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Country Roads Less Travelled


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There were times during the last few years that we thought we would never return to France. Our last trip was in 2018 and here we are, several years older and a little lacking in confidence, but at almost 70, we decided it was now or never. Our time was running out if we wanted to do what we love and depends on P, despite his slight apprehension, driving in France again.

It is a long flight from Australia and by the time we board in Singapore, it is way past our bed time, so we do manage to sleep. We arrived in Lyon at 9.45 on Thursday morning. Our Peugeot lease car was waiting and after some familiarisation we were ready. P had done a lot of street viewing and research and after stopping for fuel ( lease cars do not come with a full tank ) and some fruit and water, we set off for our first stop about 1.5 hours from Lyon. Once we turned off the busy main road it was a great feeling, and P had settled back into driving on the opposite side again as I was confident he would.

As our first gite was in the Dordogne, we decided on two one night stops to get there. Our first stop, just to get away from Lyon, was in the small village of Tence in the Haute Loire. We had booked a room through Logis de France in the small, comfortable Hotel de la Poste. Tence is an old village with narrow streets and a couple of churches and chapels. It is popular for fishing in the river. We had been looking forward to our first dinner and we had a lovely meal in the restaurant. The highlight was the fabulous chariot des fromages and the generous chariot des desserts. I think we over indulged but we slept well. Breakfast was equally generous with yoghurts, fruit, lovely fresh breads and cakes and a very big croissant, tea and coffee, and it set us up for the day. These small hotels and restauarants in small villages are often really good value.

We had a fairly big day ahead and the country was lovely – pine forests, lush green valleys and hills and beautiful views. We skirted around Le Puy en Velay which we visited several years ago and had a good view over the town. Once we turned off the main road we started seeing signs that told us we were in puy lentil country. It was quite foggy and very cold. We stopped in a couple of small villages to admire a bell tower with four large bells in one, and to visit the small church with beautiful painted ceiling in Fontans. The scenery was stunning as we descended down past a large viaduct and followed the Chapeauroux river through forests and past mossy rocks.

As we came nearer the Aubrac plateau we began to see walkers and Aumont Aubrac was busy with them. The Aubrac was as lovely as we remembered and still cold.. It was a quick descent down into St Come d’Olt. By then it was starting to warm up and we stopped for a break. We had visited in 2012 and were not really taken with it, perhaps because we had come from the gorgeous St Eulalie d’Olt, but this time we enjoyed our short visit much more.

After Espalion we stopped in Bozouls to visit the Trou de Bozouls which is quite impressive. We walked along the belvedere but did not drive down. It gives a good view across the crater to the church and other buildings on the other side.

We had a chambre d’hote booked in the village of Marcillac Vallon where we had a gite for a week in 2012. It seemed busier this time. After checking in we found the supermarket. As the nearest supermarket in the Dordogne did not open on Sunday, we wanted to stock up before we reached our gite. It had been a wonderful day with lots of fabulous scenery, pretty villages, old churches – everything we love about France.

The chambre d’hote was comfortable and the owner was lovely. By this time we were quite tired and content to have cheese and charcuterie and a bottle of wine there. We had a fridge so we could freeze some bottles of water for a cold bag the next day. Breakfast was not in the dining room but was a breakfast basket brought to the room in the morning. Once again we enjoyed fruit, yoghurt, croissant, lovely fresh baguette and jams. This was good value at 60 euro for the night.

Finally we were ready to begin the main part of the trip. After two one night stays we were really looking forward to settling in for a week. Just one more drive to go.


Chariot des fromages
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We left about 8.45 and once again it was a lovely drive. Our first stop was the pretty village of Bournazels. It has a large chateau which you see as you drive in, and then we had another view framed by a square with pruned trees in the village. We continued on through Capdenac – market day and closed roads. fter crossing the Lot river we stopped in Assier which has a large asymmetrical church and a 16th century chateau which is just a shell really. We had our first picnic in a park behind the church. Now we really feel we are back- pretty villages, large church, a couple of chateaux and a picnic lunch.

Our first gite was in the small village of Biron. Now I know the Dordogne is not really ‘roads less travelled ‘ but we were a little way from the Dordogne that most people gravitate to, the area around Sarlat. In fact we were almost into the Lot et Garonne. Our gite was a small, comfortable apartment with kitchen /dining, bathroom and bedroom with everything included. It was very well equipped and the welcome gift of prune cake and local honey was delicious and appreciated. The owner was very friendly but did not speak English so my rusty French was needed. We never go with the expectation that the gite owners will speak much English. There was a small area at the front where we could sit outside and watch the visitors to the pretty village.

On Sunday morning we went for a drive nearby. We stopped, walked over a small stream where there were several men fishing and into the tiny village of St Avit which has a small 13th century church. Then on to the village of Lacapelle Biron which was busy with a vide grenier. We bought a baguette at the epicerie and were pleased to also find a boucherie in the village. This would be very handy during the week and only a few kms from the gite. We then meandered on to Gavaudon with its impressive fortress on a high ridge- we visited in 2014. Here we came across the first of many stunning displays of wisteria. A loop past a small church, eglise de Laurenque, brought us back home in time for lunch as it started to rain.

After the rain cleared later, we wandered around the village and along the roads around the outside to get different views of the village and the chateau which dominates it. We marvelled at the skill from long ago in building such a huge chateau. Biron is like a village in two parts with the main part having the chateau and small halles and the other part over the road where there are more houses and the church ( not open ).

This week was really a welcome back to places we have visited before during our 2014 stay in the Dordogne and our 2016 stay in the Lot et Garonne. We just wanted to enjoy being back, re-discovering our favourite foods and beautiful villages and countryside.

Castillones is a bastide, one of several in this region and has a nice centre square with the large hotel de ville along one side. It was quiet on a Monday morning but the boulangerie was open for a baguette and some caneles, a speciality of the Bordeaux region. Villereal which was our closest supermarket and we parked on the edge and walked in. The halles here are magnificent with big solid timber posts and there are some lovely buildings of colombage surrounding the square. There is of course a large church with lovely sculpture behind the altar and a gold relic of a saint in a niche. We stopped at the supermarket for necessities such as washing liquid, shampoo etc (I bring small travel bottles to start) and , of course, our first duck magret. The lady at our chambre d’hote had been telling us about the crisis in the industry with bird flu, and we did have an occasional time during the trip where we could not find duck magret. But not today.

It was great after lunch at home to be able to walk up and visit the chateau when it opened . When viewed from the road, the foundations are massive. There are a few different styles of architecture making up the chateau. The rooms are not really furnished, with just a few pieces in some, but some of the rooms have beautiful wood parquetry flooring and wooden panelling on the walls, and marble fireplaces given to the chateau by Louis IV. Some rooms have terracotta tiles and the chapel has the tombs of the two brothers who built it. There are wonderful views from the rooms and the terraces.

It was quite cool and cloudy the next day when we drove up around Monpazier and on to Beaumont en Perigord which is another beautiful bastide with more wonderful halles and attractive church and gates. It was market day and we bought a pain d’epice from a stall selling honey products and a delicious piece of honey walnut slice.

After leaving Beaumont we went on to Molieres which is an unspoiled bastide with large square, large church and the ruins of a chateau. Our last stop was Montferrand du Perigord which is not a bastide, but has big halles and a steep walk up to the remains of a chateau. It was just the sort of day we enjoy with a mix of old and new places to discover and gorgeous country to drive through.

