Vacances en France – 2018 – Jou sous Monjou and More


At some point, it occurred to us, that we hadn’t explored the local area surrounding La Calsade. So we decided to go off on a bit of a mystery tour, take a look at where the myriad narrow lanes would take us.

Before we set out we were treated to a pretty display of localised mists in the valleys south of the gite.

We chose to follow a road which took off at right angles to the main road through the village. This road was signposted Jou sous Monjou.

Jou sous Monjou turned out to be quite a pretty little village although the church, L’Eglise Notre Dame de L’Assomption, being built like a brick outhouse was very robust. More akin to a wartime blockhouse.


The church in Jou-sous-Monjou is a fine example of Romanesque architecture and offers an exceptional array of sculptural work that has survived the centuries. Typical of the area, the church is built in volcanic stone and has a stone slab roof and a comb bell tower.

http://www.cantal-destination.com/site/cultural-heritage/jou-sous-monjou/l-eglise-notre-dame-de-l-assomption/tourisme-PCUAUV0150000008-2.html

While walking around Jou-sous-Monjou we had become aware of a loud buzzing, especially behind the church. The reason soon became apparent. Outside one of the houses, someone had placed two boxes of something sweet. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of bees. The noise was quite substantial.

The numbers of bees attracted to these two boxes was large enough to create quite a hazard to anyone wanting access to the house.

Continuing on our mystery tour, we stumbled across Chateau Cropieres


From the 13th to the 16th century, the castle was lived in by the Cropières and Montjou families. Today the castle looks very different from how it did when originally built, that is more military and feudal in design. The original fortress was completely transformed to make a main reception room. King Louis XIV had a very beautiful staircase at the front built for his loved one and this can still be admired today.

http://www.auvergne-tourism.com/cultural-heritage/raulhac/chateau-de-cropieres/tourisme-PCUAUV0150000007-2.html

Our further perambulations brought us to the village of Saint-Martin-sous-Vigouroux. Here we explored the village and visited the church.

We had a pleasant, leisurely, lunch at the Hotel Restaurant de la Poste before heading out to further explore the region.

We arrived at Pierrefort but didn’t fancy walking around what appeared to be a fairly large town. So we decided to head back towards the gite, but not before taking a couple of photographs on the outskirts of town.

As we travelled towards the gite, I notice a sign indicating a view point. WE had to go and see what was worth a sign. And, after all, it was only a couple of kilometers …… up a very narrow road. So we made the detour to the viewpoint at Videche. Or should I say, BELVEDÈRE DE VIDÈCHE – SITE PANORAMIQUE


Panoramic view on the Valley of Brezons A bird’s eye view of the Valley of Brezons and the Monts du Cantal. 15 min. film about the fario trout swimming up to the head of the river in the Cirque of Grandval. Open from spring to autumn, depending on weather conditions. A 15 minutes video on the life of trouts in the Brezons river (english version).

http://www.cantal-destination.com/site/countryside-heritage/brezons/belvedere-de-videche/tourisme-PNAAUV015V5031F6-2.html

This was a very “posh” viewpoint. At the end of the path sits a small cabin, with windows, curtains, air-con and a TV showing movies about the valley displayed below.

Stunning views. I can’t help feeling that such a beautiful viewpoint, if installed back in the UK, would have been trashed or even burnt to the ground.

And so it was back down and on to the bottom of the valley via some typically winding mountain roads. Thru Brezons, where we crossed the river and continued home to our gite.

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.

Vacances en France – 2018 – Polminhac


After the previous days travels around Murat, St Flour and Garabit we decided on a gentle start to the day, followed by a short afternoon trip over to Polminhac, where we planned to visit Chateau Pesteills

Chateau Pesteils


Perched on its steep rock, 750m above sea level , the old fortress Polminhac proudly dominates the valley of Cère.
The imposing dungeon symbolizes all the majesty of the castle of Pesteils and evokes the Middle Ages in its harshest expression, glorious testimony of what was to be this stronghold of Cantal. 
Beautiful frescoes of the 15th adorn the interior. 


The seventeenth century enriches the main body with remarkable painted ceilings.
Tapestries, paintings, furniture, parent richly this set. 
Enlarged and restored in the nineteenth century, the castle has been owned since 1608 by  
the family of Cassagne de Beaufort Miramon Pesteils  who still lives today.

https://www.chateau-pesteils-cantal.com/

The chateau is a very interesting place, although the English language printed guides provided were very confusing, mixing information from various rooms and floors with wild abandon.

