On the road

HAUTES-ALPES (05)

Prefecture: Gap

Sub-prefecture: Briancon

Population: 140,916

Surface: 5,549 km2

Specialties: Tourtons du Champsaur (donuts), donkey ears (cream gratin, lasagna and spinach), honey (mountain, lavender, all flowers ...), wines (Tallard and Avance valley), fruits (apples) and Pears of the Val de Durance), Génépi (liqueur), cheeses ...

Economy: tourism (over 20 million nights), pastoralism, wood industry, crafts, development of the air sector.

Sport: Second department of France in terms of sports licenses per capita, in nearly 500 clubs and fifty disciplines ranging from alpine skiing to ice-hockey (Red Devils Briançon and Rapaces de Gap) through cycling (gran fondos, Mountain biking), team sports (football, rugby, handball, basketball), athletics, swimming. Competitions: Embrunman (Triathlon, August), Enduro Mountain Bike World Cup (Les Orres), Gapen'cimes (Trail, October), Briançon World Climbing Championships (July), Freestyle French Kayak Cup (June, Embrun), Alps Epic (Mountain bike marathon, June)

Culture and heritage: Ecrins National Park, Queyras Regional Nature Park, Natural Park of the Baronnies Provençales. Two fortified sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List: Briançon and Montdauphin.

Festivals: Outdoormix Festival (June, Embrun), Trad'in Festival (July, Embrun), Chaillol Festival, Messiaen Festival (La Grave, July-August)

Websites: www.hautes-alpes.fr / www.hautes-alpes.net / www.phenomenalpes.com

The Department of Hautes-Alpes is the "highest in France" with a third of its surface above 2,000 m in altitude. Summer and winter tourism is the main economic activity of the territory with 387,585 tourist beds and more than 20 million overnight stays. The winter activity is organised around 27 stations and 25 Nordic sites. In summer, the activity is divided between hiking and mountaineering, white water spots, air activities including the site of Gap-Tallard and Lake Serre-Ponçon, real sea amidst the mountains where all nautical activities are available between wild creeks and turquoise water. Its natural heritage is exceptional with the Ecrins National Park and the Regional Natural Parks of Queyras and Baronnies Provençales. Its cultural heritage is also impressive with two fortified sites inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list: Briançon and Montdauphin.

Km 6

SAVINES-LE-LAC (Pop: 1,060)

Listed as a 20th century heritage site in 2011, Savines-le-Lac, by the lake of Serre-Poncon, has become a hot spot of tourism in the Hautes-Alpes.

Built on the banks of one of the largest artificial lakes in Europe, Savines offers the same services and activities as a real seaside resort.

The booming new village has an eventful past history as the old village was destroyed by the construction of the Serre-Poncon dam and the flooding of the valley. A photographic exhibition “From Savines to Savines-le-Lac” tells the story. In the seven centuries of its existence, Savines changed locations three times. In 1282, Rodolphe de la Font de Savines pledged allegiance to the Dauphin and the village then lied on the spot where the ruins of the castle of the Counts of la Font de Savines and the old church can be found today. It was abandoned at the Revolution because of the damage caused by floods of the Reallon. The second Savines, rebuilt in 1825, was destroyed on May 3, 1961 when the dam was built.

Km 14

Les Demoiselles coiffées (Hoodoos)

Les Demoiselles coiffées (Hatted Damsels) are hoodoos created by the work of erosion. They look like columns of varied conglomerates topped by a rock. To prevent their degradation and for reasons of safety, a walking path has been designed at the bottom of the hoodoos with explanatory panels and superb panoramas. The site has been listed and protected since 1966.

Km 17.5

Le Sauze-du-Lac (Pop: 150)

At the crossroads of Ubaye and Durance, the picturesque village of Sauze du Lac preserved its typical aspect while offering a great belvedere on lake Serre-Poncon. There is a public beach at Port St. Pierre, at an altitude of 780 metres. It is a haven of peace ideal for a rest. In the summer, bathing is watched over. Yachting, jet-ski, paddle and canoeing are available on the spot. The recently restored St. Martin chapel dates from 618 and top the hill overlooking the valles of Ubaye and Durance. The Serre-Poncon animal park presents wildlife from the Hautes-Alpes as weel as local raptors.

ALPES-DE-HAUTE-PROVENCE (04)

Population: 161,600 (2016)

Prefecture: Digne-les-Bains

Sub-prefectures: Barcelonnette, Castellane, Forcalquier

Surface: 6,925 km2

Specialties: Lavender honey, lavender, Sisteron lamb, Banon cheese, Génépi from the Ubaye valley, truffles, olive oil, Pierrevert wines, Alpine apples of Haute-Durance, ravioles of the Ubaye, fumeton, Tomme de l'Ubaye, Cachaille.

