Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Briançon, France

We chose to break up our recent trip to the Italian Alps by staying overnight in the French town of Briançon, 20km from the Italian border.

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At an altitude of 1326m, Briançon is a ski town in winter and sees a lot of hikers and bike riders (sometimes the Tour de France) in the finer weather.

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Briançon is a fortressed town, being so close to the border (fortifications designed in the 17th century by Vauban, a very clever fellow who helped King Louis XIV consolidate/defend France's borders).

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When we arrived I quickly took some pictures from the ramparts in the day's dying light.

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We stayed almost smack-bang in the centre of the Vielle Ville (old town). I took this photo from the kitchen window of our apartment:

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See, really central. That's the Collégiale Notre Dame et St Nicholas.

Just around the corner was the town's main street, La Grande Rue. Also known as La Grande Gargouille because of the stone drain down its centre.

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This is the second time we've found an apartment online in the old part of a city (first time was Antibes). It's been fantastic on both occasions: we've scored a nice, fairly roomy apartment with kitchen, right amongst all the restaurants and museums/attractions of the city. And they were both reasonably priced - but I can probably tell you why.

The downsides:

1. No parking. These old cobblestoned areas are either 'no car' or 'resident cars only' zones. That's what makes them so nice to walk around. So you have to park outside the walled area and carry your luggage in.

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The lovely gate we carried our bags through.

2. Late night noise. I know I said one of the benefits was being close to all the restaurants and attractions, but it's also one of the negatives. The bars all turn up their doof-doof music at around 10pm and this will continue until midnight in the off season (apparently 2am in the high season!). If you are a hip couple this won't bother you as you'll be down at the bar anyway. We also found it wasn't too bad for families with young children - our kids are fast asleep by 8pm so they didn't stir when the music started. It just meant the grown ups slept a little later than usual.

Some disadvantages to be sure, but it is just amazing to stay right in the heart of these ancient cities. And with young kids, being able to nip out and see things without packing the car, planning for a whole day away from your apartment, makes for a relaxing holiday. Just thought I'd let you know something that's worked well for us.

Anyway, back to Briançon. We stepped out for a meal that night and found the city is even more beautiful in the evening.

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With the holiday lights still up and the snowy mountain backdrop.

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The next morning I was up early feeding the baby.

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Street lamp on the cobblestones.

Then it started snowing! I like snow, but I love the act of snowing the most - it just seems magical and everything gets kinda hushed...no doubt my snowless, Australian upbringing contributes greatly to the allure.

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I ducked out to get pastries and coffee from the boulangerie 10 steps away (another benefit of the heart of the city).

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The city workers were already out and about, sanding and salting the roads and paths. The 2 yr old fancied himself an apprentice.

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After our breakfast we took a quick walk through the city...

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Down to the ramparts again.

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The kids frolicking in the snow, Fort du Château in the background:

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We followed the ramparts around to a lookout point southeast of the city, over the Pont d'Asfeld (Asfeld Bridge).

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Then we realised we had only 15 minutes 'til checkout so we freaked out and raced back to the apartment. Well, I freaked out. The mister's pretty unflappable.

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Looking back on the city as we left.

We drove out of Briançon and had to stop about 10 minutes later to put on the snow chains.

Make sure you practice putting those puppies on in the comfort of your garage before you get out in the field, with snow in your eyes and ski gloves on. With two engineering degrees between us its embarrassing how long we took to figure our chains out the first time we fitted them.

The snow delayed our trip over to Italy but made it oh-so pretty. But that's a story for another day.

Have a great week everyone!

P.S You didn't think you were going to get away without chandelier photos did you?

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Taken in the Collégiale

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Bwahaha!

26 comments:

  1. aaaamazing Kirsty!! I haven't travelled to
    Europe so it is wonderfully eye opening to see your amazing adventures!!!

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  2. Lovely photos, I really enjoyed your post.

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  3. Ah..beautiful! Thank you for making my day! (And it's only 8am!!)

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  4. Stunning!!! More fodder for the You Had me at Bonjour coffee table book for sure. The last photo is the killerest chandelier pic ever!!! What a beautiful city and your son trying to catch snowflakes is priceless. Thanks for another inspiring photo tour. Glad you had a nice trip. I can second the recommendations to wrangle chains in summer first. My husband, I'm sure, has almost lost fingers to frostbite trying to attach chains while the car is buried under snow.

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  5. You did not disappoint. Love seeing your photos of your tour, and it's great to see your tips of when visiting Europe.

