The Eagle and the Hedgehog – a fable from Jura

Around la Chaux-du-Dombief, in Jura, it is like a pastoral symphony made landscape. Or is it a fable. The village could be a common Jura village, if it wasn’t for its magnificent surroundings. Just North is a long limestone ridge, that steeply plunged into two lakes, lac du Grand Maclu and Lac du Petit Maclu.Continue reading “The Eagle and the Hedgehog – a fable from Jura”

The Jura mountains

As I drove north from Annecy the Jura mountains, once again I found landscapes I felt at ease with. The Jura mountains are the north-eastern little sisters of the Alps. Switzerland is very close, as the crow flies, but it is cut off by the high peaks of the mountain range, then by the riverContinue reading “The Jura mountains”

The two sides of Annecy

In Annecy, a random change of perspective made me re-consider my whole impression of the place. I was drawn to Annecy after people told me of the turquoise waters of its lake, its beautiful mountain landscape and its fantastic outdoor sport scene. As I drew closer, all I saw was a town built around cars.Continue reading “The two sides of Annecy”

Nomadic people of France

During my wanderings I have met the nomadic peoples of France. Several times on the road as I looked for a place to stay, I saw signs for “Aire pour gens du voyage”, “site for the travelling community”. I hesitated. Technically, literally, those are set up for people like me. But “gens du voyage” isContinue reading “Nomadic people of France”

The Cathar castles

Since childhood I have wanted to visit the Cathar castles, “les châteaux cathares”.  And thankfully, the vertigo citadels, high on the Corbières’ peaks,  were up to my expectations. The Corbières are the hills which link the Pyrenees to the Massif Central; in the wider valleys grow wines, but the hills are covered in Mediterranean garrigue.Continue reading “The Cathar castles”

Along the Pyrenees 4: Massat, mountain capital of countercultures

Another nomad told me that in Ariège, Massat, a village south (and therefore uphill) from Saint-Girons, was the hippies’ HQ. So I decided to go, mingle, and see what happened. As I drove up the valley toward Massat (you pronounce the t), I went past several organic vegetables and fruits shops. On the road, moreContinue reading “Along the Pyrenees 4: Massat, mountain capital of countercultures”

Along the Pyrenees 3: Saint-Bertrand-de-Commingues

The village of Saint-Bertrand-de-Commingues was a turning point as I made my way east along the Pyrenees. It was the first time I felt I was going towards the Mediterranean. It was the first day of unblinking sunshine in a while, and I welcomed the dry heat, after the cool, damp high mountains. But theContinue reading “Along the Pyrenees 3: Saint-Bertrand-de-Commingues”

Along the Pyrenees 2: into the clouds

I thought there were sea people and mountain people, just like there are cat people and dog people. As a proud Breton, I was a firm sea person. I thought the sea and its tides couldn’t be matched; they create a landscape kaleidoscope that pins my attention to the present moment like nothing else. IContinue reading “Along the Pyrenees 2: into the clouds”

Along the Pyrenees 1: Béarn

From the Basque country, I drove westwards along the Pyrenees, staying on the French side of this magnificent mountain range. Straight as an arrow between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, a natural border between France and Spain, between the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. If you want to go anywhere fast, stay in theContinue reading “Along the Pyrenees 1: Béarn”

The Basque hinterland

The hinterland of the Basque country is, in my opinion, even more pleasant than the coast. There the landscapes of rolling hills building up to peaks is just as spectacular. And the culture is less diluted than on the coast. On the hills, pottoks (pie ponies) and cows live semi-wild. Their bells provide as soothing,Continue reading “The Basque hinterland”