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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Entrevaux, Train des Pignes and Sospel

Entrevaux & Citadel
Saturday rolled around and we were ready for another adventure.  I really wanted to visit the fortified village of Entrevaux on the Var River in the region called Alps Provencales.  The plan was to take the train there from Nice, but since we had a car and with it the freedom to come and go, we chose to drive instead.  Nola had never been to Entrevaux so she joined us.

We got up early, loaded the car, programmed the GPS and we were off.  Our drive took us north out of Vence through Gattieres, turning east to the Var River, then onto the main highway going north toward Grenoble. We then turned west stopping at a little village called, Touet sur Var.  When you see the word “sur” it means along side or next to as in “Touet next to the Var River”.  I figured that out all by myself. J  We found the local Boulangerie (bakery) for freshly made croissants.
From what I had read about the “listed beautiful village” of Entrevaux, I knew this was a must-see place!  In 1690 King Louis XIV commissioned the architect, Vauban, to fortify the village as protection against neighboring Savoy (Italy).  There are nine zig-zag high walls from the river up to the Citadel which overlooks the river and valley.  But first things first - coffee and our croissants for MA and Nola at a local outdoor café!

The moment you walk across the river bridge (an actual draw bridge) and enter the city gates of Entrevaux on the south side of the river you are transformed back into the middle ages.  The village has changed little in the last 400 years. My camera got a good “workout” as we walked around the cobble stone streets, climbed the narrow passageways, went inside a beautiful little church, and looked at the hand carved doors and hammered hinges.  The cathedral, which is set into the ramparts, has an 11th century bell tower built by the Knights Templar.  The cathedral also contains one of three famous Eustache organs dating from the time the Entrevaux church was the seat of a bishop.  
Nola and two Knights Templar

Then quite unexpectedly we met two Knights Templar, complete with swords, ready to defend France.  They graciously posed for photographs with Nola and MA.  We decided not to climb the thousand steps to the Citadel and reluctantly left this great place for our next stop which was the railroad village of Puget Theniers where the Train des Pignes comes in and turns around. 

MA & the two Knights Templar
The Train des Pignes is a coal-burning, steam locomotive that operates on the weekends in the summer between Puget Theniers and Entrevaux.  MA in her best French (Merci, Pascale!) found out that the next train would come in at 12:10.  I had really wanted a photo of this classic train but that meant hanging around for another hour.  It was my sweet wife who suggested that we have some more coffee and people watch until the train arrived. Wow! I could not refuse!  At 12:00 noon I crossed over the tracks and found a great spot for these photo ops.
Train des Pignes arriving at Puget Theniers
I saw the smoke first and the huge black locomotive pulling four passenger cars.  The steam was chugging out the sides and the huge wheels were turning slowly as it lumbered into the station.  The engineer and brakemen wore the traditional blue coveralls of the French railroad.  Their faces and coveralls were all smudged black with coal
The train stopped and the passengers disembarked.  The brakemen unhitched the locomotive and a box-car from the passenger cars and pushed them forward.  They then backed them up on another track and turned them around to be hooked back up to the passenger cars.  The train was now ready for the return trip.

Mission accomplished vis-à-vis the train so we left for Sospel to have lunch.  I had randomly chosen Sospel from a brochure at the Vence tourist office. What I didn’t realize was that it is practically on the Italian border.  We avoided Italy in that MA hasn’t studied Italian since her days at the University of Mexico! Instead we followed the GPS around the mountain to yet another village on a river. 

We found a local café and I ordered a steak sandwich.  Have you ever had a steak sandwich on an entire loaf of French bread filled with meat AND French fries, not only French fries inside the sandwich but all over the dinner size plate! We had enough French fries for our Bible Study classroom refreshment table!

I did my best, and after lunch we walked around for a while and then headed back to Vence. We were spoiled by Entrevaux, so made quick work of our visit and headed back to Vence.

It was time to take Nola home, so we continued up the winding mountain roads to her village, Coursegoules. We ran into some heavy fog on the drive up so we did not stay, turned around and drove safely back to the condo in Vence.

Sunday we prepare lunch for Nola and Randy at their place, then return to pack up and get ready for the next adventure, Copenhagen and beyond.  Stay tuned!

 Cathedral in Sospel
                            Nola and MA in the passenger car
Another view of Entrevaux

1 comment:

  1. Wayne,

    This is a great update - very interesting and beautiful shots. As you may or may not know - I love steam locomotives. I grew up in Palestine, TX and as a kid was around lots of steam engines.

    Looking forward to the upcoming cruise pictures. Congrats on getting the upgraded cruise accommodations.

    HAVE A GOD BLESSED DAY - dave b.


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