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The Auvergne region of France

Regional Departments
Allier, Puy-de-Dôme, Cantal, Haute-Loire.

Main Towns
Clermont-Ferrand, Montluçon, Moulins, Vichy, Riom, Issoire, Aurillac, St-Fleur, Brioude, Le Puy.

The Auvergne lies in the heart of France between Burgundy in the north and the Midi Pyrenees and Languedoc Roussillon in the south. The landscape is different, the history is different. The people are different; kind and friendly, redoubtable in spirit, resourceful and self reliant. The region has much in common with the highlands of Scotland, wide open spaces, forests, lakes and an emerald green mountain range of long extinct volcanos, or 'puy', from Puy de Dôme in the north, through the Monts Dore and the vast hills of the Monts du Cantal, to the south. The university city of Clermont-Ferrand is the regional capital and gateway between the north and south of the country.

The Allier borders on Burgundy and the Loire, a pastoral farming area with gentle valleys and huge forests, glorious in Autumn. Moulins is a charming, sleepy old market town, largly ignored by the world. Just to the south is Vichy, queen of spas with its parks, opera house and racecourse. The lovely Besbre Valley southeast of Moulins, is full of little private chateaux, some open to visitors.

The Puy-de-Dôme is at once dramatic and peaceful. It has everything you can find elsewhere in the Auvergne; pretty villages, historic towns, splendid churches, beautiful chateaux and romantic ruins. There are great national parks, mountains, chestnut forests, vineyards, rivers and lakes, gorges, spa towns, ski centres and golf courses. Puy-de-Sancy, the highest peak in the Mont Dore is reached by cable-car, the summit is about a 20 minutes walk away with stunning views extending as far as the Alps. Not far below is the town of Le Mont-Dore which doubles both as a spa and as a ski centre to rival those in the Alps.

The landscape of the Puy-de-Dôme changes into the sweeping glacial valleys, lakes and waterfalls of the Cantal highlands and vast plateaux inhabited by deer, goats, rock thrushes and peregrine falcons. In the the Cezallier hills, you can can see wild orchids and rare carnivorous plants. There are unspoilt medieval towns and mountain villages and in the wilds of the Livradois, remote stone and slate roofed cheese-making farms. The fishing is superb in countless lakes and rivers.

Le Puy-en-Velay is in the Haute-Loire, situated in an extraordinary landscape of steep, volcanic cones. The great cathedral of Notre-Dame du Puy has fine 11th and 12th century frescoes and houses the famous Black Madonna. To the north of the town, perched on a rock, is the Chapelle St-Michel d'Aiguilhe. Built in the 10th and 11th century, it is believed to have been the orgional site of the temple of Mercury.


La Potée Auvergnate, like many traditional country dishes here, is a hearty stew made with simple ingredients; loin of pork, bacon, locally made sausages, vegetables and potatoes. Pork with green lentils is another. Le Puy lentils have been awarded an appellation d'origine, as a mark of quality. Good charcuterie and farm cured mountain ham with country bread. Excellent lamb and beef, baked rabbit, chicken with wild mushrooms, partridge and, freshwater fish; trout, salmon, char, carp, pike. Try 'aligot' from southern Auvergne, a rich puree made with Cantal cheese, butter and mashed potato which provokes much discussion.

The Auvergne is considered to be the cheese board of France; Cantal, St-Nectaire, Salers, Bleu d'Auvergne, Fourme d'Amber and many very local ones. Followed perhaps, by a blueberry or apple tart or some wild raspberries.
Fougasse, is a brioche from the Cantal, flavoured with brandy or orange flower water and filled with crystallised fruit.
The wines of Saint-Pourcain, Clermont-Chanturgue, Coret, Châteaugay and Rion-Madargues are the best known of the Auvergne wines, as are the mineral waters of Volvic, Saint-Yorre and Vichy, although there are many others.


From Spring until late Autumn, there are numerous flea markets where you can trawl through piles of bric-a-brac and country fetes, held to celebrate the harvest and the movement of the herds to their mountain pastures with street theatre, folk dancing and markets which sell local hams and honey, lace and clogs. The agricultural fairs of Brion, Jaligny or Allanche are more serious but just as much fun, where farmers bargain and haggle over fat cattle and turkeys.
Good golf courses throughout the region. It is outstanding riding, hiking and mountain climbing country and there are lakes where you can swim, sail and windsurf, others that are good for fishing, bait, fly or spinning and white water rafting and kayaking through the gorges of the Allier and Sioule rivers, accompanied by experienced instructors. Paragliding and ballooning over the puy.


Usually long warm summers with temperatures often reaching over 30 degrees, punctuated by short sharp thunderstorms. The highlands are cooler and at altitudes of over 1000m, snow frequently lies on the peaks until May. Spring come suddenly and is short lived, bringing with it a burst of wild flowers. Autumn is often the best time of year; peaceful, warm and sunny. The forests take on their first autumnal tints and in the woods are wild mushrooms, raspberries and strawberries.


By Air
There are direct flights from the UK (London City airport) to Clermont-Ferrand. There are also flights from Paris and several other European cities. An alternative is to fly to Brive in the Limoges and hire a car. Brive /Aurillac is about 90 minutes.

By Road
Paris to Clermont-Ferrand takes about 4 hours.

By Train
There is no direct TGV service to the area from Paris. You could travel from Paris to Lyon by TGV (2 hours) and then catch a connecting train to Clermont-Ferrand and hire a car there. Regular trains from Paris to Clermont-Ferrand will take about 5 hours.

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