Friday, 1 March 2013

A week in France

Danny and I and our friends, Mick and Susanna, spent a week at the home of our friends, Micky and Nicole, in a small medieval village in the Drome departement in the Rhone-Alpes region of France.

Rhone-Alpes region

More info on Rhone-Alpes

Drome Departement

Guide to Drome

Drome is in southern Rhone-Alpes region which borders on Switzerland and Italy.

According to our host the weather was unusually cold during the week we were there.  When the wind blew, as it did in several areas, the effect was like a blast from the Arctic. Winter is very short in this part of France as it has a Mediterranean climate. It did finally begin to warm up just before we left and reached nearly 10C/50F.  It was sunny most days with just a couple of cloudy ones.  It never rained but we did have light snow flurries once or twice.

In spite of the cold we had a fabulous week! During the week both Nicole and I celebrated our birthdays.

Nicole and Micky are fantastic cooks and some of the foods included:  lots of fresh French breads, cheeses, nougat which is made in the town of Montelimar.  We also had large lunches and dinners and both included wines, salads, cheeses, breads.  Other very delicieux foods we were served:  paella, prawns, mussels, clams, chicken, guinea fowl, ham, sausage, scallops.  Also had crepes, a chocolate whisky cake, pain au chocolat (croissant with bits of chocolate), nougat, chocolates, etc.

The area is well-known for the many medieval villages (communes). Most of the houses are built with river stones which I found to be the most attractive buildings.  I enjoyed the brightly coloured shutters and doors as well, and the narrow alleyways.

Flickr photo collection of our trip

Day trips we took (with links for each):


Montelimar is a moderate-sized town in the area and is the Nougat capital.  Delicieux!! We wandered through the markets but didn't stay long as it was a very cold and windy day. We did stop for coffee and chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) made with thick, delicious chocolate.  Mmmm....


We visited this village on market day and purchased some beautiful pottery, then wandered the streets/alleys.  In the summer this village is heaving with European tourists.

La Laupie

From the above website which translated it from French (with errors):

"The Laupie
Perched on a strategic height in the middle of the plain, the old village of La Laupie gradually abandoned in the early twentieth century, was the final blow in the battle of Montelimar (late August 1944) with a barrage of 650 rounds fired by German armies américaine.Non far from the village of Bonlieu became a buffer zone between the opponents.
This heap of ruins, new owners have revived the houses one by one from the years 1962-1963.
Scattered on the ground, stones, architectural details, lintel or transom-eye beef, have gradually found their way into the facades.
A big concern for authenticity oversaw the restoration, giving it a particularly homogeneous.
 The castle, heir to a first building built in 1000 and remodeled many times over the centuries, is again crowned the hanging garden that makes it unique.
 To enjoy this architectural ensemble better through the streets on foot. They can park in a parking area near the cemetery.
The visitor will not fail to return from stop to admire the Saint-Michel chapel built on a promontory.
Revised several times, the building began in the same time as the old village, it has elements inside of the twelfth century."

I simply loved these buildings and the view!!  

We roamed the streets and alleys and visited Chateau de Grignan.

"As you approach Crest, from far away you will see the 'trademark' monument of the town - the Crest Tower. Dating from the 11th century, the tower was once part of a castle and is the highest medieval keep still standing in France (with a height of a little over 50 metres). The rest of the castle was destroyed under the orders of Louis XIII in the 17th century.
At this time the tower became a prison."

It was a steep hike up to visit the former prison but the views and sites were well worth it. 

Charming medieval village!

Saint Gervais sur Rubion

Our friends village. It was established in about 1100.  Population within the village itself is about 400, with another 300 on the outskirts.

Other villages we visited or took a drive through were Cleon d'Andran, Marsanne, Sauzet, and Saint-Marcel-les-Sauzet.  Likely a few more as well.....


I'd love to return to the area in summer when the lavendar, poppies, and sunflowers are in bloom!

Although I'd been to France before, I had never experienced the triple-cheek-kissing (4 times in Paris).  Quite like the custom!

My French is limited but I did enjoy using what little I know.  I'm inspired to restart using my French language programme and would love to visit and be able to hold a conversation.

In the village where our friends live there is a small cafe/pub which we visited several times, consuming large quantities of beer and sometimes wine.

Micky and Nicole's home is about 350 years old and utterly charming with a unique layout on several levels.  The house was basically a shell when they bought it decades ago.  Micky has done a massive amount of work on it over the years and enhanced the character of the house so that it has the atmosphere of a historic house while also having modern conveniences.

Our departure from Lyon Airport was less than pleasant.  Some of the people at security were impatient and short-tempered.  I had to take out my camera and all the lenses, my Kindle, phone...  I was yelled at because Danny had gone through the metal scanner before being interviewed by the man in charge of the 'personal trays'.  The interviewer kept reverting to French even after I'd told him I didn't speak French.  C'est la vie.

I look forward to going back, hoping next trip it to Plum Village near Bergerac in the Dordogne Region.

Except for local trips, we have no plans to travel until June when we visit the US for a month.

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