Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A short walk in rural France


When it comes to impromptu walks, France is hard to beat. England's network of ancient rights of way may be unparalleled but the French system of PRs (petits randonees) make it simple to find a circular route without even having to buy a map.
We proved the point again this week, stopping en route from the Hautes Alpes for a leg stretch just south of Langres, in the Champagne Ardennes region.
I recalled that in Vaux-sous-Aubigny, a village where we had once paused to inspect the menu at a recommended restaurant (Auberge des Trois Provinces) there was an information board showing routes of varying lengths.
We picked one which had time to complete partially in the two hours or so we had to spare and struck out across a small river to the outskirts of the village where we joined the first of several forest and farm tracks. This was a gentle, congenial landscape, in contrast with the high Alpine drama we had just left. Cattle grazed. The woods were full of bird song and the drone of timber felling. Distances were hazy blue and green. While the trees remained leafless there were wood anemones at the verges and the graveyard of the abbey above the village, with its fine Romanesque portal, was starred with primroses.
We were refreshed after the long drive. Then it was short hop to Langres and the Hotel Cheval Blanc, appetites sharpened for a €32 prix fixe menu which included venison, in a wine reduction, to drool over. Rarely has a journey home constituted such a memorable part of a holiday.

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