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TRIP REPORT : THE Auvergne and Languedoc, June 2022

TRIP REPORT : THE Auvergne and Languedoc, June 2022

Old Jul 4th, 2022, 04:06 PM
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Your report brought back memories for me. We stayed in the Puy de Dome department for a week in 2018 and visited most of the places you mentioned. We were lucky the day we took the train up Puy de Dome as it was clear but very windy. We also stayed near Salers in the Cantal in 2016 and climbed Puy Mary. Once again we were lucky to have a clear day. You can read my reports on our stays if you click on my name.

You are correct when you say the Auvergne is often overlooked by tourists. We have been lucky enough to stay in all four departments - Cantal, Puy de Dome, Haute Loire and Allier - and had another week booked in the Allier in 2020. We all know what happened there. It is a beautiful region well worth considering.

Looking forward to following your report.
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Old Jul 4th, 2022, 05:59 PM
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AJPeabody, the condition of the car did make me nervous. However, upon pickup Hertz emailed me their own (existing) damages /inspection report which was quite detailed. Of course, this doesnt preclude foul play later. On return, the Hertz staff at Montpellier airport personally inspected the car and confirmed no additional damage, which was a relief. So Hertz played fair.

rhon, glad to see you here. Your "country roads in France" TRs have been very helpful prior reads for my trips including this one.

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Old Jul 4th, 2022, 07:53 PM
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Day 4 : SALERS AND PUY MARY HIKE

The next morning we left for Salers. Maybe it was the rarefied mountain air taking a toll on my GPS, but it went bonkers at some point and detoured me through the most treacherous, cliffside, densely forested, single track route I've ever driven in France.

I was relieved to reach Salers, our home for the next 2 nights. After a quick refresh and light lunch, we set off to climb Puy Mary (1787m), an extinct volcano, regarded as the most beautiful hike in the Cantal.

We parked (€4 parking sticker, the hiking trail is free) just outside the Maison De Site at Pas du Peyrol. The hike is physically challenging and steep, but has a well-maintained stairway (To heaven? Is this what inspired Led Zepellin?) carved directly out of the rock. The vistas are spectacular, and we did this slowly to absorb it all and catch our breath (frequently). It's tough, but very rewarding.



At the base of Puy Mary

Looking down, from half-way up!

Views from Puy Mary (brought back memories of the Quiraing in Isle of Skye, Scotland)

Near the summit

Back at the base of Puy Mary, by the cafe

After this we returned to Salers tired and hungry, lounged around our hotel patio and nearby belvedere, before dinner and calling it a night.


Lounge chairs with a view!

Views of valley near Salers
.
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Old Jul 4th, 2022, 08:23 PM
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Day 5 : SALERS

Yesterday's shenanigans left us little energy to explore Salers itself, so we finally got to that this morning! Salers is an absolutely gorgeous, unspolit (albeit very quiet) village, listed amongst the Les Plus Beaux Villages of France.



Old gates

Old gates

Distinctive Salers roofs of dark lavastone

Old mansions

Main square

Streets of Salers, church of St Mathieu peeking through


We visited a few nearby towns later that day.

Salers is very proud of its cows (the tourist office even recommended two cow museums to visit!).


Salers cow posing for my camera!


The little chapel of Sant Michel in Fontagnes carved out of the rock made for an interesting stop.


Outside

Inside!


Tournemire is another "les plus beaux" village nearby, with a (private) chateau (we didn't enter the chateau).


Views from Tornemire

Chateau d'Anjony in Tournemire

Rooftops in Tournemire

One of our best meals in the Auvergne (and we're vegetarian!) was in Salers, so the wonderful restaurant La Poterne deserves a specific mention (and a photo!).

La Poterne
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Old Jul 4th, 2022, 09:22 PM
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More memories. Yes, Salers is beautiful. We really enjoyed visiting the Cantal. Maybe I did not do so badly climbing Puy Mary as a mid sixties not terribly fit grandma!!
This really makes me want to return to France.
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Old Jul 4th, 2022, 10:11 PM
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Fabulous report with photos. Thank you
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Old Jul 5th, 2022, 01:43 AM
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Enjoying your travels, too!
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Old Jul 5th, 2022, 05:24 AM
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I climbed the Puy Mary once. Once was enough.
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Old Jul 5th, 2022, 07:33 AM
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Wow, you really hit some of the great places in Auvergne: Orcival, Murol, Salers, Anjony.... your photos capture the unique beauty of Auvergne. I really enjoyed seeing the photo of that little chapel, so classicaly Auvergnate with the dazzling deep green punctuated by the dark ash of the stone.

