France // The Loire //

The Sologne

Stretching southeast of Blois, the Sologne is one of those traditionally rural regions of France that help keep alive the national self-image. Depending on the weather and the season, it can be one of the most dismal areas in central France: damp, flat, featureless and foggy. But at other times its forests, lakes, ponds and marshes have a quiet magic – in summer, for example, when the heather is in bloom and the ponds are full of water lilies, or in early autumn when you can collect mushrooms. Wild boar and deer roam here, not to mention the ducks, geese, quails and pheasants, who far outnumber the small human population. It was this remote, mystical landscape that provided the setting for Alain Fournier’s novel Le Grand Meaulnes; Fournier himself spent his childhood in La Chapelle d’Angillon, 34km north of Bourges, and the story’s famous “fête étrange” certainly took place in the Sologne. It’s worth passing through by bike on a fine day, but there’s little to see otherwise.