The weather was not great this week and we had a few overcast and showery days, but did have a couple of sunny late afternoons where we could sit outside with a glass of wine and just enjoy the view of this pretty village and have a chat with passing tourists now and then.

It was foggy and a bit showery on our way to Monflanquin. We had brought our household rubbish for disposal and found the bins locked and some sort of app/pass needed. So we brought it back and I more closely read the info at the gite to find that the owner would dispose of it. This was a first for us but have since been told it is like this in a couple of regions. Recycling is not affected. Anyway, on to Monflanquin where we parked near the church. This is another bastide and is built on a slope. The arcades are well preserved and on some sides, because of the slope there are steps down into the arcades. There was a film crew setting up and using drones, and a couple of people in costume and we were all dodging the showers. Even in the rain, though, it is a beautiful village. We came home through Lacapelle and stopped at the epicerie for a baguette, a cabecou, some white asparagus to have with our cuisse de poulet, and a ‘tranche de tete de cochon’. Now there is a phrase I never thought I would say!!!

After lunch we headed in the other direction up to Monpazier. Now this is a truly beautiful bastide. We enjoyed our walk around . There were roses growing around the couverts, and once again the halles are magnificent with big solid pillars. It was very quiet. We were not seeing a lot of tourists in places even though there were quite a few in Biron at times, probably because of the chateau.

Spring is such a lovely time. I have already mentioned the wisteria, the roses were also beautiful and there were lots of pots with bright flowers in villages everywhere. We were really enjoying the white asparagus which we do not see where we live, and the strawberries were just delicious. I reckon we had already eaten a kilo of them by this time!!

It was quite dull and bleak when we drove down to the chateau at Bonaguil. There is a small village and we parked there, not realising there was a car park at the chateau. But it was a nice walk up through the village to the imposing chateau. The tour is well marked and numbered and easy to do except for one part where we climbed stairs to nowhere. It is mainly ruins but there are several towers and terraces and courtyards and we climbed every set of stairs to the top. I wish I had counted how many steps we climbed. Then back down through the village to the car. We were pleasantly tired after that. We stopped in at the epicerie again as well as the boucherie for some toulouse sausages and some frittons de canard.

We also went for a drive across country along back roads past poly tunnels, and lots of piles of logs by the road. We passed through a couple of villages before arriving in Villefrance de Perigord which is another bastide built around the central square with open sided market halles and deep arccades. It is constructed in the beautiful golden stone common in the Dordogne. We then came home through Mazeyrolles which is a pretty little place. There was a bus full of older people and town dignitaries all dressed up in robes. We peeped into a room to find an old carriage and equipment and it seems there are more carriages and they do rides ( not today ). Hidden surprises like this are what we enjoy finding. It was a nice finish to our first week back which had been all we hoped.

Time to go for a last walk around the village, tidy the gite, get some supplies and fuel, plan our route for the next day, and enjoy a last sit outside under the umbrella with a glass of wine on Friday afternoon. Off to a new area tomorrow.



Villereal halles

Biron chateau




Montferrand du Perigord


Chateau de Bonaguil

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What a great trip and lovely photos. Thanks for the story.
Reminds me very much of the type of trip we like to do, only in Italy.
It seems that it was worth every hour of your long flights....

Once again it was quite foggy and bleak when we left Biron, but we still enjoyed the drive through Monflanquin and Cancon and we stopped for a baguette in the small village of Morbahus. We learnt very early in our travels to get a baguette when we see a boulangerie on our changeover days. We saw quite a lot of wheat growing and also people picking asparagus. After a while the country became less appealing as we were close to the Landes region but did see some attractive half timbered buildings.

We planned a stop in the small village of Labastide d’Armagnac which is very old and unspoiled. The centre square is not paved, just gravel and cobble stones but it is beautiful. There were roses growing against the couverts in bright colours- red, dark orange, gold through to yellow- and there are a couple of cafes and wine stores under the arcades which are topped with half-timbered buildings. The church is big with a high vaulted ceiling and an interesting feature is the large trompe l’oeil behind the altar. It really gives the impression of columns/pillars and urns in niches. It is a lovely place.

The drizzle followed as as we neared our destination for the next two weeks. We passed through forests with large trees with white blossoms that carpeted the road like snow. It was very pretty. Our gite was about three kms outside the small town of Monein about 25 kms from Pau. It was on the side of a hill and attached to large farm buildings and surrounded by grape vines. The owners, a retired couple a little older than us, lived a couple of hundred metres down the road. Once again, they were very friendly and did not speak English, but we managed. After the small apartment from the previous week, this was a lot larger. We entered via a lovely tiled terrace with views to the mountains and up stairs to the gite which had a large kitchen-living area and two bedrooms, bathroom and laundry. It was well equipped in the kitchen and there was a welcome gift of the local Jurancon wine. We looked over the wall of the terrace to Monsieur’s potager and he came up late afternoons to work in it.

It was still foggy and overcast next morning when we went into town to check out the shops and supermarket. The following day, Monday was the first of the May public holidays, and as Labour day, nothing would be open. Monein is a small market town with some shops in the village itself and an Intermarche on the edge of town, so perfect for our needs. After lunch the weather cleared and we went out for a walk further up the hill past our gite. There were grape vines everywhere and the views in both directions were lovely, and more of the white flowering trees dropping blossoms on the road.

On Monday it was once again misty and showery. It was never heavy rain, but just enough to be a nuisance, but by mid morning it started to clear. We went out for a drive around with our first stop in the small nearby village of Cardesse. The covered entrance of the church comes out into the road which has to bend to go around. Later in the week we came through as a funeral was gathering and it was quite crowded going through. This church is one of several which have a small low door reserved for the Cagots which were a persecuted minority in this region. Inside the church, the levels reminded me of churches we saw in the neighbouring Basque region. We then moved on to Lucq de Bearn where there are the ruins of an abbey beside the church.

Our destination was the village of Gurs which is the site of a large internment camp from the time around WW2. Over 60,000 people were interned there beginning with Spanish fighters from 1936-1939, and then Jewish people from Germany and Northern France. There are over 1,000 graves and a lot buried there were in their seventies and eighties. The remains of the train lines are still there as well as some recreated huts where the camp stood, with information signs. It was very moving to learn about this little known piece of history in this out of the way place. We then came home a different way and back through Monein. The road was quite hilly and winding but the scenery was wonderful. Another walk in a different direction took us past more grapevines, some beautiful blonde aquitaine cattle and lots of wildflowers and multi coloured daisies. Lovely. And as a bonus, the sun came out and we were able to sit on the terrace and revel in the view of the snow capped Pyrenees.

At last, a sunny day. We headed across to the plus beau village of Navarrenx which is an impressive fortified village with walls around. We followed the walk around the village and from the walls you can look out over the river and a statue of two musketeers. Apparently two of the brothers who were inspiration for Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers were from the village. We saw the small amphitheatre, the gunpowder store and the Arsenal which surrounds a large courtyard. It is now a gite for people walkng the camino.

Later we went across to Lacommande which is nice little village with an attractive park Unfortunately the Commanderie was not open but we could walk around it and see the cemetery. We stopped in at a wine cave and bought a couple of bottles of Jurancon wine.

