After an amazing 36 Hours in Lyon, Zoe, Tom and I took the train to Saint-Étienne where they were living. The next day, we headed out into the French countryside to discover the gorgeous villages and natural park on their doorstep.
We set off early from Saint-Étienne with just a rough idea of where we wanted to head. We drove into the Pilat Region Natural Park knowing that it was filled with little villages and panorama points. Straddling the Rhône and Loire regions in south-east France, the Park spans more than 65,000 hectares and is filled with mountains. Almost straight away we came upon the little village of Rochetailée with its chateau ruins dating from the 12th century.
Beautiful panoramas of the Park
Street-side cuteness in Pélussin
One of our favourite discoveries was the little town of Condrieu, which was super sleepy on this Sunday morning. We wandered around some of the quiet streets, taking in the relaxed atmosphere and beautiful buildings.
Zoe in front of one of my favourite colour schemes in the village
One of the bits of research that I had managed was to carry out was to find the village of Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez, which is officially one of the most beautiful villages in France. Although our first sight of it confirmed this could definitely be the case, we first had to fill our bellies before we could feast our eyes. Our choice of Le Cartusien, opposite the monastery, was an excellent decision!
Delicious lamb and a very small beer for the driver!
Suitably refreshed, we set about exploring the monastery that forms a large part of the village. Dating back to the 13th century, monks lived here for nearly 400 years before it was converted into the village. The golden stones, sun-lit cloisters and squares made us feel as though we had stepped back in time – très charmant!
Zoe and Tom strolling past the Town Hall
Each of the monk’s cells is now a family home – I couldn’t get over the history these places have seen and how amazing it must be to live inside. Unfortunately we had just missed a tour (but not unfortunately, because it meant I had tried that apple pie of heaven) but if you do catch one, you can also see a restored cell and inside the village church – we just got a peek!
We also had a wander along the outside of the walls, where abundant orchards merged with the overflowing hedgerows. And I spotted the world’s most perfect little bridge!
After a gorgeous day out in Pilat we headed back to Saint-Étienne, stopping only briefly to admire the early autumnal tones by this little lake.
Have you ever visited Pilat Regional Park or this area of France? What did you think?
For more of this trip check out 36 Hours of Fun in Lyon