Day 1: Saint-André-les-Alpes to Barrême

Thursday, 12 June 2008
Distance 15 km
Duration 3 hours 20 minutes
Ascent 112 m, descent 252 m
Map 61 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)

Walking in France: An ominous sign at the camping ground

An ominous sign at the camping ground

In the morning the flooding had receded somewhat, leaving the ground sodden but not inundated.

Walking in France: The water-logged camping ground at St-André-les-Alpes

The water-logged camping ground at St-André-les-Alpes


On the door of the shower block was a notice warning of possible evacuations, but the danger had passed and we had breakfast with no trouble at a table, then managed to pay at the office (€10) on our way out.

Walking in France: The boulangerie in Saint-André-les-Alpes

The boulangerie in Saint-André-les-Alpes

Up in the village we got bread and croissants at the boulangerie and took them across the road to the bar. It was too cold to be outside, but we admired the little square through the window.

It was more appealing than we remembered, and the sight of it made us happy to be back in la France Profonde.

Walking in France: The water-logged camping ground at St-André-les-Alpes

The water-logged camping ground at St-André-les-Alpes


There was no GR, PR, GRP or even a farm road to make use of, so we had to go along the highway, although there was very little traffic and parts of it had an old road to walk on beside the new. The railway line was always close by.

Walking in France: Passing through Moriez

Passing through Moriez

We climbed to the sturdy hamlet of Moriez, then descended gradually beside a rushing stream. The sun was strong but the air was cold and we made short work of the 13 kilometres to Barrême, arriving at noon.

Walking in France: The main square of Barrême, with a tree pruned in the severe French manner

The main square of Barrême, with a tree pruned in the severe French manner


Luckily the little shop in the church square stayed open until 12:15, so we just had time to lay in some lunch supplies before retiring to the bar opposite for a welcome coffee. The trees in the square were a demonstration of the savagery latent in the French psyche, which only comes out when they lop a tree.

Walking in France: The great man slept here

The great man slept here


On a wall near the square was a plaque commemorating Napoléon’s overnight stay there in 1815.

The camping ground was quite a distance away by road, but we discovered that there was a footbridge over the river that reduced the distance to a couple of hundred metres.

Like the one in Saint-André, this place was mostly flooded, but our corpulent host suggested a plot at the base of a huge willow tree, slightly higher than its waterlogged surroundings.

Walking in France: Slightly above the surrounding water level

Slightly above the surrounding water level


During the afternoon we slept a lot, recovering from the fatigue and disorientation of our trip from China.

Just before 8 o’clock we went back to the village and asked at the bar about where we could eat, getting the information that there was a restaurant a little way back along the highway. We did not remember seeing one, but we walked a couple of kilometres before giving up.

Walking in France: Pork chops, frittata and ratatouille for dinner

Pork chops, frittata and ratatouille for dinner


Back in Barrême, we remembered a sign for a pizzeria that we had noticed when we first arrived. It was just around the corner from the bar and was packed with happy diners. We deduced that some internal village hatred had prevented the bar people from recommending it in the first place.

There was no room inside so we had to sit outside, which was coolish, but we were so pleased to have found somewhere to eat that we did not mind. Despite the sign, it was more than a pizzeria.

We had a lovely nourishing meal of salad, pork chops, frittata and ratatouille, helped down with two baskets of bread and a bottle of wine, for a total of €26.