It was another beautiful day when we took our first drive down to the mountains. It was a pretty drive down the Aspe valley from Oloron ste Marie with the little stream alongside. We stopped in Bedous and bought a baguette. We turned off the main road to go up to Lescun and as we climbed we could see the impressive mountains. Lescun is a small village with narrow streets and lanes and we walked past the church and the lavoir. It is a short walk up to a kiosk where there is an amazing view over the village to the bare mountains behind. Sitting on a rock surrounded by yellow wildflowers with the stunning view is a real ‘pinch me ‘ moment. We took a short drive for another perspective and luckily there was a picnic table so we had lunch with a view.

On the way home we stopped in at Sarrance where there is a monestery which is still in use. There are small, pretty cloisters with gardens and the church is beautiful with lots of gold, painted ceilings, and a beautiful gold embroidered altar cloth. As a sewer, I enjoy seeing these beautifully crafted items. It had been a lovely day, so warm and it showed 31 on the car. We put the umbrella up on the terrace and enjoyed a glass of local wine and the local cheese, Ossau Iraty. It does not get much better.

On the day we went into Oloron, we found a park that allowed us to walk to all we wanted to see. While not the most attractive town, it does have some pleasant areas, and has three quartiers which are centred around three churches. We walked over the pedestrian bridge which gives nice views up and down the river, and of the houses which overhang it. We then climbed up the escalier and walked around the Boulevarde de Promenade which goes around the hill to the Eglise Ste Croix. It is a lovely church with a large bronze statue of the Virgin Mary outside and carved gold altar up yo the ceiling. We also passed the Tour Grede ( not open ) and walked back down to the eglise Notre Dame. It is an imposing building in black and white stone and very dark inside with lots of dark green in the paintings and painted pillars and dark wood panelling. Very different from the previous church, but I liked it. It was then another walk uphill to the Cathedral Ste Marie. It has a very elaborate and decorative tympanum, and more painted pillars and an impressive organ with blue pipes. There is a tresor but we did not see it. By this time my legs needed a rest and a piece of the local speciality, La Russe, from the patisserie opposite was in order. It was like two layers of biscuity pastry with a creamy filling and very nice. We did enjoy our visit to Oloron but it is a bit scruffy and in need of some TLC in places I think.

One day we drove up to Orthez which is another larger town to the north. Once again parking was easy and we first walked down to the river to see the old bridge and walk on to it. Pity about the railway lines running past it. But it is attractive when viewed from the bridge further down. Then we walked up to the Tour Moncade which is all that rmains of the chateau. There are still signs where it was and the remains of the ramparts. Then back to the centre of town which, after Oloron, is really pleasant. It is all paved in front of the church with shops and cafes. We stopped in at the boulangerie for a baguette and were tempted by a leek quiche still warm from the oven. We enjoyed sitting in the sun on a seat opposite the large church before we walked back to the car.

On the way home through Monein, we stopped at the TO and booked a tour of the church later that afternoon. The church here, St Girons, is huge and we took the tour so we could go up into the roof and see the charpentes, the roof structure. We were the only non french people but we had a very good audio guide and the tour guide was also good and kept checking we were following. The first part was in the church itself and then we climbed the 72 steps up into the roof where the whole wooden framework is revealed. It is quite amazing and there was also a small light and sound show . It has been restored using the original methods and it is believed a lot of the original work was done by the Cagots who were often skilled tradesmen. Very enjoyable. By this time it was after 5 and when we came out there was a small market setting up and the village was buzzing. A young boy was playing a piano accordian and it was a great atmosphere with stalls with cheese and smoked goods and one selling curries. It was very pleasant day.

As there was more rain predicted later in the week, we decided to drive down the other valley, the Ossau. We drove down through the pretty little village of Lasseube and then on to Arudy which has a pleasant centre with a couple of cafes/bars and a channel of water running through the village. It had unusual structures along the side and we were not sure of their purpose. The church was busy on a Sunday morning. Then on to Bielle which was small but pretty. We crossed the river a little further on and had to stop as a flock of sheep was being herded along by large white pyrenean sheep dogs. It was lovely as we came back along the river and stopped in Castet where we walked up to the chapel with vaulted painted ceilings. There was a good view of the donjon from the cemetery and also over the village.

Monday was another public holiday – Victory in Europe. . We went up to Salies de Bearn which is an attractive town- very clean and tidy with well maintained streets and houses.. The river runs through it and the Pont de Lune gives a good view of the houses some of which have pillars. The town was quite busy, some shops were open and the band was setting up for the ceremony. The thermal quarter has thermal baths and a hotel, both attractive buildings, and the public gardens in front are being renovated and paved and will be very nice when finished.

We then continued on to Sauveterre de Bearn which is smaller. There is a large paved area in front of the Mairie and a terrace overlooking the river which continues behind the church. From here you can see the half bridge. Beside the church is a tower and then lots of steps lead down to the river. We walked up and onto the bridge which gives a good view back to the tower and walls. Another nice day out.

We enjoyed several drives around the area. One day we went up through Arthez which is only small but has a belvedere behind the church with nice views and a good boulangerie. It was a lovely drive – very rural with lots of cultivation rather than grape vines. Morlanne turned out to be a lovely little village. The church ( not open ) had a round tower at one end and a bell tower at the other. Opposite the church was another building with a communal oven in the courtyard and a tower which houses the village library. We walked down through the village past some pretty houses to the chateau. It was attractive and made of thin bricks and surrounded by a moat ( no water ). It was not open but we could walk around the grounds which included hedged gardens and quirky planters in the shape of animals.

This is not a region you see mentioned often on travel forums but we really enjoyed our stay here. We had hoped to go down to the Gorges of the Kakuetta but they were closed for the year after an accident last year. So now it is time to move on.

Labastide d'Armagnac


Gurs internment cemetery

Lescun and the Pyrenees


St Girons Monein


St Girons charpente


Sauveterre de Bearn


Morlanne chateau


Eglise Morlanne

We did not have a big drive from Monein so we planned a couple of stops along the way. I lost count of the number of roundabouts it took to go around Pau. Our first stop was in the village of Mielan which is a very old bastide with large stone halles and arcades with shops including a boulangerie for a baguette. A little further on was the tiny but gorgeous little village of Tillac. It has a gate to enter and a small street with arcades on either side. Marciac is a true bastide with a large open square and arcades all around. The church is magnificent. We had a picnic lunch beside the lake on the edge of town.

Our gite for the next two weeks was about three kms from the beautiful village of Fources. We had visited it in 2012 from our base near St Clar in the Gers. It has a small round centre around a grassed area with trees . There are antique shops, an auberge, wine store and small ( very ) epicerie. While our gite is listed as Fources, we found that we did not really go there much. We used to go along back roads in different directions. The gite was on a working farm and was bigger again with three bedrooms, large living area and large kitchen. It was well equipped and a welcome bottle of local white wine was in the fridge. It was ground level and had a tiled area along the front which looked over to three paddocks. One was planted with canola ( rapeseed in the UK and colza in France ), grapevines which continued up the hill and last, a paddock of young sunflowers about 30cm high. Michel, the owner did not live there but used to arrive in his white van each morning about 7 and be around all day. His wife came a couple of times and several days there were workers in the grapevines.

Our nearest shopping was in Condom and on Sunday we made the mistake of going in to the supermarket. We had not known there was a large music festival and there were masses of people, camping cars, tents on every available space and roads closed everywhere. On top of that the Intermarche was closed and when we found the Carrefour it turned out to not have some things we wanted. Not a good introduction.

