A week ago, you had never heard of Corrençon-en-Vercors, a town boasting a population of 375. Nestled deep in the Vercors Mountains of France, next to the Forêt Domaniale du Vercors, Corrençon-en-Vercors is a station de ski less than 2 hours away from Lyon.
How you ended up in Corrençon is a testament to the beauty of spontaneity. Thursday afternoon, a friend asks you, “What have you got planned for this weekend?” to which you reply, “Nothing special.” His response was simple. “Great, tomorrow night, we’ll drive to Corrençon-en-Vercors. You, me, and Marion.” He warns you that there should be snow on the ground and that it can get awfully brisk and chilly up in the mountains, so bundle up.
So off you go Friday night, an American with two French friends. You drive for one hour south on A43 then A48 (A stands for Autoroute, aka highway) heading towards Grenoble. Then it’s up, up, up curvy mountainous roads for another 45 minutes until you reach your destination, a tiny little town where the road ends.
The next morning, you open the windows upon waking. The main window to the apartment faces east so you see the sun slowly creep up over the mountains. It’s so bright, you’re forced to shade your eyes as you watch the icicles on the trees melt.
Then, breakfast. A typical French breakfast, eaten by French people (and you!) Croissants, pain au chocolats, and bread. Toasted bread with butter, raspberry jam, and Nutella. All dunked in hot milk with a dash of coffee. Because it isn’t a real French breakfast unless there’s dunking and crumbs all over the table.
Then, it’s off to the top of the world. Côte 2000. A ski slope at an altitude of 2000 meters. You guys don’t ski though. Instead, you discover a picnic table. A perfect setting for your carefully packed picnic lunch. Cold cuts, cheese, a freshly baked baguette, quichem yogurts, and fruits. A typical French meal, in an untypical French setting.
You and your friends wander through grande randonnée (GR) 91, a hiking trail commonly known as the path of Elves. You learn that grande randonées in France are marked with red and white striped markers painted on trees. A red and white X means that you’ve strayed off the main path. Parallel red and white lines mean that you’re on the right track.
You walk through the most beautiful golf course you’ve ever seen. If you look to your left, there are mountains. To the right, there are more mountains. If you look in front or you, or turn around and look behind- the trail just continues.
You go home and watch TV for a little. Then your friends tell you they want to eat a raclette for dinner. Melted cheese on top of cold cuts and potatos. A typical meal in the mountains for all those cold nights. You go to the neighborhood épicerie where the shopkeeper is more than happy to cut you a huge chunk of cheese. When he finds out that you’re American, he smiles even wider and says, “Bon appétit!” Upon your return home, you and your friends promptly prepare your feast. The cheese is cut and plated; the cold cuts are artfully arranged around another plate. The potatoes are carefully washed and put in a pressure cooker to steam cook. Once all of that is finished, you plug in the raclette machine. And the cheese goes in to melt. Forty-five minutes later, you three have devoured all of the cheese. You want to fall asleep right there, but instead watch Gran Torino. Then it’s off to bed for real. Another day in the mountain awaits.
Sunday. You all wake up, but today you wake up after the sun has already risen. But it’s ok, because you’re in the middle of nowhere and how can you begrudge the sun for shining upon you as you eat your breakfast?
You discuss with your friends what you will do today. And you come to the conclusion that the views are always worth it. You go off to picnic on the top of the world again. If you go high enough, you’ll even spot some snow.
You’re told that it’s very strange for there not to be snow on the ground during this time of the year. You can’t help but be a little sad that you don’t have the chance to ski, but you’re also secretly happy that you can see the grass and the ground.
You descend back into the valley and go for another hike. As you go through the golf course again, you decide to take the paths less taken.
And this time, you have no words.