We’ve left the Alps! There’s a definite feeling of “going home” and it feels lovely, fuzzy and warm. That doesn’t mean that great things are over on the way, though. We stop over in Die, at the foot of the Vercors massif, for an eminently great reason: we love the wine that’s produced here! Clairette de Die is a very light, slightly sweet fizzy white and Heather has quite the passion for it, so it seems like a fitting stop. To vary the pleasures, I have booked us for one night into a “glamping” tent – when we arrive, we find ourselves in the cutest, green and tree-filled little municipal campsite in a village on the road to Die, in which have been erected a handful of fancy canvas tents with little wooden terraces and shaded “patios” out the front. Ours has two double beds, a fridge, a little fabric wardrobe, an electric heater and a bunch of novels and art magazines on the bedside tables.
Small French children are running around everywhere screeching in a traditional game of girls vs boys – the girls’ castle, the disabled loo, is under siege, but they have taken a prisoner and we can hear him scream as we change Zaza at a nearby cubicle – who knows what’s happening to the poor kid in there. He emerges later looking rumpled but grinning, having escaped through the use of copious amounts of water, judging by the state of the captors.
In the village is one bar/restaurant, one grocery store and a beautiful view out towards the Vercors mountains and their great rugged cliffs and plateaus (apparently even if you nick a French word to use it in the English language, you neglect to finish it with the appropriate French ending – which is plateaux, if you were wondering). After arriving, we decide that it’s too relaxing a setting to go anywhere, so we mooch around playing in the grass, and in the hammock, while we sip cold Clairette from the grocery store. It’s so nice that we book another night straight away.
In the evening we enjoy a dish of a local specialty, the ravioles, tiny ravioli-like fresh pasta filled with a cheese and parsley cream, which I fail to cook properly on the little camping gas stove, but still taste nice, accompanied with salad and more Clairette. The sunset in the background paints the Vercors a deepening shade of orange, we can hear crickets and frogs, then slowly a soft blue and balmy night falls as we walk Eliza round and round the campsite to send her to sleep.
This is one of the best night’s sleep we get in ages! Zaza and Heather enjoy a very long lie-in while I happily read in the hammock with a cup of tea. Total happiness.
Morning croissants and Zaza’s nap taken care of, we move tents (the campsite is set to get busier today as it’s the start of a long weekend for the French) to a similarly lovely one next to it, before setting off for the little town of Die a few kilometres from us. It’s the very very end of the market, to the despair of Heather who still manages to spring forward like a devil out of a box and purchase apple juice and more fresh ravioles with goat’s cheese and honey in them. It’s blisteringly hot today, so we’re slinking in the shadows close to houses and trees with Zaza who’s grumpy about the heat. The main square under the church, where a veritable army of maintenance dudes are now at work clearing the remnants of the market, is lined with little cafes and restaurants with shaded terraces, so we sit down and I enjoy a big plate of salad with ravioles and cheese (I do really love ravioles, guys, what of it?) while reflecting yet again about how lucky we are.
We take a short walk through the town as it is awakening from siesta time – Heather is on the prowl for what she calls “hippie trousers” to replace the ones she killed by falling in Agerola, so we’re going in and then out of many shops without success. There is one shop which picks my interest, with nice ceramics and some fabric lampshades… but when I turn the items over to check the price I put them back down as if they burned, because they are SO expensive. Unprepared to spend fourty pounds on a single mug, we make our way back to the car; the town is now lively, with an atmosphere of calm but not too stuffy, quite fun and arty too, and a good mix of people young and older. We think that living here would probably be quite pleasant.
Back at the car, we’re now on the hunt for a particular Clairette vineyard recommended by my parents in a village nearby – we don’t remember its name, only the name of the village, but somehow manage to pick the right one among the dozens that line the road! We enjoy a nice extensive tasting, and of course leave with a case of Clairette, some olive oil, and a couple of presents for parents, as well as some fizz glasses for the house! The car is now reaching critical levels of rammed again.
Because it’s so hot, we’re quite keen to get in the river – on the Clairette lady’s advice we drive a few hundred metres away where a path snakes down under a high road bridge to the Drome River, a great blue tree-lined ribbon. There are “beaches” of white stones and we set up under a straggly tree, strip to our swimming costumes (apart from Zaza who strips to no costume at all) and gingerly put our toes in – it’s cool but delightful! Zaza gets to splash with her feet, widening her eyes when her bum touches the cool water, then splashing harder! But it’s too cold for a long swim for this baby, so we take turn entertaining her on the riverbank and swimming in the river, splashing upstream before letting ourselves be carried back down by the strong current. It’s great fun, so much so that Hev cannot bring herself to stop, so I take the baby for a little stroll on the path above while my wife plays in the water to her heart’s content.
Back at the campsite it’s time to fry the ravioles, make more salad, open more Clairette, and enjoy another lovely al fresco evening (before you’re too horrified at our wine consumption, please note that Clairette is twice weaker than the weakest red wine, it’s more like the alcool content of beer). In the morning, we pack up regretfully before setting off for our next stop, the Roman ruin-filled Orange down in Provence.