Sports: rafting, white water swimming, canyoning, canoeing, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, hiking, horse riding, boating, climbing, via ferrata, cycle touring, golf, fishing, gliding, hang-gliding, paragliding, speed riding. The Alpes de Haute-Provence is the first French department for mountain bike. Three Great Crossings are labeled by the FFC: the Alpes-Provence, the Transverdon and the Paths of the Sun.

Main tourist sites: Gorges du Verdon, Lake Allos, Lake St. Croix, Mercantour National Park, Regional Natural Parks Luberon and Verdon, Unesco Haute Provence Geopark, village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Valensole plateau and its lavender, citadel of Sisteron, museum of Prehistory of the gorges of the Verdon, museum of Salagon and its remarkable gardens, thermal baths of Gréoux-les-Bains and Digne-les-Bains.

Cultural events: Prehistory Days in Quinson (July), Les Enfants du Jazz Festival in Barcelonnette (July), Nights of the Citadel in Sisteron (July / August), Summer astro in Saint-Michel-l'Observatoire (July / August), Corsos of Lavender, Lavender Festival in Valensole (July 21), Mexican Latino Celebrations at Barcelonette in August, Les Correspondances de Manosque in September.

Economy: tourism, agriculture, cosmetics, flavours and scents, agro-food, renewable energies, chemistry-pharmacy (manufacture of cosmetics, perfumes, etc.), fruits and vegetables, hydraulics (dams) Durance and Verdon provide 12% of French hydroelectric production), wood (forests cover nearly half of the department), and photovoltaic (1st department in the region).

Websites and social networks: www.alpes-haute-provence.com / www.mondepartement04.fr / www.facebook.com/departement04 / www.facebook.com/alpesdehauteprovence/

Km 39.5

Méolans-Revel (Pop: 340)

The village is composed of several hamlets (Méolans, St Barthélémy, Lavercq, Rioclar et Revel) with its emblematic church tower overlooking the river Ubaye from the top of a cliff. The beautiful protected valley of Lavercq, a favourite of hikers, is home to the ruins of a 12th century monastery.

The commune is dominated by a 2,408-metres-hight massif dubbed “the head of Louis XVI” because of its profile recalling that of the king. In the village the House f word is a small museum comprising a wood workshop and an exhibition area. It was thought as a showcase of the work of wood in the area.

Km 49

Saint-Pons (Pop: 640)

With Faucon, Saint Pons is one of the oldest villages in the Ubaye Valley. Its 12th century Romanesque church is the oldest in the valley and is remarkable for its portico. A small air-track makes it possible to fly small planes or gliders. The place is also ideal for paragliding.

On the hillside, the Riou Bourdoux torrent, now picturesque, was for long one of the most devastating in Europe when flooded. It took enormous work and several dams to tame it.

Km 50.5

Barcelonnette (Pop: 2,610)

Founded in 2131 by Raimond Beranger V, count of Provence and Barcelona, Barcelonnette took its name from the Catalan capital. From 1614 and until 1713, it was a prefecture of the Nice Senate. Barcelonnette and the Ubaye Valley were annexed to France by the Utrecht treaties because of their strategic importance for King Louis XIV. The history of Barcelonnette is forever linked to Meixco, where more than 2,500 inhabitants of the valley migrated between 1820 and 1950. Some of them became extremely wealthy and came back to Barcelonnette to build sumptuous villas worthy of the poshest French Riviera resorts. Strong ties remain between Barcelonnette and the descendants of the migrants. Every summer around August 15, Barcelonnette takes on its Mexican colours and dances to the sound of Mexican music. It is the native city of former minister and president of the Council Paul Reynaud.

In 1975, the 16th stage of the Tour de France started from Barcelonnette and finished in Serre-Chevalier, where Bernard Thevenet bore another blow to Eddy Merckx, whom he had already toppled the previous day in Pra-Loup.

Km 59.5

Jausiers (Pop: 1,130)

At the bottom of the highest road in Europe, the Restefond la Bonnette road (2,802 metres), Jausiers hosted the Tour de France in 2008. Cyril Dessel won the stage that day. A commune of the Mercantour National Park, Jausiers is the berth of the emigration to Mexico of the people of the valley. The three Jausiers-born Arnaud brothers were the first to leave for Mexico.   Before opting for Mexico, they first settled in Louisiana, which was then a French possession and where Jacques Arnaud founded the town of Arnaudville. Like in Barcelonnette, the emigrants made a fortune in Mexico and built superb houses in Jausiers, like Chateau des Magnans, a building inspired by the Monaco Palace or the Neuschwanstien castle of Ludwig II in Bavaria.

