Hidden near Gap is the tiny, aging village of Prapic. Once a thriving town on a main Roman route before Christ, the village has survived centuries despite rockslides and avalanches from the peaks all around. So massive are those peaks that the village sees no sunlight from mid-December to mid-January.
Alas, the population is aging, which is no surprise given it’s stuck at the very end of a valley with no other way out. Lucien Patry wrote a book about Prapic, and reading about its shrinking population was disheartening. Thankfully, there’s nothing sad about visiting the village, and there are lots of reasons to visit.
1. Truly breathtaking views
Even the sheep have an amazing view! Every direction provides postcard-worthy scenery, whether it’s a tumbling waterfall, distant snow or the fields of wild flowers.
2. Go hiking in summer
The area is well marked for hikers, with easy both walks on stony, wide roads and mountain adventures for serious hikers. I managed the easy, hour-long flat walk (I’ll blame the altitude for being out of breath).
3. Explore the village
Out of peak season, the village is pretty much empty. I went in May and I think one of the two restaurants was open in the morning, but had closed by lunchtime — when our large group was starving after our wild walk (okay, the easy, flat walk). We managed to explore the outside of the restaurant, looking for signs of life. There were none. It did allow us to check out the local craftmanship of the buildings without feeling obliged to hurry along. There’s some innovative uses of local materials.
4. Sample the water
The Drac Noir river is home to freshwater fish — and horses. Why bother providing a water tank when the horses can drink the freshest, coolest water around. Taste the water for yourself, or dip a toe in and try not to scream as it freezes off.
5. Test the no-flies theory
Folklore says that Prapic is so close to the end of the earth that even the flies don’t go there. Is it true? If only!
6. Watch marmots from the car
Marmots are those mythical creatures that I wrote about soon after starting this blog. This valley is so empty, they play right by the side of the road. Simply stop your car on the way to or out from Prapic, where the rocks line both sides of the road, and wait for the action to start. Marmot-lover heaven.
7. Visit a poet’s grave
A local Prapic boy became a teacher, and after the war, he refused to go to Paris for further training. His (forced) very early retirement signalled his career as a shepherd who spent his days writing poetry. He loved the area so much that he was buried under this massive rock, pictured (the dark square in the bottom right corner is the entrance).
8. Feel lost
Feel adventurous but really not ready to climb Everest? Prapic is so devoid of people that you can easily imagine you’re much further from civilisation than you actually are. Simply walk off one of those walking tracks and plop yourself down in a field. Watch out for any marmots.
9. Enjoy carless streets
The village has a large parking and camping area a few minutes’ walk away, so only the handful of locals drive through the few streets of the town. I saw a tractor and no cars the day I visited. This makes a great place for energetic kids and dogs who have no road sense. One less thing to worry about on an outing.
10. Uncover the mystery church
Leaving town, we stopped to watch some marmots playing on the road, and I noticed this ruin of a church. The cross and some columns are the only things recognisable amongst the roads and growth. I regret not reading Mr Patry’s book in more detail, as it no doubt provided the history to the ruined church. Did it succumb to a natural disaster such as flooding? Was it flattened during a war? Did the locals just decide to build a new one up the road? If you know the answer, please leave a comment.