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.

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Château d’Anjony at Tournermire

And then the village of Tournemire comes into view.

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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 – 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.
LeffeNectar

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.

Millau


So on Saturday we packed our bags and left the gite in Serandon. As, per my previous post, we had experienced a super storm during Friday night, the weather was calm but misty / drizzly.

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Dordogne – Morning after the storm.

We wound our way down into the gorge and the first thing we noticed was all the debris, from the trees, strewn across the roads. And, as we climbed up the other side there were several areas where rock shale and mud had been washed down of the sides of the gorge, onto the road. Also, a number of trees were down but still being supported by electric cables. We eyed these with great suspicion as we maneuvered past them. Concerned that they would choose the moment of our passing as the time to drop completely.

As we wended our way towards Millau, the weather turned decidedly worse, until we were driving in torrential rain. Especially as we climbed up and down the various hills and gorges. As we travelled on the weather improved until, as we approached Millau, we were being treated to blue skies and sunshine.

The scenery in this region is fantastic and the more we saw the more we vowed that perhaps this would be the next region in France that we would target for our next long holiday.

Soon the reason for our trek to Millau popped into view.

The following is taken from the Aveyron Official Tourist Website

Millau viaduct holds the world record for the tallest bridge, culminating at 343 metres (higher than the Eiffel tower), 2460 metres long and touching the bottom of the Tarn valley in only 9 places.

Conceived by the French engineer Michel Virlogeux and designed by the English architect Lord Norman Foster, it fits perfectly into the naturally intact and grandiose landscape: a very thin slightly curved steel roadway supported by stays gives it the appearance of a huge yacht and the ensemble rests on 7 very slender pillars.

The bridge is spectacular and can be seen from many miles out. We took a few pictures, then headed for our hotel in Millau.

We were staying at the Hotel Mercure and were soon installed in our room. ow lucky were we with the room allocated to us. Take a look at the view from our hotel room ….

After a little freshen up we headed out to explore and grab a bite to eat. All the eateries near the hotel were only serving drinks. Once again our pursuit of lunch had commenced after the proscribed hours.  Pushing out, further afield and we discovered a brasserie, Le Mandarous, who were more than willing to take my Euros in exchange for food and drink. The brasserie was situated adjacent to a roundabout so we were able watch both human and automotive antics while we ate a rather tasty meal.

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Millau, France

I’m afraid I’m getting rather boring with regard to my choices. If it is on offer, I will almost always go for the “assiette de charcuterie”, an assortment of cooked meats which can including ham, garlic sausage, salami and, depending on the region, perhaps some cheese. Back in the Correze it was common to have Chèvres, Cantal or Salers. In Tulle there was Bleu d’Auvergne but on this occasion, in Millau, I was treated to a couple of pieces of a rather nice Roquefort. This was a real melt in the mouth treat.

After our meal we continued wandering the streets, sorry I mean exploring….

We both decided we liked Millau and felt that it would be a place we should visit again. With its quaint cobbled streets and narrow alleyways it has a really nice feel.

As we meandered into another square, Place Marechel Foch, we decided to take advantage of the shade provided by the trees and sat down for a cold beer from the nearby brasserie. We became aware of a wedding group gathering outside a nearby church.

Apart from the bride, page boys and bridesmaids there were numerous cars that had been decorated in perhaps, by UK standards, an unusual way. We liked it. Something else the French do is have the entire wedding group clamber into their cars and drive around the town honking their horns. Making everyone aware of the wedding and, I guess, involving everyone in their celebrations. There were several weddings on this Saturday afternoon in Millau and we had observed this tradition a couple of times around Serandon and Neuvic.Of course the Simca Rally Car did not need to sound his horn to make people aware as the engine noise was fairly noticeable.

Suitably refreshed we meandered our way back to the hotel for a brief nap before getting changed and heading out for our evening meal.

On the whole a good day.

 

Tournemire / Pleaux


After two weeks in France, I finally decided to refer to the information that I had gathered, regarding places of interest in the region of our gite. We decided to head off to Tournemire.

Had I checked it out before visiting Salers on Monday, I would have realised that we could combine the two villages as part of one days touring.

Still, with another beautiful day promised we headed back out to the Cantal region and the village of Tournemire.

Tournemire village is situated 15km north of Aurillac, in the Massif Central, Auvergne region. The village is classified as one of the “most beautiful villages of France”.

While still a couple of kilometers out from the village you are treated to a view of the fortress sitting high up on the side of the valley.

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Tournemire – Auvergne, France

Although the village is largely hidden from view by the trees. Joe Public cannot drive into the village but have to use the car park, a few hundred metres outside. Signs indicate that a ticket must be purchased from the Tourist Office.

However, it was closed, so we had to park illegally. There is always the concern that our car could be clamped or even towed away. We wondered if they would be so petty, especially since the fee for parking was one whole Euro, for the day.

Feeling quite guilty, we entered the village. Some of the houses are said to have been built on original Roman foundations. Once again the local volcanic rock dominates the construction and most houses are topped off with slate roofs. As previously mentioned the fortress, Chateau de Anjony, dominates the village and dates from the 15th century.

After exploring the village we felt it was time to recharge the batteries, so to speak. We headed back through the village to the Auberge that we had passed earlier in the day.

At the Auberge de Tournemire we enjoyed a simple but filling lunch comprising Truffade with an assortment of cold meats. Truffade is a local Auvergne speciality comprising potato and cheese. Washed down, of course, with a nice cold beer. Sorry but I’m at it again with the musical links. You only have to say the word Auberge and the Chris Rea tune pops into my head….. dah dah dah dah dah !!!

After lunch we left Tournemire to meander our way back to the gite. Referring to some local pamphlets we picked up in the Tourist Office, and having paid our one Euro parking fee, we decided to go via Pleaux.

Once again, many of the buildings in Pleaux are constructed using the grey volcanic rock and topped of with the grey slate.

We stopped to have a beer and watch the world go by for a while and also explored the “Land Art” on display in the square. There was some quite innovative use of bottle tops and coffee pods giving an almost oriental feel.

All to soon we had to continue our journey home to the gite.

 

 

 

Le Bicyclettes de Salers


Based on a recommendation from Florence, our landlady, we undertook a trip to Salers. It is famous for the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) cheeses Cantal and Salers. It is also known for the Salers breed of cattle that originated in this commune.

As for any journey originating from Serandon, the first few kilometers involves descending into, then climbing out of, the nearest gorge. Every now and again I find myself breaking into The Self Preservation Society and imagining driving one of those infamous mini’s round the dozens of hairpins.

Long before we reached the village we became aware of an association between the village and the cycling. Around every corner, on top of hedges, even in the tree tops there are bicycles. Mostly painted bright yellow, but on the odd occasion they are painted in various other colours.

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Bicycle – Salers, France

The primary reason for this is the Tour de France. This summer, Cantal will be the first mountain stage of the Tour. Some 216 km long, the riders will arrive in Anglards de Salers, Salers and the Col de Néronne, they then climb the Pas de Peyrol before returning to Murat and the final ascent to Le Lioran.

The nearer you get to Salers, the more bicycles there are. Nearly all my subsequent photographs have a bicycle present somewhere.

The village is very beautiful and there is plenty to keep ones interest. The historic buildings or the many cafes, restaurants and the artisan shops.

We had lunch here, at a pavement cafe, and Gerry finally managed to get her Croque Monsieur that she had been hankering for, since we arrived in France two weeks ago.

So, I’ll leave you with another musical link Le Bicyclettes de Salers

I wonder how many of you remember the tune and of those that do, how many have actually seen the film ?