Summer holidays are always too short; most particularly so if one decides to drive 1500 miles for only one weeks’ holiday. It was still worth it, as it always is. We went back to the campsite at La Bérarde, a location that is possibly the most remote in France. It is about 50 km south of Grenoble, a tiny hamlet located at the end of a mountain road, which is the departure point for very long walking trails that lead eventually to the foot of 4,000 metre Alpine peaks.
When we arrived, the rain was so fierce that the windscreen wipers seemed useless. We drove up the 30km of winding road from the valley to the campsite even more slowly than usual. The road seems hewn out of the side of a huge rock, with overhanging sections, tunnels, and in places a complete lack of any barrier between the side of the road and the cliff it drops off. We were quite late, and it was already dark by the time we arrived around 8 pm, largely due to the fact that I got food poisoning from a steak tartare on the way, and had to make several unscheduled stops. This continued every hour throughout the night, which was not a wonderful start, but fortunately abated by about 4 am.
We woke up to the news that the 800 cubic metres of rock had fallen across the road at some point during the night. As a result, we were more or less trapped for several days, which didn’t particularly matter, as the handful of restaurants continued to serve the usual cheese, potato and bacon combinations that are the mainstay of Alpine hospitality. It was a little unusual to be in France with no access to fresh bread or croissants, but 2 year old Conrad was delighted to be allowed biscuits for breakfast.
I suppose I’m probably not painting a picture that encourages the average tourist to fancy a holiday there, but I can’t describe sufficiently the idyllic nature of staying in a remote mountain village, surrounded by beautiful, snow-covered alpine peaks, in 28 degree sunshine. Marmots go running across the road; chamois graze on random slopes. We spent the days walking about 4 hours to and from the various mountain huts, which in the past we used as a departure point for rather more challenging routes up the snow slopes and the glaciers, but still make very entertaining walks for children. Conrad had still never seen snow, and was quite amazed when we found a small section of snow to walk across.
The campsite seems to have had a refresh, with new showers and night lamps. We rented the two fixed, large tents, which cost about 200 euros a week and have electricity, a fridge and a small electric hob. I may love outdoor adventures and challenges, but trying to keep kids milk fresh without a fridge is not a fun adventure.
The only downside of going somewhere that is the site of all the fun times we had before we had kids is that you’re slightly too reminded of what you no longer have, rather than what you do. A bunch of guys wandered down off the mountain, with all their gear still on their harnesses, jingling along. It did make me long to be the person who was not too afraid to do mountaineering. Still, I do think it’s a good thing to be more risk averse. If anything did happen that affected my ability to care for my children (even more than working full-time, that is), I would never forgive myself for the selfishness of it.