Vacances en France – 2018 – Carlat, Cros Ronesque and Ronesque


During our stay at La Calsade, our voyages out into the French countryside would often take us through the village of Carlat. Each time we would say “We really must visit”. So the decision was made to stop and explore this little village.


Carlat is a commune in the Cantal department in south-central France.
The “Rocher de Carlat” or rock of Carlat situated above the picturesque commune was once the site of one of the most powerful and impenetrable chateaux in all of France. It was the seat of Jacques d’Armagnac, Duke of Nemours and often the center of intrigue, resistance and rebellion against the kings of France. Completely razed by order of the king in 1604 to alleviate the inconvenience of rebellious and ambitious southern relatives, hardly a trace of the chateau remains. The site is now a park, open to visitors and commanding sweeping views of the Carlades.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlat

Carlat is another of those places where you cannot drive in, unless you are a resident. A car park is provided on the outskirts, and visitors are invited to make the short walk in. There isn’t much to see but it is pretty. There is a school and the children were playing happily in the sunshine. There appeared to be only the one shop and that was closed. So our stay was quite short.

From the gite, part of its fabulous panoramic view, we had discovered that there was a church on top of a flat topped hill (plateau).

Ronesque – Viewed from La Calsade with the aid of a 75-300mm lens

Curiosity decree’d that we had to go search it out. So off we set from Carlat. Cutting across country, driving down narrow, single lane roads and tracks that dropped down into, then climbed back out of the tree covered gorges. Directional decision making was dictated by any sighting we made, as we crested the various hills. Eventually we reached a village, Cros Ronesque, and as we passed through noted the folks sat having lunch outside a local hostlery. That set the juices going. Coming out of the other side of the village we found that we were within spitting distance of the church. Soon we were following a winding lane which took us up to the church. Actually, I think we were supposed to park up about 500 metres below. However, I decided to play the dumb Brit and drive right up to the church. We were the only ones up there so I guess nobody really cared where we parked.


Formed on the site of an old peneplain, then covered as a result of volcanic activity and deeply sculpted by vast valleys, this rock is one of two basalt plateaux in the Carladès (part of the Vic-sur-Cère region). You can drive to a tiny chapel from where the magnificent panoramic view takes in the huge plateau, with the monts de Cantal to the north and the Aubrac mountains to the southeast. Below, to the right, stands the Château de Messilhac, overlooking the Vallée du Goul.

https://travelguide.michelin.com/europe/france/auvergne/cantal/cros-de-ronesque/rocher-de-ronesque

What a great decision it was to search out this place. Fabulous views, 360 degree. Little church, graveyard, cross, as well as North and South orientation tables. We tried to see our gite but should have had the binoculars to hand.

After absorbing the fabulous views it was time for a beer. That bar/restaurant, the Auberge de la Sapiniere, that we had spotted earlier in Cros Ronesque was calling, so we set off back down to the village where we satisfied that craving.

After the beer we headed back to the gite. Amazingly it only took about 10 minutes to get back, whereas it took over an hour to get to the church. It makes a big difference when you know the name of the place you are trying to get to.

Vacances en France – 2018 – Conques


During our earlier foray to Entraygues-sur-Truyere, whilst stood on the dam watching an otter fishing, I had bumped into a pair of cyclists. British as it happens. We had a chat and about each others holiday destinations etc. During this conversation I had mentioned the light show we had witnessed at Chartres. In response they mentioned visiting Conques and the Abbey, that the town was doing something similar every night until the end of September.

I had filed this piece of information away, as a possible target destination for when our friends joined us. Unfortunately, time and a brief spell of tummy upset conspired against us before it was time for them to head back to dear old Blighty.

So Gerry and I decided we would head off to Conques on our own. The plan was to leave late, spend the afternoon doing that touristy thing, then have an evening meal in Conques before enjoying the light show.

It was, yet another, glorious day and we were soon wending our way through the French countryside. Every turn in the road seems to open up another grand view. At times we would appear to be on top of the world with huge panoramas. At others we would be looking down at small towns or villages, dwarfed by the high tree lined sides of gorges.

Soon we were crossing the border, leaving the Cantal, entering the Aveyron. No passport control, just drive on through. Approximately five kilometers from Conques, we stopped for a beer at Chez Marie in the pretty village of Grand Varbres.

After exploring Grand-Varbres we continued on to Conques.


Conques, listed as one of the most beautiful villages of France, is about 30 kilometres east of Figeac and 35 kilometres north of Rodez, in the Aveyron department in the Massif Central. Conques sits on the edge of the gorge of the River Dourdou, in a beautiful setting surrounded by mountains and forests. The approach from the south is along an especially attractive stretch of river.

https://www.francethisway.com/places/conques.php

Joe Public are not allowed to drive or park inside the town of Conques. There is public parking, for a small fee, just outside the entrance to the town. A gently inclined pathway then takes you up to the centre of town.

That gentle entry is a bit of a con, as deviating to either side results in encounters with steep steps and pathways, all designed to give one a bit of a cardiac workout.

We spent a couple of hours exploring, taking in the quaint streets and houses, as well as the Abbey itself.

It wasn’t long before it was time for another beer. We found a bar and were soon sat, basking in the sunshine, with a glorious view of the Abbey’s twin towers.

At 19:00 we took ourselves off to the restaurant, where previously I had booked a table. We were soon seated at a table on the terrace with a prime view looking down over Conques.

Conques – Where we had our evening meal

The food was superb, a starter which comprised a mixed platter of charcuterie and fromages. Followed by a delicious tender steak with vegetables served in baskets (Yorkshire puds) and aligoo. Then it was time to head out to the Abbey.

Part of the evenings entertainment was a monk explaining the history behind the tympanum. We sat and listened but, as it was only in French, we had no understanding. So the evident humour was lost on us, but not on the rest of the crowd. Similarly, we were not able to make the appropriate responses when prompted by the monk. Still it was an interesting experience.

As for the light show, well we opted not to stay. Gerry was already wilting and I still had over an hours drive back to the gite.

Conques – Abbey Illuminations

It was ten o’clock gone when we left Conques, and with tens of hairpin bends to contend with in the darkness, it made for a fairly intense journey home.