The ski resort of Vaujany offered the most exceptional free camping in the Alps, if you were prepared to climb back up to it at the end of every local skirmish.
Scared off by the prices and close proximity of fellow campers in Bourg d’Oisans – the famous base of the Alpe d’Huez climb – I travelled further afield to make my solar panels put their hands in their pockets and work for themselves. The place I was to find would do just that and more. Sitting at 1,800m of altitude the crystal clear midday sun was so bright at one point that it blew a fuse in my regulator.
What I came to find the most endearing feature about Vaujany, aside from the all-weather funiculars and escalators that whisk you up and down the near vertical mountainside town, is the local Sherpa store. They had an almost commendably unashamed attitude to pricing their goods – usually way over the odds – so it was always something of a novelty to see what final total you would be presented with at the checkout.
On the occasion that the difference was more than even I could bear and I reluctantly embraced my inner-European to protest, they would look at me like I was criminally insane, and explain lengthily in French something to the effect that the authority of the barcode was absolute. I somehow didn’t feel it appropriate to lecture them on EU trading standards. Particularly as I couldn’t speak French.
So with all savings on camping neutralised by my karmic experience at the grocery store, I allowed myself to stay for a week, hanging my laptop out of the window to receive the town wifi and occasionally stirring myself to go on a bike ride – the conclusion to which would always inevitably be one hell of a climb back up to base camp.