A link to some photos of our day in Arles, France.
It was fortunate that we had a free day in Arles as today all attractions in France are free entry and Arles has plenty. We visited the Roman arena which was a huge structure that was rescued from urbanisation and is once again used for events such as bull fighting. It was a magnificent building with a great view over the nearby Rhone river.
We also visited the Reattau Museum which had a great collection including drawing and paintings by Picasso, lots of great photographs and heaps more. It was all housed in a very atmospheric building that was once the main Priory for the Knights of Malta.
Sunday, 20 September 2015 at 19:15
We also visited the Roman baths and theatre as well as the Cloisters all of which were elegantly restored. After lunch we visited the Museum of Antiquities which has a great display including a 2000 year old boat they had recovered from the Rhone river.
We left the comfort of our Warmshowers host Claude and Claire for what we thought would be an easier day, after 3 days of big climbs. It started with a long downhill run from Allemont between towering dramatic mountain sides. We then started to climb over the Col de Ornon but it was only 1450mts. The country changed once through the imposing narrow gorge the other side of Ornon. The mountain-sides were barer, without the cover of fir trees.
Just before La Mure we turned left and climbed another big hill before decending to join the main road which took us on another hilly route to Corps. Corps was surrounded by very high impressive bastions of white shaly peaks that looked very mystical with dark clouds swirling about them.
Corps itself was an interesting medieval town famous as a place in which Napoleon stayed when returning from exile. It was a collection of old multi-storey stone render houses separated by narrow laneways.
We camped in the cute little municipal camp ground and took ourselves out for a very nice dinner at the Poste Hotel. We opted for the full menu, which in the end included 7 courses. It was a classic old French style restaurant with a very old flat card music machine that they started now and again. At times there was also a chorus of dogs that were kept at the diners’ feet under their table.
Link to photos of ride from Allemond to Alp D’Huez.
Today our plan was to ride from La Chambre to Allemont, via Col du Glandon (1924m) 50km
It was a crisp clear cold morning and the sun did not shine in to our side of the valley until 9am so we were slow getting underway. The climbing started 2 km from the village and continued to get steeper for the entire 20km. Nearing the top we got a great view of Mont Blanc to the north as the clouds opened.
The view south once over the top revealed more wild looking mountains and a large reservoir. We chatted to some of the friendly English speaking cyclists at the top, they were all riding nice road bikes and thought we were crazy with our luggage.
The last few km averaging over 10% really made it tough with all our gear.
Continuing on we cruised down past the reservoir stopping to watch two large Rams repeatedly backing and charging each other, not stopping until they both had bloodied heads. There were several more climbs, one quite steep and then it was a glorious run down to the home of another Warmshowers host we had arranged to stay with. We met Claude on the road below his village house as he was riding his bike down to his veggie garden to collect vegetables for our dinner. Claude and Claire are both lovely warm people with 4 children. The two young boys were very cute and we briefly met the delightful 16 year old Julia on her way to school in Grenoble. Both Claude and Claire work as teachers and love the mountains, getting into lots of climbing and cross country skiing. They gave us a cycling route for the following day that involved climbing up to Alpe d’Heuz on a back road from their village, joining the traditional route part way up and continuing on to the Col de la Sarenne and down around to Le Bourg – d ‘Oisans and home. They suggested that if we did this we stay another night which we readily agreed to. More on this tomorrow!
In the meantime Claude and Claire have cooked us a fabulous meal and our comfortable loft room has amazing mountain views (and a sociable cat to share the bed with).
Saturday, 5 September 2015. Albertville to La Chambre, via the Col de la Madeleine (2000m) 66km
Today we would do one of the famous climbs from the Tour De France, the acol De Madeleine. We followed a minor road from Albertville that took us beside a highway for 20km up a flat river valley. We then turned on to the route up the Col de la Madeleine which immediately started to climb a series of switchbacks up a near vertical cliff face.
There were km markers that also gave the next kms gradient, it varied from 10% to 4%, with a couple of flat sections in the middle over 24km. We had lunch and dinner on board as well as a heavier tent which added to the work. Andy is getting very fit, so led the way most of the day. Halfway up we started to feel the cold, the wind was very chilly, nearer the top it was freezing. It took us about 4 hours to climb the 24km, including lunch and morning tea, plus numerous rest stops. The view back towards Mont Blanc was very dramatic, but due to cloud we could not see Mont Blanc itself. There were plenty of cyclists and motorcycles going in the opposite direction and a few the same direction, many cyclist seem to start from the top! About 2/3 of the way up we came across a huge Cadel painted across the road.
It was a cool and winding decent to La Chambre, which was broken when we stopped to assist a guy who appeared to have done his collarbone falling off his MTB. He was a local, so we waited with him until his father came with a car to rescue him. We ended up camping in a nice campground overlooking the mountains. It was full of road cyclists all doing the various climbs including the Col de la Madeleine.