The joys of (de)confinement in France

Yesterday, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced that from June 2, bars, restaurants, parks, and museums will begin opening in France. We will also be allowed to travel more than 100km within the national territory.

As a travel writer, and someone who lives in the center of Lyon, France’s capital of gastronomy, this should have been music to my ears. But actually, I’m already feeling a bit nostalgic for the simplicity of life. For the first time in years, I have no travel plans in place and could get on with all the other things I’ve wanted to do and not had time for, such as art and photography.

When France entered phase one of easing lockdown on May 11 we took advantage of the situation by exploring nearby destinations, another thing I rarely did when I could drive for 2 hours and be in the Alps. Living in Lyon there really is so much on our doorstep worth exploring I plan to continue taking trips in the local area once we are deconfined. For example a trip to the Pilat Regional Natural Park next weekend, rather than bolting to Chamonix.

For my first trip, other than going to work or 1km from our house for one hour a day for exercise or food shopping, we headed to Beaujolais, just a 45-minute drive and within the 100km restriction. We stayed in a gorgeous Airbnb in Les Ardillats near Beujou amidst the rolling hills and vineyards, where all you could hear was the occasional guttural croak of what must have been a giant bullfrog hidden amongst the lilies in the pond below our little chalet.

The chalet was separated from the main house, but we had access to their pool and a stunning cellar, which our host Claudine, gave us a tour of. One of the best things is most of the conversation was carried out in French, something I rarely get to do in daily life in Lyon.

Claudine then set us up with a wine tasting with her nephew at nearby Domaine Tano Pechard for Monday morning and invited us to join her and her husband on a steep hike up through the vineyards and a forest to a cross marking the summit of Montagne de Rochefort the next morning. A route we would never have found on our own!

With no shops open we had to be organised and bring our own food to cook. We had beef for dinner from our local butcher, whom we now know pretty well due to our almost daily visits, and asparagus from the local market on Quai Saint-Antoine, which had since been allowed to open almost daily. Plenty of wine too obviously.

So rather than go out and explore the local restaurants ( which actually there seem to be few and far between in Beaujolais and you will get caught out on a Monday with everything shut) we sat on our little balcony above the pond with its six colourful Koi Carps circulating around entertaining us and cooked our own roast dinner.

The next day’s hike to the cross in the warm spring sunshine was followed by a beer with our hosts, more conversation in French ( football and wine), a dip in the swimming pool and a luxurious few hours where I could just sit on the balcony and sketch the view before me. No rushing around sightseeing or trying to find a restaurant.

We started wine tasting at about midday at Domaine Tano Pechard and again it confirmed that the slightly negative reputation of Beaujolais is very undeserved.

We bought a couple of bottles, including my favourite, ‘Nuances de Gres Regnie’, due to the giant pot it’s stored in. We promised to be back to help out with the harvest and then headed back to Lyon in less than an hour ready for ice cream by the Soane.

A few days later I headed to Aix les Baines, to meet a friend coming 100km in the opposite direction from St Gervais and catch up during a stroll around Lac du Bourget. Another stunning location perfect for a day trip or weekend. I’ve not seen so many people on rollerblades crusing around for a long time.

Whilst its great news that from next week we can at least travel within France, I’ve definitely taken a lot of positives from this unique time of semi confinement.

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