Guillaumes, St Andre-les-Alpes and Sisteron - Alpine lakes, castles and markets in 3 days

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Saturday 2 August 2014

Guillaumes, St Andre-les-Alpes and Sisteron - Alpine lakes, castles and markets in 3 days

Following our cycling and hiking exploits over our 4 days in Guillames, we decamped on Wednesday morning with the aim of heading from the Alpes-Maritime to the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence just 35-40 miles further north. However, due to the nature of the precipitous, winding roads connecting these beautiful valleys, our more motorhome 'friendly' route would involve at least a 4 hour round trip west out of the mountains before heading back in again. Since our general plan for August is to move steadily north through the Alps in the direction of Geneva, we are expecting a fair few more of these circuitous detours.

However, feeling a little stiff from our exertions on the hills of the Alpes-Maritimes and not relishing a longish drive in the hot sunshine, we elected to break up our trip and stop along the way instead to rest our legs and generally put our feet up before we reached the hills again. So, passing a beautiful mountain lake after around an hour of driving we recognised the name of the town, St-Andre-les-Alpes from our CamperGids (which has by now more than paid for itself) and decided to check out the aire in town. It looked good, so after a quick stop in the supermarket for some resupplies including some special treats like fresh figs and watermelon, we pitched up for the rest of the afternoon.

From this sleepy little town, we took a short hike to the 'Two Saints' on top of nearby hill overlooking the beautiful, sparkling azure lake ringed by dozens of high peaks we didn't know the names of and marveled at just how easy it was to find magnificent views in this part of the world.

Later that evening, strolling along the lake shore as the sun set in search of an 'Argentinian music concert' the very friendly lady at tourist information had told us about, we watched dozens of paragliders swirling in the air above us. Reaching the 'venue' we didn't find a concert in progress, but we did find a beautiful pontoon floating on the shore of the lake which we sat on to watch the clouds change colour, the fish jumping and just enjoy the tranquillity of the evening. Later an energetic trio did start playing flamenco guitar in a nearby restaurant which may have been the 'concert', but which added to the peace we felt. We could have sat their all.

Moving on further on Thursday we decided to tick off a few practical things we'd been talking about such as finding a mattress topper for our motorhome overcab bed (the mattress is about as thick as a mattress topper which has been the source of constant complaints from someone!), before stopping in the medieval town of Sisteron on our route. Listed in our “100 most beautiful detours of France 2014” Michellin guide given to us by Graham and Freya in Martigny, we decided we couldn't pass up the opportunity. The focus of the pretty town is the medieval Citadelle which stands high above the tiny streets and alleyways of the old town below. At night the Citadelle is lit up in oranges, blues and reds giving a magical aura to the city.

As I was a little unwell on Thursday and Friday, we were limited to taking a peaceful amble through the narrow alleyways on Friday afternoon, following the old city trail and soaking in the ambience of the historic centre before sitting atop the rocky outcrop next to the Citadelle reflecting on our journey so far. We'd already crammed so many things into the past 2 months on the road and with more mountains ahead of us in the weeks to come we were getting excited again to get back into the hills the following day.

Saturday morning in Sisteron is market day, so before packing up the motorhome we paid one final trip into the market place to find a dazzling array of colourful stalls selling local produce, mostly fruit and vegetables (which we love) but popular too was honey, lavender, artisan breads and cheese etc sold directly from the producers themselves. As midday approached we were ready to move and so finally completed our fun-packed 3 day detour from the mountains, arriving at a small aire in the pine forest between Barcelonnette and Uvernet-Fours at 1148m altitude and only 40 miles north of where we had started on Wednesday morning!

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