Settling into the Queyras Regional Park and Testing Our Cycling Legs

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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Settling into the Queyras Regional Park and Testing Our Cycling Legs

Arriving at Camping Saint James-les-Pins in Guillestre after a very hot and busy shopping day in Gap we were relieved just to find a peaceful place to rest our head among so much natural beauty. Guillestre sits on the edge of the Queyras Regional Park in the heart of the French Alps and close to the Italian border. The Queyras is a magnificent place to visit, especially if you love trekking, cycling (the Tour de France is a regular visitor) or just appreciating the mountain surroundings, flora and fauna that is so abundant here...all of which makes it just perfect for us. We had actually passed by this regional park last year on our way to nearby Briancon and our time in the Ecrins National Park just a little further north. However, we had read so much about the beauty of the Queyras and the fact it tends to be quieter and less 'sculpted' (e.g. engineering better ski slopes etc.) that we had always regretted passing by and so we resolved to stay here a while and explore.

On our first morning we woke up surprisingly energetic and decided to do something we had been both looking forward to and were nervous about in equal measure....testing our cycling legs on some hills. Having bought our road bikes this year instead of our trusty, sturdy (and heavy) Halfords hybrids we were unsure how it would feel to go up (and down) some steep roads. So we set off very early to avoid the perilously hot afternoons, just exploring westwards for half an hour or so in the direction of Ville Veille before turning back unwilling to push it too far on our first hilly ride. However, despite the occasional steep section of road at over 8% we felt ok, although this was probably helped by the absolutely spectacular backdrop of mountain gorge and roaring river we were riding high above. In fact the only real hard part of the ride was a long and scary tunnel!

  

  



Later that afternoon we were forced into submission by the heat which crept up well above 30 degrees and reduced us to lethargy as we tried to tick off a few bits of organisation in the motorhome and on the internet.

The following day saw us once more testing our legs, this time on an extended gradient of near 7% as we ticked off the first 5km of the climb to the Ski Station Risoul, a summit finish in last years Tour de France. Again, we quite surprised ourselves with how good we felt although it was tough being reduced to our easiest gear for the entire ride (and we missed our triple chainrings from the hybrids).

However, despite the physical challenge the awesome views made it very hard to turn around  no matter how sensible we knew it was to do so. Mindful that Esther had been unwell only recently we wanted to build up slowly, however, the road ahead beckoned strongly and it was tough to resist. This is a climb we definitely wanted to return to.

  

  

The afternoon again bought sweltering heat, but we discovered a source of instant relief that we really should have tried the day before....a mountain stream just 10 metres from our motorhome door. Wading into the icy water was a shock at first, but braving the immediate cold we soon acclimatised and enjoyed cooling off and splashing about, giving us enough energy to carry on with our afternoon until a healthy dinner when the temperature final dropped enough for our appetites to return.

  

  

After a couple of weeks relaxing on the outskirts of the French Alps, arriving back into the higher mountain regions that we had enjoyed so much last July and August has really felt like a homecoming as it just feels so 'right' to be here. The weather is good, our surroundings are invigorating and after our recent 'couples retreat experience' we feel so connected and close that it only magnifies the entire feeling. It is very, very good to be together in this place right now.




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