The Gerrard Chronicles 2008 - Traveller's Tales 3

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Ken plods the Alps & the Aix Trip

July 3rd to 11th KEN'S ALPINE PLOD

In order to improve his Green credentials, Ken spurned Easyjet this year & prevailed upon the lovely Cathy at the SNTO to do the unsynchrnised bookings for the Eurostar to Paris & the TGV to Basel. Then, he took the train to Fiesch in the Rhontal, going through the new Lötschberg Basis-tunnel for the first time. This cuts an hour off the journey. The first day was from Fiesch, up the Eggishorn & down to Brig, best seen on this web page . He stayed in the nice Hotel Victoria in Brig & went up the Simplon Pass mule track to the Hospice, where he stayed the night & went on for two more days to Saas Grund, see this set of web pages . Then, he reversed the Balfrin Hoheweg , which he had done in 1973 but this time, from Saas Grund all the way to Grachen, having missed the gondola at the Grächen Hannigalp, a tough 10.5 hour day for an old man of 65. It was time to have a holiday, so he walked down to St Niklaus & hitched lifts to Zermatt. Shock, horror, his Hotel was full of Japanese. So was the Hotel Bristol but one garret was free, so he stayed two nights there. Then, all the way home by train, just practical from Zermatt.

September 7th to 12th AIX TRIP

This was a bit of a misnomer, as we stayed in the Hotel Couvent Royale, which is in St. Maximin, several miles East of Aix but the tour, a Guardian offer, was billed as Cezanne & Aix. We went by Eurostar to Lille & TGV to Aix. Then on by coach. The hotel, a converted nunnery, was rather grand but had inconveniences & breakfast was in the cloisters, not that warm in September.

Hotel Couvent Royale

In the cloister

St Maximin Market

The first trip was to Marseille, seemingly a strange choice given its reputation but it turned out to be rather nice by the Old Port.

La Bonne Mere (Godshop on hill)

In the Old Town

New godshop

Place de Vieux Moulins (windmills)

Then, on to Cassis & a boat trip to the strange limestone fjords along the coast.

Cassis from the boat

In a fjord

Two days after arriving, we get some Cezanne. The coach took us to Aix. We had a brief look at the market & were driven to Cezanne's Studio in the Northern suburbs. This is in trees & hard to photo. A very enthusiastic guide took us round it, full of objects familiar from the still lifes. We alone, walked up the hill to his favourite viewpoint of his favourite subject, Mont St Victoire. Then, down to the attractive little city. We were driven round the flanks of the mountain after reassembling.


Cezanne's Studio

Mont St Victoire

Mont St Victoire

Aix itself, is very attractive

We set off on a coach trip round the Verdon Gorge. The gorge, a rock-climbers' paradise, defies superlatives & we stopped several time to take photos & oggle it.

Comps-sur-Artuby on the way

Above the gorge

Along the gorge

Looking down into the gorge

Lunch & an interesting stop was to be had at Moustiers, which is allegedly the prettiest village in France. Could be: we don't have the criteria. We had lunch & a good look round.


Up its the gorge

Church above the gorge

Main bridge over gorge

Old bridge

For the last trip, we went to St Maximin & took a boat to St Tropez, which was much nicer than anticipated although the harbour was stuffed with "yachts" registered cheaply in Jamaica & full of South African capital-flight emigrés or Russian oligarchs. Rich scum.

St Maxime

St Tropez & oligarchs' "yachts"

St Tropez fort on harbour

St T back street

We went on to Frejus, an ancient town which seems mostly to have survived the terrible flood of several decades ago when the dam up the valley burst. The cathedral cloisters are special but filled with scaffolding alas.

Frejus Cathedral & Town Hall


Medieval ceiling painting in cloisters

Artists quarter

Reps can often be a Pain on a tour. Not Karen Blackwall. Someone had set the Channel Tunnel on fire (again!) but she had a coach for us at Lille, a boat across to Dover, where another coach awaited us. Brilliant.

We also went to Liverpool on August 1st for the excellent Klimt show at the Tate there, which also has stuff from that period by the craftsman artists (like Koloman Moser). We stayed in what is now called the Liner Hotel (but was the Gladstone) by Lime Street Station, much refurbished & recommended.

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Contact: Ken Baldry or Avis Saltsman, 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY +44(0)020 7359 6294 or e-mail him or her
This page's URL: Last revised 1/12/2008 ©Ken Baldry 2008 All rights reserved but print it off if you want to.