Leaving the incredible Combe Laval Balcony Road behind, we’re heading to a place we’ve seen advertised many times, but never visited. The medieval Pont-en-Royans looks incredible, with it’s narrow, jagged buildings perched above a calm river setting. Soon, we’ll find out if those picture postcard snaps are really as good in the flesh!
First though, we need to do a supermarket shop and find a laundry. Yes, it’s time for those all essential chores.
Then, it’s a short drive to a rather lovely Aire at the main attraction. No other than the medieval village of Pont-en-Royans itself and it looks intriguing.
It’s not often we manage to find an Aire at an old campsite, but this is one such place and it’s fab. The location beside a small lake gave a welcome rest opportunity. Not only is it a pretty setting, but the pitches are rather lovely too. There’s plenty of space, hedges dividing the pitches and a basic toilet building. Noticeably making use of the old campsite amenities block – how thoughtful.
Now, don’t expect top end campsite facilities though! I read one post from someone who’d stayed here a few days before us, giving terrible reviews because of the awful facilities!
Probably what they’d failed to realise, is that this is no campsite any longer. In fact, to get a hedged pitch with the possibility of a loo at all, is actually a rare occurrence on a French Aire.
So, for us old time Aire enthusiasts- this is the height of luxury!
Although it’s now mid September, still there is no let up to the heat. Most of the time, the temperatures reach 30C, which is draining on our day to day activities.
Often, we find it easier to explore once the sun has gone down, instead enjoying the cooler air of early evening. Having said that, we’re not complaining – far from it. As is usually the case, we’d rather the warmth on our back than cold, grey skies and we’re grateful for these last days of Summer.
After an aperitif under the moonlit sky, we choose to stroll beside the riverside path towards the village. Of course, this is the year of the virus, so things aren’t as they would usually be. Gone are the crowds that would usually still linger into Autumn, and outside terraces remain empty, a result of these strange times.
However, in the dimly lit night sky, the ancient village oozes a charismatic glow. There’s no doubt that these crooked walls and ancient timbers could tell a tale or two. If only walls could talk springs to mind.
Once our weary heads are rested, we take to the same riverside path under the heat of the sun. How different things look in daylight, now the charming village gives way to its full features. Our route from the Aire is just a short distance to the centre, following the clear river as we go.
Before long, the tall, narrow dwellings bring a magical appearance to our daylight discovery which is full of ambience.
It’s a place full of all the rustic appeal France has to offer, typically seeming to crumble before our eyes, yet still so inviting.
The buildings are suspended in mid-air, or so they appear. These long, narrow dwellings hanging above the river resemble more of a film set. Are they really occupied we wonder?
The wooden facades continue as we cross the river towards a bridge. Now, we stroll towards the tiny alleyways of the historic centre. The pathways to these dwellings are so small, I’m sure our outstretched arms would reach between the rows.
We tread the steep stone steps, trying not to stare through the windows that are right beside us. There surely is little privacy for those living in these parts.
Although medieval Pont en Royans has charm in bucket loads, I have to say, it’s a small place. So, once we’ve exhausted the centre we decide to move on, this time heading for another winding route – The Gorges de la Borne.
The jagged, rock faces of the riverside gorge route is a breathtaking one. Soon, we’re finding ourselves gliding beside craggy overhangs and winding our way around narrow bends for a tantalising 12 miles.
Once again, it’s a drive that’s worth the effort, culminating in what first appears to be a rather unassuming village.
At this sleepy village of Chappelle-en-Vecors, a lunch stop awaits, before taking a look around. However, this typically French village has a dark history. It was here in July 1944, where Nazi bombs destroyed the village, before setting it alight.
Unfortunately, worse was to come, when 16 inhabitants were taken hostage, only to be murdered shortly afterwards in a local farm. This whole region was home to the Resistance during the war, and we’re finding reminders everywhere.
Memorials to fallen fighters can be found scattered around the countryside. Regrettably, all are victims to the horrors of war at the hands of the Nazi regime during World War ll. This is region is another sad reminder of so many lives lost.
After pausing to reflect in front of the local memorial within the village centre, we take a moment to think of those lost. It’s always so difficult to imagine those horrific dark days of war, in the strong sunlight of our modern lives.
Next time, we’re heading to a nearby town more familiar in appearance to an Alpine resort, where we get up close and personnel with some rather strange footprints!
Thanks for reading: Medieval Pont en Royans!