The French know all about Auvergne, "La France Profonde." They might be stumped by La Theirache, but not Auvergne. As where other regions of France somewhat resemble neighboring lands, Auvergne has its own unique landscape. As you drive form Auverge to Languedoc, there is a dramatic shift in the scenery.

I once leased a brand new Peugeot with just one tiny problem... the gas cap wouldn't open! It's amazing how something so little can be so significant. We had to take it to the a dealership immediately. The dents and mileage on your car probably indicates no problem with the gas cap.

Last edited by shelemm; Jul 5th, 2022 at 07:37 AM.
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Old Jul 5th, 2022, 07:44 AM
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I would love to hear more about your experiences as vegetarians traveling "off the beaten path" in France. Did you find it difficult to find interesting choices?

Last edited by jpie; Jul 5th, 2022 at 07:45 AM. Reason: typo
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Old Jul 5th, 2022, 09:28 AM
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jpie, we've managed to eat well in France, even remoter areas. Given the amount of information now available on the internet, I usually research restaurants/review menus etc so have a "shortlist" of choices before we go. This avoids disappointments. Whenever we've stayed in apartments with kitchen facilities, we often self-cater. There will be a few occasions where you're eating more pizzas or salads than you'd hoped to, but we're not fussy.
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Old Jul 5th, 2022, 09:34 AM
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Great job thus far and I'm looking forward to the rest. It is a pity that the weather didn't cooperate earlier in the trip. I've seen the Puy de Dome featured in a French documentary program, and the views must be spectacular. I've only touched down in Clermont-Ferrand, though some odd connecting flight I took on a not-very-big aircraft. But it was a memorable flight -- the area is just dotted with alien-looking volcanic shapes and is quite spectacular from the air.

Looking forward to the rest of the report. And some much delicious cheese in the region (and the land of aligot and truffade)
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Old Jul 5th, 2022, 08:31 PM
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Day 6 : LE PUY EN VELAY

We bid goodbye to Salers and set off early for the long drive to Le Puy. A vintage car event drew our attention in Murat en route.


Murat, overlooked by the statue of Mary

An interesting exhibit at the vintage car event, and the smallest motorable car I've ever seen !


We made an unplanned stop at the pretty les plus beaux village of Polignac, drawn by this view of its chateau. Like Orvieto, sitting on the tufa rock?


Fortress of Polignac


Our first views of Le Puy as we approached blew our socks off, so we knew something special awaited us.


Le Puy emerges in the distance


Le Puy is one of the most fascinating cities we've seen in all of France. Its surprisingly under-visited (I'm not complaining) - glad we had enough time to explore every delightful nook and cranny (and stayed overnight too). No words can adequately describe the splendor of Le Puy, so I'll just let the pictures do the talking.

We visited the imposing Cathedrale Notre Dame set in the heart of Le Puy, at its highest point.



View of cathedral

Streetview from top of the 60 steps leading upto the porch

Inside


The towering Statue Notre Dame de France (fun fact : it was made in 1860 from metal obtained by melting 213 cannons captured from the Russians during the Crimean War!) is visible from everywhere.

The statue


The Chapelle Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe is perched, almost miraculously, on a volcanic rock outcrop on which it was built in 961. It's an awe-inspiring sight (conjures up images of Meteora.,Greece). It can be reached by climbing 268 steps carved directly into the rock (enough landings along the way to stop and catch your breath, some even with benches). The views from the top of the rock are glorious. My wife and I spent a fair amount of time seated inside the little chapel, in quiet contemplation - it's a very moving experience.


View from street, as you approach

Inside

Inside

The chapel itself

Views from the top

Views from the top

Views from the top


Anywhere you care to look in Le Puy's historic centre presents a photo-opportunity, here are a few.







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Old Jul 6th, 2022, 12:58 AM
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That really does look a charming town.
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Old Jul 6th, 2022, 03:12 AM
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I've been to Le Puy 3 times and am always looking for reasons to return. I thought the climb to Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe looked deadly the first time, but it really isn't difficult at all. 268 steps is not all that many compared to a lot of other places. Just to compare with Mont Saint Michel, it is 200 from sea level the the entrance of the abbey and then another 150 inside the abbey. In Montmartre, the people who decide to walk up the stairs next to the funicular already have 222 stairs there, and they are not at all up at Sacré Coeur yet.
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Old Jul 6th, 2022, 03:41 AM
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I remember standing looking out the door of the cathedral and imagining how pilgrims who stood there must have felt as they began their journey. I agree that the walk up to the chapel looks daunting but was not as bad as we expected. Le Puy is a wonderful place to visit.

