Sunday 27 August 2023

BONJOUR Vietnam!

Nido's parked up at a very quiet free aire with views into the distance over fields and hills.  Cows are gathered around the oak trees, ready to settle down for the night.  The most birds we've seen anywhere so far on this trip (hunting season clearly hasn't started here yet) are making a noisy fuss as they settle down to roost in the trees. We're in the small village of Noyant d'Allier in the north of the Auvergne-Rhone Alps department.  We've eaten some delicious Vietnamese 'street' food for supper in this surreal little village... but more about that later.  It's very peaceful and it should be another dark, quiet night.

After a very quiet and relaxing sleep at Cravant, we woke yesterday to a still morning.  A couple of fishermen in their cars had joined us on the patch of grass by the canal.  As I walked Salty I wished them 'bon chance'. They took a look at out our licence plate with the Welsh flag and Cymru sign and I told them we were from Pays de Galle.  "Ah - Rugby" one of them said and gave me the thumbs up - that broke the ice!  I hope they had a great day's fishing - one of my favourite hobbies and something I don't do enough of.  

On our drive south we came across a lovely spot with a river on our right and high limestone cliffs rising above the deciduous forest on our left, so I pulled into the car park.  We were in the tiny hamlet of Merry-sur-Yonne.  Rock climbers were already a good way up the cliff face and some were already on the top.  I could see a zipwire running from one cliff summit to the next; I guess they use this to transit across to the next climb or abseil.  We walked along the river for about 2km, turning round at a lock.  Locks in France always seem to have a cottage by it and most are manned by lock keepers, normally only there during the day.


Merry-sur-Yonne

Our next stop was at the aire at √Čtang de Baye, a large freshwater lake for sailing, fishing and swimming.  We only planned to stop here to eat, but on our post-lunch walk we saw a number of vans parked on a large grass area right on the lake's edge.  On this occasion Park4Night came good, as the reviews on the app showed this was a well used and tolerated wild camping spot.  So rather than move on we returned to the van and, after making use of the free service point, drove to a lovely park-up right next to the lake.  It meant we had the whole afternoon to enjoy the peace and quiet.  Cathy listened to an audio book, sat outside enjoying the sunshine in a fairly brisk breeze.  I had a soft surface (the grass) to lie down under then van and replace the makeshift grey water pipe fix with a permanent solution of a new metal bracket, which has done the job.  This is the fourth thing I've fixed on the van in just over a week.  First the issues with the toilet SOG and flush. Then the water pump kept ticking over even with all the taps closed.  This entailed removing a cover on the front of the pump and adjusting a screw until the tick over stopped.  I'd read this could reduce the water pressure in the taps, but I've not noticed any difference; in fact the water's no longer spluttering from the tap.



Cathy cooked a delicious vegetarian meal while I researched places to visit, walk, cycle and stay in the Auvergne region.  I'd printed off a few circular walks at home and brought my Tour de France stages guide for this year, so I can plan to ride some small sections of some of the Auvergne stages.  The vegetarian diet is going really well.  Neither of us has missed meat in the slightest and we've enjoyed thinking up innovative meat-free meals.  We're feeling better for it and the shopping bill is much less as meat, chicken and charcuterie is so expensive in France - so more money for wine and patisserie!  We'll return to meat at some point, but only in small quantities and less frequently.  And as we'll be eating less we'll buy better quality; we have an excellent butcher in our local town at home.


By 9pm, the sun had set, the wind had dropped and the lake was shimmering in the last of the light.  The silence was almost ear-ringing.  I sat with the door open, listening to the birdlife on the lake.

This morning we carried on south, heading for the town of Moulins, in the northern region of the Auvergne.  Moulins hosted the finish of Stage 11 of this year's Tour de France on 12 July.  There was evidence of this from the many banners still flying from lamp posts and across streets, sadly all them too high for me to grab a souvenir! I'd originally planned for us to spend the night here on the aire, an old municipal campsite next to the river and about a 15 minute walk from the old town.  But it turned out to be be quite a busy and built up place and not really what we like.  So after a quick stop to fill up on food and diesel, we carried on to this stop.

Even stood tippy-toes on Nido's roof, I still couldn't grab one of these!

Noyant d'Allier used to be home to many of the coal miners of the area.  But as this industry waned and finally stopped in 1943 the miners moved away and, like many villages in rural France, it slowly declined over time.  However, this all changed in 1954.  With the fall of Bien Dien Phu in the Indochina war which led to the eventual creation of North Vietnam, over 3,000 Vietnamese refugees moved into the village, to the point that 75% of the village were from Vietnam.  They soon integrated though and after some years the villagers raised enough money to build a pagoda, including statues and both a 7m high gold buddha and a reclining buddha.  This village is a lovely mix of both cultures.







As we walked around, we saw the old terraced homes that used to be occupied by the miners now being turned into fabulous homes and gardens, growing Vietnamese vegetables and herbs.  Many are still in need or renovation but there's evidence much of this is taking place. As I wandered around the pagoda gardens (no dogs allowed), Cathy took Salty for a wander and came across the garden of a lady who also makes homemade Vietnamese food with 24 hours' notice.  She told the lady (in French) she had a lovely garden and they shared a brief moment of gardening harmony and smiles.


Outside one of the restaurants. Cathy would like one..only me pedalling and her sitting!

On the way back we stopped at a small Vietnamese food restaurant with outdoor terrance seating that also has a mobile van selling cooked but chilled savoury snacks.  I bought a few and warmed them up in the Ridge Monkey; they were delicious with a cold beer, sat outside the van looking over the fields and hills in the distance.  This surreal but very peaceful and welcoming village shows just what can be achieved if refugees are given a chance.





No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.