In true French road building style, the Route de Presles balcony road proves to be another tremendous drive. Winding up the mountain side, more balcony tunnels greet us. First of all, we spot the hollowed out rock, which is unmistakable as we approach the route to the summit.
The Route de Presles is Located in the Drome and Isere region of South East France. Fortunately, this less populated route, means that we pretty much have the route to ourselves.
Thank goodness the road is quiet, because it’s not long before a jagged rock face appears. Then, comes the narrow, hairpin bends, followed by more overhanging rocks as we wind up the mountain.
This trip in a Summer dominated by the virus, is filled with fascinating drives, such as The Combe Laval Balcony Road. However, The Route de Presles balcony road, looks almost the most spectacular of them all. Let’s find out if it beats the rest!
Maybe it’s because of the way it’s situated, amongst beautiful scenery of green leaves and a backdrop of limestone cliffs. Whatever the reason, this road as it bends from the lower levels, before curving upwards towards the summit, is simply breathtaking.
So, no balcony road is complete without a few fascinating facts to put us in the mood. First things first, this route takes us on a 10km journey towards the top of the Presles Plateau. From here, the views span for miles, across the distinctive limestone cliffs of The Vecors National Park.
Not only is it steep, with a climb of 863m, but it’s also narrow in places, of course, adding to the thrill of the drive. Finally, there’s the balcony windows, where the drive winds through a series of tunnels, carved out of the rock.
Here, the outlook through the windscreen makes us feel on top of the world!
All the while, there’s a strong aroma of plant life. Needless to say, it’s a somewhat magical feel and almost Mediterranean like in the strong September sun.
As usual with these drives, there’s an air of anticipation as we reach the craggy overhangs of the rock face. Here, we hope our roof stays intact, as the sheer rock face above us gets ever closer to our heads, or so it seems!
Not only that, but the jagged edges of the cliff stick out in all sorts of directions, which means, we have to be extra careful taking those bends.
Luckily, there’s no other traffic to worry about, as we have the road to ourselves throughout. Of course, that’s just luck, so today we can breathe a sigh of relief!
After around 20 minutes, we find ourselves nearing the summit, then, a quick glance back brings a perfect glimpse of the balcony tunnels behind.
After reaching the summit, a lay-by allows for us to park up and take a walk back to take in the tunnels behind us.
There’s a great view too, stretching back down the hairpins and right across the limestone cliffs of The Vecors. For now though, we’re driving on towards The Gorges du Nan, further along the route over the plateau itself.
We pass hamlets, a mix of remote farm buildings and quaint houses of stone. We’re ready to descend off the mountain via The Gorges du Nan and we begin the down hill spiral of hairpin bends. then, we come across a sign, showing a height restriction of 2.8m.
Oh no! We can’t believe it. Now we’ve come across these before on our travels, particularly in Italy, where we’ve watched and waited to see what comes towards us! As soon as we see something our size or bigger, we know we’re fine to go for it!
This time though, there is no other traffic to test the way and our Campervan’s height of 2.93m leaves only one option – to turn back and return the way we’ve just come.
Of course, this is annoying and unexpected but it’s the most sensible option. It’s a reminder that no matter how much planning we do beforehand, there is sometimes going to be an unfound obstacle that gets in the way.
So, in the end we have to turn around and return along the same route. Driving off this high plateau and back along the Route de Presles, we retrace our steps. After a couple of hours drive, which takes us through a flat valley floor of orchards, mainly growing walnut trees in abundance.
It’s a rich landscape, filled with crops of goodness at every angle – we can tell Autumn is just around the corner.
We’re finding it difficult to find somewhere to stop for the night, yes it’s unusual to say this in France. We find we’re in a strange area, which becomes ever more built up as we head closer to Grenoble. It’s more of a functional place, and nowhere looks inviting amongst the mix of industrial looking towns on the outskirts.
As usual with France, it always comes up trumps in the end and no more so than a sleepy Aire in a small village within The Chartreuse Regional Park. We arrive just before dark, parking with a couple of other motorhomes alongside the historic site of Saint Christophe.
It looks intriguing and soon we discover that it is indeed a rather special place. For now, we’ll leave it there, resting beside a walking sign, you know where we’ll be heading on our next piece! See you there!