Vacances en France – 2018 – Aurillac


Monday morning, day 11, and another fine start to the day, blue skies and sunshine.
The cattle were very vocal, it turns out that one had gone into labour and given birth. As we watched she licked her calf clean and was nuzzling it, encouraging it to stand.

All the rest of the herd gathered round the new-born, sniffing and licking. Then, they all seemed to lose interest, turned their backs and walked away, leaving mum to look after her calf. After this exciting event we headed off to spend the day in Aurillac.
We parked up in Place Gerbert and started our exploration of Aurillac.

Had a very nice meal in restaurant Tables Zé Komptoir at Place Hôtel de ville. The restaurant was directly opposite the Mairie (Town Hall), an impressive building.

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Aurillac – Mairie / Hotel de Ville (Town Hall)

When we sat the restaurant was pretty much empty. Within twenty minutes or so our restaurant was full, as was the one next door. For once our timing was perfect.
After lunch we carried on with our exploration. Many of the streets have umbrella displays, symbolic of the industry for which Aurillac is renowned. As I described in a previous post.

Having had enough of exploring, we headed of to a supermarket. For some inexplicable reason, we seem to keep running out of essential supplies.

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The Graveyard

The sharp-eyed among you will recognise that none of the wines are from the Cantal. In fact, they don’t have a regional wine.  At least some of the wine we have been drinking is actually french and the Pelforth beer definitely is. At least our taste is fairly cosmopolitan. We had already seen off a Prosecco from Italy, a Freixenet from Spain, one each of the Mercurey, Gigondas and a Vacqueyras from France. Not forgetting a few beers. The Pelforth from France and the Leffe from Belgium.

So, supplies purchased, it was back to the gite. Where we sat and enjoyed yet another glorious sunset while consigning one or two more bottles to the graveyard.

 

Vacances en France – 2018 – Vic-sur-Cère


Saturday 8th September and after a good nights sleep we all awoke to a brilliant sunny day. With all the travelling of the previous day, nobody wanted to go too far afield. So it was decided that we would visit Vic-sur-Cère located about 11km away from the gite, about fifteen minutes drive. Vic-sur-Cère or Vic in Carladez is an old spa town in the valley of the Cère river.

Parking up in the town center we first visited Claveras Sébastien, the local boulangerie, where we purchased a couple of loaves. Stashing our fresh bread in the car we then set out to explore the town.

Le Manoir dates from the 17th Century. Since then it has been a Benedictine Convent,
a boarding school for girls. Then it became the property of the Murat-Sistrieres Family, and subsequently the De Pierre Family. Today, it is an extension of the Hotel Beauséjour.

Saint-Pierre Church of Vic sur Cère

Dating from the 11th century, the church of Saint Peter was destroyed for the first time in 1261 before being rebuilt in a Romanesque style. It remains of the Romanesque period only the intact steeple dating from 1265.
The Revolution was a test for the building and after a period when he was left abandoned, Mr. Murat de Sistrières in 1802 decided to repair the seven altars, floors, steeple stairs, the big door and part of the roof.
In 1894, the vicar of Vic, anxious to welcome more and more summer visitors, considered it necessary to enlarge the church but the dissuasive estimate was refused by the municipality. It was then that the priest opened a parish subscription

Vic-sur-Cère has many winding back streets, not obvious when you drive through on the main road.

Doing that touristy thing tends to give one both a thirst and hunger pangs. Although Vic-sur-Cère appears to have several brasseries and restaurants, catching them open must be a form of sport. We did eventually manage to get quite a nice meal at the Casino de Vic-sur-Cere.

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Casino de Vic-sur-Cere

Turns out that it is actually a casino, not just a hotel as we first thought. After lunch we returned to the gite to make the most of a beautiful sunny day. We sat outside until the sun went down behind the farm buildings. With such a clear sky, the temperature drop was quite dramatic.

Had relaxed supper of local cheeses, sausage, Friton (made from pork, a kind of course pâté) and the crusty bread purchased earlier, all washed down with some really nice red wine.

Vacances en France – 2018 – Arrival


After the dampness we encountered at Entraygues on Wednesday, Thursday started really wet and soggy. Even the cattle were looking a bit depressed by the damp.
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The altitude of the gite meant that we were truly up in the clouds, with visibility changing from just a few metres, up to a kilometre and back down again. And all in the space of a few minutes.
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Given the inclement weather and with friends flying in on Friday, we thought we would take the opportunity to do a proper shop for supplies. So, we decided to head into Aurillac, and find a large supermarket.

