Auvergne and surrounds fine tuning

Apr 29th, 2011, 07:36 AM
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Auvergne and surrounds fine tuning

I have another thread on here right now asking advice on the 5 days we'll spend in Dordogne on our upcoming trip in early June. After we leave Sarlat and the Dordogne, we have 4 additional nights in the southern areas of the Auvergne before one night in Le Puy en Velay and 4 final nights in Lyon. It's these 4 nights in the Auvergne area (Friday through Monday) that I'd like some help with on this thread.

After searching about and being concerned with some of the bad press it gets (Ira rated it 1 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest and said he'd rather watch tv than return or somesuch) I nonetheless, settled on Rodez as the most central spot to base in for this part of the trip. We're staying at the Mercure on the main square there right across from the cathedral, so I'm hopeful of pretty decent views from our window, provided we can see through the industrial haze that's complained of. I've taken some comfort in a few positive comments about the place and its one Michelin starred restaurant. I'm hopeful. Anyway here's what I'm planning when we're most often not in the city.

Tuesday enroute from Sarlat to Rodez

Figeac --conflicting info about what day Figeac has markets, hope it's Tuesday
Conques --possibly lunch at Le Moulin de Cambelong otherwise in Figeac if we get too hungry to wait--will I need reservations for a lunch?
Rodez
3 and 1/2 hours of driving for the day

Wednesday
Want to see the bridge/viaduct at Millau and Millau has a market on Wed. so that's a bonus
Here's a real problem though. I would love for us to see some of the scenery approaching the Gorges du Tarn and had thought to go as far as St. Enimie, then toned that down to le Roziers, now I'm even reconsidering that. I hate to give up on the area altogether but DH is absolutely adamant about not driving on hairpin curves where he feels like we could be killed momentarily around every corner. Is there some distance into the area that we can travel and still see some of the beauty without the fear? If not, is there anything else between Rodez and Millau that we might find of interest? Any other suggestions very much appreciated. This is my toughest day.

Thursday

Rodez to Najac
Villefranche de Rouerque
Belcastel and lunch at Vieux Pont
Return to Rodez
2 and 3/4 hours driving total

Friday --day of the PBVdF
Rodez to St. Geniez d'Olt
Ste Eulalie d'Olt
Ste Come d'Olt
Aubrac for an aligot lunch I'm getting the impression that much as I've fantasized, there isn't much to see in Aubrac to go with my beloved aligot and that I can probably get aligot in all kinds of other places in the area, even Rodez. Is my sneaking suspicion correct? Skipping Aubrac would save a lot of driving, but it would be worth it if the aligot there is better than elsewhere and if Aubrac is at least somewhat interesting. any comments? other suggestions? alternatives?
Espalion
Estaing
Back to Rodez
another 3 and 1/2 hours of driving for the day, saving about 3/4 of an hour if don't go to Aubrac

Saturday

Rodez to Puy en Velay stopping first at St. Geniez for their market, then at Canourgue and then sailing on by Mende, etc. to go directly to Puy en Velay to see the town.
approx 3 and 1/2 hours of driving again. Am I going to kill the poor boy? Remember, he can rest when we get to Lyon and he has 4 days without a car.

So there you have it. All help appreciated. I know that I was pretty headstrong in continuing to use Rodez as a base after getting advice against it from several here, but I just couldn't find a decent alternative on roads that wouldn't eat up another 1/2 hour daily just going and coming for day trips and so bit the bullet and booked. I promise to be more attentive to advice this time. Thanks.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Apr 29th, 2011, 08:03 AM
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I like Rodez.

As for driving the Gorges du Tarn, once you're on that road, you're committed to hairpins; there's no going back. I didn't find it the least bit scary, except for a few minutes when we had to do a pas de deux with a wide load on a sharp curve - it's breathtakingly beautiful, and no one's driving fast.

That said, if you don't want to do that check out the Lac de Pareloup between Rodez and Millau, or visit the troglodyte village of Peyre just outside Millau.

