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GTJ – Route of Grand Tour De Jura

The GTJ is a strictly French route but access from Switzerland is easy and c. Hotevenient. Train from London is fast to Paris and you go through  frowalking upland farm  to Geneva.  A train leaves Geneva every  half an hour to get you to St Cergue, a pleasant mountain village with hotels and cafes.

From St Cergue its upwards and westwards to La Cure on the French border.  Following Swiss walk signs is beautifully simple as you go through easy walking upland farms and Mt Dole.
In france you pick up the GR5 into Les Rousses – an ugly town serving sky holidaying and desperately plain without snow. The commune is working hard to improve the spring, autumn and summer demands.  The fort and outdoor adventure park are worth a visit.

We ate fondue – not my favourite and not as good as last year in nearby Morez.  Hotel was keen to serve ir so we had it.

Jura Grand Tour – Haut Jura

Runnng alongside the border with Switzerland, the Grand Tour of Jura in eastern France is a wonderful trek on foot, bike or skis.

Approaching from the south is apparently unusual but my path from Provence and the Alps brought me to Bellegarde and the southern approach. 

Last year took me to St Cergue over the Swiss border so that’s where I started this week, heading for Monbeliard in two weeks.

The Chartreuse Mountains and Valleys

The National Park of the Chartreuse is a wonderful region enclosed by high mountains and containing beautiful rivers and meadows.  In winter it is popular for skiing.  Summertime makes it fabulous for walking.  There is the choice of taking the high ridges all around such as the Charmant Som (1867m) or Grand Som (2026m) or enjoying gentler strolls through woods and meadows on the lower ground.  IMG_20150610_150348

Accommodation is plentiful and good quality and the food is hearty with pommes dauphinoise and cheese fondue commonly served.  It’s all a bit heavy for me especially as the pommes dauphinoise was served very night in each of the places I stayed as I walked  through the region.IMG_20150610_111734

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Big recommendation for the Auberge de Sarcenas http://aubergesarcenas.com/ where I ate wonderful stuffed pasta with wild mushrooms and grilled lamb with other walkers and local workers.

I accessed the park on foot from the south through Grenoble which is a big climb and exited north-westwards through the narrow Gorges du Guiers to Les Echelles which still counts as within the Chartreuse but lies outside the mountain bowl.

It was here in the Chartreuse that I was astonished to encounter first this sign for a pilgrimage route to Assisi in Italy – the Via Francigena.  I know this route well in Tuscany and had no idea that it extended so far northwards into France.  I have been unable yet to track the route through france.  but the link here gives the route in Italy.  It is competing in the Chartreuse region with the route to Compostela which the Spanish have so brilliantly promoted into THE European pilgrimage route.  For my money this route to Assisi is worth a strong consideration as a long-distance route and for those wanting to make a pilgrimage it is a very respectable one to choose.  It is much less busy and commercial than the Compostela route.

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Grenoble and the Chartreuse

Leaving Autrans I left the GR9 as it took a long route to Grenoble. It’s a pity the city had to be crossed as it is a shock after being in mountains. It was a Sunday so I was spared heavy traffic and shared the streets with many cyclists.

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As well as electric cars for hire, Grenoble has bike depots across the city for hiring and lots of bike lanes. It was a hot walk into the city though. My plans for getting a bus or tram from the outskirts were undermined by Sunday schedules. Bit of a hot walk!

From Autrans it was straight up the side of the mountain eastwards to the Pas du Tracollet I was surprised to find it busy on the top due to road access. In addition plenty of hardy folk were walking up the steep ascent out of Grenoble. As a whole many tourists and locals were tackling the slopes on both sides of the city – impressive.

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From the ridge above Autrans the views of the snowy peaks to the east were wonderful. Getting down was a chore and made specially tiring due to a tough little ridge at St Nizier du Moucherotte still to get over. It is well walked but was perpendicular in places and although short, in the heat the 300m up was tiring.

North of Grenoble is the Chartreuse which is pretty and wild. Villages are in the valleys and for the rest it is high mountains and deep forests. Signage is carefully done and the large number of routes are easy to follow.  Best to follow them too. My one attempt to take what looked to me like a linking path took a long time and I abandoned it and went back to where I joined.

