Roche de Solutré in Sunny March
By William Armstrong, posted 12 March 2012
Here in the Beaujolais and southern Burgundy regions of France, March is turning out to be as sunny, warm and spring-like as February was cold and offered a taste of real continental winter weather. I was out and about on Friday, reviewing and checking our walking notes for a couple of self-guided walking holidays which pass through the southern Burgundy in central France. Our detailed walking notes are kept up to date by regular visits and walks, as well as the kind assistance of some of our guest house hosts and customers. We supply detailed 1:25,000 walking maps to accompany the walking notes on our independent walking holidays in France.
The Chardonnay region of southern Burgundy is less frequented than the wine areas further north near Beaune, but it is no less interesting in terms of its wines and historical heritage and has a pretty countryside of rolling hills punctuated by craggy bluffs. It was a windy day on Friday and so I was glad that my first port of call was the guest house, La Source des Fées, our last guest house on our four-day Chardonnay wine trail walking holiday, which is situated on a vineyard. I was treated by the very hospitable Thierry to a wonderful coffee and a bottle of their Pouilly-Fuissé wine (which we drank on Sunday with the familly with our Raclette), the best of the Maconnais Chardonnay wines in the region.
My walk took me through a number of villages and hamlets each with their own medieval chateau, numerous historic properties and wash houses. Wash houses are collective water basins where people from the village would come and wash their clothes, rubbing them on the polished stone surrounds, before the introduction of fresh running water in houses. It must have been a highly frequented meeting place, probably for the women of the village. It must also have been hard work on the knees and back.
Walking around the Burgundy countrside, its vines still bare, I was able to capture the main feature of this part of the French Bugundy - the Roche de Solutré - from a number of angles. From some directions it's limestone crags look like a small feature in the vine-covered slopes which dip from the hills to the Saone Valley, whilst from other angles it appears as a mountain rising into the sky. This cliff is very important for its pre-historic interest. Indeed there is a type of stone tool called Solutré, named after the site which was a hunting site over the course of several thousand years. There is a museum dedicated to the pre-historic activity. The Roche de Solutre is listed as a' major site' in France and is popular with locals and tourists alike as it affords fabulous views over the Burgundy countryside.
After passing by the old chapel and Priory at the Grange du Bois, my walk took me through woods along a granite ridge before returning under the cliffs of Vergisson, another rocky bluff nearby. Passing the hamlet of Les Chancerons, there is a pre-historic standing stone dating from the Neolithic. My day ended up where it started, back in the car park in the shadow of the Roche de Solutre, a must-see feature of two of our French independent walking holidays in the Burgundy.