Shopping is definitely not my thing, but I struggled manfully round the local Intermarché , the trolley laden down with essentials such as Prosecco, Beer, Fromage and assorted Charcuterie. We did also get some salad stuff and veggies as well as some coffee mugs.

You might ask why we were buying items that should have been provided as part of our rental. And you would be right, there are cups supplied. However, the ones provided were of the Pyrex glass variety and not very big. I think the French like to start their day with strong coffee, served in small quantities. Being British, we like a nice big mug of tea to start the day.

Two weeks later, when we left the gite, we donated the “large” mugs for the use of future residents.

Friday dawned, and the weather had done a 180 and the sun was shining again. A beautiful day, just perfect to welcome our imminent visitors. We had a slow start to the day, before clambering into the car and heading up to Aéroport de Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne at Aulnat.

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Massiac – Chapelle Sainte-Madeleine

The run up to the airport took about two hours and we arrived early.

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Aéroport de Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne – What a fabulous monument to flying.

The preceding photo shows a memorial for the Breguet Bre.4   From Wikipedia ….

The Breguet Bre.4, also known variously as the Type IVand BUM, was a French biplane bomber of World War I. A fighter version of it was also produced as the BUC and BLC; some of these saw service with the British Royal Navy, which called them ‘the Breguet ‘de Chasse.

We made good use of the extra time by making use of the airports free WiFi. The alleged WiFi at the gite is actually non-existent, which is why I am making these posts after our holiday has passed. Lack of WiFi also meant that we could not download Kindle books or synchronise our phones and tablets. Mobile phone signals were also virtually non existent. My phone would register full signal strength, cycle through “E”, “3G” and “4G” to no signal. All within the space of a few seconds. So use of mobile data was pretty much a non-event.

Needless to say our friends flight was delayed, then the baggage was also delayed, eventually making an appearance on the carousel.  We loaded up the car and headed back south towards the gite. Lunch was mentioned and we made a small detour having seen a Buffalo Grill alongside the motorway. Unfortunately, our human navigation skills, further confounded by the satnag, led us round in circles and back onto the motorway, just as we saw the entrance to the eatery. We decided not to deviate again and carried on our way to the gite.

This did not deter us from playing tourist and stopping to take in the views.


We were soon at the gite and relaxing with a glorious cup of cha. Once again enjoying the long view from the lawn. Then, while our friends unpacked, we prepared our evening meal.

A long day for all was brought to an end puntuated witha glass of something alcoholic.

Vacances en France – 2018 – Entraygues-sur-Truyère


 

Day 6, Wednesday, and we awoke to a dull day. Quite a transition from the bright sunny weather of the previous day. We had studied the maps after dinner, on the previous evening, and had decided to head to a small town, Entraygues-sur-Truyere, about an hours drive south from the gite.

So after a light breakfast we headed out. Every curve in the road, every hill crested, presented us with a grand vista, or another point of interest. In some cases we were presented with the plainly curious.

Like the ripples in this meadow below the road ….

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Ripples

…. or this distant tower ….

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A Distant Tower

Our route took us over the EDF hydro-electric dam at Cambeyrac.

The following was lifted directly from http://www.tourism-occitania.co.uk

This site, used by EDF, comprised a power plant and a dam built between 1954 and 1957. It was fitted out so that the visitors can freely access and enquire about the site. From the outside, it is thus possible to observe the engine room and to understand the functioning of this power plant which produces the equivalent of the consumption of 14 000 inhabitants, so 10 times that of the population living in Entraygues-sur-Truyère. Thanks to information desks, distributed around the power plant and on the belvedere located at the tip of the dam, the visitor also discovers how this site was built, its components and the local aquatic flora. Observation binoculars are available for visitors. Open and free access all year.

Just downstream from the dam is the 13th century bridge over La Truyère.

There has been a bridge here since permission was granted for its construction in 1269. It was built by the “Frères Pontifes” a lay brotherhood whose vocation was bridge building.

The bridge originally had four arches and two toll towers at each end and in the 13th century it had huts running the length of the bridge. These huts were occupied by small merchants who sold their goods to passers-by. In 1927 it was listed as an historical monument.

The bridge is currently undergoing essential works, hence the scaffolding.

Whilst exploring the dam, I spotted some movement in the water and was lucky enough to see an Otter. It was diving below the surface and, on a couple of occasions, actually surfaced with a  fish clamped between its jaws.

