France 2007 Day 2: Walking Around Ceillac

Posted on 6 August 2007 in Travel and Holidays (No comments)

After the rain of the previous night, we woke to sunshine as we breakfasted in the hotel dining room on bread, cheese, croissants and other such delights, before preparing for our first days walking.

We'd booked the holiday through Inntravel who have a brochure full of walking holidays, and who had supplied us with a sizable pack of information before we went, consisting of two Institut Geographique National maps (not as nice as the old Ordnance Survey if you ask me), a stack of instructions and various bits of local context and information about hotels.

So we set out on our first walk - Around Ceillac. A circular walk around the hills of the town, at only 14km, and a total ascent and descent of only 815m, it was clearly a gentle introduction to our walking. No bad thing after all that travelling the day before.

We gently ambled up the hill, encountering our first problem of the walk - ascent. Not a steep ascent by any means, but a little harder than normal what with our lungs not being quite used to being 1700m above sea level. It didn't take too long to adjust thankfully.

Crossing the bridge

After walking through the small hamlet of Cime de Mélezet, we went into the trees for a while - getting spectacular views of the area through inbetween the trunks.

Lac One

Some time later, we came to near a pretty full car park. Clearly a lot of people were out in the hills on this Sunday, and we'd pass many of them on our way up to our first destination - Lac Saint Anne.

Chapel at Lac Saint Anne Lac Saint Anne

Saint Anne is the patron saint of fisherman and the lake - which everyone seemed to be visiting - features a small chapel and a wooden cross. Once a year in July, there's an annual procession and a service held at this spot, which is, altitude fans, 2415m above sea level.

The lake itself is also the biggest in the region - which seems rather surprising when you see how small it actually is. On the other hand, this is one of the driest regions of France, so the diminutive size of the lake does make some sense.

Lac Saint Anne would have been a nice spot for a picnic, however it was early yet so we set off for our second lake of the day. First we had to cross the piste.

Ski-ing is clearly very important to the economy of the Queyras area - as could be told by the number of ski lifts we passed on our journey, yet alone the number of ski shops! In summer however, the bulldozed ski runs and the static, motionless ski-lifts take on a slightly strange quality - not really belonging in the views, yet adding some element of feature and life to the landscape.

Lac Two

At Lac Saint Anne we'd joined the GR5 - a Grande Randonnée footpath that starts Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands, goes through Lake Geneva and ends at the south of France in Nice, and it led us across the ski piste, and onto a gentle footpath to the lovely Lac Miroir.

Lac Miroir

It was a gorgeous spot and as it was lunchtime, ideal for our picnic spot. Now much has been written over the years about the French love of food - and the food was one particular reason I was really looking forward to this holiday. Great as Norway and Iceland are as our last two holiday destinations, food isn't exactly a strong point. So I was looking forward to seeing what was in the bulging carrier bags we'd been supplied by the hotel that morning.

And on portions especially, there was to be no disappointment! Most noticeable was the giant chunk of bread each, which was then joined with soft cheese, boiled eggs (for Catherine), crisps, apricots, cakes, beef (for me), Camembert, and a tomato, tuna and sweetcorn salad each.

Actually for the vegetarian of the group, the tuna in the salad wasn't particularly welcome. Obviously someone at the Hôtel La Cascade had slipped up and forgotten that the salads that day weren't particularly good for people who don't eat fish. It's a shame that we hadn't spotted that before we'd left that morning. They weren't the only hotel to make that mistake, but thankfully the sheer size of our rations meant that Catherine certainly didn't go hungry. And it was a very nice salad, it has to be said. I know. I ate two of them.

Lac Three

Looking back at the mountains Resting by Lac des Rouites

Catherine had decided that two lakes in one day wasn't enough and had spotted a third on the map, accessed by taking a side trail up another 200m above sea level to Lac des Rouites.

At 2413m above sea level, it was surrounded mostly by rocks and looked a little like a sheep pond. However the height certainly gave some stunning views of the surrounding area.

What we need is a great big mountain backdrop

Coming back down to Lac Miroir again, we rejoined the GR 5 and headed back in the general direction of Ceillac walking mostly on a flat path in the trees and regularly next to a stream - the Ruisseau de la Pisse which fed the Cascade de la Pisse which is the waterfall which our hotel was named after.

With relatively flat walking, and being quite high up compared to our hotel, there was a bit of a necessity to come down, which we did in style - zig-zagging along the path as it climbed down the mountain, giving us some more stunning views of the local area, and indeed our hotel.

A Celebratory Beer

After returning to the hotel, and having a quick wash, we decided to celebrate our first days walking by heading to the hotel bar which has a nice terrace where you can sit outside and enjoy a beer and a view.

The bar also featured a poster for beers of the alps - La Tourmente. Local beers - specifically from the Brasserie artisanale des Grands Cols (apparently according to the internet - I seem to recall the labels saying Brasserie de la Tourmente, however Google doesn't appear to agree with me) based in nearby Briançon. As we like to drink and eat local wherever we go, it seemed a good choice which meant we ended up supping a 500ml bottle each - the La Tourmente Blonde for Catherine, and the Blanc for myself. And very nice they were too.

It was getting a bit chilly around 6:30 so we retired inside, which meant another two bottles, and the added bonus of some free pastry things with tomato and cheese on them given to us by the man behind the bar (who may have been the owner - I wasn't quite sure).

Then of course it was time for dinner - an interesting tricolour vegetable paté, followed by some tasty pork for me, and an omellete for Catherine. This was accompanied by Pomme de terre Champagne (or something) - basically potatoes cut into wedge shapes and roasted - and creamed spinach. This was followed by cheese (of course) and a nice chocolate and orange gateau. And of course, because it was France, washed down with a delightful (and regional) white wine. All muchly deserved after our 13km walk (including the detour to the third lake).

Tomorrow however wouldn't be so gentle...

Number of different cheeses eaten on day 2

For more photographs of this holiday, have a look at my France 2007 photo set on Flickr

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