But heck, it was still Friday, I had enough
time to ride into the valley and stock up for the weekend, and then
spend two nights in a beautiful location. The gite was located in the
building labeled "Mairie". It's the same building as all the
town offices - a great stately stone affair. One door lead into the town
offices, the adjacent door opened into the gite. On the street side it
had three levels. But looking out of the window on the other side,
facing the valley, it looked like you were in a regular high rise
apartment complex with grand view of the valley. The woman in the town
office had shown me how to use the kitchen in the bottom floor, and my
room in the third floor, and handed me the keys to everything.
was quite a shopping trip. It turned out to be a 2100ft / 5 quart climb
back. When I came back from my workout I was so exhausted I unlocked the
adjacent door to the town office instead of the gite. Surprisingly the
key was the same. The town official was still there. She came out
laughed and said something I couldn't understand. Whatever it was, I was
sure it was "pas de problem" I insured her. But that was the
wrong answer for this situation. - That might have been here answer, to
whatever I would have supposed to have said in this situation. When I
recognized this I substututed a hasty "je suis desole". Now
she said "pas de problem" and "C'est ne pas grave".
She laughed, I would have, had I not been too exhausted.
Walking to the 3rd floor to get the rest of my dinner supplies back to
the first floor felt like a real workout that evening. But next morning
all was well, and I did what I thought was my Sunday ride over Col
de la Croix de Fere and Col du Moillard.
By now I had come to accept that I would see more cyclists here in a day
than in the Denver area in 2 or 3 months. I thought they were all here
on cycling vacations, after all - what other kind is there ? This is the
center of the Tour de France action.
This is how I learned it was really Sunday - the next day. I was
wondering why the traffic was so heavy going up Col
de Madeleine. The restraurant on top of the pass was doing great
business. The huge parking lot on top was filled with motorcycles,
people milling about, and the magnificent view of Mont Blanc apparently
caused great outbursts of joy. Next a automobile rally of Honda Preludes
arrived. It was all a bit too busy for me, so I rolled a km down the
other side and found a quiet place in the tundra to have my lunch. I
just bought enough for one meal. A conversation about all this with a
passing cyclist informed me that tomorrow will be quiet again. But today
was "dimanche", that's why it's so busy. Since the stores were
closed on dimanche this meant grocery shopping in gas stations for me.
There were just slightly out of the way along my route in Moutiers. I
managed to find a carton of vegetable soup, 5 eggs, 2 quarts of milk, a
quart of orange juice and two croissants. Along the way I rolled over a
crushed glass bottle, but the tire seemed to be all right.
About 3km before my goal Aime I had my first flat of the tour. I was
thinking back of those images of Tour de France riders getting flats.
There is the support vehicle with half a dozen bikes on top and a full
dozen of wheels, and voila, a push from the back and he's on his way.
But thinking about that didn't help. It only made it worse. It made the
fact worse, that I had great difficulty getting the pump to work and
finding the cause of the flat. I just got enough air in it to get me to
the outskirts of Aime. An open fire department was kind enough to let me
use their air pump. By the time I was in Aime I had another flat, and
the gite I was trying to get to was still 10km up a hill. Feeling
dejected by my ability to fix tires, this would have to be the place
where I would stay. I walked to the three hotels that seemed to be in
walking distance, "ferme" - all three of them. The second
person I asked for further possibilites to get out of this situation
told me sit on a bench and wait. 15 minutes later I was in the basement
of the house behind the bench, while the woman put sheets on the bed.
Basically she acted as if it was a gite. The couple showed me how to
lock the door when I would leave, gave me towel, and asked me if I
needed anything else. I couldn't help but wonder if this readiness to
help was a result of the gite experience, which must be an integral part
of everybody who grows up here. The instructions were the same
"lock the door and drop the key in the mailbox"
After some vegetable soup with eggs and a few tomatoes I found in the
bottom of one saddle bags, I decided to examine the tire again and dug a
little piece of glass out of the mantle. "Tomorrow I'll have to
look for more tubes. Hopefully it won't be Sunday anymore and the stores
will be open" I thought. Again I left 25 Euros on the breakfast
table, and thanks again for everything.
Is it a boy or is it a
Actually anything to do with bicycles was closed on Monday too. I should
have known, this was to make up for being open on Saturday. But a gas
station was nice enough to patch my tubes, and so I had a functional
tire and a spare tube and continued over another popular, high climb the
Roselend to Beaufort. I thought that the picturesque town would make
a good base camp for several day rides. But there actually was a much
better place, I just didn't know about it yet. The search for a room
began as usual in the bureau de tourism, and it didn't look promising.
