Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Salieu, somewhere in Burgundy

Salieu is a little town on the N6 road in the Burgundy region of France. The N roads are National roads (Routes Nationale), radiating from Paris, laid out and built by Napolean's gang in about 1813. Functionally, they are fairly much the equivalent of the US Highway system built in the 1920's and '30's - generally pleasant and low stress to drive on. In this part of France, mile after mile of these roads are tree lined, turning an otherwise boring landscape with hot, squint producing sunshine into pleasant and relatively cool avenues.
A developing condition on these, and the lesser D roads, is the spread of the roundabout, a sickness apparently contracted from the British. There are now thousands of them across France and Italy with hundreds more being constructed - "Attention - Carrefour Modifee" - as we passed along. In general, the roundabouts accomplish their purpose of regulating traffic at crossroads and they are certainly a low cost solution both in terms of construction and maintenance. That said, they do pretty much kill the concept of a through road.
Perhaps in a typical tiny European car, negotiating such traffic tamers might be exhilarating, driving a low power, 5 speed stick-shift van this is definitely not so! In cases where the roundabout could be entered without actually stopping, second gear was required for the creep around the island. If a full stop was required, first gear was necessary to get going again. Exiting the roundabout and working up through the gears, it was depressing how frequently the GPS announced another roundabout in 800 yards just as the gearbox was about to be slipped into fifth.
The Basilica of Saint Andoche dominates the central square of Salieu. This Abbey Church was originally built around 1130 and has been completely restored in the last ten years. Currently, restoration work is underway in other parts of Salieu with buildings and streets being refurbished using traditional materials and adhering to
the original (or previous) design. Great for tourists, probably OK with residents but certainly a damper on industry and commerce.
We actually found a parking spot in Salieu and after our walkabout we tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to have lunch in the Hotel Lion d'Or. Most menu items contained words that were not in our dictionary and the language skills of the staff were poorer even than ours. We ended up, each with different foul tasting dishes, which we poked at politely, paid and left. We then comforted ourselves with a nice cheese sandwich back in Heidi, the little RV that could.

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