Friday, August 7, 2009

La Tour du Pin, part 1

This week I'm really on vacation. How about another trip to the Rhone-Alps region, for some more hiking. Sounds good. Tuesday morning nice and early I herd all the cats indoors (they hate that. They know what's up - they saw my backpack and heard that huge bowl of catfood being poured!), and take the same bus I would usually take to work.
Once again, a train to Lyon. I'm getting to know this section of track pretty well. Why do I keep going back? In the spring I bought this discount card for trains going between the Rhone-Alp and Auvergne, and I'm determined to see everything.
Then on to Saint André du Gaz, arriving in the early afternoon. It's pretty plain territory around here. We're so close to the foothills of the Alps, but not in them yet. We're barely off the flat, boring plain with its sprawling industrial towns. St André is not my real destination: I want to go to Aiguebelette-le-Lac, which really is in the foothills, but it's such a tiny speck on the map, and on my train schedule it's in the tiniest of type, I'm not sure of there being anywhere to stay there. St André is written on my schedule with much bigger type, and seems to have plenty of trains, I figure it's got to have stuff.
There's your classic hotel-across-from-the-station. It isn't closed, like so many of these now, but it's pretty rundown, and it's getting toward that category of hotel that I promised myself I wouldn't do any more. The kind with bugs. So I walk into town, which isn't so small, just spread out. It's almost the size of Culoz. But there's no other hotel. There's not even a shop open to sell me a bottle of water. The only dinner option will be pizza.
Ten minutes back up the line was a very cute-looking town. A significant town with possibly three or four hotels. I'll go back to La Tour du Pin and make it my base.

There's time to kill waiting for the bus to La Tour, and I spend most of it looking at my train schedules. It's actually a good thing I'm going back one town. St André might be in large type, but not all the trains stop at all the towns. If I stay here, my choices for going on to Aiguebelette are 6:40 or 12:18. Before 7 am is way out, and noon just kills the hiking day. Happily, from La Tour I can catch a train (not without some serious grumbling, but it's possible) at 7:09, skip over St André, and start hiking at 7:58.
In La Tour the bus takes us through the center of town, where I start to wonder if maybe I was wrong about places to stay, but at last we pass the little Hotel de France. Perfect. Only, the door is locked and the sign says closed for vacation. Back August 10. Helpfully, it lists other hotels in the vicinity. Since the list is meant for people with cars, the Mercure 3 minutes away is my only reasonable choice. But 3 minutes in which direction?

By 4:30 I am checked into a rather nice room at the Mercure, with a view over the town and a bathtub. I didn't even have to ask, and I have a bathtub. I don't care if it's too expensive here; I can take a hot soak. And I will, later.
Right now I'm going to explore the town, and score tomorrow's lunch.

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