Hamlet of Les Vallons
Hamlet of Les Vallons
Strolling through the hamlet of Les Vallons is to discover a society that was structured around a farm where the milk harvested every day was worked, in the winter on the farms, in the summer in the Criou mountains.
At the beginning of the 19th century, a traveller was charmed by the beauty of the women of Vallon. He had left the village of Samoëns and took the road leading to Sixt. Today, to get there, you have to leave the main road and head towards the foot of the Criou. There begins the discovery of a group so particular that it was decisive in the attribution of the label Pays d'art et d'histoire (Country of Art and History) to the commune. Of course, discovering its originality means giving in to curiosity and strolling along the farms of Vallon d'en haut and Vallon d'en bas. Although modern buildings are beginning to eat into an area originally devoted to agriculture, the habitat has kept the mark of the intensive exploitation of a harsh environment.
To cope with the often hostile nature, large farms have grouped together, supporting each other, reinforcing the sense of security of their owners. Walking around the village means discovering a society that was structured around a farm where the milk harvested every day was worked, in winter on the farms and in summer in the Criou mountains. To bring the inhabitants together, there are also the basins where people came to refresh themselves, where the herd used to stop to drink, one fed by a spring coming out of a tree trunk, the other proud of its column skilfully decorated by a sculptor of the village, François Mugnier. The life of Vallon has another centre, the 17th century chapel with its octagonal bell tower, topped by a dome with out-of-date curves.
The baroque influence is present. Dedicated to the Holy Apostles James, Philip and Joseph, it was built in 1636 to stop the plague epidemic. Who says mountain thinks snow and avalanche: in 1831, a flow of snow came down the slope of the Criou and brought the snow to the height of the chapel's bell tower, remaining there until August 15th. What if the saints had drawn it on themselves in order to protect the village? In 1999, the avalanche fell stopping near the building. However, this is not the main danger. Fire and water hazards have regularly threatened the inhabitants. As a village under septimontainer administration or as an independent community from 1738 to 1811, Vallon tried to regulate the life of everyone within a restrictive but necessary framework in order to escape the scourges.
The interweaving of the farms and their outbuildings, the vast volumes dressed in spruce, explain how a fire spreads rapidly and becomes a disaster. The beautiful mateling in grey or golden hues ignites easily because the farms are home to large reserves of hay. Flooding, another danger, recurred regularly and required monitoring chores until the containment of the Giffre and Clévieu rivers mitigated the risks. Daily life takes place between the sheltered entrances, warmed by the rising sun, the vegetable gardens in front of the house and the neighbouring orchards. From the apiary to the attic, from the barn to the house, come and go their hosts, who are dedicated to maintaining farms and outbuildings, so close to each other, so similar in their materials and layout that one might think they were alike. No monotony in the architecture! Walking through the hamlet, you can see the variety of galleries, with rectangular bars or cut-out balustrades, you can notice the alternation of stone and wood, and that of the ventilation openings in the haylofts that overhang the houses. Two comma joined together draw bull horns, hearts, flames, four form a curvilinear svatiska. Elsewhere the symbols of card games are used. Closer to the entrance doors, the sculpted columns and lintels reveal the taste of the inhabitants, who, behind an apparent austerity, seek a simple and discreet aesthetic marked by tradition.
All year round, daily.