A nice picnic place among giant bonsais
There are plenty of restaurants in le Puy, but a picnic in the countryside would make the kids happy and you can discover: 1) the wonderful ham, saucisson and cheese from Auvergne, 2) a strange place telling about recent social history of Auvergne, 3) a quiet nice, picnic spot not far from town, and then resume your visit.
La Pinatelle du Zouave, is firstly interesting by its name: Pinatelle is a small pine tree wood, and the Zouave (Picture 2), is a soldier from the French colonial army! (There is a famous Zouave statue in Paris at the Pont de l’Alma. . ).
The pinatelle is a small wood where pines have been “cultivated” for firewood (bois de boulange, wood for bakeries); special firewood for the bakers of the city, and the way the branches have been cut year after year gives that strange shape to the trees. Cutting the branches close to the trunk, creates after few strange shapes and torn trunks (Picture3).
The land had been bought by a Zouave in the 19th century and this place is the last one in the area showing the past activity of cultivating trees for the bakers to fire their ovens.
There are benches, overlooks, a small education trail, with lots of explanatory boards (example Picture 4), and a picnic here is quite a good rest, before going back to town. Kids appreciate a lot (but beware, the trees have resin, and clothes do not like that!), can run around, pick raspberries or blackberries, play on the education trail.
These trees are something strange (Picture5) and have been saved recently by voluntaries.
Ah, and on the trail are “pelles à pins”, just a play with the words: pelle à pain is the shovel the tool used by the baker to pull out the hot baked bread from the oven, pelle à pins refers to the pins, the pine trees.
Departemental road 590, direction Loudes, West of Le Puy, drive five kilometres, there are signs; after a long curve left, turn left a little road which climbs up a hill.
45°03’24”N ; 3°50’02”E on Google Earth
There are guided tours Tél. 04 71 57 31 96.
We approached Le Puy from the south, on the N88. This is in the Massif Centrale, the large mountainous area occupying the central part of France, so it isn’t surprising that there are high ranges around, or that in winter (as we were) there is snow to be seen on the crests.
We were intrigued by seeing a number of these roadside shrines, as shown in this photo with the snow in the background. In Australia, a fashion has developed in recent years to turn the roads into cemeteries with flowers and memorials to those killed in accidents. This did not seem to be of that type, rather it looked far more ancient and permanent. I suspect it may mark a waypoint on the ancient pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, but it simply rests enigmatically in the open countryside with no explanaton.