I trust you know about the Château du Viguier in Figeac? You certainly wouldn't be able to pop in there for lunch without a reservation (there are plenty of places for that), but if opportunity presents itself, that's one wonderful restaurant!
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Apr 29th, 2011, 08:22 AM
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Thanks StCirq. I'll check on Lac de Pareloup and Peyre and run your reassurances by DH to see if I can get some reconsideration. Yes, I do have Ch. du Viguier noted but now I'll pay more attention and probably try to get a reservation.
Appreciate the help.
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Apr 29th, 2011, 08:27 AM
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La Chaise-dieu is worth a stop for its church.

Moudeyres--a couple of hours from Lyon and between Lyon and Le Puy-en-Velay has a farm museum that might be of interest.
Michael is online now  
Apr 29th, 2011, 09:34 AM
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Thanks Michael. I'll check those out.
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Apr 29th, 2011, 09:51 AM
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I didn't find driving in the Gorges du Tarn to be scary. We've visited it several times. There is one remote section that climbs up to the top of one of the causes - but I doubt that you would even locate this section. We drove up - but no way would I drive down.

I didn't think Rodez was that interesting compared to other cities in France of similar size. We stayed near there for 2 weeks a few years ago. The Michelin 1 star was outstanding, however.

My market "guide" says that the Figeac market is on Sat and the Rodez market is Wed & Sat, Espalion Tu & Fr. I would go to Villefrance first thing on Thursday to catch their colorful market.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 29th, 2011, 10:06 AM
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Thanks, Stu. Appreciate the market info. Since Wed. may be a bit lighter than other days for us, doing the market in Rodez before leaving town should work out just right.

Thanks to all of you. I'm starting to feel a bit better about this plan.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Apr 30th, 2011, 10:25 AM
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Ok, I convinced DH to drive a bit in the Gorges du Tarn, so after Millau we'll head to Roziers and stay a night at the GH de la Muse et Roziers which looks fantstic, before heading to Le Puy en Velay. Thanks for your help everyone.

While studying and restudying the route for Millau I realized quite coincidentally that it doesn't look anywhere near as bad for hairpins and switchbacks as the road from Ste. Eulalie to Espalion through Ste. Come. I just can't ask the poor boy to do that drive, in fact, I get a little nauseous just looking at it on the map. Thus my next problem.

We'll do the Rodez market on Wednesday and then EITHER Espalion and Estaing OR St. Geniez and St. Eulalie d'Olt. Which should I pick?
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Apr 30th, 2011, 11:25 AM
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I can probably get aligot in all kinds of other places in the area, even Rodez. Is my sneaking suspicion correct?

Can you find aligot elsewhere? - Yes

Is it the same as Chez Germaine in Aubrac? - Absolutely not.

I have been an aligot lover for over 30 years and have found no place that has better (or even equal) aligot than what is served in Aubrac. Maybe it´s the texture (it must be stirred continually in the same direction), maybe it´s the cheese (very young and liquid), or maybe it´s simply the location but do not miss the chance for the real thing:

http://www.aubrac.com/tourisme/resta...estaurants.htm
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Apr 30th, 2011, 12:52 PM
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>>doesn't look anywhere near as bad for hairpins and switchbacks as the road from Ste. Eulalie to Espalion through Ste. Come.<<

Julie
We stayed in a Gite just 100 yds off that road for 2 weeks in about '05. Our Gite was just a few Ks northwest of Ste Eulalie near Cantaloube. Neither my wife nor I though that road had any "hairpins or switchbacks". It was an "easy" drive. Naturally, we drove it several times a day going & coming from places we visited. We also drove it at night in the dark to/from dinner (we were there in Sept). After an aligote dinner in Aubrec, we drove it in the rain at night. I'm not sure what road you are expecting to drive on - but the one we used to get from Entraygues (west of our gite) to St Enimie was:

- 920 from Entraygues through Estaing to Espalion.
- D141/D19 (north of the Lot) from Espalion/St Come to St Geniez
- from St Geniez, south on the D95 (not east on the D998) to St Martin. Then east on the D45/D202/D45 to where it joins the D998. Then the D998 east through the interesting village of La Canourgue and southeast to Ste Enimie.

