This year the 107th running of the Tour de France has a special interest to those of us who love the mountains and gorgeous landscapes of central France. The Tour will stop in my old hometown, Clermont-Ferrand, on Saturday, July 11th, where riders will set out on the 197 km (118 mile) trip to Lyon. But the day before (Friday, July 10th), they will first have to tackle one of the Tour’s famous mountain passages, starting in the beautiful spa town of Châtel-Guyon and climbing a total of 4,400 meters on a 191 km ride through a chain of volcanoes on the way to the Puy Mary in the Cantal. That announcement brought to mind several memories of our experiences […]
I’ve come to Bourbon-l’Archambault on a market day, which means there’s not a parking place left in town and traffic stops completely while people weave around the cars to cross the street. In fact, I came here to see the Chateau de Billy, the town’s most prominent feature. But it’s quickly clear that the Chateau is in its own separate little village, although effectively merged with Bourbon-l’Archambault. And it’s quickly clear, too, that there’s much more than I’d imagined to this community in the Haut-Allier region of the Auvergne. It all starts with the water – hot and full of minerals, bubbling up at a constant 1310 Farenheit (550 Celsius) from underground volcanic sources at several points. Archeologists here have […]
To understand the little town of Royat, imagine yourself strolling through an elegant park with a crowd straight from a painting by Renoir – men in straw boaters and morning coats, women in flowing dresses with bright flowers and velvet hats. Imagine, as the local guides say, “walking in the footsteps of Napoleon III, the Empress Eugénie, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), King Leopold II, or the Maharajah of Patiala…” In short, imagine yourself stepping back into the glory days of Belle Époque France – but in a place far from the chic salons of Paris.