Well I must say this has been a very pleasant surprise.
For someone whose favourite Shakespeare play is Henry V (“naked infants spitted upon pikes”) and whose cinematic references are limited to John Cleese’s “outrageous French accent” in Holy Grail – the reality has been a revelation
The woman at the Boulangerie (whoever thought o level French would come in useful? ) smiled at my attempts to communicate and genuinely seemed to understand me.
All I need is my aunt to visit, lose her pen in a Cafe and I’m laughing.
And every bar owner I’ve met has been helpful. Even giving me free samples. Though I suspect they are playing the long game, knowing their generosity will be repaid tenfold. Or more
We’re in Vercors. I keep calling it a national park but think it might be a
Park Naturel. Which I think may mean something else
No I’ve never heard if it either but it lies in the south west, about 100
Km from Lyon
The Vercors massif towers above us here in the town of St Jean en Royans. It’s a very popular cycling destination
Yesterday as we pottered around on out hybrid bikes a veritable peleton of aged Frenchman came racing by. Not one of them under the age of 70. And all of them refusing to kow tow to modern day health and safety etiquette, instead preferring to wear those 1960s racing cloth caps with the little brim turned up. Like that bloke out of Cheap Trick.
So it’s beautiful here. Limestone gorges, rivers, mountains, little villages with be-fountained main squares
But it wasn’t always like this.
As a WW2 geek I was astounded to learn this area was a centre of French resistance. The Maquis were based here and after D Day thousands if Frenchmen took to the Mountains and proclaimed a free republic
They may have calculated that the Germans had other things on their mind further North
If they did then they were sadly mistaken. After The Allies dropped weapons and equipment onto the mountains the Germans decided enough was enough
They landed SS paratroopers and with help if Ukrainian troops they brutally crushed the resistance
A mile from here at a cross roads is a memorial to a local Gendarme murdered by the Germans.
In the town centre is a memorial to around 15 people killed in some sort of bombardment.
In the town of Vassieux most of the residents were massacred and the place razed to the ground.
So a beautiful retreat without doubt.
But a place where these hills hide some terrible memories