Saturday, 21 July 2007

Le Puy en Velay and Cantal

This post covers our stay in the heart of rural France, the Auvergne.

After our visit to the Lavender Museum we headed north towards Le Puy En Velay, stopping for lunch at a small Champion supermarket. From here it was a steady, steep climb, once again, up a mountain range through many small towns. Sarah cranked up the ipod f Fruit stalls were dotted along the road with apricots going for €1.30 / kilo. As we climbed higher and higher, the temperature started to drop and the wind picked up. One sign indicated we were at 1240 metres above sea level.

Above: Le Puy En Velay
Below: Town just outside Le Puy, I can't remember the name!

Along this stretch of road there were dozens of metal signs of people with a big lightning bolt through their hearts. On each of them signs read “J’avais 37 ans, J’avais 3 ans”. I was 37, I was 3. On one set of five signs the deceased were all 18 or 19, on others victims were in their 50s or 60s. These signs certainly made you think about driving too fast on these roads, not that we could in Ace!

Driving into Le Puy En Velay gave you a good view of the town, quite striking as there are two huge volcanic rocks overlooking the town, one with a chapel on top and one with a statue of Mary & Jesus. We parked up and looked around the old town for an hour, many shops and buildings had been closed up and looked a bit dilapidated. The town certainly had an authentic old feeling to it!

We headed back to Ace and found out there was a WiFi hotspot at a nearby Ibis hotel. We logged on, paid €4.50 and had an hour where we frantically updated the website and read our emails before time ran out. We had a look at the municipal campsite, but seeing as it was no great shakes, we headed on for 40 minutes to the town of Brioude. There was quite a large car park in town where about a dozen motorhomes had parked up for the night.
Below: Hay

On Tuesday morning we looked around Brioude, a small market town with an interesting cathedral. There was a watercolours exhibition going on in the town so we had a peak at a few people’s work. We drove on to the town of Saint Flour which has a low town and a high town perched atop a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside. It was very hot and humid so we parked Ace in the small amount of shade we could find while we had lunch and hooked up to some electricity at a aire de service. In the afternoon we walked around the old town, buying some freshly ground coffee after being lured in by the smell of the beans. We drove down to a valley to admire a bridge Gustav Eiffel built, the Viaduct de Garabit. It’s said the experience he gained here spurred him on to design the Eiffel Tower.

We drove half an hour on to the town of Murat where there was an aire de service, however, it was located in the train station car park and the local police had put up a sign limiting 5 motorhomes a night there. As we were the sixth we looked around and saw a lone motorhome parked behind the station in a flour mill car park. We drove around next to them, grandad, grandma and grandson. I had quick chat to a guy walking around the car park who assured me it was okay to park there and we should have no worries about security, “You’re in the country!” he said.

On Wednesday we woke up at the very early hour of 7am, looking out the window there were quite a few cars parked next to us so we thought we’d better leave! We drove around to the train station car park to hook up for electric for an hour. I put a €2 coin in the machine but unfortunately, after checking the wiring of the socket with an adapter we have, the live and neutral wires were reversed. This is quite common for a lot of electrical sockets in France, but if the wiring is like this we never use them as a precaution. Apparently for most European vans, it wouldn’t matter which way the wiring is, but for our British beast, having the wiring the wrong way could potentially cause problems.
Above and below: Murat

(A woman at Swift Motorhomes I spoke to on the phone before we left told me they’d heard of several people returning early from their holidays after hooking up to these sockets had disastrous consequences!)

We went for a nice early morning walk around Murat, admiring the old town and buying some bread and cakes at the second boulanger we saw. We had walked into the first, patiently waited in a queue, only for the woman to ignore us both and serve the woman who came in behind us! We made a point of walking past her on the way back to Ace and I waved my baguette at her with a smile.



Man oh man - love those pics

berber58 said...

Fantastic pics, great ligthing and chosen comp. The place of the second photo I am certain is Polignac a castle built on a 200m x 100m table-top with the Polignac village nestled at the foot of it 100feet below.
I was here on 16th July 2007

berber58 said...

Fantastic pics, great ligthing and chosen comp. The place of the second photo I am certain is Polignac a castle built on a 200m x 100m table-top with the Polignac nestled at the foot of it 100feet below.
I was here on 16th July 2007

berber58 said...

The second photo is the village of Polignac nestled at the bottom of a 200 x 100 m table top platform 100ft high with the remains of a castle. It is just outside Le Puy and I too was there on 16th July 2007