Friday, 1 July 2011

From the natural to the built environment

Today was one of the most enjoyable rides of the whole trip. Here in the Rhone alps the scenery is outstanding. I rode down the rather too exciting Col de Cabre (see the video for one person's experience of descending on a motorbike) and into the river valley. For several km I rode along the valley floor following the river. Here the roads were fairly straight with kind, easy bends - my sort of road! It was like travelling in a bowl with very high mountains to front and rear, as well as on the left and right. The valley floor was flat with ripening fields of wheat, orchards and vines. Every few miles I encountered a pretty village. This section of the journey was a delight.

I arrived at the auberge in the early afternoon. It was sited in quite an extraordinary setting - separated from the town up a long and narrow - rather perilous on a motorbike - single track road and located in a corner of the Gorges du Loire. The hostel was a collection of renovated buildings of what had once been an old hamlet. It was superbly appointed and I was given a room overlooking the gorge. Whew - all this (and breakfast) for 20 euros!

I spent three hours sitting out reading by the river bank, observing the occasional pleasure craft sail by and watching the birds of prey wheeling overhead. I could have stayed here happily for a week and not got bored. The people at the hostel were uber-helpful and Marilena contacted me and had the bank ring me there. I fancy she may have put them under some pressure to sort things out. Anyway, a chat with a nice lady on the phone and my Visa card was operational again.

Close by the hostel was the town of Firminy - famous as one of architect Le Corbusier's most developed sites. I took a ride to see his Union d'Habitation - a tower block designed to create an exciting vertical living space. One can see how influential he was on the design of such buildings subsequently. 

Unlike some of our tower blocks, this one was well kept and sited in green surroundings. Judging by the people going in and out and the cars parked outside, the residents didn't appear to be especially well off. But the building and grounds were well kept.

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