Welcome to Briançon, a unique little city of medieval fortifications, strong history, hearty people, and stunning views, nestled in the French Alps. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it is apparently the highest city in the EU, and definitely one worth visiting if you have time in France.
Getting there is a bit of a trek, especially in the winter time as the windy, icy roads, threaten to slide you off the side of the mountain. Just hold back any fear of heights or car sickness, and you’ll be fine.
But the destination is always worth the journey. Picturesque views don’t hurt either…
This was my third visit to the city, and I have to admit that the stressful drive was well worth the worry when I experienced the beautiful snow and sun on a special hike.
But I’m not gonna lie, the original title of this post was going to be something like “Surviving French Mountain Men” or “Holding My Own with the Men of the Mountains”- that is until they drank me under the table and their ‘simple’ hike killed me.
True, I’m still alive, but I will say that I’ve never felt like such a city slicker before. Yes, I like to be active and commune with nature in some form of camping, hiking, canoeing, etc., but Antoine’s friends put me to shame. They consist of butchers, farmers, lumberjacks, and hearty seasonal workers. I’m a Texan who is still learning how to deal with snow. I’m a vegetarian who can’t even look at bloody meat, nonetheless consider slaughtering a lamb. I don’t know how to repair a car, or build a sled, or brew my own super strong mountain alcohol (mountohol?).
Mountain people are just a hearty kind. They are blunt and sometimes abrasive, but they are also crafty and loyal. They are a kind with whom I have immense respect for, a little fear fear of, and a lot of amusement with.
But instead of focusing on my shortcomings, I want to focus on the positive- exploring a winter wonderland off the beaten path. So yes, I couldn’t finish the hike, but I did get a day of snow, sun, soft sounds of nature, and a speedy sled ride down the mountain. A real sled ride. (I say real because I’m a tad more accustomed to riding down a barely iced-over golf course hill in a laundry basket, cardboard box or trashcan lid- we keep it classy in Texas).
But enough words, here are some pictures:
If I had to create some sort of moral for this story it would be to acknowledge that while sometimes you might not fulfill your end goal, it’s important to see the silver lining, reflect on your accomplishments, and recognize that hiking or drinking at the same level as mountain men just isn’t realistic.