Getting colder in the French Alps

The morning brought freezing rain and dark, dense grey cloud. It was impossible to see the mountain peaks and not conducive to staying for another day. Once the weather cleared up we were back on the road and fairly skidding down the greasy and twisting bends to the bustling mountain valley town of Taninges.

By the time we arrived down at 643meters Simon had barely touched the accelerator and Bertha’s oil gauge hadn’t warmed up. We were glad to come to a halt at a welcoming municipal campsite managed by a charming and chatty Brit, John.

Autumn in the French Alps
Autumn in the French Alps

Taninges proved to be very pretty, with classic French stone built mansions and houses and a gushing mountain stream that clearly becomes a torrent at the time of the seasonal snowmelt. After stocking up on the essentials and spotting a remarkable number of British registered cars, we retreated from the chill for an afternoon of planning our return route.

Time now seemed to be pressing where previously it hadn’t and the uncomfortable and damp cold, which we felt particularly keenly having spent long weeks in sunshine and heat, made home appealing.

The next morning John told us that the temperature was unseasonably cold and that he was concerned about the sudden leaf fall at the campsite that would freeze before he could clear it up. Warmer weather was not expected for a few days so that cemented our plan to keep moving.

It was also officially ‘snow chain’ day – the first day of winter with the expected snowfall meaning you must travel with snow chains or be heavily fined. Not having any snow chains, or indeed a clue what to do with them, meant we felt an extra urgency to get to lower climes.


Waving farewell to John we climbed up and out of the valley and onto the fast moving A40 toll road. When we first had Bertha we made it a point of honour to avoid paying for tolls and always chose local, free roads as an alternative.

A couple of years of travel on badly surfaced and unnecessarily overlong routes convinced us of the sense of using toll roads and we bowled along nearly 200 miles to reach the gorgeous but chilly wine town of Beaune in Burgundy, in the late afternoon.

To heat ourselves and Bertha we used her oven to cook delicious hot chilli beef cannelloni.