February update from Beaujolais & French Alps
Walking on the Beaujolais, Burgundy border in France and skiing in the French Alps
by William Armstrong
After a couple of wet and cold weeks, there are signs that spring is just around the corner. On Tuesday 19th February, the grey wintery skies were finally pierced by bright sunshine and so I decided to get out and start updating our walking holiday notes.
As you might imagine, there are many things that change and can mean that we need to update our walking guide booklets. One is when guest houses close and this is exactly what has happened with the first guest house on our independent walking holiday - Beaujolais Wine Trail. Although the Bois de Leynes guest house was of high quality with wonderfully welcoming hosts, our replacement guest house is first rate. The Source des Fees is situated just a bit further north across the wine boundary between the Beaujolais vines and Chardonnay vines. This is a beautiful guest house with wonderful rooms and a lovely garden.
As a result of the change I had to change the first part of the walking trail on our self guided Beaujolais Wine Trail walking holiday in France. The trail now starts in the village of Fuissé, which is the finishing point of our Chardonnay wine trail independent walking holiday, and rises to the south with views of the Roche de Solutré, before having the opportunity to pass through the pretty villages of Leynes and Chasselas. Many vineyards around these villages have both Maconnais and Beaujolais wines. My short walk took me over a hill at about 400m in altitude, where snow still lay in patches.
My walking route first took me through the village of Leynes. Lying on the border between the Beaujolais and Burgundy wine regions, Leynes is spread out across a small amphitheatre. A number of historic properties are built from a local red coloured sandstone. The village has a main square where there are benches just infront of the church. It is worth walking around some of the side streets of Leynes to discover well preserved buildings of great character. The warm coloured rock coupled with the pretty square gives it a Provencal appearance.
The northern edge of the bowl is dominated by the chateau. Built under the reign of Charles VI by the abbey of Tournus, the château was frequently the site of battles between the Armagnacs and Bourguignons. In 1471, the troops of Louis XI invaded the Maconnias region and burnt down the château and in 1593 it was again ruined by the lord of Nogent and his soldiers. It remained in a ruined state for more than a century before the abbey was forced by its condition to carry out emergency repairs in 1716. After the revolution the grounds and buildings were sold off to private buyers. You’ll pass by the château as you leave the village of Leynes on the Beaujolais / Burgundy border.
The village of Chasselas, just in Burgundy has given its name to the white grape variety of the same name which is grown in south west France, Alsace and Switzerland. Chasselas comes from a latin word Caccelcum, due to the village being on the roman route between Paris and Lyon. The village prospered in the 17th century, largely thanks to its wine which became popular at Versailles with Louis XIV. This popularity is the result of one man; Claude Brosse, who set out from Chasselas for Paris with his wine cart. He arrived during some festivities and managed to get himself a place at the back of the chapel of the castle. His size made him a distinctive figure and the king asked him to come forward. Claude proposed that the King try some of his wine, which the king found to be better than his usual drink and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Château in Chasselas dates from at least 1325. There are three magnificent towers, outbuildings dating from the 14th century and the main house dating from the 17th century.
The western part of Chasselas village church, including the base of the bell tower dates from the 10th and 11th centuries. The church was elongated to the east in the 16th and 17th centuries. The church contains a statue of Saint Barbe the patron saint of quarries, dating from 1630. This is due to the fact that the parish was the site of a sandstone quarry which operated until 1930, and was used to pave many of the streets of Lyon and the surrounding areas.
This week I am on holiday with the familly in the French Alps at the pretty village of Pralognan in the Vanoise. This is a small resort which has kept its alpine charm. It is the starting point of our self guided trekking tour of the Vanoise, which is designated a National Park. This week the only type of walking that's possible is snow shoeing as there is well over a metres of snow in the village and much more at altitude. After a very cold and snowy arrival, the weather is brightening and it looks set to be a sunny weeks skiing in France.