Easter at Louvarel

13th – 17th April 2017

Slept really well. Although only 7C outside the morning sun was  glorious and bright. We don’t know if this is the norm or we are being lucky with the weather, but it’s so different from the perpetual grey of home. Cooked boiled eggs looking out of the kitchen window over the plain below with Switzerland and the Alps clearly visible in the distance. A good feeling.

We didn’t have too far to go our next site which I had booked in advance for 5 nights to see us through the Easter holiday, as we had no idea whether things get busy over that period. We arrived at the Yellowh Village site of Le Domaine de Louvarel near Cuiseaux and Champagnat not long around midday and were able to book in and order tomorrow’s bread at the modern reception. Had a good walk round before deciding which pitch to choose then went and consulted with the female half of the husband-wife management team, Marije, who being Dutch, spoke excellent english. She directed us to the nearest supermarket & Tourist Information, advised us what would be open over the Easter weekend, recommended a restaurant and committed to book us a Saturday night table and a taxi, and offered to arrange a haircut for Danny at her preferred hair salon. That’s what I call service.

Having staked our claim on our pitch, we high-tailed it in our van to the small SuperU in Cuiseaux then got back to have salad in the sunshine and undertake a bit of sunbathing in our oh-so-comfy chairs. Five days without moving on – great.

Good Friday – 14th April 

Don’t know who the site’s baker is but we had a lovely pain au chocolate (Kate) and pain au raisin (Danny) for a sinful breakfast. Diet starts AFTER easter. A lazy day with a walk round the lake before lunch – the large fishing lake is about 2miles around and used by both tcampers and locals. It has surprisingly little in the way of birdlife.

After lunch we upped sticks again and drove into Saint Amour for Danny’s 2.30 haircut which was, I have to say, very good. His second french haircut and both have been good. When we returned to the van we saw fluid draining from beneath – an accident with a bottle of Woolite, meant a quick clean up was in order followed by a visit to the Saint Amour SuperU which was far superior to the Cuiseaux store and resulted in a change of menu. Rabbit, local chicken (poulet au Bresse)and other goodies.

Back for some sun and then Kate realised she hadn’t checked the dates on some of her purchases and needed to BBQ the rabbit and  roast the chicken – tonight. What a feast – all the rabbit eaten and and some of the chicken, the rest kept for salad. All with excellent french bread. Could barely move afterward.

Saturday 15th April

Cycled the 4 miles into Cuiseaux and checked out Tourist Information for walking & cycling. Walked round the village for an hour locating the start of our selected walking route, admiring the old buildings, photographing the menu for that night’s restaurant – Le Petit Gourmand, which is mentioned in the Michelin Guide – and generally soaking up the atmosphere. The restaurant is on a nice square with a patisserie, the rather grand Mairie’s office with ‘ Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite‘ boldly stated across the front, and a fountain of ‘eau non-potable’ in the centre. The village was clearly all walled at one time as we found one of the 4 old gates – the Port au Verger – and managed to translate some of the legend written on it.

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There was also a lovely garden to the left of the gate belonging to whoever now lived in the dwelling in the wall. As well as a church within the walls there is another, older and very pretty church outside with a churchyard around it.

Walking around we became quickly aware of the dogs which every home outside the walls with a garden seemed to have as all made their presence felt by barking, with various degrees of enthusiasm.

Exploring concluded, we cycled back but this time we covered over 6 miles as we kept trying to follow tracks on the map from Tourist Information. They either didn’t exist or petered out into dead ends, private land with big dog signs or un-cycleable footpaths which did Kate’s poor sore hands no good at all.

Spruced ourselves up and went to wait at reception for the taxi to Le Bistro Gourmand. It was, predictably, late but Marije chased it up for us and assured us this was normal in France and that the restaurant would be fine. It arrived at 8pm and Marije gave the female driver and ourselves instructions to ensure we got back okay.

We got a warm welcome at Le Bistrot Gourmand by the lady maitre d’ who also, thankfully spoke english. She had also prepared a translation into english of the various menus and said we were the first english of the season so she had not spoken it since last October. We had done pretty well on the translation except that ‘brochet’ was literally pike as in the fish, not my guessed interpretation of ‘kebab’! Also, we had forgotten to translate the specials board so we were very grateful to her. The restaurant was half full with 12 covers including us, and capacity for maybe the same again. Cosy.

