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St Vidal castle is located 12km North of Le Puy en Velay, in the Borne valley, in the small village of St Vidal. It looks beautiful when you arrive from the plateau, nested in in the woods and meadows.
This castle has been built in the 13th century, a fortified house at the beginning, then the St Vidal family built a wider fortress during the 14 and 15th century.
It is a relatively small castle, but is impressive when you stay near the walls, which are very well preserved. Later this castle has been transformed and renaissance windows decorate the walls.
The guided visit takes you from the cellars in the basement up to a big tower where some canons are still there.
Visit : every day from July 1st to August 31st
0 - 6 years : free
6 - 14 : 2 €
over 14 : 3,5 €
Groups (+ 10 persons) : 3 €
Written Nov 25, 2006
Address: Château de Saint-Vidal 43320 Saint-Vidal
Phone: Tél : 04 71 08 03 68
Yes! World famous at least for few people: Puy de Lassolas and Puy de la Vache are two breached craters (in fact, not craters, but cinder cones, as are most of the cone shaped volcanoes), so breached cinder cones correctly, which are in most French earth sciences books.
They are easily accessible and within 3-4 hours one can have walked on the fringes of the cones.
These volcanoes are only 6500 years old and are among the youngest of the Chaine des Puys, and this explains their well preserved shape, not altered by weathering and erosion.
The pictures have been taken with very bad light conditions (these are things you not always can control!!) and they look very flat, no relief..
On the main picture taken from 2 km south Puy de la Vache on the right and Puy de Lassolas, left.
Picture 2: at the bottom of Puy de la Vache: what the “cinder cone” is made of: the red lapilli, puzzolana, volcanic “bombs” (the big rocks, viscous or liquid ejecta, then solidified, . . . ).
Picture3: on the fringe of the “crater” (it is not a true crater), which is horse shoe shaped, we see this fringe right and opposite.
Picture4: the breached crater allows to have a view to the other volcanoes to the south; Puy de Montval then Puy de la Toupe on the right, Puy de Vichatel and Puy de Charmont on the left.
Picture 5: La maison du Parc des Volcans : in this château, is now an information centre, a hut, and other facilities. http://www.parc-volcans-auvergne.com/index.php4
Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d'Auvergne - Château Montlosier 63970 Aydat - Tél. : 04 73 65 64 00 -
Written May 8, 2007
Phone: 04 73 65 64 00
I do not know if the Polignac family from here has a link with the famous Cognac Brandy. . .
This big fortress has been built between 1385 and 1424 on a high volcanic cliff by one of the most famous families of French history.
It appears huge when you look at it from the road and arriving at the little village at the foot of the cliff it just is very impressive, dominating all around. This military building could accommodate more than 800 soldiers, who fetched water from a 83 m deep well (dug in basaltic rock!)
The Donjon has been built during the 16th century. There is a chapel, but most of the old buildings inside have disappeared (barracks, horse stables, )
These last years archeological work finds back the old buildings and even more, reveals that the area has been settled by Roman troops and there is a remain of a temple dedicated to Apollon.
You access to the castle by a long 141 stairway coming from the village; don’t worry, along the stair are big ash trees give shade and gooseberry bushes provide for some sweets.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Address: Forteresse de Polignac 43000 Polignac
Phone: 04 71 09 38 41
In the heart of the Parc Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne, half way between le Mont Dore and Issoire, on the D 996 is the little village of Murol and the huge castle dominating this village.
Murol is also “hometown” of a raw milk cheese, (called Murol of course, like Saint Nectaire is hometown of the wonderful Saint Nectaire) but the castle is the most obvious tourist target in Murol.
This huge castle is located, like many in Auvergne on a volcanic peak, and is build of volcanic rock. The castle was built in the 12th century and reinforced in the 14th century. It was for a long time the property of the d’Estaing family (yes the former French diamond collector president family), and is now property of the municipality of Murol.
Today remain the main central building and a part of the walls.
The thing to do in Murol is to visit the castle in summer when there is an “animation”: a troop of performers and stuntmen play scenes inspired from middle age history or legends; you can admire knights fighting on horses, many costumes and armours and how they were used.
I visited in 2002 (and did not take pictures that time) and since 2006 the performers company has changed and I do not know what they play now. .