This entire drive is extremely scenic.

Even on my Michelin map 330, that route does not show significant hairpins or switchbacks.



>>We'll do the Rodez market on Wednesday and then EITHER Espalion and Estaing OR St. Geniez and St. Eulalie d'Olt. Which should I pick?<<

You may be tired of markets by Wed. We visited the market in Rodez, and the ones in the Dordogne are a lot better. I would skip the market on Wed, and head to the Lot.

Estaing is our favorite of the group. Several of the villages are just "drive-throughs". Head to Estaing and spend 20 mins walking around the village & 15 mins taking pictures of the chateau & Lot river from various venues. Cross the river to get some good views. Take a tour of the chateau if you like. Then continue on the D920 to Espalion to view the houses on the river from the bridge (park the car & walk the bridge) & spend 20-30 mins exploring the village. Then to St Come & circle the village by car & admire the twisted steeple. No need to get out of the car. Then on the D141/D19 to Ste Eulalie. Across the river from St Eulalie (on the D19), there is a bench near where a small road heads south & crosses the river to the village. There is a parking lot near the bench (north side of the river). Park the car there & sit on the bench for awhile to get a good view of Ste Eulalie. Drive into St Eulalie for a visit if you like. Then back on the D19 to St Geniez (not worth a stop), and on to St Enimie & the lovely Gorges du Tarn.

Don't worry about the roads. What map you are you using to find these "hairpins & switchbacks"??

Stu Dudley
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Apr 30th, 2011, 02:08 PM
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Thanks Stu. Good news to me. The map I'm looking at the Michelin France 1:200,000 book, page 243 that seems to show an incredible number of curves and twists on D6 between St. Eulalie and St. Come. You apparently drove what my map shows as white roads (D6 is yellow) between Come and Eulalie. Because IME the white roads don't even have center lines, I've always tried to plan around them. My map shows the D19 to be about as twisty as D6, however. Both show steep hills. Am I just being a nervous Nelly?

From what you've said, however, concerns about roads aside, if we only go to 2 of the 4 cities involved here, it sounds like we should go for Espalion and Estaing.

I just can't get DH to drive to St. Enimie but he will go as far as Rozier so we're going to cut one night off of Rodez and spend it across from Rozier at the Grand Hotel La Muse et Rozier. I'm very excited about that. Thanks for all your help.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Apr 30th, 2011, 02:43 PM
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>>Because IME the white roads don't even have center lines<<

I'm not sure that is the case. We drove that "white" road perhaps 4-6 times each day It was the only way in/out of our gite, and we used it for sightseeing, going to the groceries in St Geniez & Estaing, to/from dinner, etc. It was not twisty at all - as I can recall. Note that it is drawn as a WIDE white road, compared to other white roads. That means it is just as wide as the yellow road in this case.

>>I've always tried to plan around them. My map shows the D19 to be about as twisty as D6, however. Both show steep hills<<.

The D6 shows a >> and several > hills, while the 'white" road only has some > hills.

>>Am I just being a nervous Nelly?<<

Perhaps - we didn't have any problems, but everyone is different.

>>>From what you've said, however, concerns about roads aside, if we only go to 2 of the 4 cities involved here, it sounds like we should go for Espalion and Estaing.<<

If you follow my suggestions, those are the first two villages you will encounter. St Come is definately a drive-by and the only other possible villages I would recommend to stop in, is Ste Eulalie. See what you feel like when you get to Ste Eulalie.

