Landing Softly and Settling in France
By: Julie et AJ
We are here. We have arrived.
After traveling around the England and Scotland for five weeks, we are quite ready to land in France. Or land anywhere, to be honest. I do love the thrill and excitement of travel. The changing dynamic and the moving wind stirs my soul, and clears any lingering stagnation. And also, I must admit, I deeply love routine. Making breakfast, sweeping the home, even doing laundry all offer a different method for clearing the psyche. All this to say: when we landed in France, it was with a smiling heart. Grateful for the fullness of our UK adventure, and ready to slow a bit into a steady rhythm and pulse.
We landed squarely into the season of summer. After wearing all of our woolen layers (at once) while hiking in Scotland, sandals, sundresses and shades were a welcome change. I must say, the warmth felt like home (shout out to Tucson, AZ!). We gave ourselves a little 5 day vacation in the town of Vichy, famous for it's healing mineral waters. These waters are bottled and shipped across the world, but you can walk right up the spout in Vichy and fill as many bottles as you like. The taste is wild! Metallic with an almost carbonated-like pop on the tongue. It's delicious, especially when cut with either still or sparkling water.
We found the local markets and took immense delight in the fresh produce, incredible olive oil and probably the most delicious cheese we've ever tasted.
After catching our breath in Vichy, we were off to Lachaux for our three week stay, taking care of five mountain-loving dogs.
Livin' La Vida Lachaux
Life in the village of Lachaux is crazy. Crazy chill. There's one magasin, or store, that acts as the post-office-café-bar where there's always "that guy" who hangs out all day, smoking and sipping espresso. Twice a week, a mystery man comes to town with fresh bread and goat cheese, opens a door, and the neighborhood flocks. His goat cheese comes wrapped in aluminum foil, and it is legit.
There are two resident mannequins in town, fishing guy and spinner lady. They are the neighborhood watch. In case you're thinking about speeding through town at 40kph, or stealing someone's flower pot from their chair.
No surprise, we are loving it. Evergreen forests surround Lachaux and other neighboring petite villages, and there are endless cycling routes (official and meandering) where you can let the scent of spruce wash over you while gleefully bounding downhill. Because, every road goes down from Lachaux. Except for that one that goes to Thiers, but we'll get to that day trip later.
At least once a day, we take the pack of five fluffy dogs to the forest trails for a run around. It is quite astounding: they are released in a blur of tails out the back of the van, and vanish before you can shut the door. They embark on various adventures, bounding through the forest, popping back to the trail periodically, before finding something more interesting than you. By some pack-mentality miracle, when you return to the car, they all manage to make it back to the starting point. Needless to say, walking five dogs this way is a world's difference than a bundle of tethered leashes in a city park.
Down, down, down, 9 kilometers from Lachaux, is the sleepy medieval village of Chateldon.
The town's main claim to fame is naturally carbonated mineral water. Chateldon water has been bottled continuously since 1650, longer than any other water.
There is a fountain with Louis XIV's sun symbol adorning it in the village center. His doctor's prescribed this magical water for health benefits. The fountain is a lovely pit stop when you're on a 20+ kilometer cycling trip, exploring what mysteries await outside Lachaux.
After cycling through the winding forest roads, this little town is a welcome reprieve. And this sun-water man spewing drinkable water is a gift from the heavens!
On the only road that leads uphill from Lachaux, we found the town of Thiers, about a thirty minute drive through winding mountain roads. Thiers is known historically for honing the cutlery craft. The window shopping was a cook's dream; to gawk at the great craftsmanship and unique features of various types of knives. We discussed enthusiastically which three knives we'd like to take home (because one has to limit themselves in a knife heaven like this)!
This is the way to travel! Pet sitting has brought us to places we would never have imagined existed, much less picked as vacation destinations. We have also eaten some incredible home cooking, sharing in good stories and laughs with new friends around the dinner table. The generosity and kindness of our hosts, and strangers we've encountered along the way has been marvelous. Thank you to everyone who is so patient with our simple and flawed French!