In the game of weather roulette, we wake to rain free skies. Yes! Off to Parfondeval we go, as fast as our little legs will carry us.
Parfondeval is quite unusual amongst the Les Plus Beaux Villages we’ve been to. Each is chosen not only for its beauty, but also for a unique characteristic, history or other very specific feature. Parfondeval’s uniqueness is its intact farming culture – largely unchanged since the 1500s, it still stands in testament to a way of life long past in other areas of France.
Here we see farming as it went on centuries ago. The buildings are a mixture of home, animal barn and outbuildings all contained within one L shaped structure.
Also quite fascinating is the 16th century Catholic church dedicated to Saint Medard, built not only as a place of worship but also as place of defence in time of war.
The church is fortified by a series of houses that form a wall around it and lead to a concealed entry.
Interestingly, this small village also has a Protestant church, built much later than its Catholic counterpart in the 18th century, a rare village (for this region) with both. Up until its construction, Protestant farmers buried their dead in their yards, despite the religion being introduced to the area in 16th century. That’d give gardening a while new level of challenge after a few generations, wouldn’t it? The villagers were divided – Catholics at the top of the hill, Protestants at the base, nearer their place of worship.
Parfondeval is still very much working farmland – small plots are divided by ancient hedges reminiscent of England’s hedgerows. The layout is peculiar to this region and is called “bocage” referring to the “hills, hedges and livestock” combination.
Also intact are a series of water pumps dotted throughout the village and a single pond, one of once seven watering ponds for farm animals.
It boggles the mind that this old stone laveri (laundry) was in active use until the 1960s when electric washing machines finally made an appearance here.
Parfondeval toured, we go off in search of French goodies and manage to cart off a very fine haul of cheese (below are only two aisles of many)
white asparagus (thank you Spring!)
and herbed jambon amongst other treats. Satisfaction at last. All I need now is the odd market or six….
Later as we continue our trek south across France through one poppy field after another,
now accompanied by the lightest of rain. We hear horror stories from England: two month’s worth of rain in a day, flooding, miles of traffic jams, and worst of all, not one but two sinkholes opening up on the M25, in an area we drove over only days ago. I’ll shut up about the drizzle over here then, shall I? I know where I’m better off!
Himself has the clever idea of a stopover in Verdun.
We stumbled across it last year and spent a happy few days there. Arriving late in the afternoon, there’s a blissful break in the rain: time to stretch our legs before dinner with a brisk walk into town for the age honoured tradition of feeding ducks yesterday’s bread.
Under the city gates, spring ducklings are just starting to get their proper “I’m big duck now” feathers – we’re very popular, at least until the bread lasts.
I can feel my internal compass recalibrating, I’m starting to feel at home, at last.