The beauty of being flexible and not having a strict schedule on the road is that when you spot a sign on a highway that grabs your attention, you can always STOP and make a detour to check it out. So, while looking for a place to stop and things to do in the south of France, near Lyon, this is what happened with us in a well-preserved, medieval village of Perouges. What a pleasant surprise, especially to our children. They had been fascinated with “The Three Musketeers” the moment we crossed the French border, after visiting CERN and Geneva on the way home from Poland to Spain on day 32 of our family camping road trip through Europe this summer.
Some scenes of the classic 3 Musketeers movie were apparently shot in this walled medieval village. “This is where we’ll get the musketeers swords!,” our kids shouted with glee!!!
Perouge was like walking on a movie set, or better yet, like going back in time to the 1600s (maybe except for the gift storesJ). The cobblestones and architecture looked authentic and well preserved from many centuries back. Strolling the narrow streets within the city walls, you only wish you could bump into the actual musketeers and have a jug of the local brewski with them.
The town is located between Lyon and Geneva which, according to informational materials, back in the day made it a very attractive stop for tradesmen. Overlooking the grape producing sunkissed hills, you would understand why the locals became experts in producing good quality wines. Artisans of all sorts up to this day sell their crafts here; things like handmade paper, stationary, jewelry, paintings and linens. “Arcadie” on the Place du Tilleul, which is the central square of the town, is just one of the many gift stores where you could indulge yourself with a nice souvenir.
On the same square you have a choice of two restaurants which offer an opportunity to submerge yourself in the medieval spirit of the town by trying local food and deserts. . . and yes, BEER! Now, the choice is naturally yours, but surely depends on the thickness of your wallet too. We went to what seemed to be a more adequate place for gypsy roamers like us, Le Relais de la Tour Restaurant, with a nice outdoor seating area. Let’s just say that the surrounding view enriched the food experience that we had there, more than the food itself. Surely, the dessert was a real highlight… the famous Galette Pérougienne. This large doughy pastry dripping in sugar, butter, lemon zest and sometimes served with cream was created by Marie Louise Thibaut in 1912 who also restored the Hostellerie du Vieux Pérouges—a hotel and your alternative place to dine in that square.
Perouges is a place that really makes your imagination work and in the end you do not need a time machine to find yourself back in the Middle Ages, even for just a little bit during your family road trip.
WHERE to stay IN PEROUGES: GO camping!
During our first camping road trip in Europe, going from Spain to Poland and back again, we did not go camping for the entire 6 weeks of round trip camping. Our family of four with two young kids (then 6 and 2 years old) stayed in AirBnB flats, inexpensive hotels, cabins and even youth hostels.
We did not feel comfortable going camping with the kids during the entire trip. So, we understand that you might be hesitant to go camping. Afterall, we (parents) had never done camping before in our lives (ok, Six, the dad, had done it once as a boy scout).
We did not like it until we tried it 2 years on our first summer camping road trip simply because it was cheaper to do so. The practical benefits of family camping outweighed our hesitation. We needed to be on the road but we need to do it on the cheap.
So, for this year’s family camping road trip we made it our goal to go camping all the way… again for 6 weeks roundtrip.
During the height of the summer season, we paid as low as 19 euros and as high as 45 euros per night. The average cost was between 25 and 30 all inclusive (electricity, pitch for car and tent). Keep in mind that this is for a family of 2 adults and 2 kids during the HIGH TOURIST SEASON.
So, instead of paying a lot of money for accommodation, especially in expensive cities like Geneva, Paris and Liechtenstein, you can cut the cost significantly.
Same reason why we took roads that did not have tolls. On our second camping road trip, we went camping all the way through for 6 weeks in total WITHOUT pre-booking campsites!
Less than 10-minute drive from the medieval viallage of Pérouges, is Camping Claire Riviere that cost 30.60 euros a night (all included) at the end of August.
If you are on the way to CERN/Geneva, Switzerland check out an excellent state/municipal campground in Satigny called Cantonal Camping Val de Allondon for 28 euros a night (30 Swiss Francs or $31 USD), that would make it affordable for you to visit the expensive French-speaking capital of Switzerland.
RECOMMENDATIONS for family with kids
Travelling with children? Here’s some logistical recommendation for your family.
1. There’s an affordable limited Parking Des Combes (2 euros) with ample space at the bottom of a hill about 6-minute walk to the village entrance.
2. There’s a clean public restroom close to the parking area.
3. From the parking lot, you will have to climb up a gravel road and a set of wooden stairs. The climb is not steep. Keep in mind that the road is not paved, making it difficult for strollers or anything with wheels. Come to think of it, the whole town is paved with cobblestone streets. So, best to leave those things with wheels in your car, if you can. Otherwise, add some time and patience to your visit.
4. As expected, dining in this two-restaurant village can be expensive. Hey, you’ve got to support the local economy somehow when visiting such off-the-beaten path destinations. So, go ahead, SLOW DOWN, SIT DOWN and HAVE SOME of the local FOOD. . . some are “medieval” themed. Make sure you try the local specialty called Galette Pérougienne.
5. The entire walking tour is easily under an hour. We recommend to walk slow, let the children explore the peace and quiet, and, later, chill at the local outdoor restaurant and enjoy a local beer.
6. Don’t forget to explore the outer edges of the town that have panoramic views of the city.
That’s it. Thanks for stopping by. Remember to SUBSCRIBE and CHECK OUT our family-friendly travel videos in Switzerland, France, Germany and Spain.
NEXT STOP: Le Puy. . . Then, Lourdes, FRANCE for some unexpected “pilgrimage” stops.
PREVIOUS STOPs: CERN and Geneva, Switzerland