Dodging the Mistral – Chalon-sur-Saone
I must admit I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to strong winds in a motorhome. So checking weather forecasts back in Dijon on Friday I had a bit of a quake when I saw gusts up to 57 miles per hour forecast for Avignon until Wednesday. The infamous Mistral was abroad in Provence!
Now I grew up on a croft, on a far flung Scottish Island. We ate strong winds for breakfast there! So why am I turning green at the thought of the Mistral? I’m not sure to be honest. In fact I’d quite like to experience it I think. Probably so I can do my Islander shrug and drawl, “Weel yons nithin tae spik o!
I’m just not sure I want to do it in my precious Hymer B544, aka Yggdrasil. Also fondly known as “Our Iggy”. I love him to bits. And I’m not entirely sure I want to do a sideways roll in him. Especially not on the motorway. Or anywhere else come to think of it.
We were planning on arriving in Avignon on Monday. Via Bourg-en-Bresse and Valence. Back to the drawing board goes I and pulls out another stop. Chalon–sur–Saone looks perfect. Another pretty town, half way to Bourg-en-Bresse. We would keep an eye on the Mistral, and hope it calms down enough for us to aim for a late arrival in Avignon on Tuesday evening.
And so off we set for the drive to Chalon–sur-Saone. But it proved to be a little more interesting than normal when we had a strange encounter on the road. Here’s our Jay talking about it in this “End of Week One.” video.
The rest of the trip was very straightforward. Good straight roads and at only an hour and a half we seemed to get there almost before we’d left! Driving into Chalon-surSaone it was clearly a good time town in the summer months. The river is wide and calm at this point and pleasure craft lined the quays waiting for warmer weather to cruise the placid waters. At a now familiar -1 degrees C, there wasn’t much pleasure cruising going on today. That wasn’t stopping Chalon from having a good time however!
I must confess I expected to be a little bit bored in Chalon-sur-Saone. How spoilt am I? This was our third medieval, half-timbered houses, town in a row. Troyes had kind of nailed that for me first time running. When it comes to half-timbered, medieval it’s a hard act to follow.
Chalon-sur-Saone however, was having none of it! It’s one of those fabulous towns that seems to have a magical formula for getting things right. On first arrival we stopped off at the free motorhome service point to empty our dirty water and take on some fresh. Then it was just round the corner to our free spot for the night by the park.
The historic town centre was just across the park from our parking spot. So we decided to take a wander through it on our way to the sights. Which took a little bit longer than we expected, as Chalon-sur-Saone had gone a bit Tardis with their park, and packed everything in a person could wish for.
The first part to catch our attention was a lovely little Botanical Garden section. Full of interesting detail it was beautifully landscaped, and if we weren’t already feeling like lucky beggars from the river views we definitely were now. What a find this place was!
Moving on from the gardens, we were attracted by the sound of birds coming from somewhere nearby.
“It’s not an Aviary is it?” suggested Jay.
“Surely not.” says ever so wise, and, clearly, ever so wrong, me.
Yes indeedy it surely was an Aviary. And a very pretty aviary at that. We spent ages looking at all the birds, and finally turned to head out of the park only to be stopped in our tracks by a mini farmyard just past the Aviary!
We’re not sure if the animals are a year round attraction, or if it was a special live Nativity display. Or maybe it’s a bit of both? Either way Chalon-sur-Saone got top marks from us for their park.
Finally making our way into the town itself we carried on with our slow progress. Chalon-sur-Saone seemed to be incredibly good at being interesting. And we got the impression somehow, that it wasn’t really trying.
Jay fascinated the locals by being fascinated by the trees full of giant see pods. And I don’t suppose us taking photos of DM posing with them did anything towards making us fade into the background either…
Like other places we’d stayed the preparations for the Christmas market and lights were still underway. We’re guessing the festivities will begin next weekend. The pretty streets twisted and wound, charmingly full of interesting shops selling beautiful things. I fell in love with a particularly awesome hat shop. I escaped with my wallet intact…Just! But swore next year I am slaving to make an extra £1,000 to bring away with me. Just for hats!
For a place that had seemed fairly small it took us an age to wander around it all. It’s just the kind of place I like, with nooks and crannies, and lots of old things. Old buildings, old cobbles, old people out on the streets living and not shut up somewhere out of sight and far away.
There were quite a few amazing murals as well, and a much needed stop for coffee to de-frost our thigh muscles so we could walk some more.
After I’d taken a stupid amount of pictures of the stunning town hall we wandered ourselves right over the river to the other side. Which had some more really pretty, really interesting stuff. Like sculptures, and old towers, and river walks, and…
And enough was enough. The temperature was plummeting with the sun, throwing us a spectacular display as we crossed back over the river. Even through my gloves my fingers were numb from the cold.
If it was summer, we would have gone for dinner maybe, perhaps even on the river, if we were feeling rich and ready for a splurge.
But it was December. Jay’s nose was getting frostbite. Our wallets were not fat enough for fancy dinners on a whim. And so, we bid Neptune’s naked statue goodnight, and took ourselves home to get warm.