Stumbling across a quiet little Aire for the night brought a rather pleasant surprise come sunrise. Because, unbeknown to us, we’d arrived at the village of Saint Christophe in The Chartreuse Natural Park. Best of all, we soon discover that this is home to some rather fascinating finds.
Opening the blinds of the motorhome next to a large display board, brought a bit of a lucky find. Right in front of us was the beginning of a marked walking route to a huge cave complex.
Well, this meant only one thing – finish off the breakfast and get exploring!
We take a moment to read the information board, before realising there’s actually a little bit more to Saint Christophe. This place looks incredible, not only are there several marked walking trails, but also tours into the vast cave network.
Now it’s time to choose a path, so we follow a stone track up the hill behind us. Soon, we arrive at a huge stone monument of Sainte Christophe himself. To be honest, we’re a bit confused as to what’s what here! One thing’s for sure, on this mid-September day, the place is deserted!
So, first of all, what is this that we’ve stumbled across and why the big attraction?
Well, this is a route known as The Sardinian Way, used since Roman times as a passage through the mountains. However, the highlight are the caverns inside the mountain, 2 of them in fact and both accessible by a 1 1/2 hour guided tour.
Apparently, the monument is to remember Duke Charles Emmanuel ll of Savoy, a man who instigated renovation work on the Sardinian Way back in the 17th Century.
Finally, the walking routes will take us on a voyage of discovery. Meandering through woodland on a rocky plateau, home to the first human inhabitants of the Savoy region,14,000 years ago.
Beyond the large stone plaque came a rather tempting metal staircase clinging to the rock face, and our chosen walking route.
It’s a gorgeous route, leading towards a wooded plateau and various paths of discovery. I’m not sure what we expected, but this hilltop forest is full of nooks and crannies. From rocky, moss-covered formations to wooden shelters and a labyrinth of leafy paths to explore.
It’s a 6km circular route, and after a couple of hours, we find ourselves back at the village. Unfortunately for us, today the caves were closed to visitors, so although the walk was well worth it, the main attraction of the caverns were out of reach.
For those lucky enough to step inside, they look incredible, with walkways taking you through a series of enormous caverns.
Just when we think it’s all over, we find an even better discovery – the most idyllic ravine and Roman Bridge. It’s a lovely surprise as we accidentally turn left at the end of our walk instead of right. This Roman Bridge with stunning gorge is blessed with the clearest river water beneath.
It’s a beautiful spot, so we take our time admiring the serenity of the location. There’s a small path leading to the arched bridge, where the stone path hangs perfectly over the gorge. Another path leads above the ravine, we follow it until the end – a short distance and ideal opportunity to take a look at the gorge itself.
Now, it’s time to walk back through the village to the campervan. It’s a small hamlet of houses, with nothing much going on other than the occasional sound of a cockerel.
Before we know it, we’re back where we started and ready to move on. It’s been a good morning, exploring a place we’d never known about before, a reminder of those lesser-known locations bringing out the most memorable of days.