After lunch we drove up to the nearby town of Mezin, passing through Villeneuve de Mezin where there is an imposing fortified church. Mezin is a bastide with arcades around the centre and a large church on one side. There are a few shops and a bar and cafe/ epicerie which do not do meals. It is a pity because the centre is appealing and would be nice to sit on the square for lunch. We then went on to Poudenas which has a bridge over the small stream that gives a good view of the Italianite chateau high above the village. We were not expecting much when we drove on to Sos which I had never heard of, but it was nice as well with more arcades, modern halles and a promising restaurant for lunch one day. We then took the road back to Fources and went in. There was a brocante in progress and lots of people. The auberge had a jazz band playing and a woman singing. It was an entertaining finish to a pleasant afternoon.

Next day was quite cold again as we headed down to Eauze which is about 25 kms south. It has a ring road lined with trees around the town which has a lovely small central square. Inside the church an impression of light and airiness prevails with a high vaulted roof and walls of light coloured thin bricks and stone. On the way home we stopped in the small village of Gondrin which has a tower attached to the church and some attractive buildings.

It is interesting to return to places you have visited before. We visited the nearby village of Montreal in 2012 but I could not really remember much. It is another bastide and is very pretty. The church is huge and appears fortified, but was closed for renovation. On the to way Larressingle, another plus beau village, we stopped at the pretty bridge, Pont d’Artigues over the Osse river. It is heritage listed as it is on the Route de Compostelle and two walkers arrived while we were there. It is a pretty spot. We did not get to Larressingle as a storm was approaching.

The country around the gite was covered in vines as well as an occasional wheat field. We had little back roads everywhere and one afternoon we followed a road a few kms to a sweet lttle church at Heux. It had painted ceilings and the view in all directions was gorgeous. Just down the road was the Domaine of an Armagnac producer so we decided to brave the cellar door, not something we do often because of our lack of French. But we were pleased we did. We were greeted by an elderly man who did not speak English, but we were managing quite well. It became easier when his grand daughter arrived, and we came away with a bottle of Floc de Gascogne and several bottles of their excellent wine. It was beautiful driving among the grapevines and we continued on to Laroque sur Osse with more fabulous views. On our way from Condom we used to pass a sign to pre-romane church so we went up a narrow road to see it. I love having the time to detour and you never know what you will find.

Nerac is a larger fortified medieval village to the north on the Baise river. It is a lovely town to wander around. There is a chateau which is a museum ( not open ), and as we crossed the new bridge we could see the older bridge. The eglise Saint Nicolas de Nerac has impressive columns in front and inside has magnificent stained glass windows and stone roof with painted ceilings. There are great views over the river and we walked through the old quartier to the old bridge, across it and up to the other church. Some of the buildings were the old tanneries and a lot are half timbered or small bricks. It is a lovely small town. We then continued on to Barbaste. There is not a lot to the village but it has a 12th century bridge and old mill beside it which is a beautiful view. A little further on is the bastide of Vianne which is enclosed by walls and has three gates. Inside is a lovely big square but no arcades. There were roses everywhere in some amazing colours. So many lovely places to see.

On Ascension Day public holiday we went into Condom. We parked on the Promenade which is very attractive with park and play equipment, seats and extends along to what is a very imposing war memorial. A short walk in brought us into the small historic centre. The cathedral Saint Pierre de Condom is huge, and has a lovely choir with statues around the edge and delicate cloister like arches. I have to say, France has magnificent churches. Next door are the cloisters. Outside the church are four larger than life statues of musketeers very popular for selfies as we waited to get a photo ( no selfie!). A better experience this time.

After lunch we then went for a drive along back roads. Nothing spectacular, just meandering through gorgeous country, stopping in pretty villages with a nice view from a belvedere, or a small 12th century church with a large clocher mur, or a bastide with a street of arcades and another interesting church. For others this may be tedious, but we love just wandering about. You never know what you may find.

We decided to go back to Sos, about 15kms away, for lunch one day, but when we got there the sign said Complet. We had passed through St Maure de Peyriac where there was also a promising restaurant, but had seen a large group going in and on the way back, another large group entering. So we decided to go back to the auberge in Fources. We were reluctant because the tables were very close together and we try to avoid that. But it was also complet. We went into the epicerie, if you could call it that, for a baguette, but the ones left were ordered and all she offered us was a dry, grey loaf sitting on the counter. It resembled something dug up from the nearby Gallo roman villa. We declined and headed home where we did not even have any stale baguette to toast. I had to get creative and we had a salad and some pate sat outside in the sun with a glass of wine and watched the workers among the vines. Not so bad after all.

After that discouraging morning we decided to visit the Gallo Roman villa at Seviac. This is the excavation of a villa which was in use up until the 8th century. It had been buried under what had become farming land and the farmhouses are still there around the perimeter. The shapes of the rooms with the stacked piles of stones for the heating systems can be seen and there are also the baths. What is really special are the extensive mosaic tiled floors that have been uncovered.

One day drove down to Valence sur Baise which is a pretty place with a large square and church and arcades. I have a book by Pierre Kaufman, Memories of Gascony, about visiting his grandparents’ farm at St Puy in the summer. It was busy with people setting up for a fete that evening with French and English flags everywhere. It has small , attracive steel halles and a cafe opening on to them. Once again, the country was beautiful. Not grape vines but still agricultural with fields of wheat and sunflowers which would be fabulous when flowering. There were poppies everywhere including scattered in the wheat. Last stop was Terraube which has a long street with a chateau at one end and a large church with flat front. It was a nice dayout.

Our wanderings one day brought us to the little village of Nomdieu. What a lovely little place this was with a church with an interesting tower, a garden of deep red roses in front, and fountain and paved area near the Mairie. We had been considering a gite near Laplume but settled on the one at Fources and were pleased we did. While it was quite nice in this area, we did love being among all the vines and lovely views where we were. As we were not far from Dunes, we continued on and this is yet another gorgeous village. It has a central square with arcades and the Mairie and then arcades all around, each a little different. Once again there were flowers everywhere in pots and hanging baskets. And a good boulangerie as a bonus.

We finally did go back to Larressingle which is a tiny little village but very pretty. It is surrounded by a moat and has a gate to enter. Unfortunately it was packed with walking groups and a guided tour, so we did not linger once we had seen everything. Another place we had visited in 2012 was La Romieu and it is now a plus beau village. We took a lovely scenic drive via back roads through grapevines and wheat fields, past little chapels, over a canal and parked on the edge of the village. The main street goes past the wonderful church with cloisters and large tower. There are arcades and cafes and a man was playing a piano accordian. Very pleasant. We climbed the tower in 2012 so did not need to do that. It is also on the route for walkers and there were several in the village.

We had been having small storms in the afternoon and our host encouraged us to park in the farm building beside the gite. One afternoon it looked especially threatening but we did not end up with much. However on the way to Lectoure the next day it had obviously been more severe with tree branches on the road and small slippages from the banks at the side of the roads. On the road between Condom and Lectoure we passed a wheat field that was just a sea of poppies. It was magnificent, although I suspect the farmer may not have been so appreciative. We enjoyed Lectoure. It has a long main street with lots of shops, a great fromagerie with a great display of goats cheese. The cathedral is the main thing to see with its big square tower, but there are also ramparts and some nice old buildings such as the grain halles.

