Saturday, May 28, 2011

Taking it Down a Notch - Cormatin, France

Post-Barcelona, we’re heading back into France on our way towards Wacken, the first music festival we will go to in Germany. Cormatin is our first stop, an hour from Lyon.

Where we will sleep

La Tuilerie Chazelle (Campsite)
How long? 5 nights
How much? €14 per night (Charge is per person only, no charge for tent or vehicle) 
Check in? Not specified. The campsite owners are aware though that we’ll be arriving around 7.30pm.
Check out? 2pm. We’ll be driving 4.5 hours to Val-de-Vesle, probably leaving around 10am to get there by 2.30pm.
Why we chose it? Gorgeous little campsite run by a English/Dutch couple, only has space for 6 tents, super quiet in a beautiful rural area. We chose to visit Cormatin purely to stay at this site, can't wait!

What we want to see

First things first, the day we arrive is a big day for us. We will wake up early in the morning in Barcelona, leaving around 6am and driving 3 hours to Carcassonne, France, arriving around 10am. We’ll aim to leave Carcassonne around noon and reach the Pont du Gard (outside Nimes, just over 2 hours away) around 2.30pm. From there, Cormatin is still 3.5 hours away, so the earliest we will arrive is around 6.30pm. We’ll play it by ear though and if we feel this is too much to take on, on the day, we’ll skip the Pont du Gard.

Carcassonne – a French town surrounded still by the ancient walls that protected it centuries ago. It’s looks like you’re stepping back in time.
€0 Admission although you do have to pay for parking.
€6.50 Admission if you want to go into Chateau Comtal, the castle in the middle.
Opening Hours for Chateau Comtal – 9.30am-6.30pm 7 days

Pont du Gard – a 2000 year old aqueduct bridge that was part of a larger aqueduct that brought water to Nimes from 50km away, using only gravity (and no, it’s not all downhill!). There is a museum onsite that shows you just how it worked and then you can walk onto the bridge itself.
€0 Admission for the monument, €15 for all of the exhibits and the cinema.
Opening Hours 9.30am-5.30pm 7 days except Monday mornings.

When we get to Cormatin, the lovely owners of La Tuilerie Chazelle have supplied us with pages of information on what to see and do.

Louhans Market - every Monday. This market has been around since the 17th Century and is focussed around free-range chickens and other animals. It also sells a huge variety of produce at less-than supermarket prices. There are more markets in the area on Tuesdays.

Beaune – a small town with a very cool medieval hospital, a wine market and a lot of wine caves.

La Boulaye – home to a Tibetan Monastery

The Lamartine Route – castles, churches, vineyards, oh my!

Taize – Home of some very famous Gregorian Chanters. There are services at the church at 12.30 and 8.30pm

CERN – So CERN (The European Organisation for Nuclear Research) isn’t technically in Cormatin, or even France, but it’s a day trip away, on the border of France and Switzerland. You have to enter Switzerland (and pay 40 Euros annual motorway tax no matter how long you’re staying) to get in, and you need your passport to do the tour because you will swap back into France at times.

Have you heard of the Large Hadron Collider? If not by name, you’ve probably heard of ‘that thing in a tunnel under the ground making big bangs and world-ending explosions’. The Large Hadron Collider is a fancy science thing that sends atoms in opposite directions around a giant tunnel deeeeep underground. When they meet on the other side they do so at such speeds that they smash together and bam – you have antimatter. Or that’s the idea.

As Courtney is a Physics major at Uni with 1 year to go, this day trip is awesome. And no, it’s not actually as dangerous as the news would have you believe. The tour is free but has limited spots; we booked about 6 months in advance.

Lyon – 80 minutes away from Cormatin is the city of Lyon. It has a chocolate factory (Chokola, 3 rue d’Austerlitz) and some amazing Patisseries (Patisserie Sebastien Bouillet, 15 Grand rue de la Croix Rousse) and is very pretty. This is all I know. If you know more, I welcome your tips.

What we are expecting

The second I found the website for La Tuilerie Chazelle, I knew I wanted to stay there. We were only looking for a place to stay enroute to Amsterdam but La Tuilerie Chazelle looks amazing. I was attracted by the idea of it being in a rural setting, allowing only 6 tents at a time to pitch there – a more intimate setting than the amazing holiday parks that are typical of Europe. I had really high expectations of falling in love with the place and being all Eat Pray Love on it but I’ve lowered those expectations so I don’t get disappointed. I still think it will be an amazing experience and probably quite the culture shock after the crowds of Benicassim and the city vibe of Barcelona.

Courtney’s sold on it too, expecting it to be small, quaint and cute - really nice and relaxed with friendly locals. I'm sure if he realises they will be french