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  6. You did not disappoint. Love seeing your photos of your tour, and it's great to see your tips of when visiting Europe.

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  7. just gorgeous as always! The next time I'm heading to Europe I will be re-visiting all your posts and picking places to go! :)

    p.s. I half expected you to say "Bazinga!" at the end of your post.... but then perhaps I've been watching too much Big Bang theory!

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  8. Snow and chandeliers - we are living parallel lives! Trying on snow chains is next on our to do list :)

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  9. It just look sooo beautiful, and yes, I agree the aussie upbringing does add to the alure of snow, I drool over blogs with snow pictures, ha! xxBrenda

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  10. Beautiful photos! Lovely to discover new places via beautiful blog photos! x

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  11. Breathtaking collection. Brings back a precious memory from my college years when father drove us through Switzerland and the Italian Alps on one of our journeys with my cousin. So vivid and inspiring your photos! Thank you.

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  12. Our trick here in Canberra (going to the Snowy Mountains) are whopping huge 4WD tyres, no chains required so all the degrees under the sun wouldn't help us in a small car in a foreign land, applying chains in the snow. My husband is great at 'bashing track' handy if we were in say, a tank!!
    Every photo is a postcard, what incredible memories you are making for your beautiful children. Last time we were in France (um, our honeymoon 15 years ago) they had the Air Force planes bump the cable cars off onto the mountains in the Dolomites. Tragedy. I love love love Italy, went there 18 months ago on my husband's war leave (sans 4 children) to relive our Italian part of our honeymoon, GLORIOUS. Enjoy enjoy enjoy, love Posie

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  13. Oh & special mention to Vauban for saving King Louis & his amazing furniture caper!!
    I would put up with doof doof music to be that close to a bakery, ANY day. My children sleep through anything too, yay, love Posie

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  14. Hahaha! Aussies and snow. What am I talking about...I LOVE the snow and miss it terribly. I love the way you yalk about the 'act of snowing'. I know exactly what you mean. This is such a delightful town and even with the downsides you mention, it would still be amazing to stay there. I am thinking of a winter trip either possibly to Europe next Feb...I need ideas and your pics are helping Kirsty. I love the cobblestone pic with that bronzed light, but of course, they are all fantastic.

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  15. Beautiful!!! :-) Such great pics again, it's really a bit like being able to re-live a slice of your holiday with you! I love when it's snowing, too and snow just makes everything look prettier. (As I'm typing there are men on the roof of our apartment building, cleaning it from snow so it won't collapse ... I'm not sure they'd agree ...) I'm looking forward to the rest of the holiday pics and more chandeliers! :-) ;-) That one is a stunner!!

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  16. Kirsty,
    I've been waiting for this! What beautiful photos as usual and I love the snowy ones too. the thing that most impressed (and horrified) me was you two putting snow chains on en route. In the snow. That sounds like my idea of hell. But you engineer folks are always so calm and thorough. That's why I love you so.
    Already waiting for Italy.
    a xo

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  17. Gorgeous. I don't envy you putting 4 little ones in snow suits though. Or driving through the Alps in winter. That's maybe a bit crazy. ;)

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  18. I prefer the act of snowing to actual snow too. It's prettier and hasn't become a pain in the petunia yet.
    Your photos are gorgeous as always! Since you got me to become a 'reply comment blogger' maybe you can get me to finally read a camera manual too... x

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  19. Everything is beautiful in this post: the pictures, the city, the snow...and the apprentice!
    Not forgetting the chandelier, of course.

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  20. truly beautiful photos , wow. i feel your snow chain pain. we have only ever had to do it once and that was once too often one of the plusses of skiing in our snow impoverished country

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  21. Even though I am French, I have never visited that part of France. Thank you for the beautiful pictures. I sure have seen marvellous parts of my country through your camera lens. What a treat! And thank you also for always presenting France in a very positive way.
    Annick

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  22. Breath taking photos as always Kirsty! What an amazing adventure you are having.

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  23. Kirsty, your photographs are stunning. To be in this magical place with snow.... I think the photography gods were smiling on you my dear.
    Bises,
    V

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  25. We are spending the new year skiing in nearby Montgenevre. Looking forward to seeing Briancon now I have seen this (we are travelling from Cambridgeshire to briancon by train for the first time, we flew to Turin last time) Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. My pleasure! Hope you have a great trip.

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Hi there, I love getting comments, so let her rip! I do my very best to reply (by email) so please make sure your account is set up to show email, so that I can get back to you. Cheers, Kirsty

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