Mercantour National Park

With its 3000-plus summits, its several lakes and its six typical valleys, the Mercantour National Park (146,000 ha over 28 communes) is a unique jewel of preserved nature. Chamois and mouflons live in the most rugged parts of the mountains, while deer and boars remain in the lower wooded parts. The variety of climates and landscapes at altitudes going from 100 metre to more than 3,000 metres account for the vegetal wealth of Mercantour with more than 2,000 species, half the varieties of plants known in France. Among those, 220 are considered as extremely rare and 40 cannot be found anywhere else.

 

Km 85

Vars (Pop: 620)

The commune is above all famous for its ski resort forming with Risoul the White Forest ski domain. The resort is the world capital of the speed skiing kilometre (KL) and Italian Simone Origone broke the world speed record on skis at 252.632 kph in April 2015.

Km 101

Guillestre (Pop: 2,200)

The city of Guillestre lies on a plateau at the altitude of 1,000 metres overlooking the gorges of the Guil shortly before its junction with the Durance.In a mountainous cirque, it is sheltered by its mountains and has one of the lowest rain levels in France. Guillestre is the main entry point towards the Queryas valley and a passage between Embrun and Briancon.

Mont-Dauphin fortified site

At the confluence of Durance and Guil rivers, overlooking the impressive canyon of the latter flowing down from Queyras valley, Mont-Dauphin is one of the many places fortified by Vauban in the second half of the 17th century. In 2008, the place forte of Mont-Dauphin, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the "Fortifications of Vauban" group.

Km 115

Château-Ville-Vieille (Pop: 320)

The village stands at the foot of Fort Queyras or Queyras castle, an impressive fortress built on a rocky ridge. A 13th century medieval castle, the site was recast by Vauban between 1693 and 1740 with the addition of three ramparts. The citadel was used to block the access to the Durance valley but it was disarmed in 1940 and listed as historical in 1948. Now a private property, the castle is used for television games and attractions in the summer season.

Km 131

Coppi-Bobet stele

La Casse Déserte, with its stony chimneys at 2,220 m and its arid aspect, is a key sector of ​​the Izoard, often exposed to the wind. On leaving it, after a short descent, appears the stele dedicated to Louison Bobet and Fausto Coppi, whose plaques are affixed to a monolithic rock. From there about two kilometres remain with a slope close to 9% up to the top.

Km 133

Col d’Izoard (2,361 m)

"It is the privilege of the Izoard to distinguish the champion," wrote Jacques Gooddet. For many years, the Izoard was indeed the pass in which the victory in the Tour de France was decided. Henri Pélissier, in 1923, was the first to dare challenge the  climbt when he attacked on it, leaving his rival Ottavio Bottechia trailing by fourty minutes at the top. Gino Bartali was the second to use the Izoard as a launching ramp to Paris both in 1938 and 1948, when he defeated Bretons Louison Bobet and Jean Robic. In 1949, Gino the Pious was supplanted by his great rival Fausto Coppi, who outclassed him on the slopes of the pass in the Giro before condeding defeat in Briançon on the Tour. Two years later, Coppi outclassed a sensational Hugo Koblet for a day. Izoard then became Louison Bobet’s property as the Frenchman built his Tour victories there in 1953 and 1954. In 1972, Eddy Merckx made it a point of honor to crush the opposition in the mythical ascent before bowing to Bernard Thevenet in 1975. The pass then lost its aura in favour of l’Alpe d'Huez. In 2011, Andy Schleck luanched the move which made him the winner at the top of the Galibier. In 2014, Joaquim Rodriguez was the first at the top during the 14th stage to Risoul won by Rafal Majka. Finally, in 2017, Warren Barguil strenghtened his polka-dot jersey at the top after beating the ascent record from its south side.

Km 152

Briançon (Pop: 12,000)

The history of the Tour de France in Briancon started in 1922 with stage win by Philippe Thys, who was already the first triple winner of the race. Afterwards, the roll of honour in the World Heritage fortified town boasted prestigious names such as Gino Bartali, Louison Bobet, Fausto Coppi, Charly Gaul, Gastone Nencini, Federico Bahamontes and Eddy Merckx, all of them Tour champions. Of all, Louison Bobet was arguably the one who left the most enduring mark on the prefecture of Hautes-Alpes with his three stage victories in 1950, 1953 and 1954. For the last visit of the Tour in 2007, Colombian Mauricio Soler, the best climber that season, clinched his career’s major success.

