Day 14: Tourists Sightseeing by Car
Lots of dithering about and indecision because the weather forecast was not absolutely dire, but also not good and if not wet we would probably at least be in a damp cloud with no views.
So it was decision time. If we get up and go efficiently and early(ish) tomorrow we could still climb and return from the Col d’Izoard with time to pack and make a car transfer to our booked accommodation for the night in Barcelonnette.
OK - We decided to be car based tourists in the hope of better weather the next day
Sheila proposed an itinerary driving along the valley of the river Durance, enjoying the scenery and with the Serre-Ponçon dam as a destination. The dam was conceived in the early part of the 20th century, to control seasonal flooding by the River Durance, but work only commenced in 1955, with completion in 1961. It is the largest earth dam in Europe and currently the lake formed is the second largest in Europe. The ability (design and construction) to build the dam came following various large earth dams being built in the 1950s in America (including some failures) from which much was learnt. All the earth moving plant was imported from the USA via Marseille and driven (slowly) to the site.
At the dam there is an excellent visitor centre – Museoscope – with an hour long programme including models of the valleys flooded with their villages, films about the valley and the villages, moving villagers and building a replacement for one of the villages, contemporary and later film of reminiscence, and an explanation of the design and construction. A very worthwhile visit.
We had lunch at a café above the centre, then drove around one of the flooded valleys with view point stops en route. We also stopped to go and see the Demoiselles Coiffées: a series of quite dramatic perched rocks formed by erosion of glacial moraine below large erratic deposited rocks.
Afternoon tea stop was in Guillestre. We sat in the square and drank thé Anglais (yes in a pot and with cold milk) – how very British on holiday in foreign parts.
The decision on weather was probably a good one, because there was lots of low cloud around and scattered rain including some heavy ‘orage’ sweeping across while we were in the car. But we managed to stay dry while outside and returned to evening sunshine breaking through in Briançon.
We used all the gears on the car, with some significant ups and downs, but we were never out of breath once. Would we be able to summon the legs and inclination to return to the Trike the next day after two days off?
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