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During this August on a Friday (yet another Saint's Day and Bank Holiday here in France!), we decided to set off to investigate a little village nearby called Le Croset. In fact, only 20 minutes or so up the RN7, nestled at the far end of the Monts de la Madeleine, in the Côte Roannaise.
Although we knew that Le Crozet was locally renowned as a beautiful, quaint, 10th century village, we had never actually visited it! Even though we had always recommended a visit to our guests!!
It is just like in the UK, you often have amazing places on your doorstep, like the Lake District near our home in Saddleworth, but you rarely visit the place despite being less than an hour's drive away.
However, this time we were determined to take a serious look at Le Crozet to find out what all the fuss was about!
We also expected, and were fully prepared, as is often the case, for the whole village to be on 'shut-down' particularly during the summer as well as on a French bank holiday.
A surprise and a delight was, however, in store for us!
As you climb up from Pacaudiere along the lush country lanes, you enter this once important, busy, fortified hill village, sleepily lying within the folds of the hillside with the plain of the River La Loire stretching out below.
The Views are stunning, especially when you climb 'The Keep'.
This tower was originally built in the 12th century by the viscounts of Mâcon, and stands about 12 metres high.
It is topped by a bell tower or turret, because the old church had no steeple, and, therefore, no bells.
From the esplanade which lies at the foot of 'The Keep', on a clear day you can see as far as the Morvan and Beaujolais mountains, and the town of Tarare.
We peeped into the so-called 'new' church which stands beside 'The keep', and was constructed in 1862 on the site of the original castle, and discovered that preparations were being made for a wedding the following day – what a magical setting!
We then headed down to the museum, housed in a 15th century building, also with a tower.
This little museum offers a wonderful insight into village life during the 1900's, and is full of local information and artefacts.
When you enter the various rooms of this museum you are in a different world – different era, a bygone age, of course. There is even Le Crozet's original blacksmith's, complete with furnace, bellows and tools. In another room you have a fascinating display of carpenter tools, particularly ones used for the making of clogs or 'sabots).
Above all, however, it was the collection of old-framed maps through the centuries and fantastic photographs that kept us enthralled.
There are also original deeds of purchase from the village, some dating back to the 15th century, along with books and local records through the ages.
The whole village is so pretty, especially in the summer with an abundance of flowers everywhere.
The exceptional medieval wonder of Le Crozet is superb, particularly on a sunny day, as this was, when the sunlight emphasises the colours, structures, and textures of the ancient buildings – all with secret histories hidden behind their medieval walls.
It is a simply beautiful and fascinating place.
As you wander through the tiny streets there are stunning buildings round every corner, oozing history.
Although many of its buildings have been carefully and beautifully renovated, there are still one or two that are crying out for a little 'TLC', and are definite renovation opportunities – very tempting!!
However, Le Crozet is not just a 'showpiece' 'museum' of a village, it is a living, breathing, lively community.
A community of probably many related families of the past whose heritage is being carefully and sympathetically preserved.
Well worth a good stroll around when you visit the Roannais.
Also take a look at our other 'Blogs' for more information about the Roannais, Rhône-Alpes region, and visit our Purefrancenow Escape Days for a special trip to Le Crozet, canal ride, and traditional restaurant.