Our time was coming to an end. Once again, this is a beautiful region with so much to see. I have only touched on some of it. We really enjoyed our time on the working farm and driving around the gorgeous country and stopping in lovely villages. It is, of course, Armagnac country, lots of duck, delicious chicken, good wine, and we did eventually get lunch out. Perfect.



Pont d'Artigues




Musketeers Condom




Our Saturday change over day took us back through Nerac and across into the Lot past Lauzerte, through Castelsagrat, past Montcuq where we spent two wonderful weeks in 2018. Once we went around Cahors, the country started to change with little or no cultivation. We kept looking for a picnic table but not easy to find, and ended up in the car park in Payrac where we had lunch on 2018. This time a convenient rock in the shade became our table. Our destination this week was Uzerche and we arrived with time to fill before we could check in to our gite so we went for a walk along the river. It was busy with canoeists paddling the course on the river. It was a long time since we had been to Uzerche on a day trip in 2008, so it was like our first visit.

Our gite was a small apartment under the owner’s house in town with a view of the old town from the terrace. It had a kitchen/dining area and bedroom both opening on to the terrace and bathroom. The owner was lovely and did speak some English. Our welcome gift of biscuits and local apple jelly delighted P who was missing a biscuit with his cuppa. We do not tend to buy them in France for some reason. There were chickens wandering in the garden and a comfortable terrace with table and chairs, lounge seats and sails for shade. It had everything we needed for a comfortable stay.

Next morning, the old town looked stunning bathed in sunlight and viewed from the terrace. It was a lovely drive to Treignac with very different country from last week. It was rolling hills, no grapes or cultivation, but fields of cattle and lots of hay bales. Treignac was quite busy on Sunday morning and there other tourists around. We found a good viewpoint to look over the old bridge. It is a nice village and very tidy with some lovely houses. We then drove on to Chamberet where the houses were different being constructed of light stone and with slate roofs.

It was then a very picturesque drive to Masseret where there is tower remaining from a 12th century chateau. We did climb the 100 steps up the tower and were rewarded by fantastic 360 degree views around. After lunch at home we walked over to the old part of town. We began at one end and it was quite steep getting up there and then we walked along the street and ramparts to the centre. There are lovely buildings but no commerce other than a hotel and restaurant, and then some shops along the main road through. It was then a quick, steep walk back up to our gite as the sky was very black.

Next day, another public holiday, we went down to the village of Correze. It was a nice drive, first along a bigger road and then on a narrow road through the forest. Correze is another pretty village with old houses with slate roofs, an attractive gate and church. On the edge of the village is a small chapel, Chapel Notre Dame du Pont Salut, beside a pretty bridge over the Correze river. We then continued on to Gimel les Cascades. Here there are cascades on private property which can be reached by a steep walk down. We also walked the other way along the river and saw pretty cascadelles and had a pleasant walk back to the village over the pont de peage. The church is quite small but has a tresor which included a beautiful, intricate, detailed box made in Limoges 1170- 1175. Amazing.

One day we went for a wander around a few villages. Lubersac is a pleasant village with a chateau and another large church with sloping floor. Once again the country was lovely, nicer than down round Gimel we thought. More rolling hills, agriculture and hay bales, and apple trees. We had a good view of the plus beau village of Segur le Chateau as we drove in. The church was on the edge and barricaded off. The village is very pretty with the river running through it and there are some really nice old houses with interesting features. Some used to have shops below and there are explanatory boards around which was useful. There is an old mill by the bridge and a good view of the chateau ruins.

We parked in front of the chateau in Pompadour, and stopped in at a charcuterie where we bought a Tourte Pompadour for morning tea and delicious it was – a tart of mashed potato, duck confit, foie gras with puff pastry lid. Pompadour is all about horses and equestrian activity and there is Haras du Pin based here. We walked into Le Puy Marmont which used to be the potager for the chateau and is now the equestrian stadium with elegant chestnut trees lining the walks. The chateau was not open so we decided to return another day for that. It was only a few kms on to the small hamlet of Arnac where there is a large Abbiatale, Romanesque in style. It has magnificent capitals from the 12th century.

Last stop was Vigeois which also has a large Abbiatale which is quite simple inside. We are always amazed to find these huge churches in otherwise small villages. We followed the signs to the old bridge and drove and walked across it. What a lovely day out and the weather was very warm, perfect for a walk after dinner outside on the terrace.

We went back one afternoon to visit the chateau at Pompadour. Once inside the grounds there is a good view of the chateau and an extensive balustrade around the edge with a view of the race track. Inside there are several furnished rooms with Louis IV chairs, limoges porcelain and mannequins wearing sumptuous costumes. The library has a large collection of leather bound books relating to horses and equestrian activities and stud books. Once outside again we first went into the small Marquise’s stables where there were a couple of horses , one with the fabulous name of Gatsby le Magnifique. There is a large courtyard which overlooks the larger Orangerie stables and in the stables we were surprised to find quite a lot of beautiful horses stabled. It was a most enjoyable visit.

We went back for another walk around the old town and went in through the gate which was beautiful in the sunshine. The church inside is quite plain and simple and we also found the 11th century crypt. The arches we could see from our gite are under the old boys’ school. After lunch we went for another drive around stopping in some small villages. Salon Tour has a 12th century donjon, a nice drive to Meuzac which has a picturesque lake on the edge of town, and St Germain les Belles where there is a fortified church and a tower nearby. Henri IV heard girls singing here, hence the name. The church is modelled on the Palais des Papes in Avignon.

On our last day we drove down to Allassac where it happened to be market day. It was only small but there was a large poissonier where we bought some silvery sardine fillets for dinner. It is a nice looking town with a tower and interesting church with vaulted ceiling, ornately carved wood and a tresor. We then drove on to Le Saillant where there is a beautiful bridge. We are big fans of the old bridges we see in France and often detour just to see one. This one was especially picturesque with parks on either side, and the river flowing very gently under it. There were river grasses with white flowers being washed down by the flow and it was very serene and beautiful. It was a lovely drive back past lots of orchards and through Vigeois again. Another storm was building up.

Another great week was over. This seems to be the less visited part of the Correze with the more well known parts around the plus beaux villages of Collonges la Rouge, Turenne etc to the south being more mentioned. But there is still plenty to see up in this area and Uzerche was a good base. Time to pack up and head across to the Cantal.​




Tour de Masseret

Tresor Gimel les Cascades

Chateau pompadour


Thank you so much for such a comprehensive trip report. I was so moved that you visited the Gurs internment camp and that you posted a photo of the cemetery. Many of my relatives were interned in Gurs and my grandfather is buried there. I hope to visit the area on one of our future trips to France.
Did you book all your stays via Logis de France?
Our visit to Gurs was quite moving. I suspect not many people have heard of it, so it is nice to hear of a personal connection, even though it is a sad memory for your family.
We stay in self catering and all our gites were booked through Gites de France

There were a few option for routes to our next gite in the Cantal. We chose to go down past Tulle, Argentat and through Salers. We had a gite near here in 2016. It was a slow but very scenic drive past Puy Mary which we climbed last time. Our gite for two weeks was in the small hamlet of Moissac about 11kms past Murat. It was a two bedroom gite with kitchen, dining, living on the ground floor, large bedroom and bathroom on the second floor and another bedroom with two beds on the third. It had a terrace in the front which looked out over the countryside and the gite was very comfortable and well equipped with a welcome gift of biscuits and fruit juice. The owner was very nice and did not speak English. About three kms down the hill was the larger village of Neussargues which had some shops – a Spar superette, hardware, boulangerie, excellent boucherie, hotel, bar and post office. On the edge of town was a modern fromagerie specialising in the very good cheeses of the Auvergne and regional products. We have had cheeses from the Auvergne over the years, but we were interested compare cantal and salers cheeses. Both are made with milk from the Salers cattle, but cantal is made from milk from hay fed cattle (Nov 15 to April 15), and Salers from milk from cattle which have been on summer pastures. They are both delicious with Salers having a more grassy/herbal undertone. I suppose the amount of wild flowers in the pastures is also a factor.

