Highway travel can be quick but it is insulated from the real countryside. Our journey today came up at a bit more than 300 km and we had no need to arrive until mid to late afternoon. For the sake of more interesting travel we set the GPS to avoid tolls and take the shortest route hoping the trip would be more interesting than the highways. It was that and more.
We had gone to bed early last night and were awake around 6:30 am. Breakfast in the hotel was from 7:00 am. We were down not too much after that and on the road out of Dijon before 8:15 am.
It had rained overnight but was clearing in the west as we set off. Traffic was light but the combination of poor timing of instructions from the GPS and my driving had us making a few wrong turns on the way out of town. Once we hit the country roads the driving was mostly easier because traffic was light.
I had set the GPS to the shortest route which showed an estimated time not much different from the fastest route but we expected it might be off the highway and more interesting. That track took us through a succession of small villages so that our progress was not quite stop-start but definitely slow-fast. I could pick up speed between villages but then we were back to crawling through them. We did not mind that because they mostly had an array of interesting buildings.
Occasionally the GPS directed us onto roads that would probably have been better avoided. They were shorter than more major routes but narrow and winding. Once or twice in the first couple of hours we were directed down roads that seemed seldom used and, as we approached Salins-les-Bains we were sent down one that diminished to a track that seemed more suited to the donkey we passed than to cars. I backed out of that and we found another way.
At Salin-les-Bains we stopped for coffee. That was harder to find than we expected but we eventually found an open cafe. We recalled being there in 1998 when we drove up from Geneva to Freiburg and then back to Switzerland but did not recognise much that we recalled. The town is in a tight valley with forts on high hills on either side. Its name comes from the salty waters (saline) that was used for bathing and drinking.
By that time I had been driving for about 2 hours for a mere 80 km or so of progress toward our destination. We had decided to share the driving today. A little way on we came to Syam where there was a sign indicating that the road was closed 800 m ahead. There was a deviation sign and we attempted to follow that and GPS directions to bypass the obstruction. A little way beyond town we stopped to change drivers by the side of the road with a wonderful view of sunlight through the clouds on the mountains.
Majella then followed the GPS directions down a narrow forestry track until we came to a sign that declared the track had been closed in 1994 for public safety. She managed to turn us around without getting bogged in the ditch and we headed back into Syam and along the original road. Sure enough it was closed further on. She turned around again, headed back, and asked someone we met along the way how to get to Switzerland. The best he could suggest was to go back to Champagnole and take another road.
She did that and we followed a road over the Jura mountains toward Geneva and Lausanne. It rained much of the way and we had thick cloud and mist for the entire trip so we saw very little of what would have been wonderful views until we got some glimpses at the end of the trek over the mountains. We eventually came down from the mountains, still in France, at Gex where we stopped to look for lunch. That was just after 1:00 pm and in the siesta period so most places where we would want to eat were closed. We bought some chips at a kebab place and ate those in the car park before setting off again.
Driving from there was straightforward. We did not need to go as far as Geneva but crossed into Switzerland just out of Gex and drove around the top of Lac Leman, past Lausanne and up the Rhone Valley, arriving at Veyras above Sierre just after 3:30 pm. By that time the rain had cleared and we had blue skies with scattered clouds.
Marie-Françoise and Roland greeted us warmly as we arrived and Michel was not far behind. We spent some time chatting over coffee or cold drinks before bringing in our luggage and taking a tour of the house. Roland has been busy with renovations since either of us was here last, me in 2009 and Majella in 2011. It is all very well set up and, as might be expected given Roland’s skills, tricked out with features such as lights that come on automatically when we walk into a space. What has not changed is the magnificent view across the valley to the mountains of Val d’Anniviers.
Michel treated us to apperitifs in his cellar before dinner which was prepared by Marie-Françoise. That was enjoyed with wide ranging conversation, much of which passed by me because it was in French.