16 September 2010

Pont Du Loup

J and I had lunch out last Friday. I had offered Thursday but for some reason she preferred Friday, so Friday it was. We went to Pont Du Loup which is in the opposite direction from Tourrettes and sat in La Source at a table no more than about 2 feet from the main road.

Whilst the passing cars, lorries and buses are a bit of a distraction, the food is very good with steaks to die for so we put up with the noise and rumbling tables and give them our custom a couple of times a month. I’m sure the free glass of champers which J sometimes gets when she goes there is also a consideration although there was nothing free offered on Friday!

Now Pont Du Loup (Bridge on the (River) Loup) is a bit of a misnomer because the bridge is a tiny and nondescript structure, but in days past it must’ve been the centre of life in the village because right on the bridge is an old derelict hotel La Reserve. Across the bridge is a derelict tea room which again must’ve been quite fancy in its hey day. The sweet factory is below the bridge and towering above ‘the pont’ is the old viaduct which once carried the Provence railway. The picture shows both the viaduct and hotel prior to the 2nd world war when everything was in one piece!

Between the hotel and the viaduct (and I mean literally, not physically), there is a bit of history about Pont Du Loup but the stories are so clouded in mystery and intrigue, one is never sure of the truth.

First, the viaduct. The story is that despite being Vichy France (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vichy_France)
  which was supposedly a quiet bit of the country with little or no fighting, there were many Germans in the Provence area (they would come down for a bit of R&R) and hence there was quite a bit of Resistance effort. And the story has it that when the German contingent were leaving the area at the end of the war, they blew up the towering viaduct so that any allied forces could not follow them. The Germans of course, hotly dispute this version of events.

The picture shows the viaduct as it is today. Whoever was responsible, they have curtailed the ability to now drive along the old Provence railway, as whilst much of the old track has now been turned into road, there is only so far you can go before coming to a blown up section. Vandals!

The Loup Gorge
Prior to the war, back in 1907 a fancy new hotel, La Reserve, opened right on the bridge. It was the first in the area away from the coast to have electric lights, luxury accommodation and facilities for cars. It also had a swimming pool carved out of the rocks beside the river, the remnants of which can still be seen. Along with the Auberge which is still operating as an hotel today, and another hotel which is now the village school, these three establishments catered for the multitude of visitors who came up on the Provence railway to wonder at the gorge (see picture) and to visit the perfume factory – now a confisserie (sweet factory).
Some time in La Reserve's past, the story goes that either (a) the owner got into trouble with the mafia who bombed the hotel, placing the charges beside the huge pillars which drop down to the river bed and which support the whole building, or (b) the owner got into financial trouble and blew his own hotel up, blaming the act on criminals and hoping to get a huge insurance payout.

Whatever the truth, the hotel lay in ruins for some twenty years before a South African diamond dealer bought it and started work on converting  the building into luxury apartments.

J met him at a party several years ago just after he’d bought the hotel (when she found out he was a diamond dealer she was all over him like a rash) and today a significant amount of work has been done although it is far from being completed. It's taken several years but much is still to be done - it just shows how slowly things move in good old rural France.

Unfortunately, the viaduct is beyond economic repair!   

No comments: