Hautes-Alpes (05240) Population: 981 Altitude: 1397 m
The village of La Salle sits just a few minutes walk off the main N91 road leading up the valley. The old village is pretty and it's quite and natural. There are a lot of narrow little village streets, some "paved" with grass, running closely beside the houses, almost like private walkways. We've visited (and stayed) here on both of our vacations (both working vacations), in 1998 and 2003. Our main interest during our visits, other than hiking, was discovering sundials, so we may mention them a bit much.
Down at the end of the Descent des Choulieres, still in the old village, at the house called "Chez Le Grange", there's a pair of sundials up on the chimney of the house.
There's no commerce in the old village of la Salle. The Boucherie-Charcuterie is a small truck that stops on its way through - blowing its horn to let the residents know it's there. There is some commerce down the hill, in the hamlet of Villeneuve.
The Place du Cadran Solaire has a small evergreen garden, a pink-marble fountain, and a magnificent 1811 sundial (cadran solaire). The sundial is on the side of the 15th-century church, and the church, Eglise Saint-Marcellin.
The Briançionnais-style Saint-Marcellin has a tall, pointed clock-bell tower, wood-shingled roofs, and a rather ornate stone-pillared porch with vaulted ceiling. One of the three pillars is supported by a crouching stone lion in the same style at those at Embrun and Guillestre.
A Cybercafé at the Office de Tourisme (email access but no printing). There is a "Multiservice" just down the road, with Internet access and printing (a business run out of someone's home).
There are two laundromats (laveries automatiques): one in the old-village hamlet of Villeneuve, at the bottom of the road down from La Salle; another in the "mall" on the southwest side of the highway. The laundromat in the old hamlet was 10 euros for a large load; drop it off in the morning and pick up that evening; or and evening drop-off and next morning pickup.
The commune of La Salle-les-Alpes includes several hamlets: La Salle, Villeneuve (Villeneuve-la-Salle), Le Bez, Les Pananches, Moulin-Baron and Villard-Laté.
This is a holiday resort village, summer and winter, part of the commune of La Salle.
A large, commercial part of Villeneuve is on the southwest side of the highway, with an enormous parking lot, shops, a grocery store, the Office de Tourisme, and vacation apartments.
On the northeast side of the highway, the old part of Villeneuve is mainly a long street running beside the river. The street, a continuation of the road down from the village of La Salle-les-Alpes, is lined with shops and outfitters for hiking, skiing, rafting and biking,cafés and restaurants, most of them quite good. (We sampled a fair number!).
There's an underground pedestrian passage connecting the two parts of Villeneuve, so you don't need to dodge traffic to get from one to the other.
This little hamlet is in the commune of La Salle, and is located on the on the west bank of the river, just a couple minutes drive up from Villeneuve. The hamlet is old and quiet. There are a few newer houses, but it's still quite authentic.
We found 4 sundials in Le Bez. The hamlet is also a popular starting point for walking and hiking. Among the many trails marked, we found:
- Sentier Botanique, starting a few hundred meters from the hamlet, going out through the woods to the north.
- "Les Balcons de Serre Chevalier", going up higher onto the flank of the Encrins
- Tour de la Tete du Grand Pré, 13 km
- Sentier Belvédere Chapelle St Elisabeth.
Villard-Laté is a hamlet in the commune of La Salle-les-Alpes. It's located about 2 km southeast, on the hillside opposite Chantemerle.
It's a typical little mountain village, and quite nice, but now much more residential than farming. It has an old stone church with tall, pointed steeple. The communal bread oven (four communal) wasn't open while we were there, but there were signs that it's still used [interior photo]. No commerce at all, but a hotel, and a brocante-antique shop in one of the homes. Several little streets for strolling up and down the hillside of the village.
History of La Salle-les-Alpes
First record, 1118
Gallo-Roman: There are traces of the Roman road (voie romaine) that passed through the valley.
• GPS: 44.94492, 6.571935
IGN (1/25,000) #3536 OT "Briançon, Serre-Chevalier, Montgenèvre"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #6 "Ecrins Haut-Dauphiné"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #10 "Queyras Pays du Viso"
There's as much hiking as you could want in this region. Very nearby the village are short walks, such as
Circuit du Canal de l'Eglise, and
Circuit du Canal de la Broue.
Along the lower slopes of the Guisane valley the hiking is relatively easy. The GR50 (Tour du Haut Dauphiné) follows along above the river, from Le Freyssinet (3 km northwest of La Salle-les-Alpes) down past Briançon, curving southwest through Puy-St-Pierre and Puy-St-André.
On both sides of the valley, just 3-4 km into the hills, you'll have true alpine hiking, with the ridges and passes around 2500 m high. The GR (Grande Randonnée) trails are variants of the GR5, GR54, GR57. To the west are the Ecrins mountains, where the peaks (and some trails) get up over 3000 m.
We did one half-day hike beginning by Freyssinet. We crossed the river to the west and followed the GR50 south, then along a dusty road up the hillside past the Adventure Park, where there's Rambo rope walking for the whole family. The river here is at about 1400 m, and the trail junction with the start of the Botanique Walk is about 1515 m. From the start, the botanique trail goes _up_: we climbed to the top part, about 1660 m in 30 minutes. A great view from the top, of course.
A scenic lunch at the top. The trail continued north, but now downward, through the woods and eventually back down to the river. Other than a nice forest walk and a good climb, many of the trees, shrubs and flowers along the way are marked with notices of the names, in French and Latin.
There's also a Via Ferrata at Le Bez, beginning just before the start of the botanique trail.
Another Via Ferrata, the Via Ferratta de l'Aiguillette is at Le Pont-de-l'Alp, beside Le Lauzet, about 15 km northwest of Salle-les-Alpes, 6 km past Monêtier-les-Bains.
In 1998 we ate at the dining room of Le Christiania hotel, among other places. The food and service as good as you would expect (but don't always get) from a 3-star place. The trout was local, raised at a trout farm on the river at Le Casset. We tried a local Haute Alpes wine, Le Serre Gavet. Good but not outstanding; there's not a rich sun here to ripen the grapes for long days. Our hostess was actually born in the hotel, and her son, now the chef, will be carrying on the family tradition by running the place himself.
In 2003 we sampled most of the places in the old part of Villeneuve. Our favorite was the Chatelas. Outside is a terrace café area with lounge chairs and small tables, a fountain with toy ducks, and many toys for kids. Inside the ambience is great: like being in someone's great-aunt's living room. Home cooking wonderful, with good choices. Excellent service. The river runs just beside, almost underneath, the dining room.
Transportation La Salle-les-Alpes
Department 05, Haute-Alpes Buses
- See Beyond's Haute-Alpes (05) Bus Schedules for downloading Haute-Alpes bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).