12th April 2017
Headed through Besancon in the van on the second and final stage of our Raymond Blanc pilgrimage – his home village of Saone,. Got there before 11, the village looking quaint set amidst green fields with herds of brown & white cows enjoying the sunshine. A pleasant 17C.
We parked on the Casino Supermarket car park on the outskirts before walking in to the village which was unremarkable, rural France. Really nice. Compared to some, villages it was actually a hive of activity! There were 2 boulangerie-pattiserie shops and a boucherie-charcuterie where we bought some lunch – porc pate-en-croute for Danny (not unlike pork pie) and a cheese and ham pastry for Kate. We also bought a small crescent-shaped french loaf and a slice of ‘Marais’ for Danny – like an almond tart. Walked back past the Mairie’s office to the Casino supermarket which we went into on the basis we hadn’t been in one before. We are finding that each chain has its own character. Currently Rewe is our favourite, although a couple of the Intermarche’s have been good.
Next to the supermarket were a couple of small shops, one a hairdressers with a lovely bright red 2CV in front of it – with eyelashes on it’s headlights! Danny went inside in the hope of a cut, but no joy – fully booked.
Headed off towards our next destination – Chateau Chalon. A lot of the journey was on the N83 passing though rolling hillsides covered in trees – mainly deciduous and displaying the first greenery of spring. Past more herds of brown and white cows in spectacularly green fields brightened by the yellow of dandelions and buttercups. Past small orchards covered in white blossom and through quaint small villages such as Samson – some with no shop, some with one or 2. The kind of place that makes you idealise rural living particularly when you see people out tending their vegetables plots in the sunshine.
Near Montighny-les-Arsures we started to see small vineyards and the occasional field of rape. More motorhomes were visible on the roads. At Buvilly we saw the first tended plot of blackcurrants/redcurrants – and a village football pitch awash with buttercups. At Poligny – a lovely town that we would have no hesitation in re-visiting – we took a wrong turn due entirely to confusing satnav directions. With nowhere to turn around we carried on down the narrow road and passed the first gipsy encampment we had seen – about 10 vans. Ironicaly, they had erected a metal gate to deter trespassers.
The views were great – they always seem to be on these small roads – and the satnav indicated no problems but yet again it led us to another wrong turn which added 20 picturesque minutes to our travel time. Finally we turned onto the road that would take us up to our destination, perched on the limestone cliff hundreds of feet above. The climb was long rather than overly steep with only 3 or 4 hairpins and we finally parked up in the pretty village car park at 1.30pm – time for lunch. The cheese and ham pastry I heated was too dense and rich, but Danny really enjoyed his pate-en-croute from Saone. And we both enjoyed the fresh bread and radishes.
A cup of tea later and it was off to explore. What a stunning village, with beautiful old houses with terracotta grooves, beautifully painted shutters, and many with terraced gardens and amazing views down into the valley below. Hard to believe people live in such a beautiful place, but as well as attracting tourists this clearly a working village- both vines and other agriculture. An ancient Ferguson & Harris crop-cutter was rusting away beneath a tree in one garden, and Danny fell for an old green tractor, lovingly repainted, parked outside a house.
A young man came out and got it going. Danny declared he would move her tomorrow! We ambled round for about an hour, popping in for a ‘degustation’ in a wine ‘cave’. We ended up buying a red and a white Jura for the weekend. It is easy to see why people fall in love with France.
Headed off again intending to stop at an ‘Aire’ Danny had found on the internet at Baume Les Mesieurs, an easy 20 minute drive away down the blind valley of Baume. However when we arrived there was a campsite or a hardcore carpark with no facilities. We consulted the map and the iPad and chose to move on to another Aire allegedly 35 minutes away. We put it into the satnav which took us to the head of the blind valley – again the buildings were lovely – then up the far wall on a road that made Kate distinctly nervous but Danny was now a hardened professional who was not put off, despite the occasional, unnerving, on-coming vehicle.
There is no denying that the views down into the Cirque de Baume were stunning – limestone cliffs rising our of the trees, and the village and river in the valley below. Undoubtedly amongst the best views we’ve seen.
Once safely at the top a nice drive along the plateau then downhill through the village of Chantillon and onwards to …. yet another car park, this one where we couldn’t park the van due to prohibitions. If only we had the “All the Aires of France” book we had ordered. Luckily we had seen a nice car park at the viewing point above Chantillon so we drove back and parked up around 4.40pm.
Danny fell asleep almost as soon as we had admired the view – he’d done so well on the driving but the concentration takes its toll.
There were a number of other visitors to the viewing point – motorhomes, cars, pedal cycles – all stayed a short-time then moved on and we were left alone with our view, the evening sunshine and real peace and quiet. And the remaining Jalfrezi from yesterday. A large dose of recorded Black Adder saw us off to sleep.