Tuesday 2nd October 2018
Mrs P and I took a historical walk today to the Fort de l’Infernet, high above Briançon.
The following is based somewhat loosely on fact but it comes with a FAKE HISTORY ALERT!
This is my feeble attempt at telling the history of the forts in this area in words while showing our walk in pictures by way of illustration.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin…
In 1692 the Duke of Savoie was sat at home, presumably in Savoie (Italy), thinking to himself (feel free at this point to put on a Allo, Allo type Italian accent), “I am fed up of pizza and pasta. Every night it is pizza or pasta. I am fed up of it.” (I know you are doing the accent. Don’t deny it.) Anyway, the Duke thinks, What I want is some… erm… pain au chocolat. That’s it! Pain au chocolat. I have no idea what it is but I know those French type people over the other side of the Col de Montgenevre in Briançon have it for breakfast every day. And look how happy they are. I want that. No more pizza, pasta. Get me my horse.”
So, he sets off from his home. Checks he has everything he needs; horse, money, clean pants (it’s a long way), warm clothes and an army of 20,000 men. “I may not even need the money.” He thinks.
After a relatively uneventful journey the Duke and his army arrive at and sack Briançon.
This is not the Dukes best move. His soldiers kill all the bakers in town and no one knows how to make the pain au chocolat.
For the next 21 years, until the treaty of Utrecht in 1713 the Duke has to eat pizza and pasta on alternate days. This irks him and he overcompensates by building more forts.
Despite the new fortifications the Duke, weakened by his endless, diet of pizza and pasta is powerless against the French canons when they retake the town in 1724.
Concerned at how close they came to losing the secret of the pain au chocolat the people of Briançon build a fort even higher than those that already sit above the town and decide to hide the recipe there.
This fort is not just a bit higher. It is way higher. The forts above town are at about 1,300 metres. This one is at 2,377 metres. From this vantage point the French battalion are able to taunt the Duke and his ancestors by firing badly made pizza base dough down into Savoie right up until the mid-1940’s and the end of WW2.
The fort, like all such forts, was abandoned largely because those pesky men in their flying machines had made them somewhat redundant. Local rumour however has it that the secret recipe for the original pain au chocolate remains hidden in the ruins of the fort. Like some doughy, sweet version of the legendary Arthurian knights awaiting Albion’s call.
Mrs P and I searched through tunnels and old buildings…
…descended ancient spiral staircases…
…and finally come to the hallowed spot where the original ovens that baked the battalion pain au chocolat rust slowly into oblivion.
We also found the all important battalion thunderbox.
There is a rumour that President Macron has ordered that the sight be raised to the ground and the earth sown with salt. Apparently, what with Brexit and everything, he is concerned that the oven may be stolen by the English and used to sacrilegiously make batter pudding.
HERE ENDETH THE FAKE HISTORY ALERT
It’s a 4 hour walk up, including mooching around. We thoroughly recommend it. Take a torch.
Incidentally, there really was a Duc de Savoie and he really did take the town of Briançon in 1692. Though I think he quite liked both pizza and pasta.
The Utrecht treaty is real too but I think that’s about it.