Rural Roads in Europe
Rural Roads has gone international in 2006 with the launch of the European section. To be quite honest, this is mainly based around a holiday in the French Alps, but I did manage to cross the border into Italy and then Switzerland, so there will eventually be some pictures of these countries as well.
20th September, 2006
The first stage of the epic trip through France, Italy and Switzerland is now available, centred around the Petite St Bernard Pass on the Italian / French border.
15th September, 2006
My European excursion begins with a tour of the road between Albertville and Annecy in the French Alps. This road is very different from many of the others that will grace this site in due course as it is largely flat, straight and situated in a broad valley. The mountains on either side are of modest height, compared with others near here, though they are bigger than anything you'll find in Britain.
Much of the rest of the driving I did in France was on very windy and steep mountain roads. Perhaps the longest of these was the run from Bourg St Maurice up the Petit St Bernard pass to the Italian border. There'll be a big feature on this trip when I've sorted the pictures out.
On the same trip, we made our way through the north-western corner of Italy, via the small town of La Thuile and on to Aosta, where we headed north via the Grand St Bernard Tunnel to Switzerland.
We enjoyed a stunning drive north through Switzerland to Martigny, where we took another left to head back to France, crossing the border close to Chamonix.
The trip was, in effect, a very long drive around Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe. There were tantalising glimpses of the mountain at various stages throughout the day, but some of the best views came from near Chamonix. The top of the mountain is covered in snow throughout the year, and as such, the mountain deserves its name. We got saome good views of the glaciers high up the mountain, and these pictures will appear on this site eventually.
We stayed in the ski resort of Courchevel. although the resort is much quieter than during the ski season, we were there during their main summer season, and a lot of events had been organised, for example summer ski-jumping at the Courchevel ski-jump centre which had hosted the 1992 Albertville Olympic ski jumping competitions.
Courchevel is situated high up above the valley floor. The road in climbs from Albertville at 450m via Moutiers and the main valley floor, at around 900m altitude. A right turn at a roundabout takes you onto the road up to Courchevel, calling at St Bon (1100m), Le Praz (1300m) and up to Courchevel 1550 (1500m) where we stayed. At each village you get a strong impression of altitude, but it is only as you negotiate the next series of hairpins that you realise how much higher it is possible to go.
From Courchevel 1550, you can climb via Courchevel 1600 to the main resort centre at 1850. It is another 150m climb to the most bizzare airport I've ever seen, which is as high as we went in the car. You'll have to wait for pictures of that. If you want to go higher again, then it is either on foot or in one of the cable cars that plies its trade around here.
I hope you enjoy the European section of the site. As ever, feedback is always welcome - follow the links in the menu on the left.