The rooms are furnished and decorated in line with the history of the chateau.

Moving our of the main chateau we headed up to the “donjon” (keep). Climbing the spiral stairs up through the many floors, of the keep, we were greeted by a bat. On one occasion it flew out of the fireplace on one floor, into and back out of the medaeval loo, back in and up the spiral staircase to the higher floors. At one point it darted out the window on the top floor, out into the bright sunshine. I always thought bats were nocturnal. Obviously this one couldn’t make up its mind if it was a bat or a House Martin. Maybe it’s only the vampire variety that fly at night.

As we climbed, many of the upper rooms were infested with flies, all swarming the windows. Their buzzing was very reminiscent of crime movies when a long dead body is discovered. Thankfully, we did not encounter any bodies.

We ascended to the top of the spiral staircase, which terminated on a walkway under the eaves of the roof of the keep. The walkway consisted of metal grid plates spread across the roof buttressed. You could see all the way down to the ground. Something of a heart stopping, stomach churning sight.

Leaving our two partners, Dave and I stepped out onto the grids to circumnavigate the top of the tower. The views were stunning but we were constantly reminded of the drop below our feet. This uneasy feeling was not diminished by the crumbling state of the stone butresses on which the grids rested.

The following are a few images from around the grounds…..

 

Vacances en France – 2018 – Murat, St Flour and Garabit


Headed out north today, to visit the town of Murat.

The following is from France-Voyage

A mid-mountain municipality at the foot of the Mounts of Cantal, in the Alagnon glacial valley, Murat is a Station Verte-certified “green resort” in the Massif Central. At the crossroads of Haute-Auvergne, this picturesque medieval town backs onto the basaltic rock of Bonnevie, which towers over the historic centre. In the Middle Ages, Murat was a fortified town and a major road hub, which encouraged trade. Many fairs and markets were held there. Two other volcanic mountains surround it, the Bredons Rock and the Chastel-sur-Murat Rock.

Many old houses, some of which are listed Historic Monuments, provide a reminder of the medieval and Renaissance period. Must-see sights on a walk along the streets of the old town: the consular house, one of Murat’s gems with its 15th-century façade; the old bailiwick house from the 16th century on Place de la Boucherie; the Collegiate Church of Our Lady of the Olive Trees (Notre-Dame-des-Oliviers), built between the 12th and the 14th centuries, with its statues and altarpieces from the 17th and 19th centuries; the Hurgon House on Rue du Bon-Secours. The old town with its grey roofs and Bonnevie Rock, with the statue of Our Lady of Haute-Auvergne towering over it, form a beautiful group, where the buildings are mainly made of natural materials from the region, such as wood, flagstone and volcanic stone.

The views from the road as we travelled along were very pretty ….

As described above, Murat is a pretty town, with lots of interesting buildings and meandering narrow streets. On our arrival we noted the bunting on all the streets including many conical decorations.

These, we discovered, were in honor of the cornets / cones for which the town is renowned.

I took a short dip into the Church of St. Martin ……

The following are a few photographs showing the variety of architectural and artistic sights around the town….

Whilst meandering our way around the town we found ourselves outside a nice cafe which we entered for a spot of lunch and, after loading up with calories, it only seemed right that we should burn some off. So we decided to climb up to rocher de Bonnevie, a monument mounted on a high, rocky outcrop, overlooking the town. 

Shortly after setting out toward the summit, I was puffing and blowing like an old steam train. However the stunning views were well worth the 15-20 minute of effort. Jane put my exertions to shame by sprinting up the last 100 meters or so to the summit at 984 metres.

Heading down always seems like it is going to be much easier, however the steepness of the slope and the uneven surface put quite a bit of strain on the knee joints.

From Murat, we travelled to St Flour. The satnag took us in through the higher town, thru the hectic traffic and down to lower town. Unfortunately, we were not impressed with the lower town. Subsequently we discovered that most of the interesting bits are up top.

Not wanting to wrestle with the traffic again, we took a few snaps of the lower town before heading out to see the Garabit Viaduct.

From Wikipedia ….

The Garabit Viaduct (Viaduc de Garabit in French) is a railway arch bridge spanning the Truyère, near Ruynes-en-Margeride, Cantal, France, in the mountainous Massif Central region.

