Vassivière and beyond

The jeep took us through the snow, at last turning to slush, to three other hamlets, to see houses in various states of disrepair. Not one of them inspired us.

Worse than the individual houses that appeared to have been left to wither and rot, the hamlets themselves appeared to be dying. Bars were either closed for the winter, or for good, and most of the villages had no shops at all. They were only served by a bread van, that toot-tooted into the hamlets at a given time of the day. La Creuse is an area that the young are fleeing; leaving in their wake neglected houses and diminishing communities that often struggle to survive.

Lac Vassivière is a stunning man-made lake; in the summer it has festivals, watersports, tourists and energy. In the winter some of the smaller villages, located around it, are only accessible if you have a 4x4 and an pertinacious determination to visit them. We had lived in North London for 15 years; there is always an all-night garage, off-licence, or a rat, within 10 feet of you. To come to a place where you couldn’t even walk to a shop unless you had a pair of hiking boots, a spare couple of weeks, and a back up team of Huskies, just seemed a little extreme.

J-P PB and Mme J-P PB treated us to a hot chocolate in a small café on the outskirts of Vallière on our return to Bourganeuf. We knew we had not found the right house, but remained undaunted.

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