Our journey through The Vecors arrives at Villard-de-Lans. This region of France has landscapes of a more Alpine feel which is simply beautiful. Here we find green meadows, mixed with rustic farm buildings, bringing a laid back appearance. Above all, it’s rather chic.
Another small village, Saint-Martin-en-Vecors is worth a stroll. If only to admire the huge rocky outcrops of cliffs surrounding it.
One fabulous fact is the 400-year old lime tree, which can be found in the village centre. Certainly, it’s well worth a glance or two.
Our drive leads us to a free Aire at the swish ski resort of Villard-de-Lans. Leaving the cliffs behind, we now find ourselves amongst rolling meadows.
Villard-de-Lans is actually the capital of The Vecors National Park, so it’s no wonder it holds plenty of surprises.
First though, for anyone wanting plenty of room and a spacious parking place, the Aire here probably isn’t the best. However, like all Aires in France it’s perfect for an overnight stop and as usual, we’re just pleased to have the option.
So, we set about cooking a light supper before settling down for the night.
The following morning, as the sun breaks through the mid-September air, our thoughts go to stretching the legs.
Yes, our usual pastime of exploring on foot get’s the better of us, so out we stroll towards a marked woodland path. Soon, another sign appears beneath the trees – this time for a cascade. Of course, this meant, we just have to follow it to see what’s in store.
Luckily, it’s a very scenic route, meandering through a tree-lined path beside a stream. Before we know it, we arrive at a little glen and the most beautiful waterfall, reminiscent of a scene from down under.
Even better, is the fact that you can walk behind the tumbling water, making for a perfect picture opportunity. Not forgetting, those wet legs in the process!
Then things get even more interesting, when we come across an old lady. Just as we leave the waterfall behind, we choose a stoney path beside some fields. All of a sudden, there is a lady with no other than a wheelie shopping trolley, trundling along the stones.
She soon comes our way, pointing to the ground as she moves and talking as she points. As we try and explain in broken French that we are English speaking, she tries even harder to get a message across to us. Yes, we find ourselves puzzled, concerned and totally clueless, all at the same time.
We’re wondering if she’s lost or needs to get back home, especially when she asks if we have a car!
Before long, the conversation turns to a wolf and a bear, as English words spring to mind from the French stranger. By now, we really fear the worst, could there be a wild animal on the loose? So, the imagination is running wild, envisaging a wolf or bear lurking in the woodland around us.
Perhaps she needs to be escorted out of the woods to safety? Then again, maybe she’s just a bit mad! As the hand signals intensify, so does the frustration at not speaking fluent enough French to understand. Suddenly, we realise what she’s trying to tell us, and finally we breathe a sigh of relief.
At the end of the day, all she was trying to tell us was to follow the footprints! Because, we’d just missed a path leading to the work of a local sculpture, and his footprints of wild animals through the forest. My goodness – at last, it all becomes very clear and we realise she’d been pointing to the sculptured footprints in the path of a bear and a wolf!
Thank goodness for that!
We laugh out loud with the old lady in the woods, and before we knew it, she’d asked for our e-mail address and invited us back to her house! How wonderful it is to meet people on our travels, it’s a reminder of the good nature of of people and how those out number the bad in the world.
After saying our goodbye’s, we set about following this animal sculpture footprint trail and it’s a joy. Not only are there the wolf and the bear, but rabbits, squirrels, wild boar and so many more.
The sculpture trail, follows a well defined path leading back to the town of Villard-de-Lans. It makes an interesting route, trying to guess which footprints belong to which animal, thankfully, picture boards give the answer along the way.
Back in the town, the Main Street is full of independent shops, luxury in appearance and setting the scene for some outdoor dining opportunities.
In Winter, this Summer retreat turns into a thriving ski resort, dating back from 1920’s, when the town’s health benefits became the choice of many.
For now, we are leaving the lunchtime diners behind, but first we take an opportunity to buy some local produce. A selection of honey, terrine and saucisson make for a welcome treat, as we wonder back to the van just in time for lunch.
But now it’s time to move on and time to reflect on another fabulous unplanned day on the road. Isn’t it the small things in life that bring the greatest pleasures? For us, this was so true today and brought another long lasting memory to hold dear for many years to come.
Next time, our route will find us on another high mountain Balcony road, through hollowed out tunnels above breathtaking scenery of The Route de Presles.