Main picture: The huge donjon and the walls below.
Picture 2:Another view early in early spring; impressive in this misty bald environment..
Picture 3: View of Murol village.
Picture 4:The type of “animation” which are performed in summer; I did not take pictures in 2002 and here is a picture from a website (http://minidingue.free.fr/murol_2005/index.html) ; the fights were very impressive. I cannot tell about the new performers.
Open all year
Simple visit, 5 Euros, guided visit 7Euros, animated visit, 9Euros, entrance for shows (summer): 12 Euros.
Written May 8, 2007
Château de la Rochelambert
This castle, built with volcanic rocks is deeply hidden in the forest on the territory of St Paulien, 15 km north of Le Puy en Velay.
This strange castle has no real style for me ; it seem it already existed in Middle Age, but has been since deeply transformed. It is now a museum which can be visited on week ends only during Summer.
There is a collection of Roman sculptures mainly Virgin Mary, renaissance furniture, guns, and souvenirs of George Sand, the famous novelist of the 19th century, who stayed there. Outside, strange sculpture or decorations ornate the small garden.
Open every day (except Thursdays) from May to September.
Guided visit : 11h, 15h, 16h, et 17h.
Entrance fee: do not remember but free for children.
Téléphone : 04 71 00 48 99
Written Nov 25, 2006
Address: La Rochelambert 43 350 St Paulien
Phone: 04 71 00 48 99
Mauzun Fortress is quite pleasant to visit even if you are not interested in medieval architecture or history, just for a quiet walk in ruins, but for this go in winter or in the morning, before it opens, jump above the small barrier, and have the castle for yourself alone. In the silent misty ambience, look at the landscapes, the small flowers growing on the stones, watch the few goats jumping on the walls, look at the big ivy. . . . .
Main picture: Dominating the plain.
Picture 2:The tiny yellow wallflowers smell so nice..
Picture 3: Looking on the plain on the other (East) side. I like the yellow lichen on the black basalt.
Picture 4:A big tower of the inner wall; the windows or the embrasures are made of white sandstone, not for decoration, but because they are easier to carve and shape than the basalt.
Picture 5: Wallflowers, green grass, open view, what do we need more? .
Open from Easter to All-Saints on week ends from 2 :30 pm to 7 pm
July-August : every day except Monday, 2 :30 pm to 7 pm
In July and August there are some « special animation » days (medieval market, medieval theatre. . . )
Entrance 6.5 Euros on Sundays for guided visit
5.5 Euros the other days.
Written May 8, 2007
Phone: 04 73 70 76 14
Viverols is a small village located half way between Ambert and Craponne at 800 m elevation on the south western tip of the Monts du Forez. This is a typical Auvergne village, with a small place, a few shops, farms, and a big chateau (castle) of course. As usual the castle dominates the village (main picture) and looks like a protecting hen over the little chicks which are constituted by the village houses.
The village seen from the castle is a very quiet one in the early morning mists (picture2) which hide a bit the Velay mountains in the background. Auvergne is always strange and somehow wonderful (full of wonders, not just a saying) in the morning light, when all seems asleep.
There remain only ruins of the castle which was built in the 10-11th centuries, and the history of which seems mysterious until the 13th century. The ruins are usually closed to the public, except a few days each summer when a festival is organised there.
As usual I do not follow rules and visited it a few times, but it is possible to have a walk around, and early morning is the best atmosphere; then a short walk in the village, a coffee, a croissant from the bakery , and the day can begin!
Picture 3: the northern tower; trees are still growing on the ruins which are slowly “renovated”
Picture4: Inside the main buildings of the ruins; it has its charm and make come back to childhood.
Picture5: the main yard of the castle, with the North west tower and the well in the yard.
Viverols is located 15 km south of Ambert on the route départementale 205.
Updated May 8, 2007
On the Route Departementale 997, near the little village of St Dier d’Auvergne40km South East of Clermont-Ferrand, direction Ambert is a little sign: Chateau des Martinanches.
If you happen to visit the area, a little detour is worth it! Chateau des Martinanches is an old (11th century) little fortress, later renovated into a leisure castle (18th century). The renovation here was a successful one, mixing the austerity of the military fortress with the modern aerated architecture. But the most beautiful is the setting in the beech woods, the ditch around the castle and the garden, laid out in “a la Française “style.