Where to next? I am living vicariously through your trip.
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Old Jul 6th, 2022, 07:09 AM
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Very interesting report.
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Old Jul 6th, 2022, 08:21 AM
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We passed through Le Puy many years ago. I was impressed at how the statue of the Virgin so closely resembled the Statue of Liberty.
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Old Jul 6th, 2022, 08:16 PM
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Day 7 : ONWARDS TO VALLON PONT D'ARC

It's a fair distance as you transition from the Auvergne to the Languedoc, so we planned to break journey mid-way at Vallon Pont D'Arc. I felt this would also give us the opportunity to appreciate the Ardeche and its gorges leisurely.

We visited the pretty Basilica St Joseph d'Espaly, with its imposing statue which had also caught our eye in a suburb of Le Puy, before setting off for Vallon.



View of basilica

The statue

Last glimpses of beautiful Le Puy from the basilica


We made a number of short stops along the long drive to Vallon, Stu Dudley's Ardeche note helped us distill these choices.

Arlempdes (les plus beaux village)



Pradelles (les plus beaux village)

Chapelle Notre Dame

..and its statue


Ruins at Mazzan L'abbaye

View of the site


Vals les Bains, a spa town and home to Glacier Beatrix, regarded as one of the finest ice cream makers in France. An ice cream stop, you ask? Well, in the midst of an unprecedented sweltering heat wave (temps over 35 celsius), this provided much relief!

At Beatrix

Volane river, flowing through the town


Basalt rock formations along the way to Antraigues-sur-Volane

.... a reminder of the volcanic origins of the terrain

Vogue (les plus beaux village)



... and our final halt, the very interesting little town of Largentiere

View of town

Looked like a Greek temple, but I understand its their courthouse!

Entering the town, with its fortifications


We reached Vallon Pont D'Arc, and checked into our hotel. Vallon has a very hip, beach-town vibe. We slept early, ahead of another long day of driving to Uzes, our home for the next 3 nights.

Strolling around Vallon Pont D'Arc
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Old Jul 7th, 2022, 06:00 AM
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Day 8 : ONWARDS TO UZES

Next morning, we left Vallon to visit the Pont D’arc, a natural rock bridge arched over the Ardèche river and a popular spot for canoeing and swimming.


Pont d'Arc

Canoeing under the arc

View of river and the cliffs


We then drove down the winding D290 road between the Pont D’arc and St Martin d’Ardeche, with a number of panoramic look-out points (“belvederes”) along the side of the road (with place to pull up and park).


The Serre de Tourre belvedere is popular

The riverbend viewed from Serre de Tourre

Balcon Templiers-East

Balcon Templiers-South

Grand Belvedere, with sweeping views over the gorge with the glittering river in the distance

Ranc Pointu, with its beaches


We crossed the river to Aigueze, another charming les plus beaux village.


Aigueze

View of the river Ardeche from Aigueze


Our next stop was Montclus, where we were greeted with our first lavender field sightings. A breath-taking sight!


Montclus

View of lavender field from Montclus

Amidst the lavender fields, Montclus in background



We tmoved on to the les plus beaux village of La Roque-Sur-Ceze, famous for its nearby cascades - a series of waterfalls formed by Ceze river as it tumbles into cavities in the limestone, also forming waterholes.


Cascades

Cascades, with folks pinicing amidst the rocks

La Roque sur Ceze itself



Our final stop was Lussan, another les plus beaux village with its own chateau and sweeping views over nearby lavender fields.


Château de Lussan

Views from Lussan's walls

Views from Lussan walls, vast lavender fields


As we headed to Uzes, my tryst with the GPS continued. I had been instructed by our host Sophie to park at the Gide parking lot, and then proceed to the hotel by foot. As we approached Uzes, the GPS again sent me circling through some backstreets in a residential area just outside the Uzes centre - leading me to a fork where one road had a ROUTE BAREE sign and another read PIETONALE. Thankfully, my wife noticed the pedestrianized street name and realised our hotel ought to be at the end of this street. In the process, we had stumbled upon free parking (white lines 300m from our hotel, we used this all 3 nights!), so
some good (and cost savings) came of this after all.

We had a short stroll around Uzes, ate early dinner at a restaurant called Ma Cantine (very popular with the locals too, with 2 veggies mains on the menu!) and called it a night.

Uzes castle

Beautiful little lanes of Uzes

Ma Cantine, very friendly (English speaking) host and great food

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