Sometimes, as we all know, words and static images just aren’t adequate to capture a feeling or an impression you get in a faraway place – we need to see movement and the passing of time to get a better feel for what it might be like to visit a place we’ve never experienced for ourselves.
Since I started this blog, I’ve put a lot of effort into explaining what the “deep heart of France” means to me. You’ve heard why I love Clermont-Ferrand and the Auvergne, and you’ve seen some of the towns officially recognized as being among “the most beautiful villages of France” – places like Blesle, Charroux, Arlempdes, and Salers.
If you’ve stuck with this blog for long, you’ve also had a taste of some of central France’s best cultural offerings –
Or maybe you’re drawn to this region, far from the touristy centers of Paris, by the richness of its history --
that day Clermont-Ferrand was capital of France, for example, or how an event in a local church launched the Crusades to the Middle East, or how a local tribe defeated Julius Caesar’s army in a famous battle. That history has left a mark on the architecture that survives in France’s “deep heart”, from the richness of its Romanesque churches to the great medieval castles and creations by Gustav Eiffel that can be found here and here.
This week, though, I want to share some of the best internet videos I’ve found about the Auvergne. Here you’ll get a flavor of the energy, the movement, and the extraordinary natural beauty behind all the words and static images you see on this blog. And you’ll get a different perspective on why I love the “deep heart of France” and keep coming back to it so often!
1. The most professionally-produced overview I’ve seen of Clermont-Ferrand is called “48 Hours in Clermont”. It follows a young woman as she walks around the city’s most iconic sights – the medieval center, parasailers flying off the volcanic peak of the Puy-de-Dome, and the great gathering space of the Place de Jaude downtown.
You’ll also get a glimpse of an ASM rugby game (that’s their flag in the grip of the statue of Vercingetorix – they won the national championship of France in 2010). Glimpses, too, of the Cooperative de Mai (a hot concert venue) and the interiors of some of Clermont’s main museums.
Highly recommended as a first glimpse of everything I’m talking about in this blog!
2. Another beautifully-produced video also focuses on Clermont and its surroundings – but this time in Ultra Hi-Def time-lapse form. I love this video for capturing the spectacular sunrises and sunsets that happen so often in this part of France and for the crowd scenes in the medieval streets around the “Black Cathedral”.
But if you don’t watch anything else mentioned in this post, please check out the night sky over the Puy-de-Dome beginning at the 3:40 mark n this spectacular video – it’s the most beautiful rendering I’ve ever seen of this part of France!
3. Now head out into the countryside and see why the Auvergne is considered such a paradise for hikers and campers, as this video takes you for soaring views of the Chaine des Puys (the chain of volcanic peaks that make up the backbone of France’s Massif Central). Check out the aerial shots of a Romanesque chapel perched high over the valley below, and absorb some of the rugged natural grandeur of the “volcano park”!
4. Head back into town with this 4K drone fly-over of Le Puy en Velay in the southern part of the Auvergne. We’ll be visiting “Le Puy” (as it’s called locally) in more detail later this year; it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of the stops along the historic “Route of Saint John of Compostela”. For now, revel in the shots of the little Chapel of Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe – one of those impossible feats of medieval construction that will leave you wondering “how could that even happen?” Built in 969 A.D. on the point of a needle of lava rock, it’s 285 steps up from the ground below. You’ll also see on a facing peak an enormous iron statue of the Virgin Mary, cast (we are told) from melting down 213 Russian cannons and presented to Le Puy in 1860.
5. I’m a city boy at heart, but our time in France convinced me that the Cantal is one of the most beautiful territories on the face of the earth – and this video supports that conclusion! Stretching across the southern end of the Auvergne, this is one of France’s wildest and least populated areas, dominated by great volcanic peaks and crater lakes.
As you’ll see here, though, it’s also home to some very lively little villages, and it’s another reason why the “deep heart of France” is considered a prime getaway for hikers, mountain climbers, and fishing enthusiasts.
6. Last September I took a long swing through the Bourbonnais – the historic center that spans the northern reaches of the Auvergne – and I reported on some of the exceptional castles you can see there – Avrilly, LaPalisse, Fourchaud, and the palaces of the Bourbon dukes in Moulins and Montlucon. Here’s a video that adds depth and motion to all these places and some others I haven’t yet covered in this blog.
I can’t always articulate why I find these places so interesting, but I think it’s because they often represent continuity (of a community, of a family line) across centuries and centuries of France’s history – and because some of these chateaux are textbook examples of how you can make something new and contemporary out of something that is very old!
7. My last choice for this video round-up comes back to one of my favorite recurring subjects: the spectacular little villages in the Auvergne that have been named to the list of “most beautiful villages in France”. I’ve already covered several: Montpeyroux, Blesle, Charroux, Arlempdes, Salers, and Apremont-sur-Allier – and there are several more to come in the weeks ahead. Here, though, is a video introduction that will give you a better idea of why these towns are so appealing.
They’re all designed to be “walkable”, they all have something of specific historical value, and they all invest in making themselves as picture-perfect as they can. All that is visible in this short film by Yves Lemaitre – I hope it will give you a reason to seek out some of these gems for yourself!
Do you have a favorite video or image of France that captures how you feel about the country? Please share a link in the comments section below. And, as always, I’d really appreciate it if you would share this post with others using the social-media button(s) of your choice below.
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