Two stalls don’t exactly make a bustling market but when in France, it is important to remember that you’re getting quality over quantity. The Friday morning market in the village of Vaujany is the epitome of tiny – one stall selling cheese and one stall selling sausage, however, the sausages are anything but ordinary.
Wicker baskets sit atop a red and white chequered tablecloth and are filled with neatly stacked sausages. Small signs attached to each basket indicate the price, five euros (EUR) for one, 10 EUR for three, and 20 EUR for seven. Experience shows that if you buy seven the marchand de saucissons may just sneak an extra one into your shopping bag when you’re not looking. His service is always with a smile.
What is most important though is what you choose to put in your bag. Sausages made of deer and of wild boar are hard to resist, as is the classic smoked sausage. It’s when you reach the baskets filled with fig sausage and those made with chanterelle mushrooms and Beaufort cheese that your eyes will really widen with delight.
Beaufort cheese sausage, but how does it taste? Creamy, it’s a melt-in-your mouth sausage which perfectly blends the mildly pungent aroma of this Alpine cheese with delicately spiced meat. It will make you wish your hometown or city had a tiny market just like this, or wish that you bought more when you had the chance.
The village of Vaujany is nestled in the French Alps at an altitude of 1250 metres, and with its narrow streets and only a few hundred year round residents, is a traditional French community. Well known as a skiing destination because of its gondola lift link to Alpe d’Huez, it’s a hidden gem for summer tourism. After a few days you’ll soon find yourself discovering your favourite sunset-viewing spot, your favourite mountain drive, and your favourite walking route.
One such route is a two-hour round trip walk to the thundering La Fare waterfall. If you follow the road from Vaujany to La Villette you will likely make several stops to pluck tiny, ruby red, wild strawberries from their stems and pop them into your mouth as you stroll along. Cows and goats graze in nearby fields and you will soon find yourself on a moderately easy trail winding up and along a small section of the Grandes Rousses mountain range to a spot above the base of La Fare.
From this point adventurous types who are properly equipped can join the via feratta, a rock climbing route, but others can be content to feel the spray of the waterfall on their faces and enjoy the panoramic views from the safety of the trail.
If Hôtel l’Etendard is your accommodation in Vaujany, then you can always expect to return to a delicious dinner. The rooms are quite average but that’s more than made up for by the friendly Belgian couple who own the hotel and the mouth-watering mountain food they serve.
While tartiflette may not be summer fare, it’s not a dish you can or want to say no to. Named for a variety of potato from the Haute-Savoie department of the Rhône-Alpes region, it combines onions, bacon, potatoes, and Reblochon cheese into a hearty one-pot meal and is best paired with a crisp green salad.
The Reblochon cheese used in tartiflette also comes from Haute-Savoie and has an interesting history. It is named so because in the 14th century, mountain farmers would avoid high taxes from wealthy landowners by only partially milking their cows – blocher la vache – before the yield was measured. They then secretly milked the cows again – reblocher – and this rich remaining milk was used by dairymaids to make what is now called Reblochon cheese.
In Vaujany, sausages are an important fixture of the two-stall morning market, but don’t overlook the cheese!
France is covered by Central European Time (CET) and as part of the Eurozone, all financial transactions are handled in euros. If you like to ski or snowboard, then winter is your season to visit Vaujany as snow makes the slopes oh so inviting. If you prefer to bask in the warm glow of the sun, then summer offers some respite from the masses of winter sport tourists. The slopes are lush and green and while the sun warms your shoulders, the mountain air is still clean and fresh.
Grenoble–Isère Airport (GNB) is the nearest airport and is located 40 kilometres northwest of Grenoble and about 100 kilometres northwest of Vaujany. There are bus services to several cities, towns, and villages in the region but for convenience, and especially in the summer, it’s best to rent a car. Not only will you save time, it is often the only way to explore off the beaten path and at your own pace.
La Marmotte – This colourful one-day race for amateur cyclists takes place the first weekend of July and covers 174 kilometres, climaxing with a 13.8 kilometre climb up the 21 hairpin bends of Alpe d’Huez.
La Chèvre… rie – Goat cheese farmer Clément Marais has a market stall in the city of Bourg d’Oisans on Saturdays but to buy his products directly from the source or for a guided visit of the farm, milking demonstration, and tasting, make a trip to the village of Villard Reculas.
La Ferme des Bisons de l’Oisans – Children will love the opportunity to accompany sheep and bison farmer Didier Girard during his daily work of feeding and checking his herds, and meat products can be purchased from the farm shop.