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130 different plants and herbs, is known only to a handful of monks. After two hours of gentle walking (this is very much a stroll as opposed to a hike) we arrive at a lookout and see the sun beginning to set over the lush green valley below. In the distance is the city of Lyon and the summit of La Grande Sure, which rises to nearly 2,000 metres. We don’t stay long, however, because our concert is about to begin. A short walk from the lookout the last of the sunlight shines on a large overgrown meadow surrounded by pine trees where, in the middle, there stands an upright piano under a bottle-green canopy. “For me, this walk through the forest is like walking into a very long concert hall,” explains Alexandre. “I like spending time with my audience rather than being thrust straight into the spotlight.” To one side of the makeshift stage lie a handful of yellow and turquoise bean bags. Some camping chairs have also been set up, draped in pale yellow blankets to ward off the inevitable evening chill. We’re each handed a glass of chilled rose and people bring picnics out of backpacks, cutting slices of saucisson and Chartreux cheese, and tearing off pieces of baguette, while Alexandre prepares himself. And then the recital begins, and it is nothing short of magical. During the 50 minutes that Alexandre plays, without sheet music, we’re treated to wonderful renditions of works by composers including Bach, Brahms and Chopin. The last of the remaining sunshine quickly disappears and soon the only light comes from the two head torches dangling from the ceiling of the canvas canopy. When we arrived in the meadow Alexandre had explained that he would much rather play in the open air but needs the tent covering to stop humidity affecting the piano. But as the skies grow ever darker, I disagree with him, the torches in the canopy shine like a spotlight on the performer. The last song, Metamorphosis by Philip Glass, is a dramatic and soul-stirring finale after which nobody moves for several minutes. It’s nearly 10pm by the time the recital finishes but fortunately the walk back to our original meeting point is much faster and takes just 25 minutes. We start the descent wearing our head torches but soon turn these off and let the light of the stars guide us instead. It seems only fitting to end the most unusual – and wonderful – walk in France the way that we began, very much at one with nature. Other things to do in the Chartreuse region Although the Grande Chartreuse is closed to visitors, you can walk to the monastery and see the grounds. Start with a visit to the Museum of the Grande Chartreuse, for a better understanding of the mystery of the Carthusian Order and then walk to the monastery itself. The walk takes roughly one hour. Chartreuse appears on almost every menu but if spirits aren’t your thing, then don’t worry, there are plenty of other opportunities to get a taste of this unique liquor from cheese to ice cream. One of the best ways to try Chartreuse is to combine it with chocolate; visit Chocolaterie Sandrine Chappaz who create award-winning chocolates including a Chartreuse cocktail inspired collection. Housed in the mountain church of Saint- Pierre-de-Chartreuse is the Arcabas Museum. The museum is dedicated to the works of the contemporary French sacred artist Jean- Marie Pirot, better known as Arcabas. It’s thought that during his lifetime he created between 4-5,000 works of art, a fraction of them are on display here. Katja Gaskell was a guest of Chartreuse Tourism and Isere Tourism. Alexandre Guhery runs organised guided walks including Rando’piano via his company L’Oreille du Lynx. 72 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 73
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