Moissac itself was charming hamlet with well kept houses, a small chateau, a four banal ( communal bread oven ) and a lovely little church. The church was locked but our owner had the key and during the week we had a private tour of the church. The four banal is still used several times a year for celebrations. I would love to be there when that happens.

The supermarket in Murat did not open on Sunday so we came prepared and did not need to shop, and spent the morning pottering around small farming villages below Neussargues. The plateau was very scenic with lots of agriculture- some crops and paddocks of dairy cattle. There were wildflowers everywhere. The boulangerie was very good and we had the first of several pieces of patisserie for morning tea or dessert – a delicious Paris – Brest. After lunch we went in the other direction to Chalinargues which has troughs and channels which were used for cattle. There was an nice looking auberge for future reference. By this time we were up on another plateau and it was beautiful with great views. We were not the only ones stopping for a photo of red Salers cattle with bells around their necks. We had hoped to visit the first of several small chapels but could only see it from a distance and we came back the same way as it was looking very stormy.

On Monday we went into Murat. We had been around the edge a couple of times on previous trips but did not stop. We visited the TO for a map and went for a wander. We thought Murat was lovely. The buildings are of dark grey stone with shutters and it was very clean and tidy with several cafes and retaurants. There were pots of bright flowers everywhere adding to the charm. As it is on a hill, the different levels and steps up and down make it interesting. Just out of town is the Chapel Saint Antoine perched on a hill overlooking the town and across to another hill with a large statue of the Virgin Mary. We parked at the bottom and walked up the hill, a walk of 10-15 minutes. The view from the top was fabulous and the sweet little chapel had vaulted ceilings and frescoes on the walls. The photo itself was marred by a woman who had climbed the bell tower and sat there the whole time we and a large group of walkers were there.

That afternoon we drove up to the nearby town of Allanche which, being Monday, was very quiet. We continued on to find another little chapel, Chapelle Chanet ,which was out in the country, down a little road, and we ended up having to ask directions from a lady at a farmhouse. But we did find it and it was very pretty- very old, 1350, with a rough rocky roof. This is the most gorgeous country. It was different from the other side of Puy Mary and we just fell in love with the views and the plateaux and all the wildflowers.

The next day we went back up through Allanche and out to the nearby Cascades des Veyrines. What a lovely spot. We walked down to the cascades which had plenty of water flowing over them and the country around was covered in a yellow flowering shrub and lots of wildflowers. Once again we marvelled at the stunning scenery as we continued on through small villages. In one, several groups in team shirts were gathering for petanque tournament. By this time it was late afternoon and we came back through Chalinargues where we stopped at the auberge and asked if they do a menu du jour. Yes, 16euro. Looks good for lunch one day.

On Wednesday we drove up through the larger town of Massiac and turned off to go to the Chapelle Sainte Madeleine. We were stopped for several minutes while a farmer moved cattle from one paddock to another. P took the opportunity to photograph the chapel which is perched on the edge of a precipice. It is an easy walk from the carpark and once again , a marvellous view.

After stopping at the Intermarche we continued on to the plus beau village of Blesle in the Haute Loire. We visited this in 2012 on a cold bleak day in April. Now on a warm sunny day in June it felt very different. It is a beautiful village. The church has a blue painted ceiling, there is a clocktower, some attractive houses with towers, the donjon from a chateau, and interesting doors and lintels. We crossed over the pretty stone bridge to the other side for a good view back to the village, and down to the small chapel. We came home the scenic route along the stream and the gorges of the Sianne. It was a very narrow road but we only met a couple of cars and motorbikes. It had been a wonderful day out. We stopped at the boucherie for a fricandeau ( small pate de campagne ) to have with salad for dinner.

It was another warm day as we set out to see the Chateau d ‘Alleuze. On the way we stopped in Le Sailhant where there is an impressive chateau of dark stone with towers. We approached by back roads and had a good view across to it before we stopped for a closer look. It was open, but for guided tours only which we find difficult. It is built on a rock and towers over the village and stream.

Further along the narrow winding roads we came to the Chateau d’Alleuze which is built on a large rock and is stunning. It is a ruin but still quite lovely. Opposite is another small chapel and cemetery. The country continued to impress and the farmers were busy baling hay as we did a loop back through La Ternes where there is another attractive chateau beside a small Romanesque church. It is also in dark stone with towers and belongs to the commune. It is not open but the grounds are a park. We had parked in front of the boulangerie there and could not resist buying a sacrosanct – a pastry with sticky red praline.

We went back into Murat for another visit and it was market day. Down the bottom was household goods and plants etc and up in front of the large church were the food vendors – lots of cheese. We came home and went up to the auberge in Chalinargues for lunch which was very pleasant. Later that afternoon, Madame opened the 12th century church for us to see. It has frescoes and paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries, and an unusual feature was seating above called the Tribune. There is a tombstone for a pelerin which has five symbols – the cross, the coquille, the baton (for walking), the poche ( pocket or pouch ) and a loaf of bread with a hole to sit it on the baton. It was fascinating. She also told us that Moissac has been inhabited for centuries , first in caves and then by the Romans.

Saturday morning was a bit showery so we just went down to the village for a baguette, some patries of course and some stuffed cabbage leaves for dinner from the boucherie. We were enjoying having this excellent boucherie so handy, and he was a friendly, helpful man and interested in what we were doing. It all cleared away and after lunch we headed back down to see the Viaduc de Garabit which was built by Gustav Eiffel. We took the scenic route through St Flour and checked out parking for later in the week. The viaduct is quite impressive , painted red and looks great over the water. We viewed it from both sides. We decided to do a loop home but this may have been a mistake. Shortly after leaving the viaduct it began to rain and just got heavier. It would have been a scenic drive but we could see nothing and had to stop a few times until it eased a bit. Eventually we left it behind us. As we passed through one village we stopped and admired a cavalcade of about twenty Citroen traction cars ( I think ) drive by.

On Sunday we stopped in the village again, this time for two cuisses de poulet, a baguette and a millefeuille for dessert. It is a very good boulangerie. Once again we drove up through Allanche and found the parking area for a natural phenomenon called the Chaos de Landeyrat. The walk down through the forest was a bit overgrown but eventually we started seeing the rocks. It is quite amazing and a lot bigger area than we had expected. A lot of the rocks, or boulders really, are rectanglar and hexagonal in shape like pillars. Back up on the road we could see the basalt cliffs that the rocks had come from centuries ago.

It was not far down to St Flour and parking is very easy. The view of the old town from the new town below is impressive. It is all nicely paved on the way into the old centre where there is a large cathedral in dark stone and several attractive buildings around it. However, they are re -paving the whole Place des Armes in front of the cathedral and it was full of machinery, piles of pavers, workmen. Everything was fenced off except for a small walkway into the church. We came away a little disappointed and we both much preferred Murat.