Leaving Grenoble means a series of big climbs to pass the Bastille reach Mt Jalla, cross the Dom De La Tronche before dropping into the  Col De Vence and a long ascent to the Fort du Eynard. Locals, I think, drive to the fort and walk down, or run down. The fort has massive walls and battlements stretching out along the ridge overlooking Grenoble.

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From the fort the GR9 has no accommodation for a long way. So you either walk big distances or camp or go into the valleys and stay in the villages. I did the latter and enjoyed it.

Gorge de la Bourne and Pas di Pertuson

Starting on a two week walk from St Nazaire-en-Royan on meeting of the Rivers Isere and Bourne takes me from the plain east of Valence to mountain villages two ridges west of Grenoble.

Temperatures are upwards of 30C and debilitating. Paths are brilliantly marked with distances, heights and timings.

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Following the Bourne was easy walking along small roads and pretty paths.  There were no shops til Pont-en-Royan and the tiny local breakfasts call for an energising snack by midmorning.  Pont-Royan is a busy centre with fruit, bread and ice cream so I was satisfied.  It is also the entry point to the Gorge De La Bourne which is savagely wonderful.

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At first the path is easy and pretty but from Charonche it gets stony and steep towards the Pas du Ranc. It was very hot with no shade and very steep. Part way up the rumbling of an approaching storm caused a rethink as I still had some way to go. So I took the road which was not too busy and had great views and got me to La Balme-de-Rencurel just as the rain started. Good decision.

The following day via Rencurel through the Col De Romeyere was fairly easy through fantastic meadows.

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A well graded climb into the formidable rock face of Roche De Meaudre reached the crossing at Pas du Pertuson 1430m with wonderful views over the plains to the north west.

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It was an easy descent through trees to Autrans. My excitement was to see snow-clad mountains to the east, one was Mt Blanc I think.

Walking from place to place gives surprising experiences. La Balme was tiny with an old but well run simple hotel with a restaurant like I found in France 50 years ago. With good food to match: trout and pommes dauphinois, cheese and milk pudding. Rare to find such good cuisine.  Autrans on the other hand is a resort with lots of shops and facilities. How is one to know?

Monschau – a jewel of a town in the Eifel, Germany

Two days south of Aachen on the Eifelsteig is the ancient town of Monschau – narrow streets of medieval buildings still in active occupation.  The town is set in a deep narrow long valley and its stretches along the valley floor along the River Rur.

On foot it is approached across the heathland  of the Hautes Fagnes or Hohes Venn bordering Belgium.

The tight streets handle the busy through traffic as well as serving the town.IMG_20150303_084752wpid-img_20150303_083213.jpg wpid-img_20150303_082638.jpg   IMG_20150303_083604 IMG_20150303_083556 IMG_20150303_083333 IMG_20150303_083229 IMG_20150303_083213 IMG_20150303_082638 IMG_20150303_082511The town lay on the advance of the American forces in 1945 and in a key section of the line of attack of the famous German breakout to the Ardennes and Holland in December 1944 known to us as the Battle of the Bulge.  Over 80,000 troops were involved with over 100,000 losing their lives.

This March I found this sticker on a lamppost on the road out of the town welcoming refugees and their families to the country which is appropriate for a country which has experienced centuries of refugees fleeing into and away from Germany:

 

 

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The Eifel – south of Aachen, Germany

Stretching south along the Belgian Ardennes border, is the Eifel National Park.  It is easy to reach from Aachen or Cologne. From London by Eurostar a ‘any Belgian station’ ticket gets to the easternmost town Eupen.

Eupen is the  capital of he Germany speaking area and is hard against the border with Germany. It has its own grand modern parliament building as well as a football group d with a sizable stadium.

The town makes a good starting point for walking in the Eifel.  The Park seems to be administered across the borders and maps show Belgian towns as well as German ones.

It is an easy slow climb into the heathland called Park Naturel Hautes Fagnes Eifel or Hohe Fagnes in German. Past the Lac d’Eupen the country is bleak much like moorland. I walked it on a snowstorm which was quite cold with a strong biting wind. The paths are easy and nothing is steep. After 15km you emerge at Muetznich just in Germany though there is no sign to say so. The next 5km drops along lanes and tiny paths to the mediaeval masterpiece, Monschau. The town is in a deep long winding valley which I found difficult to navigate. But it is full of Middle Ages buildings. The walk takes 6 hours.

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