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Avignon to Mürren: the scenic route

Having stopped overnight in Remoulins, Friday 3 March, it’s only a few minutes’ drive to the carefully guarded Visitor Centre from which it’s possible to see Pont du Gard. At €9 flat rate a day to park, we did think twice, but decided it was silly to miss seeing (and photographing) the aqueduct. We arrived at 0900 as it opened and left before 1000 to head for Grenoble on the motorway. Stopping for breakfast at a service station, we found an excellent Michelin atlas of France (ready for the next trip) and continued in lovely sunshine up the Rhone Valley. We’d noticed ‘PL Interdit Samedi’ and realised it meant there were no lorries today, which did make a difference, especially as there were quite strong crosswinds. Plenty of cars had skis on the roof but as we approached Grenoble, when the views should have been impressive, it became dull and overcast. After a late lunch stop at 1500 we reviewed the route, agreeing to leave the motorway and go for the more scenic road south of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva). 

At Chambery, the sky began to brighten. We glimpsed the Mont Blanc massif and there were huge queues travelling south, presumably at the end of their holidays. Leaving the motorway at Annecy we made our way along the south shore of Lake Geneva, wondering about where we might find somewhere to stay before reaching the Swiss border. Stopping at an Intermarche, we spent half an hour trying to do a tiny bit of shopping and fill up with fuel. All the ‘self-service’ systems seemed to be out of order and we only just missed destroying the side door and step of the van on a poorly sited metal post beside the fuel pumps. Driving on along the lakeside as dusk was falling, we pulled into a Marina at Evian les Bains as a possible stopping place and were pleased to find three vacant, somewhat sloping, short carpark spaces with ‘Reserve Camper-van’ painted on the tarmac. We’d done 269 miles, had a stressful shopping trip and several nights cooking in the van so decided to try the ‘pizza a emporter’ Steve had found with 4.9 stars on Google. It was an excellent decision, they let us ‘eat in’, the pizzas were wonderful and we had a most enjoyable evening chatting with the owners (in French).

We’d always aimed for a 12 noon arrival at the Schilthornbahn cablecar carpark at Stechelberg, our departure point for the car-free Mürren, so made an early start at 0830 on Sunday 5 March. At Saint-Gingolph, the Swiss border (only open from 0500 – 2000), we were waved through with a friendly greeting. We’d decided there was time to take the scenic route through the mountains, rather than use the motorways. The lower ski resorts were deserted, large, flat, empty carparking areas and gentle nursery slopes devoid of any snow with stationery chairlifts. We stopped at a deserted carpark for breakfast in glorious sunshine. At Spiez, on Thurnsee we managed to purchase a Swiss ‘vignette’ from a Co-op, since Bev had forgotten to ask the friendly border officials for one at the border, then used the stretches of motorway to get round Interlaken and into the Jungfrau valley, arriving in the carpark at 1230.

It took an hour or so to reorganise the van. We’d already drained all the tanks, in case it freezes during the week and made sure everything’t turned off. Extracting the large bag containing all the ski gear made plenty of space to stow the bikes inside. We purchased our very reasonably priced ticket for a week parking along with two single rides up in the cablecar to Mürren. Not sure where the Chalet was, we stopped for a beer at the Alpenruh just beside the lift and looked across to the Eiger, where we’d done the Eigergletscher Klettersteig in summer 2019.