27 July to 3 August – is it cooler in the mountains?

Probably, so let’s go east again!  

cropped-snails-poor.jpgDuring the couple of days we took to regain confidence after the gas débacle and sort ourselves out again, the weather got hotter.  Too hot to go back to the the flats of Centre we thought, so we would head for the hills of Jura again,  to the rivers and waterfalls we had left unswum  a few weeks ago.  It gets cooler with altitude doesn’t it?  So back east it is.  That far east no-one else is going to be there are they? It’s always the assumptions that catch you out n’est ce pas?

My faith in France Passion was undiminshed after our muddy experience in June – after all, even the roads and bridges had been underwater back then. There is a vineyard beyond Autun described as the seigneurial farm of the adjacent chateau. Romantic?  Nostalgic? Oh yes – all of those.  The parking was a small green paddock with trees outside the ancient farm walls and buildings with a view of the chateau through the trees.

We are a bit timid about tasting wine and maybe not liking it, but feeling obliged nonetheless, but we studied the list with a view to a sampling and a purchase.  thumb__DSC1373_1024On arrival we had rung the bell, been greeted by several noisy but seemingly friendly dogs and cheerfully waved into the field by the vigneron who had then disappeared. When we went to buy a bottle or two next morning, the french people, in the other van that had turned up, told us the family had gone out.  We had missed our moment due to being greeted by the vigneron rather than his wife.   She apparently had answered their ring and been more inclined to converse and sell, than the man himself.  Ah well, a free night in such surroundings is pretty perfect in any case.

Not sure if I have yet mentioned the Wild Swimming ebook we bought to discover rivers and lakes for a dip and maybe an overnight stop.  One lake listed was Lac de Narlay,  way over on the east of the Jura, with an adjacent campsite.  Turquoise waters were mentioned together with descriptions of the several other lakes in the region.  The area is famous for its lakes it seems, and rivers and mountains.  It turns out it is a popular holiday spot too – but only for those seeking a less formal camping set up.  The Municipal Camping de Narlay is certainly that – a couple of huge fields sloping down to the turquoise waters – and it is a free-for-all in terms of pitches.  Hopelessly short on accessible electricity points we pitched up without it half way up the slope on a flattish bit perfectly placed for a bit of tree shade and a bit of satellite signal – and a view.

What a lake, what a view.

thumb__DSC1396_1024It is a fabulous lake and it really is turquoise with rocks for jumping off.

The freedom to pitch where you want led to some jostling among the tents.  Taking the car out for the day you were likely to come back and find a tent pitched on your parking spot and someone else established within snoring distance.  The large new group that turned up the day after us pitched with  guy ropes overlapping the eating space of the French family opposite who had gone out for a couple of hours.  Complaints were muttered! Next day, when the Swiss couple beside us left, the new group seized the opportunity to move onto that one as well and came and asked when we were leaving. They had a large party coming and wanted more space.  They asked politely, no pressure, as the next few carloads of friends and family arrived.  We stayed in our spot.

There is a real feeling of slightly hippyish freedom here. Everyone seemed to have bought anti-gravity games and toys – tight ropes for walking, diabolos, juggling balls, frisbees.  Big, baggy, low crotch harem pants for the men, scarves and kaftans for the women.  We contributed to the eastern vibe with with our ancient indian elephant sheet for protection from afternoon sun.

narlay elephant

And we ate exclusively from the outdoor grill – which is the only way to cook in the heat!

narlay griddle

This is definitely a campsite of two halves.  At the top there are some nice new sanitaires and on these terraced upper slopes the more delicate campers were pitched, with electricity, close to the café and facilities.  The lower slopes were wilder – the further you got from the reception at the top, the less any rules applied: there were many “No fires” signs yet every evening the lower slopes were dotted with little camp fire blazes.  Families appeared from the woods laden with fallen branches, and kettles were boiled while guitars were strummed around the flames in the dark.

Lovely swimming, woods and fields to walk around the lake with cows clanking like extras in a Swiss film, bread available down a shady path (if you were early enough), plenty of people-watching and chatting made for a relaxed stay.  Some rain for cool as well!  Our four day stay was not enough but it is definitely one to come back to in late August or September when it will be quieter.

Heading home again we take a little detour to have a look at the Cascades du Herisson, hoping maybe for a little dip in a pool below a fall – also mentioned in Wild Swimming.  It seems some of the swims they list are not that wild, or maybe just not that isolated!


Not exactly The Smoke That Thunders.  Very pretty though and with a shallow plunge pool below guarded by an alert lynx.  For some reason.

We did not plunge as we were scared of the lynx and the pool looked a bit slimy.  This cascade is the first of a series and there are other, better pools below the succeeding falls. Which get a bit more impressive in terms of water volume apparently.  It was too hot to follow the trail so this is also earmarked for another visit.

We drove to the nearby, signposted La Fromagerie in the hope of getting some cheese.  Seemed reasonable to me.  Comté is the famous local variety and we had an apero pending.  We had to drive on cheeseless however as there was none to be found amongst all the herisson-related gifties. La Fromagerie is just the name of the hamlet that houses the giftie shoppies and restaurant these days. They seem to be missing a trick there:-(

Racing on in the hope of getting to the end of this blog….  We spent one more night in a nice little aire in the historic little town of Givry: famed for its wine and architecture. We had a walk around but it was hot!  The aire had trees and picnic tables and backed onto the voie verte.Givry aire Our bikes, whose wheels had only briefly touched the woodland path at Narlay before the rain, looked longingly at the smooth dedicated cycle path.  Cyclists and roller skaters whizzed past as we watched, glass in hand, from the shade:-) It was still very hot after all.



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