I was so excited at seeing an otter in the wild that I called out to a passing cyclist. I had assumed that he was French but he turned out to be  Brit. He joined me at the wall to watch the otter and we were soon joined by his wife. Turns out that they were from the north of England and were on a cycling tour, following the river route through valley. We had quite a chat during which we exchanged information about where we had been and our travel plans. I told them about our visit to Chartres and the light show at the cathedral. They told me that something similar was happening nightly, at the abbey in Conques, thru to the end of September. I added this to the mental list of possible destinations during our stay. We bid each other farewell and continued on our separate ways.

Gerry and I continued on our way to Entraygues-sur-Truyere in search of an eatery. Arriving in town we parked up alongside the Lot River.  We weren’t the only ones looking for a spot of lunch …

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Entraygues-sur-Truyere – Hungry Heron

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Entraygues-sur-Truyere – The Lot River

Just a short walk alongside the river we found our way to Le Quai West. All of the outdoor tables were occupied, so we were seated inside. This turned out to be a good thing because, when we were mid way through our meal, it started to rain. The good news is that it had stopped by the time we were ready to leave. The food here was good and filling. Gerry had the “L’Aubrac Burger” ( a burger with local meat, green salad and fries served with the house sauce)  whilst I had the “La Planchette Aveyronnaise” (a selection of regional meats and cheeses).  All washed down by the obligatory beer.

After an enjoyable repast it was time, to go walk off those calories, to explore Entraygues.

In the past, Entraygues was a strategic point at the crossroads of transportation routes, at the junction of Auvergne and the Lot Valley. Here also, the Lot and Truyere rivers meet.

The gabarre vessels (flat bottomed boats) were used to transport goods to such far away places as Bordeaux.

We decided to call it a day and head back to the gite. The road out-of-town ran alongside the Lot and we were soon presented with this bridge, Pont Notre-Dame.

Back on the road back to the gite we, once again, stopped to take some pictures as the weather was closing in and the valleys were beginning to fill with clouds.

Vacances en France – 2018 – La Calsade 2


 

Tuesday, the 5th day of our holiday, and we decided to have a slow day with absolutely no driving. Gerry laundered our four days worth of travel clothing and hung it out on the line. The fabulous, sunny weather and a gentle breeze made short work drying our stuff.

While the laundry was drying Gerry was making the most of the sun, soaking up the rays. Laying in the sun, sizzling, is not really my thing. I prefer to get my tan whilst on the move. So, I took myself off to wander the lanes around the gite and check out the views.

Immediately next door, is a building suitable for turning into another gite …

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A doer upper, perhaps a candidate for a second gite.

La Calsade, as well as being the home to a dairy herd, they are also producers of the very tasty Cantal and Salers cheeses.

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GAEC stands for Groupement Agricole d’Exploitation en Commun (Agricultural Farming Association). The fromagerie, next door to our gite, is on the regional cheese tour and there were several tour coaches during our stay. Given the steep and winding nature of the access roads to this place, I give the coach drivers top marks for negotiating the many hairpin bends.

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Another building ripe for development as a gite.

This building would have near 360 degree views and, in my opinion, was another contender for conversion to a gite.

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Another view of a building ripe for development as a gite.

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A typical Cantal view

La Calsade and the village of Badailhac are about 1000 metres above sea level, hence the spectacular views.

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Winter feed for the cattle

I came across stacks of these all around the farm. Being enclosed in black plastic one can only imagine the temperature inside. I can tell you that, based on the aroma emanating from them, they probably contain silage. Many of the fields close by were growing maize which I know is used to make silage.

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Nature vs Machine

I don’t know how long this machine had been standing but nature was making a good go at reclaiming the land on which it stood.

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Another Cantal View

My wanderings had taken me around behind the main part of the farm …

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The back-side of La Calsade

… the buildings look much larger from this angle. From our gite, seen end on, they appear smaller.

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The trail back to the gite and an ice cold beer

Eventually, my thirst got the better of me. I could hear the bottles of Leffe beer calling my name from the refrigerator.
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So I retraced my steps, rejoined Gerry, and we enjoyed a bottle or two of that ice-cold Nectar while we sat in the late afternoon sunshine and watched the evening parade of cattle heading in for milking.

