We are in the old touristy town of Briançon today taking a full day off.
After the long, hard, sunny descent into Modane last Sunday, we set out on a (surprise!) long hard ascent on Monday morning in rain and fog. The fog and showers stayed with us until early afternoon but the weather cleared as we reached Col de la Vallée Étroite and we had a beautiful walk down the valley to the Refugio I Re Magi. What’s with refugio, the Italian spelling? Until the end of WW2, it was in Italy, but then the boundary between France in Italy moved and it found itself in France. The only road to the refuge is from Italy, it has an Italian phone number, the working language is Italian, most of the hikers are Italian, and staying the night is fun.
Tuesday was sunny and took us to the tiny town of Plampinet after the usual morning climb and then a lovely walk through a high rocky valley.
Yesterday was a lengthy two-col day to Briançon in good weather. We made it a bit shorter by taking a 20 minute bus ride to cut out the last 2 ½ hour descent. (We did that descent in 2011; once was enough.) The bus ride was odd. The bus showed up late and had a different bus line name than the one we expected. The driver told the man in front of us and his dog to get on (he was a local) and told us not to get on. We asked if the bus went to Briançon. Yes. Do you have tickets? Yes. We produced the tickets. An unhappy look. She let us on. Do you want to go to the bus terminal? No, we we’d like to get off at the stop before, please. Another unhappy look. It turned out that there was lots of room on the bus and another passenger had already requested the stop we wanted. Sometimes France can be a strange place, but it always works out.
Briançon is a perfect place for a day off—many restaurants, scenic, and most important, a good laundromat. Here are a few photos from the last few days.