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ANUJ Jul 2nd, 2022 11:00 PM

TRIP REPORT : The Auvergne and Languedoc, June 2022
After a two-year Covid-imposed hiatus, my wife and I finally made it to France this summer for a much needed and long overdue 3 week holiday. The Auvergne (1 week) and Languedoc (2 weeks) have been on our minds for some years now - the fact that they are off the mainstream tourist radar is the real draw. I’m not entirely sure even the French know the Auvergne exists! In the Languedoc as well, I don’t think we came across any foreign tourists until we got to Montpellier. We usually visit France in May or September, so generally have succeeded in avoiding the tourist hordes even in places like Provence. Experiencing peace and quiet June, even when the season supposedly kicks in, was a welcome surprise.

Our French (despite Duolingo refreshers!) is quite embarrassing and it's interesting that English was widely spoken or at least reasonably understood even in the remotest places, so we had no problems at all. The locals (and our hotel / B&B hosts) were friendly and welcoming, and often took us to be Spanish (I don’t think they’ve had many Indians before!).

I’m not very good with trip reports, but thought this trip warranted one because (1) there haven’t been many and (2) information (including internet resources) about these regions is somewhat light relative to others. My trip is by no means an exhaustive itinerary for these (vast) regions, but a reflection of our preferences and choices we made amongst the zillion things to see and do. I’ll try and post every few days, so please bear with me – am catching up on a fair backlog of work!

ANUJ Jul 2nd, 2022 11:23 PM

We arrived into Paris and took an Intercity train from Paris Bercy to Clermont. We chose Emirates as it was the only airline offering the only “truly” flexible /cancellable fare from Mumbai when we booked. Airfares were jaw-droppingly high – and I hope they taper as travel normalises and geopolitical tensions end.

Why Clermont ? As the largest city in the Auvergne, it was the only viable place to get an automatic car (I avoid manuals, as it’s the wrong side of the road for us and prefer to minimise driving stress), so it made for the most logical starting point of our driving itinerary. I wasn’t expecting much, but we found the historic centre interesting and we spent most of the evening in and around Place Jaude before calling it a night.
Place Jaude
Streets of Clermont Ferrand (Puy de Dome pops its head in the background)
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Clermont-Ferrand
A Hawaiin poke bowl craze has taken over France (like the gourmet burger craze some years ago?), anyway we enjoyed our vegetarian dinner at Pokawa that night

lavandula Jul 2nd, 2022 11:57 PM

On board for the ride, very interesting!


ANUJ Jul 3rd, 2022 12:16 AM

Day 2 : Onwards to Mont Dore
After a good night’s rest, we set off next morning for the Clermont Ferrand airport to pick up rental car from Hertz. We had booked via AutoEurope and Hertz and Sixt were the only frontline agencies with automatics. I’ve often used Europcar, but they seem AWOL - unusual for France. Covid has impacted the rental business adversely, we got a car with >80000 kms on the odometer and multiple dents and scratches. And we paid more than double the rates we normally do in France. However, I was just relieved we got an automatic car that worked and had inbuilt GPS!

Our first stop was Puy de Dome. Unfortunately, the weather played spoilsport, so between the rain and fog, we had very poor visibility. We're usually very lucky with the weather – my wife reminded me that even on the Isle of Skye (yes, you read that correctly) we’ve had clear days and fine weather, so this is a (disappointing) first for us ! We still took the panoramic train to the summit, as it wasn’t expected to get much better next few days. The museum near the ruins of the Temple of Mercury was quite interesting, but missed out on the sweeping views across the chain of volcanoes.
Boarding the panoramic train to Puy de Dome
Exhibit at the museum of near Temple of Mercury
Dense fog at the summit (sigh!)

We then drove onwards to visit Orcival, a little town with a charming church.
Maison du Chocolat in Orcival
Strolling the streets of Orcival, church in background

En route we stopped at the Pont de Vue at Col de Guery. The Roche Tuillière (1288m) and Roche Sanadoire (1286m) are extinct volcanoes and look like mirror images with the valley floor separating them - this is one of the most photographed views in the Sancy.
Point de vue Roches Tuilière et Sanadoire

We reached Mont Dore by evening. Mont Dore is a ski and spa resort town with not much to see in itself, but makes a good base (with enough accomodation and dining choices) for exploring the area. We strolled around the town, got ourselves dinner and crashed back at our hotel.
Thermes du Mont Dore - thermal spa in Mont Dore
Attractive square in Mont Dore
View from our hotel window

Adelaidean Jul 3rd, 2022 01:06 AM

I’ll be joining you! Great start.

geetika Jul 3rd, 2022 03:05 AM

Thanks Anuj, am along for the ride! DH and I visited Auvergne in the mid eighties and loved it, though we haven’t considered going back. However, Languedoc is most certainly on my list, to be combined with Bordeaux and Dordogne maybe, so am eagerly looking forward to your TR.

jpie Jul 3rd, 2022 08:28 AM

Nice to see a report on the Auvergne area, as you are right that it is generally overlooked. It is a shame about the fog at Puy de Dome. We visited 3 years or so ago in June and had pretty good weather-not perfect but got a bit more visibility.

