Cantal Revisited

Jordanne Valley, Cantal

Jordanne Valley, Cantal

I’m always torn between sharing places I love with other people and keeping them to myself. After a fierce internal tussle the altruistic side won. The Cantal is a part of France to which we keep returning, although our last stay was nearly three years ago. Another fix of this stunningly beautiful, former volcanic area was long overdue.

Staying

Normally, we stay in the village of Thiézac, north of Aurillac. This time, on the recommendation of a reader, we headed to the other side of the Cère Valley. La Roussière is a handsome former farmhouse, built of the local stone. It sits at the end of a narrow and winding chemin beside the rushing River Goul.

La Roussière

La Roussière

Brigitte and Christian, who formerly lived in Brussels, fell in love with La Roussière about 15 years ago. They restored the farmhouse, which had been abandoned for years. A photo album shows the stages of the renovation. In the process, they discovered a former chapel, of whose existence they were unaware and around which the house had been built. Brigitte told us that La Roussière was once a hamlet. Because it was so isolated the priest doubled as the schoolteacher.

Simply but stylishly decorated, our large and very comfortable suite overlooked the river valley. I love the sound of flowing water and had to keep opening the window.

The Goul Valley, view from our window at La Roussière

The Goul Valley, view from our window at La Roussière

Eating

You eat breakfast in the large and well-equipped kitchen with the other guests. This is so much more convivial than staying in a hotel and you meet interesting people. They included a mild-mannered former restaurateur who had said to his wife one day, “Either I jump out of the window or I kill a customer.” “We’ll stop, then,” she replied.

We enjoyed freshly-squeezed orange juice, yogurt, croissants, bread, a wide range of home-made jams and cheese (the SF was in seventh heaven). Just what you need to stoke up for a day’s walking.

Brigitte and Christian also do table d’hôtes dinner on some nights of the week with delicious home-cooked local specialities. For their nights off, and fortunately for a place as remote as this, there’s a restaurant at Pailherols about 8 km away, l’Auberge des Montagnes. In fact, we stayed there more than 20 years ago before we moved to France. Be warned: the set menu is copious, so if you’re not that hungry go for the à la carte.

Village of Pailherols

Village of Pailherols

Jacqui, if you read this, cheese was definitely on the menu: Cantal, Salers, fourme d’Ambert, Saint-Nectaire, chèvre, etc. And it made an appearance in local dishes such as truffade, made with potatoes and young tome cheese.

Walking

This, of course, was our visit’s raison d’être. On day 1 we took an 11 km circular route directly from La Roussière. The weather was perfect for walking, the countryside green and lush and the wild flowers dazzling. We soon found out why: it was pretty wet underfoot in places.

The walk took in the village of Saint-Clément, of which Christian is the mayor. Today it has 66 inhabitants (2013 census); in 1831 it had 672. Christian is also a mountain guide and told us which sights to look out for. This included an ancient and primitive cross.

Church at Saint-Clément

Church at Saint-Clément

Cross at Saint-Clément

Cross at Saint-Clément

Further on, we found another, even more primitive-looking cross, fashioned from the local volcanic rock with harder stones embedded in it. The rock itself had been worn away by the elements over the years.

Crude stone cross

Crude stone cross

Day 2 took us back to a perennial haunt: Elancèze, a peak of around 1600 metres that overlooks both the Cère and the Jordanne valleys. We must have done that walk a dozen times but we never tire of it. It’s a stiff climb but the view is breath-taking and we were blessed with clear, sunny weather. We had the place to ourselves as we consumed our picnic.

Elancèze

Elancèze

Some of the peaks, including the north face of Elancèze, still sported quite deep patches of snow. Brigitte told us it had snowed on 1st May. Every winter they get at least one period when it snows 60-70 cm.

Patch of snow 6" deep on the flank of Elancèze

Patch of snow 6″ deep on the flank of Elancèze

As we swigged a well-earned beer at Vic-sur-Cère, I determined not to leave it another three years before returning. And one day I simply must meet my reader Osyth who has a house up there.

You might also like:

Posts about the Auvergne
Posts about walking in France

And I’ve linked up with the #AllAboutFrance linky, where you’ll find some other great blogs about France.

Lou Messugo

 

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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30 Responses to Cantal Revisited

  1. Pingback: Cantal le Beau | Life on La Lune

  2. Liene K says:

    “Cantal, Salers, fourme d’Ambert, Saint-Nectaire, chèvre, etc. And it made an appearance in local dishes such as truffade, made with potatoes and young tome cheese..” You just instantly transported me back to Clermont-Ferrand and the mouth-watering cheese and cheese dishes we would eat there on a regular basis. We’ve been away from the Auvergne for over three years now, but I still long for an enormous plate of truffade!!! Visiting via #AllAboutFrance

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I just love the Auvergne. We live a couple of hours’ drive southwest of there and I can’t get back there often enough. Generally, we go to Cantal, which is closer to us than the area around Clermond-Ferrand but I remember some wonderful holidays spent 20 years ago in the northern Auvergne around le Mont-Dore, Saint-Nectaire, Besse-en-Chandesse, etc. And the cheese is to die for…

      Like

  3. Sally says:

    I’ve stayed up near Saler in an old farm house that can’t even be reached once it snows. I felt like I was on the set of a Heidi movie. A beautiful region and it is a photo from this area that I have a screen saver – wildflowers and rolling hills. Great blog and lovely photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Salers is a nice place but I can’t imagine living there in winter! Where we stayed a couple of valleys over from there, last week, Brigitte said it takes 1.5 hours to get from them to Salers, although as the crow flies it’s not that far!

