PERFECTLY PRESERVED PEROUGES
Perched on a hill overlooking meadows, fields, and the Ain River, is the beautifully preserved Medieval village of Perouges. Voted as one of the prettiest villages in France and often used as a setting for movies due to its authentic Medieval look and fell, this tiny township was our destination today. We spent a wonderful day in Perouges, exploring its cobbled streets and walking through the surrounding countryside.
We set out very early again this morning as the day was, once again, going to be a scorcher ( high temperature for the day: 34C). Walking across the bridge, over the River Rhone, this morning we were once again blessed with beautiful views of Lyon as it awakened. This city is just gorgeous!
From Lyon’s Part Dieu station it was just a short train ride out into the countryside. There’s no train station in Perouges proper, but the nearby village of Meximieux is on the train line so we hopped off there and walked the 2km up the (steep) hill to the walled village. The hike up the hill revealed views of the surrounding terrain; the farmland and gently undulating hills were so gorgeous we just had to stop and admire the scenery along the way.
There are 2 entrances into the walled Medieval village of Perouges: the Upper and Lower Gates (named, aptly enough, for the direction they face: uphill or downhill). We entered via the Lower Gate and found ourselves on the main street of Perouges, Rue des Rondes, which runs in a circle around the centre of the village following the inside of the town walls. All the stone homes along Rue Des Rondes were beautifully preserved, though many of them are now boutique hotels rather than homes.
It is thought that Perouges was founded by skilled migrants from Perugia, in Italy (hence the town’s name). The village was never under the tyrannical rule of any lord or prince: it was founded and governed by proud craftsmen, farmers, and linen weavers who thrived and grew wealthy from their efforts. The village was especially prosperous during the 14th to 16th centuries, which is when most of the stone homes still standing in the village were built.
With no noble overlord to guard them the villagers had to arrange their own defences and so built the high walls that still encapsulate the town today.
The walls did their job well, protecting the villagers during a 1468 siege. Following the siege, for further protection against future attackers, the Perougeans also built a fortified church in 1479, which is still the main place of worship for the town’s 1,200 inhabitants. The church itself is very simple, but large enough to attest to the wealth of Perouges’s citizens.
The village’s patron saint is St George; a statue of which was in the church. The dragon of St George was also carved into the stone above both the Lower and Upper Gates.
It was lovely walking through the streets of Perouges, admiring the tiny details as well as the large. Given the early hour it was so quiet in town that it felt like we were virtually the only people there.
We got to see Place du Tilleuls, the main square in the centre of Perouges, with its 200 year old tree of liberty planted soon after the French revolution. And Rue des Princes, once the streets where the wealthiest of merchants lived. The houses there have wide bay windows where the merchants would display their goods.
By about 1:00pm it was getting stupidly hot and we had seen enough of the village and surrounding countryside, so we sought out the cool and shade of one of the village’s 3 restaurants for lunch. The place we chose, L’Auberge du Coq, specialised in a local variety of Coq au Vin, using their own locally made wine and free range chickens from out the back (literally). Always keen to try the local fare we signed up for 2 of those and were soon enjoying one of the best meals we’ve had in France so far. For dessert, we tried the galette Perougienne, a local speciality that’s basically like a sweet pizza topped with hand made fruit jam or a caramelised combination of butter, sugar and lemon zest. Then came the obligatory petit café, and a lengthy period of relaxation to allow our digestive juices to do their work (slowly but surely we ARE getting the hand of la vie quotidienne en France).
After our lengthy French luncheon we trudged back down the hill to Meximieux, keen to get back to Lyon and hide in our hotel room whilst the worst of the day’s heat baked the city. It’s now 7:00pm and the ambient temperature has just begun to cool; it seems safe to venture outside for an aperitif now, so adieu blog fans for another day and à bientôt!