>>I just can't get DH to drive to St. Enimie<<

If you are talking about driving from le Rozier to St Enimie - that road is along the valley floor - not on top of the gorge. Just like Yosemite Valley is on the valley floor. It is flat with no drop-offs or many curves. The road from La Canourgue to St Enimie is straight & flat on the causse until you get to about 2 K from St Enemie - and then there are about 3 switchbacks. That is a VERY scenic drive from La Canourgue.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 30th, 2011, 06:24 PM
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This is the two lane road along the Gorges du Tarn:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...57623313123155
Michael is online now  
May 1st, 2011, 03:05 AM
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Sarastro, Sorry I missed your post about the aligot at Chez Germaine. Aubrac is definitely back on the list. No use planning an entire trip around a potato dish and then not slogging on to find the best. Thanks for the impetus.

Stu thanks for all your first hand knowledge on the issues surrounding small roads in the Auvernge. We'll follow your advice to go a ways and see how we feel when we get there.

Michael, a picture is worth.....I'll show it to DH and get his reaction. Something tells me we might not be going the full route. But I'll be happy to have half a loaf and stay by the river near Roziers. You guys got me that far and I'm very grateful.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
May 1st, 2011, 05:55 AM
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As I recall, Michael's picture of the road through the Gorges du Tarn with the "gorge" hanging directly over the road is not typical of most of that drive. I recall open expanses where you can look up & see both sides of the gorge without anything hanging over the road & obscuring the view. We've been there several times, and last time we were there, we drove that route in the morning and again several days later in the late afternoon to get a different sun venue. Different sun venues are not possible if much of the view is obscured by the gorge hanging over the road. I would post some different pictures of the gorge from my collectiion - but when we were there we did not have a digital camera.

Stu Dudley
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May 1st, 2011, 01:38 PM
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Stu, I take your point. But my experience with DH is that even though 99% of a road may be perfectly ok, if 1% of it causes him great heartburn, he's not a happy camper and when that happens there's only one other person in the car that he can blow off steam to. From previous trips with bad experiences for which I blithely routed us to places way off the beaten path through some pretty hair-raising terrain, he's taken to warning me about planning with the needs and concerns of the driver in mind.

I get the impression that you are a driver par excellance. Unfortunately driving is not an occupation that DH either enjoys or excels at so I am at pains to steer clear, as it were, from situations that would cause us both great annoyance and misery. From time to time it causes us to miss some great scenery I'm sure, but I need to trade that off against blissful drives to the restaurants I insist he take me to--many on this trip recommended in your reports. It's a trade off and it's kept us married for 40+ years, so I guess it works.

I do appreciate your sincere desire to have us see some wonderful scenery. Take consolation knowing that even if we miss a bit, we'll be experiencing some terrific meals.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
May 1st, 2011, 03:15 PM
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Just make sure you don't do what I did, which was to take a "short cut" to St-Enimie over the mountains/cliffs on a road clearly marked on the Michelin map as "dangerous" (red and white dotted lines). The road was basically a semi-paved lane wide enough for one car that wound steeply upwards, then downwards, with a hairpin turn every 10 seconds and of course no guardrails or any protection. When we encountered another car, it was hard to say who was more scared - us or them. It was also hard to figure out who was going to back up, as neither of us wanted to do that on a dirt hairpin lane. Perhaps that's why when we actually got out onto the main road to St-Enimie, it seemed so easy. Stay off those dotted-line roads!
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May 1st, 2011, 04:06 PM
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Thanks StCirq that's a situation I hope never to find myself in--again. The again part is why DH is so adamant about checking out the kinds of roads we will be driving on.
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May 1st, 2011, 05:08 PM
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I think St Cirq's "short cut" to St Enimie is the same road we took up from the valley floor (mentioned earlier in this thread). The road we took is indeed market with "red & white dotted lines" on the Michelin map. It is between La Malene and the top of the gorge - check it out on your map. I have a picture of this road from La Malene - but if I could find a way to scan it and post it here - your husband would probably "flash" if you showed it to him.

Stu Dudley
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