Cremant for me and a Macvin du Jura for Danny to help us ponder the menu, then we had a really good meal.  Kate  – a half  baby lobster cooked in a delicious but incredibly rich sauce of Jura vin jaune and cheese, followed by an equally delicious, equally rich and perfectly cooked main consisting of a large chunk of cod on a bed of saffron risotto with chorizo and cheese, topped with 2 lovely langoustines. Then a trio of desserts – chocolate ice-cream, a lemon curd thing, and fresh fruit salad.

Danny started with eggs poached in a bourguignon sauce which he swears was delicious, and followed by ‘ris veau’ which turned out to be thymus or sweetbread of veal served with a mushroom sauce with ceps and morels. Again, he loved it. It was served with a nice little cast iron pot of Daupinoise potatoes but it was too much. He finished with nougat glace with fruit coulis. How he managed it I do not know.

I should mention that we got 2 complimentary pre-starters – goose rilletes with bread, then 2 slices of mini pate-en-croute – and just when we thought nothing else could pass our lips, an after-dessert of little nibbles – a chocolate one, a macaroon, and something else I can’t remember.

All washed down by a very good Crozes Hermitage. The bill was great value and we can see why it gets a mention in the Michelin Guide. Would go back tomorrow if our stomachs could take it.

Then our taxi whisked us away on the return leg of an extortionate €43 round trip – for a total of 14km, taking 8 minutes each way. Slept like babies.

Easter Sunday 

Rained heavily around 0600hrs and forecast wasn’t great so we had a a lazy day. Face-timed mum which was good although she doesn’t like the slight delay much. After lunch Kate tried to use the laundry but got chased off by a german lady so she washed the van, and Danny tidied garage. Then he did the prep for dinner – stuffed Aubergines which we later had accompanied by our easter present from mum, a bottle of Jura Vin Jaune. Another first which we really enjoyed. And we ate our chocolate chicken and all her eggs for dessert.

Easter Monday

Kate got an early morning laundry done and we cycled into Cuiseaux which appeared to be closed. At 10.15 we started our 15km ‘difficile’ walk taking in the Belvedere de Cuiseaux, Mount Fevrier, Col de 4 Baunes, Croix du Perroux, Vaux and Champagnat. The first hour and a half at least was uphill and was quite steep, particularly at the start. The sun was out though we were shaded by the trees and we walked up through woodland with stunning spring flowers everywhere. Whites, purples, pinks and yellows, wood anemone and sweet woodruff, ajuga and violets, tall wild orchids, creeping buttercups in the meadows, vetch in the hedgerows and dead nettle in the woodland. Kate nearly drove herself nuts trying and failing to identify plants.

Cuckoos were calling all the way, as elusive as ever, until around 3 hours in one was close enough to be lured in by Danny using a recording on his iPhone – and we saw our first cuckoo of summer. We celebrated by stopping for lunch – a fresh baguette with boiled eggs for Danny and jamon cru for Kate. Danny finished with passion fruit and an apple.

After we had descended to the Croix de Perroux – although we were still a decent height and could see away to distant mountains – the land took on a more cultivated quality. We followed a footpath through a wood, part of which was green with moss covering every part of the trees, hanging down and deadening the sounds, creating an eerie atmosphere.

We continued to zig-zag downhill to the sound of a motor in the distance. 15 minutes later we encountered the farmer wielding the noisy strimmer, loading his 4×4 with newly cut meadow grasses. He appeared bemused to see someone actually using the footpath, and even more so when we replied to his greeting in english!

We also saw our first European black woodpecker nearby.

Through the hamlet of Vaux, on to Champagnat then the final stretch up over a rise and down again into Cuiseaux. We finished our walk as we had started – to the sound of barking village dogs – at 15.15. Five hours to do 10 miles – Nat & Ian would be ashamed of us!

We cycled back towards the campsite and added an extra 3 miles looking (unsuccessfully) for entry to the nearby autoroute service station for the van for next day. So, 11 miles by bike & 10 miles on foot – with a hill – felt good. And the rain held off. Celebrated with a pint of Le  Rouget beer at the campsite bar, although we cooled down quickly in the outdoor seats and quickly retreated to the van.

Finished our stay at Le Domaine de Louvarel with a meal in the restaurant at 7.30pm –  Hamburger Louvarel for Danny & Pizza Danoise for Kate, both good. Marije came and chatted to us for a while which was nice.  A good way to finish our stay there.