I will be excited to hear more and am especially interested to where you are visiting in the Languedoc as well as we will spending time there in the fall.

Also interesting hear your experience with the rental cars since they have been heavily impacted in the US and I was wondering if France was also feeling the effect on availability and pricing.

zebec Jul 3rd, 2022 09:14 AM

Nice to see a report on the Auvergne area, as you are right that it is generally overlooked--Jpie nailed it.
Thanks for this ANUJ!
I am done. the end

HappyTrvlr Jul 3rd, 2022 11:38 AM

Looking forward to more of your report. We enjoyed Languedoc!

HappyTrvlr Jul 3rd, 2022 11:44 AM

Looking forward to more of your report. We enjoyed Languedoc!

mjs Jul 3rd, 2022 12:47 PM

Looking forward to more of your report as this is one area in France we have not visited. Car rental rates in Avignon last summer seemed to be about double what we usually pay but when we looked at rates in Italy they were much higher!

KarenWoo Jul 3rd, 2022 04:33 PM

Wow! So interesting that you spent a night in Clermont Ferrand. My daughter's in-laws live in CF, and several years ago they invited us to spend a few nights with them. They organized a guided walking tour of the historic city center, a cheese tasting, and we did walk partially up to Puy de Dome.

During the summer of 2021, we also spent a few days in the Languedoc. We spent 2 or 3 nights in Saint-Jean-de-Bueges, and we visited St. Guilhem le Desert. It is a beautiful region of France. We also spent a night in Carcassone and loved the medieval citadel.

TDudette Jul 3rd, 2022 05:42 PM

Signing up, Anuj. Great to read about less reported on places.

ANUJ Jul 3rd, 2022 09:47 PM

Day 3 : Mont Dore : Auvergne drive and short hike
We set off next morning to explore the surrounding area by car. The views are sweeping and expansive, so photos don’t do them justice.
Undulating volcanic landscapes in Auvergne's green heart

Our first stop was the town of Murol, overseen by its imposing 12th century chateau.
Chateau de Murol
Valley view from chateau grounds
Murol view from chateau grounds

Next stop : Saint Nectaire. The view of the town and its charming 12 century Romanesque church as you approach from the north is breath-taking. St Nectaire is famous for its eponymous cheese, which we sampled at a local fromagerie and a nearby farm Ferme des Lambres.
Aerial view of St Nectaire
Ferme de Lambres store
Ferme de Lambres pastures

We then turned south to visit Besse et Saint Anastaise (or simply Besse), and interesting medieval town.
Entry gate at Besse
Water fountain in Besse

A short rest break and picnic on the shores of Lac Pavin, a crater lake.
Lac Pavin

And finally returned by the panoramic and winding D36 back to Mont Dore soaking in some fine views of the Vallée de Chaudfour along the way.
Views along the D36 back to Le Mont Dore

We had hoped to visit Puy Sancy but unfortunately the cablecar was out of service for maintenance and we didn't have enough time for the alternate hiking route. Instead, we spent the evening hiking Mont Capucin. You can do this by a funicular originating from Mont Dore itself (we drove up instead), followed by a walk through (dense) forest and trekking along some (fairly steep) slopes. Walking through this forest is an age-old tradition here and considered therapeutic (like forest bathing "shirin-yoku" in Japan?), I don't know if it was the trees or sheer fatigue, but we got a great night's sleep after!
Victory, after some very steep slopes!

ANUJ Jul 3rd, 2022 09:57 PM

Thank you for all your encouraging responses. This forum has been an invaluable source of information to me over the years for my travels, so am trying to reciprocate in some small measure.

Rookie mistake : I missed tagging this report (damn!) for France (so its floating around the general Europe forum). I've written to [email protected] to correct this. hopefully our helpful moderators will sort this out soon.

Moderator3 Jul 4th, 2022 04:07 AM

Tag added. (Note, there is no separate forum for France, but someone searching for France will now see it.)

Coquelicot Jul 4th, 2022 06:18 AM

ANUJ, you're a delightful writer and you have a good attitude toward the vagaries of travel. Things don't always go according to plan, and when that happens to us we say to each other, So what? We're in France. What could be better?

I'm looking forward to reading more.

kerouac Jul 4th, 2022 06:29 AM

So you didn't visit Vulcania, the volcanic scientific park?

ANUJ Jul 4th, 2022 07:44 AM

Thanks, Coquelicot.

kerouac, no we didn't visit Vulcania, it wasn't of interest. However, our Puy Mary experience (yet to follow in my trip report), compensated for our Puy de Dome and Puy Sancy misses.

AJPeabody Jul 4th, 2022 11:28 AM

You did have a bit of luck with your dented rental car. We had one like that years ago. Our added dents were undetectable, saving us damage claims.

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