We stopped in at the village nearly everyday and Wednesday there is a small market. We stopped for a chat with Madame who was lined up at the fruit and vege stand. We popped in to the boucherie for some pounti ( Cantal speciality ) for dinner before going back through Murat and up to the the pretty village of Cheylade. It was a climb up to about 1200m and back on to the plateau. How can I describe this gorgeous country. It was lush and green , an occasional stone building, cattle grazing and everywhere the wild flowers – purple, white, yellow and red poppies. The reason for our visit was to see the small church where the big feature is the ceiling. It is comprised of hundreds of small painted tiles of animals, plants, people, the sun. it was worth the drive. We came back through Allance yet again, on a different road over pretty bridge and we finally found the Romanesque church which has beautiful carved doors – Faith Hope and Charity. The boulangerie there invited a look and we came away with two pieces of flan. We have had a lot of flan nature, but this time we bought a piece of myrtille and framboise. We love flan and I have finally found a recipe I am hoping will be similar.

On our visits to Murat we had seen a creperie and decided to go for lunch. I have to say, this was the best galette and crepe we have had in our travels in France, including Brittany. The galette had jambon, cantal, egg, blue cheese sauce and salad, and the dessert crepe was pear, walnuts, butter caramel sauce and caramel chantilly. So good accompanied by a pichet of cider. Sitting outside surrounded by the lovely buildings and pots of flowers was perfect. We had been considering a gite south of Murat and after lunch we drove down that way. It was quite high and looked over a pretty valley to the Plomb du cantal which is another hill popular to climb.

Our two weeks was coming to an end. We made a visit to the boulagerie for a baguette and a slice of citron insert framboise for dessert and a last shop at the boucherie. On our first visit to the boucherie we came away with plans to try a lot of things. One day he had a large mound of tender looking cuisse de lapin ( rabbit ) and when we went back the next day there was one left, well two really, which he chopped in half. That night I braised them in white wine and mustard with veges and some white asparagus from the Spar. We had planned one dish from his range of prepared food but it sold very quickly. At last, on our last day we were lucky and came away with slices of tongue in sauce. Yes, I can see people shuddering but it was delicious and as we enjoyed it for dinner, we raised a glass to what had been some wonderful food from the boucherie in this small village.

The Auvergne ( now part of the larger region Auvergne Rhone Alpes ) is an area that does not get a lot of mention on forums, although it is popular with French tourists. It is a beautiful area with stunning and varied landscapes, pretty villages and towns, lots of chateaux and great food. Perhaps it is because people see it as somewhere you have to go through to get to the more well known and popular places on the perimeter of France and that is all. Since we began visiting France in 2006, we have spent six weeks in the four different departments and enjoyed them all. So if you are looking for somewhere new, consider the Auvergne.

Cascade des Veyrines


Chapel Ste Madeleine




Chateau d'Alleuze

Viaduc de Garabit
Eglise Cheylade
THE LOIRE ( Department, not the valley! ) -11 NIGHTS

We were sorry to be leaving Moissac because it meant we were on the last leg of our trip with only eleven days to go. We travelled up past Issoire and detoured off through Chateldon and could see the chateau as we drove in, but it cannot be seen once in the village. However there are some attractive half timbered houses and a gate with a clocktower. It was a nice stop for a break. We also detoured to Busset and here we could see the huge chateau. On the way in we had seen signs for the fete de musique that evening and as we walked round to the entrance there was a band rehearsing, playing one of P’s favourite songs, America’s Horse With No Name. The chateau is not open- it may have been a hotel once, not sure – but we could wander into the grounds with the band playing music. Very pleasant. Unfortunately we could not stay for the evening as we still had further to go.

Our last gite was in the gorgeous little village of Le Crozet, about 25 kms from Roanne, which is the centre of a small wine growing region. We chose this area as our last base because it is an easy drive to Lyon airport to return home. When I began researching it however, I found it difficult because everything kept going back to the Loire valley. Our gite was in the village down a very narrow street and was a small two bedroom cottage with both the living area and main bedroon opening out into the back yard. I had had difficulty contacting the caretaker – no email and she never answered the phone – but she was quite nice. We think the gite may have been owned by the mairie because one day another woman came in and watered the pot plants in the back yard and someone mowed the small grassed area one day when we were out. It was very comfortable, well equipped and nice and cool inside even when warm outside.

On Sunday we went up to Lapalisse where we first walked to the attractive public gardens where we had a good view of the chateau towering over the village. The church bells were ringing and people arriving for church when we walked up to the chateau. Once there we could go into the grounds and had a lovely view of the chateau which is open for guided tours only. It appears to be empty but is quite attractive.

After lunch at home we went down to the nearby village of Ambierle. For the whole of the trip, the country had been lush and green with no sign of the drought we had heard about. Here, however, it was a lot drier. On the drive in we could see the superb tiled roof of the large church. The roof is stunning and as we walked around the church we could see it from different angles. Attractive tiled roofs such as this are a feature of buildings in the nearby region of Burgundy eg the Hotel Dieu in Beaune. Inside, the church is equally attractive with large golden sandstone pillars, relief carvings, a and superb carved choir stalls from the 15th century. There used to be a priory attached to the church and large attracive buildings and courtyards are still there as well as a gate. We enjoyed our visit there as well as to the next village of St Haon le Chatel. It was a narrow drive in to the village which has the remains of a donjon, ramparts, nice old houses and a church with frescoes.

Unfortunately we lost a couple of days because P became unwell - nothing serious but it laid him low for a couple of days. So I enjoyed several walks around our gorgeous village which could easily be a plus beau village.

Once he recovered we drove across to Charlieu. On the way we stopped at La Benisson – Dieu where there is an old abbey, once again with a marvellous tiled roof, and in a picturesque setting. As we neared Charlieu we crossed the canal and the Loire river. Charlieu itself is a pleasant town with half timbered buildings and some in golden sandstone. There is also a Clunisien abbey with lovely cloisters with gardens, a chapter house and the foundations of 12th century church. There was a large sarcophagus from the 2nd century. How amazing. The exquisitely carved tympanum above the door is from the 12th century. The history never ceases to amaze us wherever we go. There is also a large church in golden sandstone.

We sat down recently and looked at our photos from the whole trip, and it is not until you look at them en masse that you realise how much the churches differ from each other and from region to region, just how much variety there is and how each one has something special. I think I will remember everything, but of course, I don’t.

One day we drove down past Ambierle and crossed over the Loire again and continued down the other side until we came to the Chateau de la Roche. This is in a very pictureque position on the river and is fairy tale looking with towers. Unfortunately, at that moment, the river was not flowing ( there is a dam nearby ) and the river was covered in green algae which spoiled the photo. We will have to pretend the chateau is surrounded by lawn and not water!!

A little further on is the small village of Pommieres where there is an old priory. We had a good view from the edge of town before visiting it. It had a few purposes over the years – as a priory, then when the monks were expelled it was owned by a family who turned it into apartments, then bought by a woman who turned it into a place of rest for clergy, until it was finally bought by the department and restored.

