Monday, March 25, 2019

Mountain town: Gap, France

Confession: the first day I met David, I had never heard of his hometown. Who would have guessed that I'd end up spending so much time there?

Me being weird and playing on a fountain in Gap.

If you have heard of Gap (and you haven't lived in the region), it's probably because you're into skiing, hiking, and/or biking- all of which attract tourists to Gap. It was once voted the "sportiest city in France." 

This is hilarious because my lovely husband from Gap is not the sportiest of people (you know I wouldn't marry someone who likes to spend inordinate amounts of time outside). As a poor oppressed child, he was forced to ski in the Alps for school and hated it.

Gap has a population of about 40,000 people. To put it in perspective of French cities you're more likely to have heard of, it is 2 hours south of Grenoble, 3 hours southeast of Lyon, and 3 hours north of Nice. 

One of my least favorite things about Gap is that it's a little isolated. There is no airport close by and there are hardly any trains going in and out of the city.

One of my favorite things about Gap is the cute downtown area. The centre-ville is a 10 minute walk from the Rubino house.

The architecture is not centuries-old, but I still think it's fairly charming. Growing up here explains why anytime I wanted to take a picture of a quaint, narrow street David scoffed because "it's just a normal street." Not for me David, o.k.! Just, o.k.?

I love the colors- especially in summer!

In warm weather, the city squares are full of people eating outside. Despite having a snowy winter, Gap has plenty of sun the rest of the year.

Every Saturday, a big open-air food market takes over the downtown. It is always crowded, and it's fun to people-watch.

If you know where to look, you can find 3 frescoes painted by David's parents decorating downtown Gap. This one is even featured on Gap's Wikipedia page, so I feel like they're famous. 

The Gap cathedral is very new by French standards. It was finished in the early 1900s to replace its medieval predecessor that was in ruins. 

There is most likely no French person that finds it particularly special (you can sometimes see groups touring it while the locals roll their eyes at them), but I come from a cathedral-less town so I enjoyed it.

Of course, the thing that makes Gap special are the mountains that surround it. We went on Saturday drives pretty often with Nicole to see the countryside. Thankfully she is a pro at navigating cliff roads.

Charance is a mountain peak that you can see from the Rubino's front yard. You can drive up to the "Domaine de Charance" to visit a beautiful little park with a great view of the city. We were frequent visitors.

I'm glad I got to know this part of France! I'd love for my family to see it someday and get a glimpse of where their son/brother-in-law grew up. We only need to convince David to go back. ;)

I have one last picture- David's high school. Someone did not go to school in a cinder block box like moi. 

This is my final summary post from last year- I also wrote about:

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Road Trip à la française

During our time in France we lived three hours south of David's hometown (read about our place in Cannes here). 

Since our days were numbered before moving the the U.S. permanently, we spent a lot of time visiting his family. It was the norm for us to make the drive from Cannes to Gap one weekend a month and stay from Friday to Sunday.

Road trip in Provence
My favorite site along the way- endless sunflowers in the summer!
That meant that we became very familiar with the Provence and Alpine scenery between the two cities. To stave off boredom I took a lot of pictures during the drives. When the weather was nice we would sometimes stop to stretch our legs and visit several of these towns. None of them are super touristy/well-known places, so it was fun to discover small-town France.

Let's relive our road trips, shall we?


Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume cathedral

Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume cathedral

This town (with the longest name ever) is home to an incredible and interesting cathedral. You can see the huge cathedral from the highway and it's especially cool when they light it up at night. 

They started to build it in the late 1200s, when what they believed to be Mary Magdalene's remains were discovered. Legend has it that Mary escaped Judea to flee persecution and took a boat across the Mediterranean. Her skull can be found in this basement.


Ollières is a little forgotten town on a hill. It always reminded me of my dog nephew Ollie- especially because their claim to fame is that they host a dog festival every year. :)


This was one of the prettiest towns we drove past. We stopped there a few times to try and visit the church, but it was always closed!



Valensole, road trip in Provence

Valensole was slightly out of the way but we drove by a few times. We came for the lavender fields but stayed for the sunflowers (more pictures here).


Citadelle de Sisteron

I loved making it to Sisteron because it meant we were finally almost in Gap!! From what I've heard, it kind of marks the border between the Provence region and the Alps. Sisteron is a fortress that sits on top of a mountain. All of the above pictures were taken from a moving car haha. 

The views were even better when we actually visited and toured the fortress!

View from Sisteron fortress



Castellane is not a town we drove through every time, because it meant taking the long scenic route through the mountains- something we did not attempt in the winter. It did save us money, however. If we took the highway, it cost 30 euros round-trip to go to Gap!

So going to Castellane was a win-win! Cute town + no tolls.

The more mountains we started to see, the closer we were getting to Gap. 

According to David, Gap is so named because it is a gap in the mountains. Still not sure why medieval French people named their town in English but whatever. Driving in the mountains is lovely.

My final post in this trilogy I've been planning on writing for a year will be all about Gap- my home away from home in France.