Route des Grandes Alpes: A Butterfly Garden 12 Comments

Grand Alps Route

A Hornby Train Setting

We wake and Craig is feeling the effects of yesterdays chill out celebrations. A wee too many beers, maybe? But, as we peer through the window, we glimpse the beautiful, narrow twisting maurienne valley and the hangover subdues.

Grand Alps Route

Crossing the bridge

In shorts and t-shirt we set off along one of the GR walkings paths for a few hours hiking. Right now the weather station shows temperature of 32 Fahrenheit and zero wind. Our jaunt it hot, sticky and rather dusty.

Across the Arc river, a small hamlet of stone walled houses nestled on the mountain slope. The river Arc that runs through the valley has vigorous torrents cutting down through the mountains that separate the valley in two. We are about 5700 feet, so the winters are harsh and the summers hot and arid. Its a humble sort of hamlet of rough stone with tiny windows and roofed with heavy slabs to withstand the long hard winters. Half the house are inhabited and half in disrepair. Unlike the ski resorts, it has character.

Life seems utterly restful here. An old lady cradles a cat, two ladies sit on the massive stone steps to their house and young boy kicks a stone up the dirt path. Beyond the hamlet a sheer rock face rises to one side, steep, jagged and sheer. A thin, white plume of a waterfall drops from way above, glancing off the rock and ricocheting down towards the ground in slow motion. To use Craig’s words “It feels unreal, its like we are looking at a Hornby train setting”.

Grand Alps Route

Great Views

We climb a hill above the village through glades of hays and the odd clump of juniper. Beyond the meadows a stone wall with a flock of recently sheered sheep. They continue to munch as they watch us from a far. Halfway up, we catch the aromatic, sweet smell of young lavender. The sun is blasting down, so we turn to the trees for shade. Lavender fades and the smell baked pine takes over.

Grand Alps Route

Can we go swimming?

The path running alongside the river took us up and beyond Besson. Wooded slopes and plenty clean, fast-rushing streams. The warm sunshine surrounded by all the trappings of an French country meadow: thickets of wild sage, marguerites and narcissi. A haven for butterflies of every shape and colour fluttering from one nectar pod to the next. Mac n Tosh had fun chasing the butterflies until they run out of steam, which wasn’t long in this heat.

Grand Alps Route

Chasing butterflies

Across the whole of the Alps, the volume and scent of the wild flowers is amazing. The meadows and pasture land in these areas has suffered relatively little from agrochemical change, so natural meadows are abundant with wild flowers. If you love flowers then June in the Alps is a must.

Grand Alps Route

Villaron River

Our walk creates a healthy appetite for all, so we opt for our favourite treat, a barbecue. Between us we prepare the feast whilst Mac n Tosh sit and slaver. But we aren’t cruel, we do share a nibble or two! The food, especially Craig’s speciality of king prawns, marinated in garlic, cracked black pepper and olive oil, is so good. But we start with our tradition of English sausages, savoured on a stick. As we munch, we long for a beer. Thankfully I remember we have a small stash and the beer is cracked open and enjoyed.

Three days of rinse and repeat..we really quite like this alpine gem.

Our Bumble wild camping at Villaron GPS position: N045.331548, E007.015612

Grand Alps Route


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