Short trip to Opio en Provence
I had a short work-related trip this week to Opio en Provence. It was not a working trip, but rather a team event, which means almost a vacation!
Getting there and back
I dislike taking the plane for very short flights (and Zürich-Nice is indeed only around one hour), as that means you’re spending 3× as much going to the airport, at the airport, waiting to take off, waiting to get off the plane, and then going from the airport to the actual destination. So I took the opportunity to drive there, since I’ve never driven that way, and on the map the route seemed reasonably interesting. Not that it’s a shorter trip by any measure, but seemed more interesting.
Leaving Zürich I went over San Bernardino pass, as I never did that before. On the north side, the pass is actually much less suited to traffic than the Gotthard pass (also on the north side), as you basically climb around 300m in a very short distance, with very sharp hairpins. There was still snow on the top, and the small lake had lots of slush/ice floating on it. As to the south side, it looked much more driveable, but I’m not sure as I made the mistake of re-joining the highway, so instead of driving reasonably nice on the empty pass road, I spent half an hour in a slow moving line. Lesson learned…
Entering Italy was the usual Como-Milan route, but as opposed to my other trips, this time it was around Milan on the west (A50) and then south on the A7 until it meets the A26 and then down to the coast. From here, along the E80 (Italian A10, French A8) until somewhere near Nice, and then exiting the highway system to get on the small local roads towards Opio.
What I read in advance on the internet was that the coastal highway is very nice, and has better views of the sea than the actual seaside drive (which goes through towns and is much slower). I should know better than trust the internet ☺, and I should read maps instead, which would have shown me the fact that the Alps are reaching to the sea in this region, so… The road was OK, but it definitely didn’t feel like a highway: maximum allowed speed was usually either 90km/h or 110km/h, and half the time you’re in a short tunnel, so it’s sun, tunnel/dark, sun, dark, and you’re eyes get quite tired from this continuous switching. The few glimpses of the sea were nice, but the road required enough concentration (both due to traffic and the amount of curves) that one couldn’t look left or right.
So that was that a semi-failure; I expected a nice drive, but instead it was a challenge drive ☺ If I had even more time to spend, going back via the Rhone valley (Grenoble, Geneva, Zürich) would have been a more interesting alternative.
Going to France always feels strange for me. I learned (some) French way before German, so the French language feels much more familiar to me, even without never actually having used it on a day-to-day basis; so going to France feels like getting back to somewhere where I never lived. Somewhat similar with Italian due to the language closeness between Romanian and Italian, but not the same feeling as I didn’t actually hear or learn Italian in the childhood.
So I go to France, and I start partially understand what I hear, and I can somewhat talk/communicate. Very weird, while I still struggle with German in my daily life in Zürich. For example, I would hesitate before asking for directions in German, but not so in French, unrelated to my actual understanding of either language. The brain is funny…
We stayed at Club Med Opio-en-Provence, which was interesting. Much bigger than I thought from quick looks on the internet (this internet seems quite unreliable), but also better than I expected from a family-oriented, all-inclusive hotel.
The biggest problem was the food - French Pâtisserie is one of my weaknesses, and I failed to resist. I mean, it was much better than I expected, and I indulged a bit too much. I’ll have to pay that back on the bike or running :-P
The other interesting part of the hotel was the wide range of activities. Again, this being a family hotel, I thought the organised activities would be pretty mild; but at least for our group, they weren’t. The mountain bike ride included an easy single-trail section, but while easy it was single-trail and rocky, so complete beginners might have had a small surprise. Overall it was about 50 minutes, 13.5km, with 230m altitude gain, which again for sedentary people might be unusual. I probably spent during the ride one of the deserts I ate later that day ;-) The “hike” they organised for another sub-group was also interesting, involving going through old tunnels and something with broken water pipes that caused people to either get their feet wet or monkey-spidering along the walls. Fun!
After the bike ride, on the same afternoon, while walking around the hotel, we found the Ecole de Trapèze volant open, which looked way to exciting not to try it. Try and fail to do things right, but nevertheless it was excellent and unexpected fun. I’ll have to do that again some day when I’ll be more fit!
Plus that the hotel itself had a very nice location and olive garden, so short runs in the morning were very pleasant. Only one cookie though each…
… and then it was over; short, but quite good. The Provence area is nice, and I’d like to be back again someday, for a proper vacation—longer and more relaxed. And do the trapèze thing again, properly this time.