Tour de France , Stage 3 – Orcières-Merlette

Text read by Mary Peters

After the pleasant atmosphere of Sisteron, Geneviève from Cleebourg gives us the opportunity to get fit and have fun. Stage 3 of our Tour de France.

We continue northeast and a mere 90km away from Sisteron, you enter a completely different world.

Welcome to Orcières where there is enough to keep you busy for a week or longer. This eye-catching resort is located in the Hautes Alpes. It was built in the early 1960s. The lowest altitude is 1850m and the highest is 2770m. There is a skiable area of 607ha. The total length of all the ski runs is 100km.  The longest single run is 8km.

It is not the biggest ski resort in France, but it offers a lot. And not just in winter. The summer programme is nothing to be sneezed at.

There are two marvellous winter stations to choose from. Orcières-Merlette and Serre-Eyraud. Both offer a complete programme for all the family. There are snow schools for infants, adolescents, and of course, adults. There is also a special programme specially tailored for mobility reduced people.

The range of winter activities is impressive. Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, free riding, snowboarding, dog sleighs, roll air cable rides, ice karting, snow biking, igloo building, ice climbing and it boasts Europe’s longest zip-line. You reach a speed of 130 km/h on the 1.9km run. It’s all over in about a minute.

After a day’s skiing, you can “relax” in the leisure centre with spas, indoor-outdoor swimming pools, a cinema, ice skating and bowling.

You certainly do not have to worry about starving. There is a big choice of restaurants and caterers. You are spoilt for choice. A selection of shops means that you can park your car and do not have to leave the resort.

When the snow has gone, the resort transforms itself with summer activities. On offer are hiking trails. You have a choice of tours lasting 1 hour (easy) to a full day with an altitude difference of 1335 m.  For mountain biking enthusiasts there are normal cycle paths but for those looking for adventure, the station offers downhill paths, such as a path of 3,5km but which drops 550m.

There are free running mountain trails where you can navigate through untamed nature.

But that is not all. Hiking on treetops, horse riding, rock climbing, kayaking, fishing, canyoning and rafting. Sleep in trees, walk on water in water balls, test your driving skills in electric karts.

If that is not enough, there is also an extensive night life with bars and discos to choose from. For the children there is an animal park and a chance to explore beehives and see how honey is produced.

Local specialities are Goat’s cheese from unpasteurized milk. And then there is Génépi. It is a herbal liqueur, a distant relative to absinthe, and is drunk neat as a digestive. It is an acquired taste.

Another local speciality is flower jam. The use of the word “Confiture” is regulated in France, so the flower not to be called jam is sold as “Délices de Fleurs”.  About 40 different types of blossoms are infused and then fruit pectin is added. From dandelions to poppies, from wild carrot blossoms to elderberries, the range is as wide as the possibilities for picking in the surrounding area.

The local brewery makes use of the clear mountain water to brew different beers in the northern French style, even though part of the process is carried out in the Ardeche.

If you do feel the need to escape, Gap is only 39km away.

Bon voyage!


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