Places

68 – Sunset At Paladru

Lake Paladru lies 65km east of Lyon in the foothills of the Alps. A footprint left behind by the glaciers that once ground through this landscape. Chiselling and polishing the raw rock into what we see today.

After a ‘hearty’ breakfast of sausage, black pudding, fried eggs, fried bread, thick syrupy sweet black coffee, half a tart au citron, two croissants, it’s already gone one o’clock, and I should have been halfway up Mont Pouri by now. Instead I’m sitting at home cursing my idleness.

I’ve missed my big chance, but I still have to get out. Even if it’s to simply gaze at geometry more interesting than the infinite right angles of the metropolis. City dwellers must develop a kind of type geometric blindness: an apathy to all shapes except rectangular shop windows and perpendicular skylines. Out in the country our smoke-choked eyes must bleed as they frantically try to straighten the subtle contours of the valleys back into the gridiron uniformity of the city they’re used to.

Driving east towards Chambery, the Alpine cinema is showing the Savoie Alpes in high definition. The entire range projected onto my windscreen with the Chartreuse in the foreground. And in all of it, the tiny lake of Paladru.

The setting is tame compared to what lurks beyond, but in the crisp autumn light with the trees flashing their reds and oranges as though on full alert, it’s pleasant enough. The lake is about the size of Wast Water in the Lake District, but the setting is strangely like that of Chew Magna in Somerset.

On an overcast rainy day, an honest tourist guide would call it bland. On a sunlit autumn day: heavenly golden. Even if access to the lake is limited to a two kilometre stretch near the village of Charavines. The rest of the shoreline is owned by sailing clubs and private fishing interests.

It’s a bit of a shame considering it took me an hour and a half to get here. If it were summer I’d swim. Or if I were young. Either way, I’d be escorted to the Mayor’s office in chains. The giant signs spaced along the shore proclaiming, NO SWIMMING, BY ORDER OF THE MAYOR, make that quite clear.  For what reason I can’t imagine. The lake looks no more dangerous than a deep bath.

I leave my aquatic thoughts on the shore and head back to the car, the sun dipping below the eastern end of the lake. The mist is already gathering over the water and soon the lake will be in darkness. And erased from my thoughts. For while Lake Paladru is pleasurable, it will not warrant another trip. Next time I will make sure I ease myself out of my slumber so I can touch the cold rocks of the mighty Alps for myself.

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