It is possible to spend a night or more in this castle and have “vie de chateau” for a short time; I did not try it (I have a house not far from here), but I can imagine to spend a night between old walls, in a room fitted with old furniture.
The main picture shows the main building when arriving from the garden; the second picture shows the back of the chateau with the square tower and the third picture show how it appears when you come from the woods and see it behind the ditch.
Pictures 4 and 5 are from websites, showing the setting of the chateau from and aerial view, and the reception room of this castle which has a lot to be visited inside: some rooms, a chapel, the cellars. . .
Open 2 pm – 6:30 pm every day July and August ; closed on Saturdays.
Rest of the year: Sundays 2 pm 6 pm.
Entrance for visit: 5.5 Euros.
Rooms from 80 to 150Euros one night (breakfast included)
Written May 8, 2007
Phone: 04 73 70 81 98
Brioude , located in the south of Auvergne , on the high valley of the Allier river hosts the biggest roman basilica of Auvergne.
This basilica, constructed in the 11 and 12th centuries contains some masterpieces of roman art of Auvergne. If you happen to pass by Brioude or the area , this basilica is worth a stop.
Like many Auvergne religious buildings, it is a polychromic building, using rocks of different colours (volcanic rocks) to build walls, columns, arches.. . . Last time I visited, it was under renovation which should be finished by Summer 2007. It is located in the old city where a walk in the old street let you discover some old buildings like the Mandrin house.
This door knocker (Main picture) in form of a lion head, which is a symbol of the Brioude city decorates the North side entrance door to the ship of the basilica.
As it was under renovation, the south and west sides and the main entrance were covered by tarpaulin, and only a part could be seen from outside.
second picture:: Big bell tower on the East side;
Picture three: the roof decoration of the small western tower; not only the stones have different colours, but different coloured tiles are also used.
Picture four:: some of the paintings inside the church (or basilica) are from the 12th century, but most date from the 14th ; it is quite amazing these paints are still not protected, as most of the churches in France have lost their paintings since ages. . . .
Picture five: The pavement of this basilica is also unusual, made of different coloured pebbles, laid out in geometrical patterns.
There is a wonderful website (in French) about roman art and here is its Brioude page, showing a lot I missed or did not photograph: http://www.art-roman.net/brioude/brioude.htm
Updated May 11, 2007
When you go up the Puy de Dôme, if the weather allows it you have a view over more than eighty volcanoes!
The Puy de Dome is located few kilometres West of Clermont Ferrand and a small road goes up quite high, then from a parking there is half an hour walk to go to the summit (1460 m); in summer with fine weather you may see more tourists than volcanoes, but it is worth to have this spectacular overview on the “Chaîne des Puys”.
The main picture is from the summit to the North ; in the forefront is the “Petit Puy de Dôme”, with the “nid de la poule (hen’s nest) hole just before the first little wood, then left of the meadow in the middle is the “Petit suchet”, and right is the famous “Puy Pariou”.
The second picture is a view to the south; more woods on the hills, but there are some famous (among the French vulcanologists community) volcanoes: Puy de Laschamps on the background (the third one coming from the forefront where are Puy des Grosmachaux and Puy de Montchie); then on the skyline slightly left is the Puy de Mercoeur.
Picture 3 is another view North, taken from the meadow s at the summit of the Puy de Dôme.
Picture 4 is an aerial view “stolen” from a website (Academide de Versailles) showing the Puy de Dôme in the background and the Puy Pariou crater in the forefront. ; I never think to make a picture from far when I arrive in Clermont Ferrand.
Picture 5: another view to the North.
What does “Puy” mean? The word has its origin in the latin “Podium” (hill), and puy in Occitan language designates a hill, whatever its size.
Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d'Auvergne - Château Montlosier 63970 Aydat - Parc.email@example.com - Tél. : 04 73 65 64 00
The official website :http://www.parc-volcans-auvergne.com/index.php4 More touristic information (homestays, treks, horse riding, etc. . . ) in this site: http://www.auvergne-tourisme.info/uk/index2.php
Written May 8, 2007
Phone: 04 73 65 64 00
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