Words: The Limping Cyclist
Photography: Mr L.C. and the Limping Cyclist
This morning we woke up to the sun climbing up behind Mont Blanc. A gorgeous day that started gently, as we consumed breakfast while watching Le Matin (French morning TV) discussing bad taste adverts. For example, a wife is shown accidentally knocking over the urn containing her husband’s ashes. It falls on the floor and smashes. You would expect her to be distraught, but instead she reaches down, picks something up from amongst the ashes and puts it in her mouth then starts chewing. Yes, that’s right, it’s an advert for Stride, the ridiculously long lasting chewing gum. Bizarre advert number two. The Dirt Devil Exorcistrip off that had me laughing out loud.
We headed out on the Megève road from St Gervais, a gentle warm up climb before dropping down into Megève itself, an Alpine town which is best characterized by mentioning the Lotus Exige, Range Rover Vogue, two Ferraris and the black Lamborghini that slipped past me like an assassin in the night as we negotiated the busy main street. An equally busy main road to Flumet reminded me that white van man is in fact international, and not an exclusively British species. Even more perturbing was the realization that all French cars over twelve months old are covered in substantial dents and scrapes that no one ever seems to bother to repair. Presumably the car’s owners take the pragmatic view that their car is only going to get damaged again, so what’s the point?
We followed the road into Flumet then took the left turn over the stone bridge that spans the deep river gorge overshadowed by multi storey buildings clinging to the edge of the cliff for no particular reason except perhaps to be picturesque.
After a few hairpins and an “allez, allez, allez” from a road side picnicer, we deviated from the standard ascent of the Col des Saisies in a hamlet that I think was called Notre Dame de Bellecombe and took the road to Crest Voland. This quiet back road has a couple of double chevron sections on the Michelin map compared to the two single chevron sections on the D218 main route. In the village of Crest Voland, we took the left turn up the hill (naturally) past the local Tourist Information office then slogged away past the new wooden chalet holiday homes, then past the permanently occupied old wooden chalets into the pine forest of Lachat before rejoining the D218 to the summit.
My excitement at reaching the summit was somewhat tempered by the surprising existence of a roundabout on top of the mountain, which I did a lap of before realising there was definitely no summit sign on it. We eventually left the roundabout for the enormous adjacent car park provided for those visitors wishing to use the large horse ranch themed restaurant or have a go on the quad bike track (when it was open).
The “Col des Saisies” sign, when we found it, was conveniently close to a block of terrifyingly high tech self cleaning toilets which I suddenly felt the need to use. Inside the metal box, the completely detergent soaked walls and floor made me aware of the full potential horror of an automatic self clean system every 15 minutes. I hadn’t locked the door behind me, preferring to rely upon the husband security system, so imagine my alarm when I pushed the door from the inside and discovered it had automatically locked me in. My mind awash with the imminent prospect of a disinfectant shower, I started to panic and inadvertently hit the door release button sending me stumbling back into bright sunlight and vowing to stick to more natural tree shielded ways of taking a natural break.
We descended to Flumet by means of the direct D218 route then returned to St Gervais with a quick stop at the local boulangerie where we discovered another great use for arm warmers and handlebars.