La Valette Autonomous Collective

Near Ales, Southern France/2001.06.01-2001.06.08

We were dropped off at the train station in Perpignan, not really sure where we were going next. Erika had a few options marked in our Eurotopia Book and OfeK tried to call the ones that were somehow on our way.

"Why not today..", a guy named Dodos or something, replied, and gave us directions on how to get from the train station at Robiac to their place by foot.
We said goodbye to Nolwenn and Wayne who went to check out a different community, and took the next train. After a few transfers, through Ales (the closest city), we were in deep French countryside.

And so we marched in the sun, loaded with our backpacks, from one small village to the other, following the sketchy directions. After some time and a picnic, a car pulled next to us and the driver asked us something in French with "La Valette" in it. He dropped us off at a car and truck graveyard, and after a few minute walk on a gravel road and a sign with France crossed out as in 'exiting-France', a whole village of ruins was revealed:

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The widest panoramic photo OfeK took, you can see the village is at the end of a valley - no fields and no neighbors.

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A little bit closer, you can see some of the old and well-built terraces, with stairs embedded in the ones that probably used to serve as garden plots. The building with the solar panels on the roof, is the common building, with the kitchen, dining hall, office, library, and some bedrooms. It is five stories high!

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And even closer... The hut in the far right that is surrounded with trees is where we lodged.

   OfeK climbed up one mountain with Momo to take these panoramic photos. The terraces were quite big and he had to put her on top of the terrace, and then climb himself, and put her again up the next terrace.

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The main entrance and another gate that were restored by some of the artists that live/used-to-live here. The first room that was offered to us (sorry, no photo) had engraved human-doll body parts all over the walls and ceiling.

   This building's window frame is restored with green beer bottles and lime.

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This is where we stayed, built from a box of a truck, old windows, and bottles. A family lives there some part of the year, so Momo enjoyed some underground comics and things to play with.

Various shots around and inside the village:
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The natural abundance of this place was overwhelming. This is not just a flat-share, it is a real village! With real streets and stone buildings, and fig trees everywhere growing out of the walls. They produce their own electricity via photovoltaics and have their own spring. Food comes from the gardens and from the waste of the local produce market. Main crops were potatoes, peas, beans, tomatoes, and greens, mostly very well mulched, and many are watered just by rainfall. They also have goats, sheep, geese, chickens and one pig for various non-vegan practices.

The habitants and friends here are somewhat similar to the ones we met in the Avalon community in Italy. Colorful, yet dusty and rough looking, aged 20 to 40, with strong beliefs in anarchy and chaos as a way of life. They describe themselves as a social, economic, and ecological experiment which is based on a collective and alternative ideal and the concept of autonomy.

Different people come and go everyday and not one of the original squatters is still here, yet when we were there it seemed like there were a few serious people who kept it all together, working very hard all day. No one is told what to do here, (if you ask you'll get an answer like "do you know what anarchy means?") but there's plenty of work:
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Some kinds of tomato plants produce more fruit when you tie them upwards. Momo is in EVERY photo! Can you find Momo?

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Martin, Ines (we met this nice German couple once again later on in our trip!), and Jenny picking the last Fava-beans for supper.

   We also picked lots and lots of different kinds of cherries from the many trees all over. Here is Boudewijn making vegan (for us) crepes to be filled with sweet cherry substance.

Concerts and Parties take place often, and donations from visitors to such events are part of the income. Underground bands come here to perform usually, but we happened to be in one cabaret-style show that was also Masha's birthday party:
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Masha, Kyle, Momo and other kids playing on the stage before the party.

  Lovely Heidi (hitched from Norway) twirls with fire (cool huh? half second exposure makes this photo-effect) and with Momo.

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Here's our friends Suzanne and Boudewijn from Holland which are traveling Europe in their van. We went to a nearby river with them a few times and OfeK had no excuse to wash himself after 3 months! a new record for him.

The library that looked also like an activists headquarters, had many of their leaflets promoting ecological and social matters. Out of the few English books, there was one called 'Wilhelm Reich for Beginners', a humoristic comic book that covered quite well most of what OfeK found later in some websites with a more serious biography of Reich. Without going into details, reading about this man, his science, and his life was mind-boggling and hopefully in our trip we'll get a chance to learn more about him and maybe even read some of his books. Read more about Reich at

The main problems we had with things here were the drugs, smoke, and beer, and the mentality of living off unemployment. When Erika had to cook lunch one day, there was barely any food in the kitchen, and the people with their monthly paychecks, instead of buying food, they buy tobacco and beer. They shout slogans against globalization and corporate rule yet giving so much money to the tobacco industry. Again, it seemed like there are a few people who are more serious than the rest (still smoking though), that somehow keep it all together.

So we only stayed in La Valette for one week. We had enough even though it was quite a good week with many nice and memorable experiences. All the natural hitch-hikers we met inspired us (together with not the easiest train route) to test our luck and hitch north to La-Lune-Nette, a community in the Jura mountains near the Swiss border and Geneva.


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No copyright! (but be nice please...) composed by OfeK.