We had an auberge in the village and when we had returned a few times around lunch it was not busy. So one showery day we decided lunch was in order and about 11.30 we went up to see if the menu du jour was out. The outside terrace was already full and more arriving. Complet. The story of our trip. So we decided to go for a drive to a restaurant we had been considering in another village. . However as we came down the hill to La Pacauderie, the closest village to Le Crozet ( about 3kms ), we passed the bar where the plat du jour was roast pork and lentils. So we stopped and were pleased we did. The entree was salade composee with smoked salmon, the roast pork and lentils was delicious with a red wine and eschalot sauce, and dessert was pannacotta with raspberry coulis. A pichet of red wine, coffee to finish and more amazing value at 35.60 euro. You cannot beat it. La Pacauderie is a nice little village with some attractive buildings on the corners opposite the bar. There are some small courtyards which are named for the businesses which used to be there – Cour de l’epicier, cour de la forge, cour de la sabotier. We enjoyed our lunch so much we went back on our last day.

One day we went for drive up into the edge of Burgundy and into the Allier. The country is very pretty with rolling hills and farms , little hamlets and villages. We stopped for a walk in several- Sail les Bains with a sweet little church ( not open ), Montaiguet en Forez with a fortified gate and an attractive chateau . Jaligny sur Bresbre has a large chateau with high walls, but it is a village that has passed its heyday sadly. After lunch we drove in the other direction down to St Germain Lespinesse which has nice pigeonier in the centre and a church that has been beautifully painted by a family of Italian painters . Last stop was Perreux which has a big church opposite the large chateau of golden stone, and some attractive half timbered houses. The Tour de France was going to be passing through and the streets were decorated with bikes, flags and jerseys. Exciting for the area.

We had been considering a gite a little further north in Chambilly in Burgundy, but we had been around the area on day trips on other trips, so decided to be a little further south. But we love the area and did need a little dose of Burgundy magic. So we drove up through Chambilly and on to Marcigny which is a small pleasant market town we had not visited before. The centre is really appealing with lots of trees around the square where we found a good park in the shade. There are some nice old buildings in stone and colombage, and a lovely golden stone church. There is a museum housed in a lovely stone building with a tower – La Tour du Moulin . We enjoyed this busy little village. And we enjoyed following the canal back, crossing a few times before reaching Charlieu.

On our second Sunday we followed a green scenic road which was a very pretty drive and ended in the very small village of Chatel Montagne where there is a wonderful church. It is another established by the abbey in Cluny and has an interesting feature. Inside the church, a glass case contains the mechanism for the clock on the tower. From the case there are ropes up to the clock and two big weights. And ropes to the bells. In July and August there was a light and sound show some evenings. On the way home we stopped in the larger village of Mayet de Montagne which was busy and the church bells were ringing. We bought our last meal of merguez sausages from the busy boucherie.

Over the years we have had wine from Saint Pourcain sur Sioule and had planned to visit in 2020 from our base in the Allier. That went out the window, so as we were not far we decided to visit. It was a Monday so some shops closed, but it is quite pleasant. Once again it has a large abbatiale with two towers with slate tiling. These two towers appear on a lot of official documents as well as a lot of wine labels. We enjoyed our visit and finished with a last piece of flan, this time white chocolate and coconut.

It was a nice drive home through the countryside with lots of cultivation, mainly corn and wheat, and some pretty villages. We stopped in Billy which has an imposing chateau and a small medieval part of town. The chateau was a military fortress and has several round towers from 12th to 14th centuries.

One last drive took us down to the village of St Andre d’Apchon where there is another church with beautiful tiled roof. It was very clean and tidy village with a small lake and large town square beside it. There is also a chateau with tower and on the front it had several round cameos with what looked like Roman heads. Time to go home and pack our bags, get rid of assorted bits and pieces we would not bring home and enjoy our last day in the village. We had enjoyed our stay in another new area.

Next day we drove back through Charlieu and through the Beaujolais region where we passed through roundabouts decorated for the Tour. It was quite warm and looking dry. Our flight did not leave until about five and was delayed by 15 mins. That was a bit of a worry as we had a short transfer time in Frankfurt, but was not a problem. When we emerged in Brisbane I heard a little voice call out ‘ Bonjour Grandma and Grandad ‘, and there was our son in law and our beaming six year old grandson. It was nice to be home.

Well , what can I say. It had been another wonderful trip and just what we enjoy. We had a mix of old and new places, lots of fabulous scenery and beautiful small towns and villages and of course some great food. I know our travel style will not appeal to a lot of people but that is fine. We feel very fortunate that over our eight trips to France since 2006, we have been able to visit not only areas such as Provence, the Dordogne, Loire Valley etc., but have also been able to spend a lot of time in less well known regions. There is a lot to offer everywhere and it is worth spending time in these regions. There is still plenty to see and often you see a different side to France from what you get in the more touristed areas. We booked all our gites through Gites de France and they were all great and very economical, and we were happy we chose the locations we did. If you want to travel for longer and not break the bank, this is the way to travel. We were also happy with our leased Peugeot 2008. We had said this could well be our last trip, but P has slipped up a few times and said ‘ next time ‘ , so perhaps the door is a still a little ajar !! Here’s hoping.

Happy travels everyone​

Lapalisse chateau


Le Benisson Dieu

Le Crozet


Chateau at Billy​
What a lovely, inspiring report! Thank you so much for the detail you have included. My husband and I leave in less than two weeks (10th Sept) and will spend three weeks in Greece before flying to Lyon. Let me encourage you... every time we go (and we have been travelling often to Europe now since 2011) we think it might be the last time, but now we are 75 and 79 and still going strong. We are pretty healthy, my husband drives very well on the 'other' side of the road now, and apart from the long flights, I can't see any reason not to keep going. We now take an overnight stop in Dubai to break the trip from Queensland. So keep positive, you are young at heart and can keep going for a long time. One year we met a 100-year-old lady in Istanbul - still travelling - and another time a couple in their 90's on an outlying Greek island. I am already planning next year!!

You mentioned other previous trips. Have you done trip reports from those? We have travelled in the areas you mentioned in this recent one (although now I feel we have to go back and investigate the places you talked about). This time it is only 3 1/2 weeks between Lyon and Nice (a week in Burgundy (in an apartment in Beaune), a few days in Lyon, down to our favourite town Uzes, then over through Provence and the Var (a week in an apartment in Cotignac) to then fly out from Nice.
If you have done any trips that include those areas (or any others) I'd LOVE to see your reports.

Thank you again!
I do have others here, 2014, 2016 and 2018 but I think you will find you have read some of my reports elsewhere.

I think our nervousness was a result of the enforced hiatus that was Covid. Normally we would have done two trips in that time and we were out of practice. It was also about P feeling comfortable driving on the opposite side again after almost five years. However, he settled back into it quickly and with no problems. So we are now thinking about this time next year to return and have already begun looking at gites.

Have a great trip and do come back and report. It is always interesting to read what others do.
Oh dear, I didn't realise it was you and that I had really enjoyed your previous reports. So glad you are feeling confident and planning next year. We are both so lucky to have husbands who are happy to drive, it makes such a huge difference to the way we can travel. I'll try to do a report this time. I used to do them for every trip and have become lazy about since since we started using facebook to upload photos and keep in touch.
Pauline, we were about 70kms from Lourdes but did not visit. In 2016 we were about 30 kms away when we stayed in Luz St Sauveur. Even then we did not visit. So yes, if I am honest, we did avoid it. It held no real appeal for us. I suppose we should have just to say we have been there.

Yes, we love France. We did think this would be our last trip. It is such a long way from Australia. but we are now thinking about one more, possibly April to June in 2025. That is all being well not only with us but the hopefully with the world in general.

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