Sunday, 16 December 2012


We are being met by Magali and Jean-Baptiste back at the train station. We go in mufti.  Anyone who has been faithfully following our blog will remember that Magali and Jean-Baptiste are the 2 French cyclists we met in Lithuania. We spent a great week together cycling in Poland and now we are meeting again. Magali is off to Paris to see family and collect her van so it's a quick hello, goodbye.  Jean-Baptiste loads our bikes onto the car and we head off into the hills.  Did I say hills?  We drive past the turn-off for Alpe d'Huez, famed for being a stage finish in the Tour de France.  Magali and Jean Baptiste live on the other side of the mountain in a village called Clavans En Haut Oisans.  There is snow on all the mountains around us.  As the car winds up the valley I am wondering how cold it can get - it was already pretty chilly in Grenoble.  The scenery is stunning - steep-sided valleys and immense peaks crowned in snow on all sides.  The valleys are covered in trees and small villages are dotted around, perched on ledges and small ridges jutting outwards.  

It begins to snow soon after we arrive and doesn't look like stopping.  A plush carpet of white lies everywhere. We can measure the snowfall by the depth of the snow on the roofs and in the garden.  The fresh snow brings a hush all around, but the village is hardly awash with noise.  There are about 40 inhabitants in Clavans Le Bas.  We take a walk with Jean-Baptiste up to Clavans Le Haut just further up the valley where perhaps another 60 live.  Some of the houses are closed up - family houses only visited in the summer, or rented accomodation.  The valley used to have terraced fields but these have been given up to the trees.  Now the only farming is during the summer when sheep from below are brought up to the grassy plateaux and slopes above.  In fact the word 'alpe' originally referred to high pasture, but as the word has become synonymous with the mountains, alpage now refers to these grazing areas.

We are very happy to be staying here in this remote village.  Suddenly we are no longer in motion.  We have the chance to sleep, eat, rest, consider our further travels and reflect on our journey to this point.  We both need this and we're grateful for Magali and Jean-Baptiste's hospitality.  But we ain't half glad of them tights we bought in Decathlon - it's absolutely freezing when the sky is clear. 

No comments:

Post a Comment