The bridge was constructed between 1882 and 1884 by Gustave Eiffel, with structural engineering by Maurice Koechlin, and was opened in 1885. It is 565 m (1,854 ft) in length and has a principal arch of 165 m (541 ft) span.

The viaduct is quite impressive and well worth the visit…..

Vacances en France – 2018 – A Little Bit Of Gastro


Sorry to say that after the previous days trip out to Tournemire and Salers, two of our party were suffering from Ghandis Revenge. Since we ate and drank pretty much the same stuff, the fact that the gastro was only affecting two of us remained a mystery. So, it  was decided we would have a quiet day at the gite. The weather was, once again, really good, so no real hardship. While the sun worshippers reclined, just a short, easy, sprint to the loo. I grabbed my camera and took a walk up to the village.

 

The local cattle have a way of looking at you, as if to say …. “Do you really know what you are doing ?”, “Should you be out un-supervised?”

 

Badailhac is a French commune , located in the  department of Cantal  in  the  Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region. Up until about three years ago the village had a population of around 130 people. It has a church and town hall / school, a football ground but no shop or hostelries. It is the epitome of a sleepy french village.

Badailhac-4

Local sign, telling me to go back to the gite.

Dominating the skyline over Badailhac is the local church, Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste

From the website of Fondation du Patrimoine (Heritage Foundation)

The church was built in the late sixteenth century as a modest chapel served by the clergy of Raulhac. It disappeared during the wars of religion, but was rebuilt under the reign of Henry IV and completed in 1625.

Became a parish church, and in very bad condition, it was rebuilt a second time in 1886, thanks to the generosity of Bishop Géraud Soubrier, Bishop of Oran.

Thanks to a donation made in 2007 by a family from the town, important work was done inside the church: plaster, jointing stones, plaster and whitewash on the vaults, heating and electrical circuits redone to nine, restoration of most joinery, furniture and central chandelier.

The decoration was favored with the creation of a rosette around the chandelier, friezes highlighting the stained glass and a magnificent fresco in the bottom of the church.

 

Badailhac is a very quiet village. On my walk, over the space of an hour and a half I didn’t see a single person, or vehicle. Other than the occasional bird or insect it is absolutely silent.

 

For my walking efforts I just got dehydrated and a blister on my foot. Shortly after I arrived back at the gite, we were visited by the French Air Force …

Much later we sat outside and stared at the sky. There is so little ambient light at the gite you can actually see the milky way. There was no  moon, but Venus was shining brightly. On this particular night we were also blessed with another light show, a thunderstorm. It was a long way off, so we couldn’t hear the thunder, but the colourful flashes were very bright.

Vacances en France – 2018 -Tournemire and Salers


Tuesday, the 12th day of our holiday. We were up, bright and breezy, and after a quick breakfast piled into the car and headed off to Tournemire. Gerry and I had visited before, but thought Dave and Jane would like a look too. We arrived after an hour or so drive.
Driving along the Doire valley, as you near Tournermire,  one is presented with a spectacular view of  the Château d’Anjony.

Tournemire

Château d’Anjony at Tournermire

And then the village of Tournemire comes into view.

Tournemire-2

Château d’Anjony with Tournermire Village

From France This Way ….

Tournemire village is situated 15 kilometres north of Aurillac, in the Massif Central (Auvergne region) of central France. The village is classed among the ‘most beautiful villages of France’, and is situated on a tree covered hill overlooking the valley of the River Doire and falls in the Cantal mountains at the southern edge of the Natural Park of the Auvergne volcanoes.

The history of the village is tied up with two families – the Tournemire and the Anjony, and their battles to control the village.

Public vehicles are not allowed in the village, however a substantial car park is provided, where you can park for the princely sum of  one whole euro. As with our previous visit, the tourist office was closed when we arrived, so we were unable to pay the parking charge.

The village is just a short walk from the car park.

Strolling through the village we decided to stop at small coffee shop. Unbeknown to us, we were stepping into an alternative universe.

We sat at a table that had just been vacated by a group of British motorcyclists. A lady came out, we assumed she wanted to know what we would like. As two of our group wanted milky coffee we asked for “Deux café au lait”. The lady didn’t seem to understand “café au lait”, neither did she understand “café avec lait”. This was proving to be really difficult so Dave said he would have an espresso. So we tried “un expresso”. Again we were met with a look of non-comprehension. Gerry wanted an Orangina so we asked for one. Again the lady just looked at us. I asked her to come with me to the front of the premises, where a menu was displayed in the window. I indicated that we wanted coffee, Orangina and tea, all of which were itemised on said menu. All this achieved was for her to squint at the menu, with her nose virtually pressed to the glass. She did say something when I pointed to where it said “thé / infusion”. She read the word infusion and I said yes that’s what I want. But she still didn’t seem to understand. Feeling really frustrated I tried to enlist the help of a couple of ladies who were walking by. I asked if they understood English hoping they could help with translation.

