Any day in the Cantal is, for me, a good day. Today’s recommendation for a day trip: the little village of Murat, in the foothills of the Cantal’s mountains.
If you’re looking for outdoor activities, Murat is a great place to start. You’re still in the Parc des Volcans d’Auvergne, so you will find opportunities for hiking and cycling in a spectacular natural setting at every point of the compass from here. There are several rochers (rocky outcroppings) in the area – you might, for example, want to climb up the rocher Bredons to see its little Romanesque chapel. At the top of the Rocher de Bonnevie, the great statue of Our Lady of the High Auvergne is one of the pilgrimage stops on the medieval route to St John of Compostela. If you’re there in winter (bearing in mind that this is sometimes a hard region to travel), the village is only about 15 miles from the ski station of Lioran.
The first historical mention of the little village was in 270 C.E., and it’s remarkable that a town this size should figure so frequently in French history. Too frequently, the events that happened here were hard to endure; Murat was pillaged by the English in the Hundred Years’ War and swept by famine in the 1600s.
But the events that live most in recent memory come from World War II. On June 12, 1944, when German military police came into town and began arresting residents, around 60 members of the French Resistance took up positions and opened fire on the Germans,
forcing them to retreat. As in so many other cases, though, the Germans came back for revenge. On June 24th they rolled back into town, ultimately taking 117 prisoners who were deported east to the concentration camps; only 30 came back alive after the war.
If you go, stop in at the Office of Tourism. You’ll find a moving memorial to Murat’s World War II deportees, as well as a map with 26 markers for a self-guided tour of the area.
Which French village have you found most appealing? Tell us about it in the Comment section below!