Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Massif Central (

dsevig Nov 20th, 2009 04:10 AM

Massif Central
we've skirted this area while in the Lot and Languedoc areas before and thinking of doing a week there and then back to Avignon area to revisit the Provence and use the high speed back to CDG

looks quite peaceful and enough sites and towns to visit - any thoughts if we could fill a week in this area??

AnselmAdorne Nov 20th, 2009 05:37 AM

We spent two weeks in that area and loved it. The scenery is spectacular and the local cuisine is hearty (lots of wonderful pork, lamb, and beef; fresh water fish; interesting ways of preparing potatoes; fabulous cheeses). It is isolated and uncrowded, especially when compared to regions such as Provence.

If you like Romanesque architecture, the area is a gold mine.

We wrote up a trip report, with links to photos:

There are a few other Fodorites who have stayed in the area, Stu Dudley being one.


kerouac Nov 20th, 2009 05:48 AM

Yes, the Massif Central is "at worst" very nice and at best quite spectacular, especially the view on a clear day from the Puy de Dôme.

The autoroute that goes through the region is free, because it is part of the policy to "open up" isolated areas.

The Vulcania science center is worth a visit for anybody with an interest in geology and volcanos.

StCirq Nov 20th, 2009 07:32 AM

The Massif Central is a gem - outstanding scenery with craggy moonscapes and rushing streams, incredibly fresh air, isolated villages where time does seem to have stopped, wonderful food...completely different from the regions of France that most people head to (not that they aren't lovely, too, but the Massif Central is incredibly refreshing).

StuDudley Nov 20th, 2009 07:49 AM

We love that area - beautiful landscapes and lots & lots of private Chateaux that are open to the public in summer months.

We've stayed in the Puy du Dome dept for 2 weeks, and the lovely Cantal for 1 week. Here is something I wrote about the Puy du Dome for another thread.

In July ’06, we rented a Gite near Olby & spent two weeks exploring the Pur du Dome Dept. In this region, the natural beauty is the main attraction. Cleremont-Ferrand is the main city in this dept, but I would skip it entirely. Only old Montferrand was mildly worthwhile. We visited about 15 chateaux. Here is the web site:

The Michelin Green Guide has many driving itineraries. Here are the sections we enjoyed the most
1. The D216/D27/D983 from the N89/E70/D941 intersection, past Orcival, all the way to le Mont Dore
2. The D983 from the above mentioned D216 to the N89.
3. The D922 from Tauves to Lagueuille
4. The small D640 from the D996, to the D150 to St Nectaire. This affords wonderful views of both St Nectaire & the distant ruins of Murol chateau.
5. The D36 from Besse en Chandesse to le Mont Dore.

Here are some of our favorite villages
1 Lavaudieu
2 Besse en Chandesse – probably the most interesting of the villages
3 Montpeyroux – this is an interesting village to explore. It’s right next to the freeway with a great view of it from the freeway
4 Brioude – interesting church also.
5 Blessle
6 Champeix
7 Billom – take the Michelin walk. Excellent Monday morning market. Nice store called Maison de Campagne on Rue Carnot

Some of our favorite sites
1 the Church at Orcival
2 Murol – it’s in ruins, but quite interesting.

The views from the top of the Puy de Dome are fantastic. We had dinner at the restaurant on top one evening, and watched a thunderstorm pass. If you get a chance, have dinner up at the top of the Puy. I’m a big foodie, and I expected the restaurant to be a little touristy – but it wasn’t. In fact, it was one of our 4 best meals in the region.

The other 3 best meals were l’Ours des Roches in Courteix near Pontgibaud, Radio in Chamaliers, & La Belle Meuniere in Royat.

Here are some drives/sites/villages we did not find as interesting as the Michelin Green Guide suggests
1. Gorges d’Aveze – especially if you visit the Gorges du Tarn.
2. The countryside east of the A75 freeway
3. Col de Ceyssat (too many tree trunks)
4. The Funiculaire du Capucin ride from Mt Dore. It was OK, but a little too time consuming

If I were to stay in one town, I would choose Besse en Chandesse. There are several Michelin listed hotels in town. Another option would be Mont Dore, but it’s a thermal/spa town and geared to that crowd. It’s somewhat interesting to visit, but I would not want to stay there. It seemed a little too “fake” to me. La Bourboule would be another choice, but it looked a little tattered & worn. Perhaps it was a more elegant town 100 years ago.

Here’s a nice itinerary to get to the Puy de Dome from le Puy en Velay - another interesting town in the Auvergne.

Head northwest on the N102. Just past a large loop in the road, turn right on the D513 to Chavaniac Lafayette. The chateau there is the birthplace of the Marquis de La Fayette – who helped us in our war of independence. If you have time and the inclination, visit the chateau and the exhibits about the Marquis. It’s a self guided tour, and one of the few that’s open in May. It closes for lunch. I’m pretty sure they have a handout in English. After the chateau, head northwest on the small D21, through Paulhaguet, then on the D56 to Lavaudieu. Get out and explore this village – there’s a picture of it in the Michelin Guide. Continue on the D203/D20 to Brioude. This is kind of a perched town. You will first encounter a large parking lot. Park there & take the elevator up into town. We found the church there to be very interesting and a walk through town worthwhile also. See the Michelin Guide for suggested sites to visit in town.

After Brioude, gage the time, and perhaps visit Blesle if you have time & are not “villaged-out”. I would perhaps skip Blesle, and from Brioude, take the D5888 west and get on the freeway towards Cleremont Ferrand. Almost immediately, get off at exit # 17 and drive through St Germain-Lembron, head north a bit and turn left (west) on the small D125 to Chalus (note the chateau to your right), Villeneuve-Lembron (chateau not open in May), and then to Mareugheol, which is an interesting village. After Mareughol, head southwest on the D717, and then catch the D48 west and then the D32 northeast towards Vodable, then the D124/D23 north. At the larger D26 road at Chidrac, head west Besse en Chandesse – noting the interesting St Floret along the way. Most of the route I just described from St Germain to the D26 can be found in the Michelin Green Guide under “Issoire” It’s probably easier to follow the Green Guide’s description than mine.

Stu Dudley

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 08:57 PM.