      Like

  4. I know exactly how you feel about sharing or keeping a little bit of paradise to yourself. In the end I usually share too hoping no one actually reads my blog!!! (Sort of…) I don’t know Cantal at all but love the cheese. Yet another part of la belle France to discover! Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance, please don’t hesitate to spread the word to your blogging buddies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Plenty of cows in Cantal – so plenty of cheese. Worth a visit, especially in spring or autumn (weather usually more settled in the latter). Spreading the word about #AllAboutFrance around social media.

      Like

  5. We are delighted to read such kind comments about La Roussière ! Thank you Vanessa.
    If we had to recommend a period to visit Cantal, we would say end of May and all June for the extraordinary variety of flowers, or the second half of October for the autumn colors. Of course, some people are interested in winter activities. Therefore February is probably the best time for hiking with snowshoes or cross country skiing (alpine ski at Le Lioran, 30 min away). Brigitte and Christian.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Thank you for leaving a comment. I had been meaning to send you an email (which I have now done) to thank you for our lovely stay and to give you the link to my blog – but I see that you must have noticed people clicking on the link to your website, so you have found it already! I will certainly pass on to anyone who is interested your remarks about the best times of the year to visit. I hope you have a good summer and that we can come again soon. Vanessa.

      Like

  6. Stuart Webster says:

    Vanessa,delighted to hear that you decided to give La Roussiere a try and even more pleased that you seemed to enjoy your stay as much as we did.My wife is even more determined to return after reading your latest blog.it certainly is a beautiful place to visit with very charming hosts…I just need to improve my French so i can get full benefit of the lively conversation at meal times.kind regards Stuart

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Thank you very much for the recommendation. I had intended to email you with my thanks but had not got around to it before posting this. We had the opportunity to try La Roussière rather sooner than we had expected. We should have gone to Paris for a long weekend but things were so disrupted with the strikes that we took advantage of a few unusual days of good weather to go to the Cantal instead. We were lucky to get into La Roussière at short notice. They do seem to get booked up well in advance, which is worth bearing in mind if you do decide to return.

      Like

  7. Sounds and looks wonderful. The cantal is spectacular. We knew le lioran and puy mary but only discovered the route up the jordanne valley a couple of years ago when we drove ‘support car’ for our son who cycled from here (our village on the cere) to puy mary. Last year we camped at mondailles, a little village that was once the end of the road up that particular valley. The village boasts an excellent information centre about the region. Thank you for a glimpse of sunny days in a beautiful place. And, yes, you should discover the pyrenees, endlessly interesting and great for walking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      The Jordanne Valley is lovely. The first shot at the top of the post is of that valley and you see Mandailles and another village, although not very clearly. We once had a very disappointing skiing holiday in the Pyrenees but that’s not our reason for not going there – more that we tend to stick with what we know, which is not very adventurous…

      Like

  8. Caroline says:

    Very interesting architecture, the ancient crosses, the ‘hats’ on the steeples of both churches, the history must be very interesting too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      The area was clearly more densely populated one time, judging by the census figures. The style of the bell towers seems to be standard up there, whereas where we live they are proper steeples. I wonder if it’s because of the frequently inclement weather conditions up there that could bring a steeple down.

      Like

  9. Monique says:

    oh my!! I want to go home!!! The Pyrenees –home for good!!!
    Monique

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I don’t really know the Pyrenees at all, since we tend to go up to the Cantal when we want some mountains. But we really ought to discover them.

      Like

  10. Terry says:

    Should that be flowers?

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Probably. Assuming you do mean flowers they were pretty stunning. But with all the rain that’s not a surprise. Very green and lush – and wet underfoot.

      Like

  11. Terry says:

    Ah Cantal! How we’re the fliers?

    Like

  12. Looks lovely and I’m glad you indulged in copious amounts of local cheese.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I dread to think what my cholesterol count must be now. But it’s very hard to resist. I try to hope that the walking offset at least part of it…

      Like

  13. Osyth says:

    I am so thrilled to read this, sitting as I am in New England hankering for home which, as you have kindly pointed out, is Cantal. Brigitte and Christian look to have a lovely place which I would happily share with friends looking for places to stay in the region – I have two in mind instantly who would definitely like it, I think. So glad you enjoyed the pause and took a chance on the weather!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. We love it up there; the volcanoes are totally breath-taking and we have the pleasure of seeing them (albeit very far off) from the top of our garden; they look magical in the winter when the snow covers them.

    Liked by 1 person

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