In 2017, the town was the start of a stage to Izoard won by Warren Barguil.

SIGHTS

Vauban fortifications

The fortifications in Briancon are listed since 2008 as a World Heritage site by UNESCO along with eleven other cities fortified by Vauban. Ideally located at an altitude of 1,236 metres on a rocky hill close to the Italian border, Briancon is a unique example of mountain fortification. Locked inside the ramparts designed by Vauban it is moreover protected by a network of forts in the higher mountains making it virtually impossible to seize. The majesty and intelligence of the site are perfect examples of the genius of King Louis XIV’s leading military architect. While several adjustments were completed after his death, they followed his plans until 1734. Seven of the forts and strongholds on the Briancon site have been distinguished by UNESCO because of their authenticity, state of preservation and historical importance.

Km 156.5

Saint-Chaffrey (Pop: 1,700)

The commune, bordering Briancon, hosted four Tour de France stages nominally finishing in Serre-Chevalier – which is a combination of communes, St Chaffrey being the largest. It is located at the bottom of Col de Granon, ridden by the Tour de France in 1986 (victory by Eduardo Chozas).

Luc Alphand piste

On the site of Chantemerle, the Luc Alphand piste is one of the showcases of Serre-Chevalier. It is famous for winding between the chalets of Chapcella and Souliers at high altitudes before diving into a step wall leading to the village of Chantemerle. The course offers a variety of technical sections familiar to the pros. It was named after Luc Alphand in 1998 after his victories on the World Cup circuit. Alphand, who went on to become a successful rally rider and television consultant, always trained on this slope.

Km 160

La Salle-les-Alpes (Pop: 1,010)

La Salle-les-Alpes is the commune where the 2017 stage won by Primoz Roglic finished. Heart of the Serre-Chevalier ski resort, the village is remarkable for its St. Marcellin church. Called after the first bishop of Embrun, the church overlooks the former hamlet of La Salle and the resort of Villeneuve-la-Salle. It is the home village of the Brechu family, a famous skiing family whose most famous member Henri, won a World Cup slalom in 1970 in Madonna di Campiglio.

Km 189

Col du Galibier (2,642 m)

A natural border between the Northern Alps and the Southern Alps, the Galibier is the mountain pass the most frequently visited by the Tour de France with 60 passages. In 2011, Andy Shcleck won at the top of the highest ever Tour de France finish. In 2917, Primoz Roglic was first at the top on his way to a stage win in Serre-Chevalier.

SAVOIE (73)

Population: 437,915

Prefecture: Chambery

Sub-prefectures: Albertville, Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne

Surface: 6,028 km2

Specialties: Raclette, tartiflette, fondue, crozets (pasta in square form, made with buckwheat flour ...), diots and pormoniers, (pork sausages cooked in white wine) Saint-Genix (brioche with red pralines), cake of Savoy , chocolate truffles, bugnes (donuts), génépi (mountain plant liqueur), cheese from Savoy (Tome des Bauges, Beaufort.)

Sports clubs: Chambéry Savoie Handball (D1)

Competitions: world dog sledding championship January 2019, Davis Cup round in February 2018, 2017 world men's handball championships, world rowing championship in Aiguebelette in August 2015, Critérium de la Première neige in Val d'Isère and FIS World Cup in Courchevel (annual), Mountain Bike Trials Trial round (August 2016 in Albertville), Critérium du Dauphiné (annual, in June)

Main tourist sites: in addition to the largest ski areas in the world, the Savoy has heritage and natural sites of magnitude: the abbey of Hautecombe (banks of Lake Bourget), the castle of the Dukes of Savoy (Chambéry), the forts of the Esseillon barrier, the Vanoise national park, the regional natural parks of the Bauges and Chartreuse massifs, lake Bourget and lake Aiguebelette... etc.

Cultural events: Musilac in Aix-les-Bains, Les Estivales in Savoie in Chambéry, Le Grand Bivouac in Albertville, The European Cinema Festival of Les Arcs

Economy: tourism, agro-food, eco-industries, mountain industries, composite materials, information and communication technologies, metalworking

Websites and social networks: www.savoie.fr / www.facebook.com/SavoieDepartement/ / https://twitter.com/SavoieDepart / @SavoieDepartement / @SavoieDepart

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