The next day I woke up at 10 or so to find that GuyRo and Celine and had already gone to work. They had left me a wonderful note, which I responded to with many thanks. I then called Jocelyne, the women who I had met the day before at the Bacchu-Ber. She said I could come over in 10 minutes, so I quickly gathered my things together and headed on over to their house, just above the church, on Rue de Saint Roch (the patron saint of the day of Bacchu-Ber) I arrived just as she and Michel were heading out for a hike. I thanked them for having me, took my banjo and set out myself to see some more of the city. I walked up towards the top of the nearby hill and found a walled graveyard, with graves covered with ribbons and flowers. I watched along the ridge towards the center of Briancon and arrived in the village to discovered a huge outdoor market along the river.I wandered for a while looking at the vast assortment of cheeses, meats, veggies, clothes, tools, bread, furniture, and other varied goods. I found a small stone wall and sat down to play banjo. It was less successful from the busking side, but I made friends with lots of kids and even gave some strange banjo lessons that mostly involved wildly gesturing and then congratulating them on whatever sounds came out!
The market started to close down, so I packed up my banjo and hat full of coins and started towards the old city. After a bit of wandering I ended up by the wall along the edge of the city with a great view of the fort.
I noticed something that I hadn’t before which was a large green area with people picnicking down by what looked like old waterways. It was a really long hike down to the bottom on my side of the river, so I got to take a shortcut over an old stone bridge. The bridge was built in 1734 by Asfield, an architect under Louis 14th. The bridge forms an arch 70 meters above the river below and when it was completed without any loss of life it was deemed miraculous!
Oh, did I say “a shortcut over a bridge?” I meant to say “a shortcut over the edge of a bridge!”
I had stopped to ask about the jumping to the man running it and it turns out he is a friend of Nicolas, the man I met taking pictures yesterday. He offered me a discount and I took this as a question to say yes to. Also, I had watched several other people jump, so walking away at this point would have been giving up. I got wavered, insured, suited up, double checked, triple checked, instructed and walked up to the narrow stone wall on the edge of the bridge. They tell you not to look down, which is the best and most useless advice ever. Yeah right, like i’m not going to look down. But at the same time, that is such a bad idea. My legs were shaking as I stood on the edge of empty space, with nothing but rocks and the river below. The man shouted a count of three and I jumped out into the air, suddenly it was no longer scary. I just floated down, and in what felt like too soon the bungee was tightening and pulling me back up. I had a moment of weightlessness as I reached the apex and bounced a few more times. Oddly enough, my heart wasn’t racing, the adrenaline wasn’t pumping. Or maybe it was, but compared to standing on the edge, it was nothing. I didn’t like the standing, but the flying was great! I was lowered down to the river where another man through me a rope, pulled me over to a crash pad and laid me on my back to be untied. “Your first jump?” he asked. “it was a good jump. You dove just right.” Would I do it again? Only if it was bigger (sorry parents and parental figures). The actual jumping is great but the anticipation scares me stiff! It’s not worth it for little jumps!
I walked back up to the top, meeting Nicolas again as he picnics in the park with his wife and kid, (man, everywhere!) and reclaim my banjo from the bungee people. Hands are shook and I get directions to the Fort de Tete which is over the bridge (actually over this time).
The road up is long, twisty and rocky but I end up getting to the fort only to find that the gate inside is barred, locked and barb-wired. I follow the rest of the people around the fort to find that there is a small section that you can enter and explore. I also discover this passageway and decide to explore:
It turns out that (as one might expect) the fort had a network of passageways running throughout its entirety. Some ran around the outside walls and were clearly for defense, with arrow slots on the sides, many criss crossed from one side of the wall to another joining sections and providing access to supplies. There was one tunnel that was different from the others.
It ran into the depths of the castle with no light at all. I entered down a long flight of stairs until it leveled out, where I felt my way along rough walls, following the cool breeze from some far off exit. After what was probably only three or four minutes, but seemed like much longer, I saw shadows again and soon climbed up another flight of stairs and out into the sunshine.
I arrived at the house to find that my hosts were out, so I walked down to Nicolas’ house and helped peel potatoes and chop vegetable for an hour or so before wandering back up the the house. My hosts pulled up just as I knocked on the door. A friend of the family had been burned in a cooking accident; she was doing ok, but they had been taking care of her. We made dinner and ate in the garden with their daughter and a few of her friends.
The dinner was amazing, as usual, and I went to sleep amazed at the day’s adventures and my luck to find so many amazing people in my travels.