Descending from Altitude – Pérouges, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

We sadly mistimed our walk with the arrival of the huskies on our last day at La Plagne, so we did not get to do our usual walk on our last day. Instead we got to walk down the piste before it opened and into Plagne Village to fetch a fresh baguette from the shop along with all the natives. We had managed to get some local Beaufort cheese and ham at the local deli yesterday so a fresh baguette was de riguer to accompany them.

We finally unwrapped our silver screen from the windscreen as we prepared to depart, it had kept us cosy in the -12 degrees C overnight temperatures, but sadly hidden the lovely view over the mountains. We completed the usual services, or mostly anyway as the grey water valve was still frozen when we came to leave. It was sad to leave the familiar surroundings of La Plagne, but we were both ready to get on the road again. We descended the 21 hairpin bends to the valley with the engine temperature not having increased from ignition as we were downhill all the way.

We followed the now familiar route through the mountain valley through Moutiers and started to head west. We planned when we set off on this trip to head home for a short while at the end of March to complete a few tasks and visit friends and family. We have now booked the ferry from Roscoff to Plymouth for the end of the month, so will make a leisurely trip west via the Dordogne and then north up the Atlantic coast.

Beautiful Pérouges

Our first stop, about 200km away was one of the beau-village of France in a medieval of Pérouges. The change of landscape seemed to happen rapidly from the snow capped mountainous Alps to the green rolling hills as we headed west. We skirted Lyon, not really in the mood for a city stop after so long in the fabulous countryside of the the Alps. Pérouges turned out to be the perfect alternative. Although referred to as a cité, it is actually a small walled village, where apparently craftsmen once congregated being on the main route between Lyon and Geneva.

We pulled up in the wooded, gravel car park with public loos and a path into the village, the only motorhome, all for 3€ a night. Although later we did find a free motorhome area, where we were parked was much nicer. It was past lunchtime when we arrived so we greedily tucked into our fresh bread and cheese.

We completed the circular tour of the village around the Rue des Rondes (the round road), over the cobbled streets. It was encouraging to see how many houses appeared to be lived in year round and were clearly maintained and renovated. Apparently the town managed to maintain its textile industry, established by the original craftsmen, until the 18th century when the railroads and roads bypassed the town and the population dropped from 1500 to 90. It started to be restored in 1911 and we saw only one or two derelict properties in the whole village. Lots of beautiful stone houses in the style of, I think the Cotswolds, with walls made of pebbles or half timbered houses. The only traffic was a couple of builders vans, a lovely peaceful walk in the afternoon, with beautiful views out over the countryside beyond from the hilltop.

We congregated with the other visitors at the one café to have a drink in the sunshine in the main square. A charming spot in the late afternoon sun to while away a hour. Although according to one of the signs, it was previously the scene of a small number of witchcraft trials via burning at the stake, so it has not always been quite so peaceful.

Drawn to the café in Pérouges

We meandered back to the van in the late afternoon, both tired from interrupted sleep over the last few nights. We have put that down partially to altitude, certainly the compression on my shampoo bottle when we arrived at Pérouges was quite a visual of the effect the pressure change. You could certainly tell the difference on the difficulty of breathing on an uphill walk for example – and everything is uphill on a mountainside! Although, other vans departing the Aire in the early hours of the morning for presumably a long journey home did not really help either. We settled into our quiet little corner, happy to be back on our own for the night.

Feeling deflated by descent from altitude

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