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 -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.