Sunday, January 24, 2010

May 28th, 2009 - Briançon, France

Just three miles west of La Vachette is the vibrant city of Briançon. Built at the confluence of the Durance and Guisanne rivers, its function as an Alpine crossing point between France and Italy fairly guaranteed its historic importance in medieval times. Briançon enjoys an average of 300 days of sunshine each year and, at an altitude of around 4,000 feet, it is the highest town in the entire European Union.
Today there are essentially two cities - the upper one that preserves the 17th century Vauban fortifications and the lower city that extends along the banks of the River Durance and contains, among other features, the market. Total population is around 12,000.Briançon was granted municipal privileges by a charter signed by Dauphin Humbert II in 1343. In 1692
Louis XIV's omnipotent military engineer Vauban, reinforced the town walls and began a sequence of fortified extensions further and further up into the mountains. This trend actually continued into the 1930s when Briançon became part of the Maginot line in preparation for WWII.Two of the major streets in the old town have a sizeable gutter running down the center, known as gargouilles, that originally carried effluents down to the rivers.This less than attractive cargo has since been replaced by wholesome mountain water. Only one other town in France - St Martin-Vésubie in the Alpes-Maritimes - has a similar feature.
If you ever find yourself in this part of France do give Briançon a look. To see more now, click here.

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