We have frequently discussed climate change on this website and the adverse effects of extreme weather conditions, so I thought it would not be out of place to give you an account of the ‘extreme’ journey we took last Wednesday, 7th January.
We set off from our home in sunny Provence at 5.30 in the morning. Just as a quick reminder, this is what it normally looks like in sunny Provence on the Cotes d’Azur, France on a mid-winter afternoon…
Within half an hour of leaving home, and driving parallel to the coast we noticed that there was light snow on the road. No problem we thought. That happens occasionally even as far south as here. However, by the time we got to the Aix en Provence péage (toll booth), things had got slightly more dramatic:
… and, within a few more minutes, the light snow on the road had become a bit of a major snowstorm:
Within about 10kms from Aix we were in a ‘bouchon’ (traffic jam) from hell, and subsequently sat there for 8 hours!
Eventually, the powers-that-be (who were all working incredibly hard) had to admit that there was no ways they were going to have the autoroute (motorway) re-opened before the following day. Let’s face it, this is, after all, the south of France and 40cms of snow in a few hours is a little unusual, and even though the area has a surprising number of snowploughs – there were not nearly enough to cope with this sort of situation.
At this stage all cars that could reach, or be pushed to, an exit took the opportunity to get off the autoroute.
The only problem was – every other road was blocked too. Very few people carry snowchains in their cars down our way so there were cars in ditches, cars skidded into each other, broken branches and trees everywhere and cars with their noses buries in these too! Luckily, since we were on our way to the Hautes Alpes for a few days skiing we had chains so were able to shunt our way around obstacles where possible. But most times we were in another jam like this one:
We had been told that the snow stopped at Avignon, and we knew the roads had been closed behind us making it just as difficult to return home, so we decided to push on. It took us another 4 hours to do the 24kms necessary to get back onto the autoroute, only to find that it was now snowing at Avignon, and then Orange, followed by Bollene, and it only abated around Valences where we forked off to head up the Isére valley towards the Alps.
The 6 hour journey took us 22 !!! How’s that for severe weather conditions and an epic voyage.
But we made it to the Portes du Soleil (one of the biggest ski areas in Europe) at about midday the following day – and by 12.30 were flying down the mountain with the wind in our hair and that very special sound of skis gliding over crisp, clean snow. More on that later…