Preface
Paris 12e
Saoû
Bellegarde-en-Forez
Buxières-les-Mines
Paris 6e
Epilogue
CS was trying to replicate a nice shot of Saoû he'd seen on-line, but the difference in season prevented that: still, you can see it's pretty
within the tiny village of Saoû
Gallery (popup window)
Click on camera to open

I didn't shine at Saoû (location map one and location map two) in terms of the gîte I'd persuaded CS to go for. It looked so absolutely superb on its site that its indubitably enormous weekly tariff seemed acceptable.

In fact, the best — and the only good — thing about this place is its kitchen, which is lovely. Other than that you should consider the following:

  • In my wildest dreams it would not have occurred to me that a gîte costing around AUD800 would turn out to have only one toilet, which would prove to be separated from the bedroom by a storey as well as by the entire width of the gîte: did our landlord, who built this place, separate them to the max. deliberately? For elderlies who know without doubt they need to go to the loo during the night, this is a highly undesirable situation.
  • The semi-circular staircase has a handrail only on the inside, and there the treads have dwindled to zero width; where they're actually wide enough for one's feet there is nothing to hang on to and the wall is extremely rough. Try using stairs like these in the middle of the night, with no lighting above them...
  • The gîte has NO LOUNGEROOM. True. What they pretend is the loungeroom (sitting-room, if you prefer) is just the landing at the bottom of the stairs, onto which they've assembled an assortment of weird furniture: it's impossible to watch the TV in any degree of comfort
  • The bed creaks. This is not a joke: the savage creaking whenever either of us made the smallest of movements made our nights hideous.
  • The water supply is unreliable; we had one day without it from afternoon to next morning.
  • There is a dragon for a landlady: the landlord seemed a nice enough bloke, but madame was a nightmare. It was because she kept wanting CS to use a different access lane to reach the gîte (so that our parked car wouldn't spoil the postcard view of it!) that we had a near-tragedy, which I can't bring myself to write about. When she came to check the place over on the day before we left, she behaved like a madwoman, laying her head sideways on the stove-top to check its surface, and accusing us of not having cleaned at all. “C'est pas propre!” — “Si si! C'est absolument propre!”: she was ruder than you would believe, especially in the circumstances of our having spent the whole Friday afternoon cleaning the flaming place.

ENOUGH. I think I have put my case sufficiently well. On to the nice things about staying in Saoû — which we found there to be pronounced “so”; I had thought it would be something like “sa-oo”, which just goes to show.

As it is within our very favourite département, Drôme, it meant we could go visit our very favourite landlord of all times, Jean Luc Valadeau, master of ‘Le Clair de la Plume’. Yes, you have read of this so-called B&B many times within these sites; for once met and ‘Le Clair de la Plume’ stayed at, he was a fundamentally necessary part of our being in France. Unhappily, our funds being more limited than on previous trips, we could not afford to stay with Jean Luc; for in France you have to schedule your stays for a week at a time, or have two or three places you're going to stay at for numbers of days that add up to a week — this is the only disadvantage of gîte-staying, btw, in over-all terms. Jean Luc it was who let us use his mobile to make a call to our bank in Oz (for Optus had, for the second trip in a row, lied to us about having put in place our global roaming); then provided us with his laptop so that we could do the necessary on-line follow-up in order to access our funds: without him, I can't begin to think what we would have done to get our hands on our money. He is a lovely, lovely man, and his hotel matches him.

Subjectively speaking, Saoû was more than a little notable in ridding me of my prejudice against goats' cheese and turning me into a passionate devotee: its local is called ‘Le Picodon’, comes in soft, firm and mature, and I would kill to get some. Yes yes, I know — I've said that about many cheeses: what can I tell you?! Observe, too, that the site advises the consumption of a Côtes du Rhône with ‘Le Picodon’ — no wonder I love it! CS, of course, was as enthusiastic as I (when did we ever differ?!); finding this gorgeous goats' cheese set our feet on the path of seeking out the local version wherever we went — and how rewarding that was!

Early in our stay we had planned to drive down to Valreas via Bordeaux, but the D538 was closed for repairs, and stayed that way throughout the week: we were obliged to take a much longer route, but that enabled the discovery (at some little distance) of the eye-catching Soyans: I have CS' glorious photo amongst the gallery on our loungeroom wall, now.

And in our much-loved Valreas we came across a restaurant new to us because our search for ‘La Terre de Nacre’ led to discovering only that it had closed forever, alas! At the new place, ‘Bar le Simiane’, we ate utterly delicious lunches twice — the first being easily the best omelettes (aux champignons!) ever made and the second the best steak ever served, both times accompanied by masses of green salad and the world's best chips! Mon dieu, but the French know how to make chips! — or should I say 'French fries'?   :-)    Anyway, this bar is not a gastronome's delight: it is rough and ready and has a telly blasting away, but its food? — sublime.

During this week we did the famous Forêt de Saoû — it was nice — and got as far as Die on our search to rediscover le Chatillon d'Aix-en-Diois, but CS was very tired; of course we visited the Valreas E.Leclerc several times (this is our favourite shop in the entire world, without a word of exaggeration); we returned to Crest a few times — mostly to withdraw cash, but it was an old favourite. CS' health meant we did what we should have done more of on all our other trips, and sat around reading and/or sunning ourselves for a lot of the time. The view from ‘Le Passiou’ is superb: perhaps the owners think that justifies their outrageous tariff.

But a view is a view: we were far from sorry to leave there, and I was very angry with myself for not having asked all the questions about gîte ‘Le Passiou’ before booking it. Let that be a lesson to you: just because a place's tariff is completely outrageous doesn't automatically mean it's going to be terrific.