31 July 2017

Road Trip: DE to IT

After reaching out to colleagues in Turin, Italy to test the waters for possible sabbatical posts for 2019/20, E. was invited to give a seminar there this June.  But a quick look at the map reveals that France is in the way, so we were forced to take in a few sights along the 500 mile drive.

We took our first break in Toul to view the lichen-encrusted (note the yellow on the stone of the towers) 13th-15th century Gothic cathedral, which unfortunately lost all 139 portico statues during the French Revolution.
Continuing south, we paused to walk the city wall (all 12 towers and 7 gates) of the limestone hilltop town of Langres, which overlooks Lake Liez and the surrounding fields and forests.
Which is well, because inside the wall (as per usual) there isn't a scrap of green to be seen.
Some time later we tripped across the lovely, tiny, and clearly ancient village of Beze.
Just before turning eastwards, we slipped into the heart of Dole, another tight and crinkly medieval small city, which happened to be the birthplace of Louis Pasteur (which they like to hype, although he moved away at age 4...).
The sun apparently went to bed with us that night, because upon rising the next day and continuing south, the rains began just as we slipped into the bowl of 650' limestome cliffs that surround Baume-les-Messieurs.
Although the former abbey (above) is the main tourist attraction, this tiny 1000-year-old village is considered one of the most beautiful in all of France.

Unfortunately, as we continued southeast and rose in elevation onto the windward west-facing subalpine Jura (as in Jurassic) mountains, the showers turned to rain, and then the rain turned into a deluge that reduced visibility to a white-knuckle 20 feet while sheeting water blocked the side-windows.  This continued for hours.  I fed E. a lot of caffeinated mints.

Eventually we found ourselves on the south side of the Vanoise National Park, which was lost to us somewhere in the clouds.  But we could see Redoute Marie-Thérèse and Fort Victor-Emmanuel, built in the early 1800s under pressure from the Austrians to protect the Kingdom of Sardinia (a precursor to Italy) from France.
From there we slipped up and over the Col du Mont Cenis.  Although the road we took was first built by Napoleon, this pass was once traversed by untold pilgrims (including Martin Luther) from northern Europe en route to Rome.
Just as we crested the pass and took our first peek at Italy, the sun emerged--and stayed with us the rest of the trip.

Once down in the Susa Valley between the Graian and Cottian Alps, we took in its namesake town, which has long been an important transportation hub.
Our final destination for the day was the old-town of Avigliana, clustered below the ruins of a 6th century castle.  Although now a thriving town with tourism centered on two neighboring lakes, the old-town appears to be slowly crumbling away.
One thing I look forward to having explained to me by our Italian colleagues someday is why they take meticulous care of the insides of their homes (every house we've been in has been scrumptiously renovated on the inside), but permit the exteriors to deteriorate into apparent dilapidation.

Next time:  IT back to DE!

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