France 2012 - Facts and Information

Day by Day 3: Lapte

Hilly country in Haute-Loire

To the Loire Valley
Vienne to Indre
Ch de Chambord
Ch de Cheverny
Around Cheverny
Saint Savin
Antigny & Jouhet
Anglin & Claise
Ch de Chenonceau
Cher Valley
East of Loches 1
East of Loches 2

Truyère Valley
W of Aurillac 1
W of Aurillac 2
W of Aurillac 3
Girgols & St-Cernin
W of St-Cernin
Salers & Puy Mary
Lot Valley 1
Lot Valley 2

Puy-en-Velay 1
Puy-en-Velay 2
Around Lapte
Around Vorey
Lalouvesc & Bozas
Boucieu & Désaignes
N of the Loire 1
N of the Loire 2
N of the Loire 3
S of Yssingeaux 1
S of Yssingeaux 2
Heading home
September 16
Headed to Le Puy-en-Velay as it would be quieter on a Sunday. Largish town with unhelpful signing to car parks. Was end of annual Renaissance festival so place was littered with detritus from previous night's junketing. Steep climb up to impressive Cathédrale de Notre-Dame which is a World Heritage Site dominating the town. Then dropped down to town to climb 286 steps to Chapelle St-Michel d’Aiguilhe, amazing little church atop an old volcanic plug. After lunch to Polignac, amazing hilltop fortress with village gathered round its feet.

September 17
Into Lapte to buy bread on lovely morning. Well kept little village which appeared to have been commercially prosperous in times past. C19th church locked. Headed to Retournac with good C12th church. Then to Château d’Artais, C12th castle on top of a hill with good views. After lunch to Chamalieres-sur-Loire for C12th priory church, keys not available where claimed but eventually got them from Mairie when it eventually opened after lunch. Church worth waiting for. Took to country roads to get to Roche-en-Régnier, site of C10th manor with interesting remnants of old fortified town. On to Beaulieu, typical small town with pleasant C12th church. Finally to Chapelle Glavenas, evocative little C12th building atop a hill but sadly not open.

September 18
Lapte for bread then south into the hills past Les Estables and towards the cone of Gerbier du Jonc. Good run with agricultural land gradually becoming marginal and then moorland. Headed for Ray Pic waterfall but access was closed by works so on into the gorge of the River Bourges and tiny hamlet of Péreyres which we nosed round. Had intended to stop in Le Cheylard which looked interesting but was beset by roadworks and chaotic parking so we retraced our steps to Le Pont-de-Fromentières, small workaday but neat old industrial village which we had a look round. Back home via C11th Château de Rochebonne for the view on overcast evening.

September 19
Woke to low cloud and foggy drizzle after overnight rain. Decided to head east but found driving conditions unpleasant in poor visibility so parked up in Montfaucon-en-Velay to find baker (excellent one by crossroads in centre) and give weather time to improve. Ordinary little town but has interesting trail. Chapelle Notre-Dame de Montfaucon uninspiring from outside but inside had fascinating exhibition of paintings by the Flemish artist Abel Grimer dating from 1592. Église St Pierre, which has had a chequered past, also worth a visit. Fog clearing so headed to Lalouvesc, pleasant town with huge, somewhat kitzschy late C19th Basilica Saint-Jean-François-Régis. Sun now out as we arrived at Bozas, small hamlet set in orchards with château. Nothing much to see but nice place to wander a bit. Next to Boucieu-le-Roi, somewhat over-preserved hilltop village but pleasant as it was devoid of tourists. Finally to Désaignes, well preserved fortified town which repaid exploring. Home with a brief look at Tence.

September 20
Overnight frost led to a fantastic morning with mist hanging in valleys. Stopped for bakers in Rozier-Côtes-d'Aurec by chance and found it was an interesting old fortified town with a nice C11th priory church. Next to Saint-Bonnet-le-Château, another hilltop town (uninspiring) dominated by a church with good frescoes which were closed for housekeeping. On to Montarcher, superb hilltop village with good church and prehistoric ramparts. It was deserted so we dropped out and wandered a bit. Then to Marols, interesting and quiet town with impressive C12th fortified church. Stopped at Saint-Jean-Soleymieux, pleasant village with good C14th church with lovely C11th crypt. In afternoon to Château d’Essalois, empty shell, nice views but not really worth time. Passing Chambles were intrigued by round tower (C9th) so stopped and explored C13th church unusual from outside and interesting inside. Sudenly realised it was an old fortified town. Worthwhile stop. Not so Aurec-sur-Loire which promised a lot but delivered little (once we found somewhere to park). Church uninspiring outside and marred by huge TV screens inside, but some nice frescoes and Baroque work also a nice little treasury.

September 21
Bread from Lapte on a lovely morning then onto Grazac where we had seen signs about a fortified priory (good) and discovered a nice little C15th château. After there to Saint-Julien-Chapteuil which grew up around a Benedictine priory the interesting church of which still dominates the town. Further into the countryside to Saint-Pierre-Eynac, quiet village with nice church (key from restaurant). Interesting volcanics on way out. Then to Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille with very impressive Abbey of St Théofrède. Quick stop at Goudet, neat but lifeless village with locked church (which looked good) and nice view of Château de Beaufort. Finally to Arlempdes, tourist honeypot, not overly interesting and church firmly closed to public.

September 22
Time to head homeward so fast drive to Châteauneuf-sur-Cher where incredible neo-Gothic Basilique Notre-Dame des Enfants caught our eye so we stopped to look at it. Exterior a bit OTT but inside good if defaced by pointless drapes. Finally to Massay for our B&B, plain village but with good remains of huge Clunic abbey (large current church is abbey choir). Settled to dinner and checked email (first web access for three weeks). Crisis! Brittany Ferries on strike. Instead of nice easy drive to Caen then a cabin to Portsmouth the next day we would have to flog the long drive to Calais and travel back with P&O. Frantic exploration of Google Maps for route.

September 23
Left Massay at first light. Had decided against direct route (complicated and very near Paris) to long way round on good roads via Le Mans and Rouen. Hard driving saw us in Calais about 1430 where we got a ferry fairly quickly. Noisy and tiring crossing, very busy getting out of port at Dover. Started looking for somewhere to sleep and were lucky first shot at Ashford Premier Inn (bliss after very hard day).

September 24
Left Ashford early, through Dartford Tunnel just before 0600 (still free). Home about 1100.

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