Today is our final day on the ship. This morning’s Freechoice activities were the last of the cruise. Some people opted for walking or bus tours of Lyon, and some attended a silk painting workshop (Lyon was renowned for its silk weaving industry for over 400 years). We opted for a visit to a small medieval hilltop village about 40 km north east of Lyon named Pérouges.
Pérouges is officially listed as one of the most beautiful villages of France. The village sits atop a small hill, only about 250 metres in elevation, that overlooks the River Ain. It is a walled town. For centuries, Pérouges was known for its textile industry. Hemp, grown in the surrounding fields, was used to make linen and this was woven into fine cloth by the people of the village.
The entry to the village is through the gate beside the heavily fortified church. The outer wall of the church is a huge, solid wall of stone which actually forms part of the fortification that encircles the town, right alongside the town gate. Our guide claimed this was a deliberate ploy by the defenders of the town, because invading Christian armies would never launch an assault on a house of God.
Pérouges lay on a major trade route between Lyon and Geneva in medieval times, and its importance in this role led to it being attacked by invading French armies multiple times throughout its history. These attacks ceased after the village officially became a part of France in the early 1600s. Parts of Pérouges also suffered damage during the French Revolution. When new forms of transport were introduced during the 1800s, the town’s importance as a stop on the trade route diminished and the population dwindled. Its cobbled streets and stone and timber buildings began to fall into disrepair and many houses were abandoned. Early in the 20th century, the mayor of Lyon, Edouard Heriot, became the town’s saviour. He led a committee which raised funds and began the restoration of the village.
Today a visit to Pérouges is like taking a trip back in time. After entering the town gate, if you turn left and keep walking, you will soon return to the place you started, as there is really only one main thoroughfare that takes you on a circular route inside the town walls. There is also a beautiful town square, where a Sunday market was running during our visit. The stall holders were all selling produce from the region – baked goods, honey, craft beer and wine, olive oil and cheeses. Vehicles are used inside Pérouges’ walls, but it’s often a tight squeeze and I imagine both drivers and pedestrians would need to be very careful to avoid each other.
Marg found some earrings at a craft shop and I managed to try the local delicacy known as Galette de Pérouges, which is something like a pizza slice coated in sugar, as well as tasting some of the craft beer, cheese and honey products from the market. I was a little distracted at times during our time in the village because the Magpies were playing back home and I was constantly checking the scores on my phone. But we had a good win, so that made a good day even better.