This museum, dedicated to steam engines and agriculture is unique in its style and displays some interesting specimen of steam powered machines, tractors, steamrollers, threshing machines, etc. . . It is located in an old industrial area near the train station, in an old factory building (a sawmill). The last time I was there with my camera it was closed and can show only pictures from outside, but inside, there is a lot, and you can have an idea visiting their website.
I like the concept of keeping these machines which are history in some way and are also art pieces in another way, and it may be fun to photograph them, which I will do next time I will be there!
open : Easter to October 15th: 14 to 18, with July- August 10 :30to 12 :30 and 14 to 18 :30
Fees: 5 Euros (adults) 3.30 Euros (Children). Group prices on request
I visited this paper mill and museum 3-4 times, but without camera. . . Personal picture when I will update. . . . . This is the last working paper mill of Auvergne. They have also a museum displaying artefacts of local life in the past centuries: bedrooms, furniture, kitchen, etc; and of course there is a guided visit in the paper mill which is still working with the water power of a small river. You will discover all the stages of paper fabrication, from the mashing of linen and hemp cloth with impressive wooden hemp-breaking machines to the final product, through the elaboration of paper sheets (looking like parchment) and the drying.
It is located a few km East of Ambert, direction Montbrison, then turn left; there are signs.
Picture 1 shows a lampshade made with paper from this paper mill. Others are on the
fees: 6.50 Euros, adult, 4 Euros, children; Group prices on request.
Open from 9:30 to 12 :30 and 14 to 18
9 :30 to 19 non stop in July and August.
The Dore river runs from the Craponne plateau down to the Allier and waters the western part of Ambert. This relatively small river is in places a roaring stream and in other places, a very quiet river. During hot sunny summer days it is quite refreshing and relaxing to walk along the shores of this river under thick foliage; walking tracks are laid out on the shores and you can even make some day hikes to the neighbouring villages (Marsac, 11 km upstream, Vertolaye, 13 km downstream).
A friend of mine told me he made canoeing competitions ages ago, but I did not find information about water sports.
The Dore is also a historical river: its name may come from “or” (gold) having given “doré” (golden), but I panned and did not find any micro nugget; historical because in the 17-19th centuries lots of mills were located on its shores specially paper mills like Richard de bas; Ambert and its area were very well known for the paper industry.
If there is one thing not to be missed in Ambert, it is the Musée de la Fourme, which is much more than the Fourme museum, it is a cheese museum, where you can learn how cheese is done, what sorts of cheese are elaborated world wide, how to serve cheese, well, everything you wanted to know about cheese and did not dare to ask! In this museum a lot of antique instruments or tools are on display, from the wooden bucked used to milk the cows to the centrifugation machine to extract the cream, via lots of dishes used to serve butter or cheese.
In the basement is even a cellar where real cheese is maturated, and you not only look at cheese but can smell it! The visits are usually with a guide, and it is (for me) a little bit a constraint, but the guides know very well what they are telling about, they speak French, German, English, and when your visit is finished, there is even cheese tasting for those who want : 5 different cheeses can be tasted and compared. . . MMMMMHHHH!
September :9 to 12 and14to19, every day
October, November, December, February, March: 9-12 and 14-19h (except Sunday, Monday, Wednesday)
April, May, June: 9-12 and 14-19h (except Monday)
July-August: 9-19 non stop every day.
This church is not exactly an architectural beauty, a rather massive construction, of gothic style, from the 15-16th century, with a bell tower from the Renaissance. It is a custom to call it a cathedral, but it is not anymore; sometimes it is called the cathedral of Livradois and indeed, you can see it from almost everywhere in the surroundings from very far. Like for many churches in France, the statues of saints decorating the entrance have been destroyed during the religion wars or during the French Revolution, but the “gargouilles” (gargoyles) featuring devils or freaks have been left. . . The painted windows are not the originals and, if looking nice, the colours are not the ones you may find in some small churches of the surroundings.
When you walk in the quiet streets of Ambert, open your eyes; not only you will see half timbering houses, but also old stone built houses, small arches with porches linking streets, the long circular street following the former defensive wall, see old carved doors, and of course lots of shops. Just have a walk. Look also at the street names; for example here, rue de l’enfer: hell street! And there is of course a butcher street; people here love to eat meat and they are right to do so, because in the countryside here, the cattle lives outside and is kept in a very traditional way; picture3 displays the best known (and the best !) butcher of Ambert; he makes also lots of delicatessen and a wonderful “feuilleté à la fourme”.
The old half timbering houses of Ambert are a bit special: I do not know one which has a right angle between the walls and which has really vertical walls: this is part of the charm of these houses, lots of which are painted in bright colours.
Since a few years they are renovated and I think it is good to keep these houses as they were, and not to make too “drastic” renovations, putting everything square. These houses are all located in the centre of the city in a district just east of the St Jean church; some of these even host offices , like the local office of “La Montagne”, the Auvergne daily news paper, but most are living houses or shops. The house on picture 1 is from the 15th century, but most of them are from the 17-18th centuries. Some are still not renovated and may be they are abandoned; you can see the sticks in the wall which act like a core grid for the cob used to build the walls (picture 5).
In one of the novels of Jules Romains, one of the character writes to his friend wanting to visit him: “I will wait for you opposite the city hall, that day, that time”. Well, when you see this building, where is opposite. . . ?
This building also called la mairie ronde is a former corn exchange building, erected in the 19th century and fitted out as city hall at the beginning of the 20th century. The basement is used for market on Mondays and Thursdays, the upper part hosts the offices. It is said it is the only circular city hall of the world. . . . I did not see another one!
Well, when the guys eventually met after lots of misunderstanding, they decided to have a drink in each café around the city hall (and at that time, there were a lot as is well known in Auvergne), to test which one would be the best where they will meet next time.
Ambert by itself is worth a visit but in my opinion, the surroundings are so beautiful that you may spend years before you see every thing, but well, a few days will do it for beginning and if you fall in love with the area, nothing prevents to come back.
A visit to the Tourist office in Ambert would be the best to begin with;
AMBERT OFFICE DE TOURISME ** Pays d'Ambert
Puy-de-Dôme (63) - Auvergne
4, Place de Hôtel de Ville, 63600 AMBERT
Office hours: Monday14-17. Tuesday-Friday: 10-12:30 et 14-17. Saturday: 10-12:30. High season: (June15th to September 30th): Monday-Saturday: 9:30-12:30 and 13:30-18. Sunday (July and August): 10-12:30.
All information of what to visit, what to do, where to stay, etc can be found there; careful: do not make home stay reservations too late, it can be fully booked quite early in season, check out on the website.
The other best place to gather information is of course the office of the Parc Nature Régional:
Parc naturel régional Livradois-Forez
Maison du Parc
Téléphone : 04 73 95 57 57
Télécopie : 04 73 95 57 84
office hours: Monday-Friday: 9-12:30 and 13:30-17:30.
This maison du parc also can give an introduction to the rural life in the area (small museum, exhibitions, etc. . . )