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.
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).
When we arrived I quickly took some pictures from the ramparts in the day's dying light.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
With the holiday lights still up and the snowy mountain backdrop.
The next morning I was up early feeding the baby.
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.
I ducked out to get pastries and coffee from the boulangerie 10 steps away (another benefit of the heart of the city).
The city workers were already out and about, sanding and salting the roads and paths. The 2 yr old fancied himself an apprentice.
After our breakfast we took a quick walk through the city...
Down to the ramparts again.
The kids frolicking in the snow, Fort du Château in the background:
We followed the ramparts around to a lookout point southeast of the city, over the Pont d'Asfeld (Asfeld Bridge).
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.
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?
Taken in the Collégiale.