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Saturday, 14 June 2014

Through France to the Pyrenees Three: Volcanoes and lentils

The title of the blog is no reflection on a vegetarian diet it relates to the part of the Auvergne we have found ourselves in, where the extinct volcanoes are called Puys and the Puy green lentils come from too.  We spent a few days in this area and would certainly recommend it.  We climbed Puy de Dome in the evening sunshine, getting to the top when most of the day visitors had already left with only a few stragglers waiting for the last train down.  We were accompanied up and down by mad runners who sweated past us on the way up and hurtled uncontrollably back on the steep descent.  The view looking down on the chain of distinctive hills in the evening sunshine was beautiful.

The Roche Tuilieres and Roche Saradoire walk
On our way south to the Puy de Sancy area we walked around two precipitous crags, Roche Tuilieres and Roche Saradoire admiring the regular hexagonal patterns in the basalt as we scrambled around the rocks.  We were delighted to see the same pattern beautifully replicated in the tiles from local stone on the roof of an old barn.

We stayed on a campsite with a view over the faded spa town of La Bourboule and climbed up  La Banne D’Ordance; not called a puy but it is another extinct volcano.  This mostly grassy mountain has a craggy top and we sat in the sunshine above the cliffs having our lunch and watching the thunder clouds rolling towards us, paying for our relaxed attitude by getting wet on the way back to the van.  However, we were also rewarded by the site of a deer in the woodland that let us watch for a minute or two before catching our scent and bounding silently in to the woods.
From the top of Banne D'Ordance

Le-Puy-en-Velay is a town built as a cure for depression; we laughed so much as we arrived and saw the three ludicrous tall volcanic rocks adorned with statues and a church that erupt from the houses of this town.  We climbed up to the enchanting Chapelle St-Michael d’Aigulhe in the evening to see the lay-out of the town from a good height.  The next morning we mingled with the crowds in the large and lively Saturday market.

Not surprising with so much volcanic activity in this area, there are also hot springs and we stopped at Chaudes-Aigues to see the hottest spring in Europe.  The water comes out of the ground here at 82oC (yes, nearly boiling) and even on a hot day steam was rising from the spring.  The village Lavoir is still in use; who needs a washing machine when there is an endless supply of free hot water.

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