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Nov 2019 - Pesmes: tiny but packs punch

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

I have no idea how we decided to go to this tiny hamlet in central France near Dijon but no doubt it being labelled as one of France's most beautiful villages played a role. That's a big call.

It was a 3hr / 210km drive from Annecy via the back-roads. Until now it had been nearly impossible to avoid the peage/toll roads without tripling the driving times but this route was doable. The roads are fine, highway standard really, the only risk at this time of year is the mountain passes being icy but other than the usual dense fog it was a straightforward drive. By now I would say I've earned all the driving badges!

Dramatic weather on the drive to Pesmes

Pesmes only has a population of 1,000 but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a long history. It has belonged to the Francs, Spanish, and the Dukes of Burgundy - have to love how these towns used to be traded and bought like everyday goods. It became part of France in 1678.

It's situated along a river and the old town and castle are situated up high with a view across the river and countryside. Elevation is always a feature of these ancient towns, to defend. Our Airbnb was also on the river, in fact open the door and walk 5 metres to the river edge. Not bad, but the weather was pretty foul, high winds and rain with single digit temps.

Pesmes - the Airbnb is the house just to the left of frame

It was a short walk up steps to get to the old village, which is compact and easy to explore. Once again it was basically deserted, saw maybe 3 people the entire afternoon. The town is full of historic monuments, ramparts, the remains of the medieval castle, original stone gateways into the town and grand townhouses (maison). The side streets are also really worth exploring, full of original medieval houses with original features like towers, wash-houses, fountains and decorative stone doors and windows. The sunset here created some very nice light for photography, makes it easier to ignore the icy wind.

Nice light for photos

A day trip from here took in the city of Dole, actually a sister city of Sestri Levante where we stayed in Italy. The wind was blowing a gale here so much of time was spent inside a cafe sipping coffee but it was a cool place with the usual French charm in the older part of town. From here we drove on small rural roads to Malans, population 130, famous for a large sculpture park. The sculptures are scattered throughout an oak forest, which we wandered around in for a while, completely alone of course, before retreating to the car to warm up.

Village on the drive back from Dole to Malans

Next and final road trip destination: Nancy.

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