Friday, 20 June 2008
Distance 20 km
Duration 4 hours 10 minutes
Ascent 167 m, descent 52 m
Map 60 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
In the morning I pronounced myself completely cured and we set off very early (at 6:40 am), after raiding a cherry tree nearby to improve our muesli. The bars on the main road were already in full swing as we strode past.
For lack of an alternative we stuck to the highway as far as Eyguians, which we reached about 8 am. As we had hoped, there was a bar there and we lingered over our morning coffee.
From there we took a local road over the river and up to the scattered houses of Lagrand, then northwards beside the stream. It was a delightful little road, or would have been, had it not been for the fact that Keith began to get his ominous kidney pain again.
By the time we passed Méreuil he was in agony, but he had to keep going another hour before we came to our destination of Serres. We sank gratefully into a bar facing the Place de la Fontaine, near the bridge.
At Serres, the main road from Sisteron meets the highway coming from the Rhône valley towards Gap, and there was a jam of cars and trucks trying to negotiate the roundabout.
In the time of the Avignon popes (fourteenth century), Serres was much more important than it is now, as it was on the only land route from Avignon to Rome, which crossed the Alps at the Col de Larche. Even before the two popes, Serres was a centre of the salt trade that passed along this route.
There were many Jewish bankers in Serres and it became very rich, too rich for the liking of Richelieu. Ever vigilant against threats to the supremacy of the king, he ordered the destruction of the citadel above the town in 1633.
Across the square was the grand new Office of Tourism, where we discovered that the camping ground was about a kilometre back down the highway towards Laragne-Montéglin. We found it easily and soon had our tent set up in a shady grove.
Tents and caravans were disposed at random in a sort of park dotted with trees. Our nearest neighbours were a couple with a shiny yellow and black Citroën, twenty years in the remaking, said the beaming owners, and out on its maiden expedition.
After a picnic lunch we had soothing showers and Keith began to feel better, but he did not dare to venture back to the village in the afternoon.
I went by myself and found a much better way, a pathway through the forest on the edge of the river. I sent an email or two from the Office of Tourism and on the way back I helped a woman who was trying to connect a hose to her tap. Between us we forced it on.
At 7:30 Keith and I walked back together to the village, looked at the menus at the hotel and the two brasseries, and chose the Brasserie du Commerce, which had a big fenced terrace full of pot plants and people, looking out directly onto the roundabout.
In our experience, places with the name “du Commerce” have invariably been pleasant and good value.
The meal was simple but delightful – a salad of tomatoes, lettuce, mozzarella and pistou, followed by generous bowls of pasta.
I could not finish mine and during the night I had a slight relapse of my gastric complaint, but I no longer felt sick.