After some time spent in the Drome valley with a breathtaking view of the syncline of Saou and the Vercors, we will see what is happening on the side of the Provençal Drome.
To the north of the Provençal Drome, around Montélimar, the mountains become hills, and the plains take their ease in a gigantic mosaic. The heights are surmounted by perched villages steeped in history and full of charm.
To discover them, nothing could be easier: they are everywhere. So you can make small stops during your travels or even plan a road trip along with them.
A little history on the perched villages!
When I discovered the first perched village, a question crossed my mind. What have men come to do on these natural headlands? Why go to the heights where life is rougher when the plains are so welcoming?
I conducted my little investigation. This tradition of perched villages in the south-east of France and as far as Italy is very old. It dates back to the Iron Age. Initially, this location was chosen for strategic and defence purposes. In the sky, you are seen but you can also spot the enemy from a distance.
Depending on the times, these villages have been ignored or rehabilitated. During the Gallo-Roman era, civilizations developed on the plains. Then in the feudal period, particularly bellicose, the perched villages regained their usefulness and equipped themselves with castles, dungeons and other defensive architectures. In the 19th century, they were gradually abandoned, and activity was more favourable in the fertile plains. They are abandoned, or split in two (the old part at the top and the new part at the bottom). It is therefore not surprising to see many villages perched in ruins. However, some are reborn thanks to the passion of lovers of old stones and the fashion of returning to the land, which has seen an increase in the number of installations in the countryside.
The perched villages of the Marsanne plain
The first perched village we discover is Marsanne. Located on our way to our second cottage of this stay, we have pushed the curiosity to make a small detour. I had read that here, at the foot of the ruins of the 11th-century keep, I would have an exceptional view of the Valdaine valley. The capricious weather that day offered me a dramatic show on a splendid plain.
A mosaic of fields, sometimes bottle green and sometimes straw yellow, is a sign that man has gradually tamed this long expanse. The presence of water and fertile soil make it a particularly suitable area for agriculture.
I observed the elusive shadows of the clouds moving over these ruins and tried to capture the few rays of sunlight that were trying to get out of this cottony cluster.
I told you above that some perched villages have risen thanks to the determination of a few enthusiasts. The most beautiful example is undoubtedly that of La Laurie. This abandoned village after suffering terrible damage during the Second World War has been restored by its inhabitants since the 1960s. Bought by a family that has undertaken to give it back it’s superb, this old village has had the particularity of being private for about twenty years. But visitors are allowed and we can stroll through its small streets, admiring the old buildings such as the Chapel of Saint Michael. Recent restorations do not have the charm of the patina left by time, but this architectural ensemble remains nevertheless remarkable.
Located only a few kilometres from La Laurie, Sauzet is also an interesting village to visit. The panorama, like Marsanne, is sublime. It does not have the aspect of a village museum that La Laurie can have and therefore has the charm of a village that also lives and vibrates with the current air.
The perched villages of the Pays de Dieulefit – Haut Roubion
This is a village we wanted to cross, but not for architectural reasons this time. It is the Roubion, one of the few European rivers still wild, that has brought us here. A friend who knows the area well told us about a very confidential spot. A place where the Roubion, hit by rocks, is transformed into a succession of natural pools that are particularly photogenic.
Fortunately, we had the exact GPS coordinates, otherwise, we probably wouldn’t have found it. This small paradise is located on the road between Pont de Barret and Soybeans.
Completely alone, we enjoyed this moment with three of us. Helio, a little grumpy, quickly found a smile when he realized that he could throw rocks into these beautiful big puddles! Barefoot, he tested the different basins. It is an opportunity for us to continue our transmission of everyday life, our love of nature and its respect.
Simple moments, like detecting small fish, pretending to fish with a long stick, laughing at the splashes because of a few splashes. Through my lens, I captured those fleeting moments that gave even more beauty to this place.
The sun at its zenith has hardly moved us out of here. I would have liked to go back at any time of the day to capture these different dimensions. To console us, we will continue our mineral excursions to the nearby perched villages.
The perched village of Poet Laval
Poet Laval impresses at first glance. Its imposing keep dominates this charming village. This austere architecture is softened by the ballet of the swallows that swallow around it without any weariness. The peeps resound in the courtyard dating from the 12th century. We guess the view from the dungeon is superb, so we soon go and check our intuition. From above, it is a green panorama over the Jabron valley and its curves. Forms that remind us that the Vercors and the Baronnies massif are located on either side of the village. As we descend, it is the many alleys that, in addition to bringing their share of surprises, become the popular playground for Helio, which has fun sliding down the historic stairs.
Begude en Mazenc
This village, by its atmosphere, is probably my favourite. It is not the most impressive, but it gives off a soft atmosphere. The many-flowered and decorated doors testify to the love of the inhabitants for their hidden little paradise. There is poetry in every detail: a retro mailbox from the post office, a swing in do it yourself, arcanas where you can play with light and shade. I had fun watching Seb the giant and Helio the little shrimp in this maze of alleys. Their silhouettes in this setting moved me even more than anywhere else. Maybe this village was the perfect image of a little bubble of happiness and simplicity.
The Drome valley and it’s perched villages that cannot be ignored
Crest with its tower visible in the distance is undoubtedly a symbol of the region and a major attraction. Years ago, we had already had the opportunity to visit this city. We had the pleasure of rediscovering the banks of the Drome and its ramières, natural spaces rich in biodiversity. If you come here, don’t hesitate to give him some time.
on the way back, we still had a little time left and by chance, we decided to go by Mirmande. Classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France, our curiosity has been aroused. We quickly understand the tourist appeal of this village. Very well preserved, it plunges us into another era. The small-flowered alleys form a labyrinth ending with beautiful views of the Rhone Valley
This village being a tourist village, you will find some bars and restaurants to take a break from your day. For parents, there is even a small playground with a slide!
As a bonus, the perched village of Grignan!
Located south of Montélimar, Grignan is known for its castle overlooking the valley and lavender fields. Its fame is due to a prominent figure in our literary history, Madame de Sévigné, who stayed there several times in the 17th century because her daughter lived there with her husband. This distance was the beginning of a long correspondence between mother and daughter. His letters are now a remarkable epistolary work. We were able to discover it by visiting the castle and the exhibition dedicated to Mme de Sévigné.
If you visit the castle, don’t miss a visit to the huge terrace that offers an exceptional view. In the heights, you’d almost think you were a marquee!
These perched villages are starting to turn our heads, it’s time to go down again. We are far from having scoured all the beautiful villages of the region, but it was already a very nice overview.