Vacances en France – 2018 – La Calsade


On day four of our holiday in France, our stay at Maison Volière was completed by a very nice breakfast, supplemented with fresh fruit from Ian and Anthony’s own fruit trees. Packed and once again on the road, our journey south from La Souterraine was, trouble-free. Apparently, there were no other Brits on the road, leastways, none that we observed. And, after three hours or so, we arrived in Aurillac.

About Aurillac ….. from www.france-voyage.com

The former capital of Haute-Auvergne, Aurillac‘s origins date back to Gallo-Roman times and the town nestles at the foot of the Mounts of Cantal, on the banks of the Jordanne. This small Cantal river brings a very special charm to the town, especially in the Pont Rouge area, where you can enjoy a lovely view of the picturesque old houses by the water.

The thousand-year-old town of Aurillac boasts a rich architectural heritage. There is a historical circuit which you can follow to see the old town’s attractions: the Abbey Church of St. Gerald, the remains of an old Benedictine abbey, the Romanesque façade of the Abbey Hospital of St. Gerald with its arcades and small columns, the Renaissance-style Consuls’ Mansion, featuring mullioned windows and sculptures, Aurinques Chapel, built during the reign of Henry IV in the 16th century, or the famous Place du Square, an ideal place to take a stroll and unwind, can all be admired along the way.

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Aurillac – Looks like a student rag week attack on this statue.

Aurillac is the biggest town near to our gite and so it was here that we intended to have a spot of lunch, and also obtain some basic grocery supplies before heading on to the gite. After parking, in an underground car park, we strolled around the central area that is Place du Square. Eventually settling in at Le Milk, Bar / Brasserie, for a little liquid refreshment and a bite to eat.

It seems that it was the start of the college term and there seemed to be many students and their parents shuffling along the street, loaded down with books and bits of furniture. Presumably moving into their new lodgings for the duration. Hopefully a  stylish apartment and not some grotty garret.

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Aurillac – The French Capital of Umbrellas

From Wikipedia …..

Historic French capital of umbrellas with half of French production – 250,000 units in 1999 – and provides 100 jobs. After declining for several decades at the end of the 20th century, Aurillac umbrella producers decided to join their forces and created the Economic Interest Group, or GIE in 1997. They then launched their products under a single label, L’aurillac Parapluie (The Aurillac Umbrella).

We had a pleasant lunch at Le Milk and, suitably refueled, we headed out to forage for food. Locating a small eight till late style convenience store, we stocked up on the basics for the start of our three-week stay.

Supplies purchased we set of in search of Badailhac and our gite. The satnag did it’s stuff and we were soon climbing the steep serpentine roads up to Badailhac. Gerry came to consider this road, and several others, to be similar to a white knuckle ride at a theme park. Anyway the satnag directed us up, and ever upwards to and thru Badailhac, on to La Calsade.

Parking up on the driveway of our home for the next three weeks, our real adventure began.

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Gite – La Calsade, Badailhac, France

Firstly we had to locate our host. I rang her and determined that she was at the fromagerie, next door. I met her, introduced myself, and soon realised that communication was going to be a challenge. She had no English and my command of the French language is anything but conversational. I believe the correct term is “fractured and bastardised”.

Somehow we muddled along, as she showed us our new accommodations. Taking us to each room, showing us how the cooker worked, where the BBQ and sun loungers were kept and so forth. We went through the readings on the utility meter and then she was gone, and we were left to our own devices. The next hour or so was spent unpacking, finding homes for all of our gear and newly acquired groceries.

And then it was time to sit down with a nice cup of tea and relax in the sunshine and admire the near 180 degree view.

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La Calsade – The Long View

What really helped was the knowledge that we could truly relax, knowing that we didn’t have to get up in the morning and spend another day driving. Although our daily driving rate was quite light, we had covered around 900km (550 miles) over 4 days.

Gerry was a little down when we first arrived. She thought that the gite was a bit dark inside. This was in part due to the thickness of the walls and comparative small size of the windows. The interior lighting was also not brilliant. In addition we hadn’t spotted the washing machine. It did, however, put in an appearance. It was lurking in corner of  the bathroom (upstairs), not visible to us on our original tour. We should have guessed as this is not the first time we have encountered a washing machine in a bathroom.

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Still, sitting outside, relaxing, admiring the view we were treated to what was to become the daily ritual. The gite, being on a working dairy farm, was ideally placed to observe the grand parade of cattle. Walking pretty much single file, the herd of just under fifty, were followed by the farmer on his quad bike and escorted by his black dog.

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Sitting with our cup of tea, we came to the conclusion that life doesn’t get much better than this.