Parfois, se perdre n’est pas une perte de temps.
Sometimes getting lost is not a waste of time.
The time machine is a blue-eyed baby of the inventive brain. The very premise of travelling back in time has allured generations. Who would not love to uncover the mysteries of the past or simply witness the antiquated life of sepia tone? A commune, crowned as a beautiful village, with its resplendent beauty preserved painstakingly promises to be a real-life ‘time machine’. Welcome to ‘pristine Perouges’
Perched on a small hill, overlooking the Ain river, Perouges is a medieval town, 30km North-East of Lyon. The first mention of this fortified fortress commune can be found as early as in the 12th century when farmers and linen weavers thrived benefiting from the town’s strategic position along the Geneva – Lyon flourishing trade route.
In its lifetime, the town has witnessed the zenith of prosperity riding on the trade and the nadir of near abandonment due to change of hands, fights between the tribes, and the religious war. Let’s enter through the arched gateway to start our time travel.
L’Eglise Sainte-Marie-Madeleine (Saint Marie Madeleine Church)
An arched gateway leads to a fortified church built-in 1423. Its massive fortified façade built completely in stone is bound to transfix you. It’s a Gothic-styled fortress church, the walls of which are defensive ramparts. Its small and narrow stained-glass windows were designed to prevent invasion.
Porte d’En – Haut, an upper gate next to the church is the fortified gate of the old castle and a main entrance to the city. Built in the 12th century, it is more than 15 meters tall. The remains of the impressive wooden door on the right side dating back to the 15th-century stand as a testimony to the grandeur of the past.
Rue de Rondes (Round street)
It is the main street of the town which goes around the centre and hence the name. The higher side of the street had the houses of nobilities while the lower had commoners.
Maison du Sergent de Justice and its tower and 33m deep well stand out among other stonewalled, brick-laid houses.
Rue des Princes
It is another important road that leads to the centre of the town. It used to be the main merchant street and thus the houses have wide bay windows to display their goods.
Place du Tilleul
Place du Tilleul is the town centre. Among many well-preserved ancient buildings, one finds a multi-centennial ‘tree of liberty here. It was planted soon after the French revolution.
The Hostellerie du Vieux Pérouges is a noteworthy half-timbered house from the 12th century that stands basking in its glory.
Don’t forget to spot the Sun-dial on the facade of one of the houses.
Porte d’En – Bas
Porte d’En – Bas is the lower gate, also called Langlois gate. ‘Pretty as a picture’ view of the Meximieux town and Ain valley awaits you here. The gate got destroyed during the war with Dauphine soldiers in 1468. It holds an inscription in Latin as “Perouges of the Perougeans, impregnable fortress, those rouges from Dauphine wanted to take it but failed. Yet they took the gates, the locks, and the hinges and run away with them. The devil takes them!”
Galette de Perouges
Galette is a flat, thin, round cake. However, the galette at Perouges is unique. A brioche dough with lemon zest is thinly spread and is smeared generously with a butter-sugar mix which caramelizes on it when cooked. You can buy it at any of the seven friendly points of sale in the town.
Fame to Glory
The true medieval identity of the town attracted moviemakers. Movies like Monsieur Vincent (1947), Les trois mousquetaires (1961), Mandrin, Fanfan la Tulipe (1962), The Bride (1985), The Hour of the Pig (1993) were shot here extensively.
L’etange de L’Aubepin (The Aubepin Lake)
Much lies outside the walls of the old fortress. Exit from Porte d’En Bas, walk along the walls admiring the valley. Before long you are staring at the lush green undulating France countryside.
L’entage de l’Aubepin is one hidden jewel of this part. This lake is a man-made wonder in the picturesque surrounding of the Meximeux countryside dedicated to the conservation of specific breeds of the fishes. Though fishing is allowed here, one is supposed to release the fish back to the lake if it is one of the conserved species. The sublime serenity of the place is unmatched!
With multiple testimonies of the medieval heyday, rounded pebbles softened by centuries and the quaint surroundings are bound to make each detour within the ‘pristine’ Perouges a gateway to project oneself anywhere in the land of imagination, travelling in the time machine at a self-defined pace!
Click here for posts so far in the “Exploring l’Hexagone” series