Apparently neither spoke English but one trotted off down into the village. I assumed she had gone to get someone who could help. She disappeared for quite a while, abandoning her friend who shrugged helplessly. As time was marching on we decided to give up on the drink. I walked down the street with the abandoned lady and her friend suddenly reappeared. I indicated to them that we were giving up and thanked them for their time.

This was one of the weirdest experiences. Never have we been unable to order drinks or food in France. It has, subsequently, been suggested that perhaps she didn’t want to serve us because we were British. If so, she is the first anglophobe that I have ever met.

Resigned to being thirsty, we carried on exploring the streets of Tournemire.

and the 12th century roman style church (L’Eglise de Tournemire en Auvergne).

Walking on through the village, eventually you come to Château d’Anjony. Per our previous visit it was closed until after 14:00.

We all agreed that it was time for a drink and headed back through the village and up to the Auberge de Tournemire we had passed earlier.

Tournemire – Auberge de Tournemire

We sat, enjoying our drinks and the view. While we were sat drinking we were approached by a guy asking if we owned a black VW, which of course we didn’t. There was no explanation as to why he was asking, then he was gone. As we sat there, totally relaxed, the decision was made that we would stop for lunch. Our host was a good sport, playfully teasing as I tried out my French, gently correcting my pronunciation. We all had one of the set menu lunches. Three of us had steak with truffade, while I had the charcuterie, also with truffade.

From Wikipedia ….

Truffade is a rural dish traditionally associated with Auvergne in France. It is a sort of thick pancake made with thinly sliced potatoes that are slowly cooked in goose fat until tender, then mixed with thin strips of tome fraiche (which is very different from actual tomme cheese: the recipe will fail if tomme cheese is used, since that melts in a very different way). This mixture is stirred until it sticks together in a sort of thick pastry, which is sometimes decorated with fresh parsley and may be served with a simple green salad.

We all followed the mains with a selection of local cheeses. Cantal, Bleu Auvergne and Saint Nazaire. Very tasty.

Needless to say, after a quite substantial meal, we were reluctant to move. But move we did, back to the car and on to Salers. As we were driving out of the car park, it became clear why we were asked, earlier, about the VW. Someone had parked their VW  Golf and not made sure the hand brake was sound. The car had rolled across the car park and into the  side of a motor home. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall for the upcoming conversation between the two drivers.

Salers is about a forty minute drive, north of Tournemire, the route taking us through beautiful countryside.

From France This Way ….

Salers, listed among the most beautiful villages of France, is 42 kilometres north of Aurillac in the Massif Central (Auvergne region) and is at the western edge of the Cantal volcanic region.

Salers has origins that can be traced back almost 1000 years ago, but it was during the boom years of the 15th century that much of the current town was constructed. Salers describes itself as ‘a black diamond on a green carpet’, a quite appropriate description, because of the dark grey volcanic stone used to build many of the beautiful buildings in the town.

 

So, arriving at Salers, we parked up on the edge of town. Our first destination was the souvenir shop Les Sagranier, where Gerry and I picked up a few small hand towels to match those that we had purchased on our previous visit. Then we began to explore the town.

One of the more colourful businesses, in Salers, is Maison Servans, a Patisserie / Confiserie. The exterior of the store is decorated with characters from the Hansel and Gretel fairy story.

While the others were being distracted by the local brocante (bric-a-brac / second-hand) shops, I ducked into the local church,  the 13th century Eglise Saint Mathieu …

 

There are many narrow streets in and around Salers, with many nooks and crannies….

Many of the side streets provide glimpses of the past lives, none more so than the various doors and archways…..

Some of the doors are so robust, one wonders what they are keeping secure. Or, are they an indication of violent times gone by.

The elevated location of Salers provides glorious views of the surrounding countryside ….

… volcanoes silhouetted against blue skies….

…and rolling hills carpeted with lush green forests.

If you ever in this region, Salers must be high on your list of places to visit.

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.

Aurillac-17

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.

Aurillac-25

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.