The experience also pointed out another characteristic of the
"bureau de tourism". They are often very knowledgable about
the entire area, but they work for the small district or town they are
in, and they are reluctant to let business go, and send you to the
adjacent town. Not until I had personally checked out and rejected the
two hotels in Beaufort, did she tell me the details about an auberge
that sounded much better. It was located 8km from here, down in Quaiche
- or was it up in Quaiche ? It wasn't easy to find, the best directions
were the "first house on the right". I should have suspected
that Quaiche had several parts, an upper, a lower, a middle. But at the
end of a long day of climbing directions starting with "the first
house" sounded pretty appealing. To make a long story short. It
took a long time to find and I stayed longer than I had anywhere else so
far - a week, and not just because I was afraid of how difficult it
would be to find another place to sleep again. - However I did schedule
the departure for a Monday, not a Sunday, and I made sure I got my days
right by asking the gite's proprietor. After a week of excellent sunny
weather, I could add these rides from Quaiche:
d'Areches - It's higher than the popular, adjacent Cormet de
Roselend, but it also contains an unpaved section over the top.
l'Arpettaz - this little road just seems to go in circles - or is it
switchbacks ? - forever and a day.
Col des Saises
- This is the highest summit on a loop of 4 or 5 recognized passes, that
can easily be abbreviated, or expanded for that matter.
Colle Tamie -
This ride is a lot shorter. The main purpose of the day was to get a new
tire in Albertville. The ride still contained enough scenic beauty for
I was trying to tell her, that I really didn't mind that she had looked
into my room. She was profusely apologizing. "You speak
English" she said suddenly and didn't seem to mind at all either.
Actually she seemed quite happy about it, even if I had an American
accent, and she spoke pure London English with a twist of East Ender
accent, but only if she wanted to. Elizabeth didn't get to speak that
much English any more, since she had followed Bernard to the outskirts
of Annency, where they had first lived in a gite for an entire year. She
was an original London East Ender, and she assured me "yes life
there is really like on the TV show with the same name". Elizabeth
and Bernard met in London, and now they were a binational lumber jack
couple. He cuts the trees and she measured them and did the bookwork. In
the evenings they looked up the sap content of the day's harvest and
calculated the corresponding monetary value of the day's work as
teamwork. Their current job was only a few kms from here. But one of
these kms was purely vertical. Their work place was at about 1800m.
Elizabeth was only happy to speak English for a change, even if it was
about French speaking habits. "Normalement" now there's a
puzzle. You know what it means when the answer to a question starts out
with "normalement". "Normally the weather is ...".
It means that the person really does not know the answer. It's different
than "I think the weather will be...". It's more like "I
don't know, but my guess is that "normally ... the sun
shines". While Elizabeth and me talked and compared languages,
Bernard cooked. "You do what you do best" he said to Elizabeth
The other thing Elizabeth found confusing about her boyfriend's language
was the gender issue. Take the "le pain", the bread - it's a
boy - but then la baquette - more bread but - it's a girl. "Don't
forget "la Briouche' - again more bread - this time a girl. It was
one of Elizabeth's favorite questions to Bernard, when speaking French:
is it a girl or is it a boy ? But don't feel bad about English being
such a simple language" she said. They may have all the genders,
conjugations and declensions, but WE HAVE MORE WORDS. The English
dictionary is much bigger than the French.
During the first three days at la Auberge des Roches I had two suppers.
One that I fixed myself fairly early as, I do out of habbit, and then
another, later supper, that Bernard and Elizabeth invited me to
downstairs in the kitchen. Using the remaining bread to wipe the last
drops of sauce off the plate signaled, that the dinner was slowly coming
to an end. After that was still a course of cheese, usually brie but
also some goat cheese. And finally the last final course, the chocolate.
Bernard preferred milk chocolate and had good things to say about the
happy cows that produce the best milk, and hence the best chocolate.
Elizabeth preferred dark chocolate with a high cocoa content - a boy and
a girl chocolate so to speak.
Every couple of days the proprietor, Missieur A., dropped by and worked
on the house. It was a large old house, maybe 4 rooms with 6 beds each,
and a large kitchen and common area downstairs. The house told its own
story. The rooms were decorated with vintage 60s photography.: lions on
a hunt, a smiling peruvian boy, happy children with lipstick. Mrs. A.
was much to young to have been there, when this auberge had its busiest
days. He had bought it from the woman next door, and was now in the
process of working on it, while still running another gite in upper
Quaiche as a family business. Elizabeth and Bernard had the apartment
under the roof. I had my pick of several large bedrooms on the second
floor. The house was ultimate peace to look forward to after a hard
ride. After Bernard and Elizabeth's work was done in this area, Mrs A.
gave me a key so I could lock up the house during the day. He was mostly
at the other gite, the one in upper Quaiche, the one that would have
taken another hour for me to climb to on my bicycle