Things to see and do - Saint-Flour
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The Monts du Cantal
The Monts du Cantal
The roads crossing the Monts du Cantal mountains command breathtaking panoramas, boundless scenery and unspoilt nature... you never tire of.
For geologists, Cantal is Europe's largest stratovolcano, covering an area of 1,000 sq. miles after centuries of volcanic activity. Worn down by glacial erosion, these mountains, centred around Puy Mary, now form a series of sloping plateaus combined with luscious green valleys, making this remote area a treasure to explore.
The next day, head towards Saint-Flour, an ancient town perched high on top of basalt rock (part of the old lava flows). If the weather is good, there may be a bit of traffic but, no worries, the Touareg drives like a luxury sedan and you can easily weave your way through.
Cross the Truyère River again at Pont de Lanau before pausing to explore the old streets of Chaudes-Aigues, the town with Europe's hottest water source. In the past, the Par source was used to trim the hairs off pigs (parer is the French verb for "to trim") with almost boiling water gushing directly from this fountain. This water source is used for water cures as well as to heat the town inhabitants' houses.
On the border of the Aveyron region, you will reach the single lane Tréboul suspension bridge, an exceptional engineering structure. Luckily, the wide Touareg just passes through! At the end of the bridge, turn left onto the D65 which leads to Pierrefort, a large market town of basalt stone houses with lauze (roofing stone) roofs where many Auvergnats who have returned from Paris* own a home. Here, you'll find the Joffrois butcher shop which has been in the same family since 1890. These master butchers rear Salers and Aubrac cows, exclusively fed on grass from the high mountain pastures, and they also have their own slaughterhouse. Many Auvergnats based in Paris, like the Taffanel brothers of the famed Parisian brasserie La Rotonde, buy their delicious meat from them.
From Salers to Murat (56 miles)
Although you may be reluctant in leaving Salers, head out of the town on the D35 for an interesting drive in the charming valleys of the Maronne, Aspre, Bertrande and Doire. Things on the programme to keep an eye out for: trout and crayfish in the fast-flowing rivers, large farms built of basalt rock, herds of Salers cows, wooded little valleys, eroded cirques, a chateau at Tournemire and a Romanesque church at Fontanges...and otherwise, splendid unspoilt scenery.
On the return leg of the trip, stop in Murat: surrounded by three ancient volcanic chimneys, this old market town at an altitude of 3000 ft is worth the detour. Then head back to the A75 on N122 which is often cut out of the rock face and has fine views over Vallée de l'Alagnon.
* Due to rural hardship, a stream of Auvergnats left to seek work in Paris. Considered thrifty and hard workers, many bought small cafes which became the large Paris brasseries.
Beau Site (hotel-restaurant)
RN9, 15320 Garabit
Tel.: 04 71 23 41 46
Château de Varillettes (hotel-restaurant)
Tel.: 04 71 60 45 05
This small 15th century chateau was the summer residence of the St-Flour bishops.
Grounds and medieval garden.
Julhes - excellent handmade organic tripoux
rue Henri-Rassemusse - ZI de Montplain
Tel.: 04 71 60 11 42
Maison Joffrois - butcher shop
10 avenue Georges-Pompidou
Tel.: 04 71 23 31 80.
Family company established over 100 years ago. Specialities include: Aubrac and Salers meat, dried Auvergne beef (similar to Grisons meat) and dried hams and sausages.
L'Hostellerie Saint-Clément (hotel-restaurant)
Col de Curebourse,
Tel.: 04 71 47 51 71
Traditional cooking using fresh produce. Sweeping views of Vallée de la Cère.
Chambres d'hôtes de l'Asphodèle (B&B)
rue de la Martille
Tel.: 04 71 40 70 82
Rooms in a 16th century house in the centre of Salers. Daniel Gil knows the area inside out and will gladly plan trips for you.
Tel.: 04 71 40 71 95.
Quality Auvergnat cooking.
Restaurant Le Jarousset
Route nationale 22
Tel.: 04 71 20 10 69
Jérôme Cazaneuve and his wife cook up traditional dishes using Cantal produce.
Other establishments selected by the MICHELIN® Guide
Philippe Guarrigue, local guide since 1985
Tel.: 04 71 40 76 18
A qualified guide, Serge Cullet is also an ornithologist and has a deep interest in the medicinal use of plants. He offers all types of hikes and activities in Monts du Cantal and Vallée du Lot.
Tel.: 04 71 49 29 76. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cantal by Louis-Jacques Liandier. Éditions De Borée.
An excellent book without tourist clichés, and illustrated with magnificent photos.