Monday, July 21, 2014

Balazuc, Ruoms and Labeaume in a hurry

Trip to Ardèche, Day 1 (Evening):

It was 5:30 PM. We decided we'd seen about as much of Vogüé as we wanted to see. Blandine suggested we look around for a B&B and turn in for the day. After 6 PM, she warned, it's nearly impossible to find a B&B that's still open. We came across a decent-ish tavern in the village. Yes, they had places. Blandine raised an eyebrow. But I wasn't ready to call it a day. I thought we could squeeze in another beau village before the sun set. Bad mistake.

We drove down to the next beau village on our list. Balazuc. It was, if anything, even more spectacular than Vogüé. Another medieval gray-stone village, this one was perched at the top of a limestone cliff, rather than at the bottom, peering over a yawning gorge at the frothing river Ardèche. No time, however, to take pics. Here's a pic I've borrowed from Wikipedia (it doesn't show the cliff):-

Blandine was getting decidedly edgy, insisting we look around for a place to stay before we did the tourism bit. So I trotted all over the place, looking for one. No time to admire the cobbled streets, the moss covered, flower bedecked stone cottages, the rustic church, the hair-raising gorge.

(Pics of Balazuc borrowed from the official site of the 'most beautiful villages of France')

No B&B. Not a one. It was a bit of a jar, since all the beau villages we'd come across until then had been crawling with charming, sun-kissed B&Bs. All the locals pointed to a hotel. I went there. It was a grand château perched on the cliff, turned into a three-star hotel. 120 Euros a night. Ouch. I didn't even bother to check if they had rooms.

There were B&Bs in a sister village, right across the yawning gorge. To get there, we would have to drive across a narrow bridge, wide enough for just one car. Blandine took one look at the gorge and put her foot down. She had a panic attack just looking at it. I offered halfheartedly to drive. Neither of us took it seriously. It is over ten years since I've touched a steering wheel, and I wasn't a great driver even then. Hey, I'm a motorcycle guy. Cars give me the wheelies. (Yeah, yeah. I know I meant 'willies'. That was supposed to be a pun, dude).

We have our first row of the evening. We get back into the car to try our luck at the next village on our list: The village de charactère of Labeaume. (A 'village of character', by the way, is an appellation for villages that have historic interest and are very beautiful, but don't quite make it to the 'most beautiful villages' list).

On the way, we pass through the small town of Ruoum. It is against our policy to stay in towns, even small ones, but it's getting late. We see a small hotel that's still open. It's not a B&B, and it's against our policy to stay in hotels, but hey, it's getting late. Yes, they have rooms. No, they won't show us the rooms. The chap who shows the room has left for the day. It's not the reception lady's job to show the rooms. She sounds a bit like the staff at government-run hotels back home.

Blandine storms out. We have another row. No matter, we press on for Labeaume. It is amazing, breath-taking. (Pic borrowed from Wikipedia) :-

No time to be amazed, or have our breaths taken. B&B, B&B, my kingdom for a B&B. Yes, there's one. It's full. Désolé. We have another row. The proprietor of the tavern suggests we head back to Ruoum. We take his suggestion. We find an amazing B&B, with sculptures and shady gardens and what not. Désolé, all full. Finally we find a pokey little dosshouse down a touristy lane in Ruoum, lined with tacky restaurants and overpriced flophouses. It is absolutely against our policy to stay in such places. We take it.

Next day, Blandine has cheered up enormously after a substantial petit-déjeuner. If nothing else, the flophouse serves up a great brekker. She offers to go back to Balazuc and Labeaume. Nope. No point going back all the way, just to take pics. Never turn back: that is one policy I'm not about to upturn.

We head out to the next stage, the famous gorges of Ardèche. I'm looking forward to those gorgeous gorges (more in the next post).

On our way out of town, we pass a nice little château, the Château d'Aubenas. This seems to be the only outstanding construction in this rather featureless little town. Here it is, the only pic that I've taken myself in this post.

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