The first of three posts of pictures from a holiday in July in the Haute Alpes de Provence, based in the small town of Barcelonnette.


The charming little town of Guillaumes in the Alpes-Maritimes. Historically the region, the county of Nice was part of the Italian state of Piedmont before being annexed to France in 1860. Guillaumes was a handy stop after a very windy route (the D902) through the striking red rocks of the Gorges du Daluis.

The “Middle Fort” of the impressive  Fort de Tournoux fortification complex, whose construction started in 1843 and which was last used in 1947.


(L) Stairs in the abandoned fort. (R) Mottos of the artillery regiment: (top) “The gun recoils, the gunner never” (bottom) Referring to the thistle (Queen of the Alps) “Brush against it, and get pricked” (doesn’t translate very well!).


(L) The middle fort is built into a cavern dug out from the hillside. Rather than build corridors inside the building, access in the higher levels is via wooden platforms built into the gap between the cavern and the building (necessary for ventilation). Ingenious! (R) The track of the long stair linking the lower and middle forts can be seen from the run of openings (on the friendly side of the border obviously!).


(L) The Ouvrage Saint Ours Haut is a mini-fort on the Alpine Line extension of the Maginot Line, built in 1931. While the Maginot Line as a whole was a momentally costly strategic failure, the Alpine Line was successful in thwarting an Italian invasion of France in 1940. (R) Looking over the tiny village of St Ours over the Ubayette valley. The Alpine Line fort of Roche-la-Croix is just visible if you know where to look on the hillside opposite.

Probably a non-venemous smooth snake, based on the black stripe through its eye.


Overlooking Lac de Serre-Ponçon, one of the largest artificial lakes in Europe, which was created by damming the Durance.


(L) The barrage, constructed between 1955 and 1961. (R) Inside the hydroelectric plant.


The beautiful little Lac du Lauzet [44 25 42 N, 6 25 57 E], next to the village of Le Lauzet-Ubaye.

Barcelonnette I