‘In France the conversation always comes round to food’ – which is no surprise when the food is of such high quality and presentation as we saw this week.
The payback is that I found the red meatiness, full flavours and multiple courses too rich for my English constitution and, at night in my bed, I frequently couldn’t sleep for the long slow digestion process. Meanwhile the winding mountain roads twisted the knife of queaziness.
But there is no doubting that French food is a gourmet treat (at the time) and so I recorded some of the meals on our ‘Cantal in winter’ trip. Continue reading
Posted in Journeys, Photography, Press trips, Trip notes
Tagged aligot, Auvergne, blonde lentils, Cantal, cheese, cuisine, food, France, pounti, specialities
La Roussiere is a luxury chambres d’hôte B&B in the Siniq valley in the Cantal. It is ranked top of TripAdvisor for B&Bs/Inns in St Clement.
Christian, the owner, had just taken us on a walk to the Capat waterfall… Continue reading
It took about an hour to walk up to Meije Coste – one of Cantal’s small, old mountain refuges at 1440m up, near Le Lorian and with views over the Plomb du Cantal highest peak.
I ran low on battery and was huffing and puffing with the effort so I ended up taking stills (more pics below) – but you get the idea of the beautiful natural surroundings. Continue reading
I can’t ski so I took the opportunity to film life at the top of the cable car at Le Lioran ski resort in Cantal. This little film features a mountain rescue, some aerial skier shots and the cable car ride back down to the valley.
Resort info: Le Lioran
• Chez Lucy near the car park at Le Lioran is run by a friendly English woman. Lucy is originally from Cornwall, has a big smile and looks quite a bit like the former model turned Emmerdale actress, Lorraine Chase.
• Lunch at Chez Lucy was reasonably priced with plenty of stodge to fuel the skiing. Cheese soup! (Soupe au fromage) – grated cheese and stock (5’50 euros). Tartiflette Auvergnette au St Nectaire, cheese and potatoes (11 euros). Fondant au chocolat – like a Gü, melted brownie (4’80 euros). This choc pudding, though not the fanciest, was the tastiest of the whole trip for me.
• Decor was fairly functional but also cosy, cottagey and warm.
This is the one-line pitch that got my commission to write on the Cantal region of France. Unfortunately, one crucial element – the snow – has been a no-show this week with none falling in this area of the Auvergne since December.
The result is hard, compacted snow and snowshoeing that delivers maximum noisy crunch over ambient soft tread. Turn up the volume of this one-minute video of our hike to the Puy Mary peak to appreciate the full effect of our snowshoe (aka raquettes) experience in Cantal.
So what happens when there is no snow?
- The PR lady gives a Gallic shrug (or garlic shrug, as my phone’s auto-correct has it) and says the following a lot: “Imagine this with snow…”
- The auberge owner gives a slideshow of absolutely stunning images of snowy nature. We then go outside in the drizzle and fog.
- The local ski resort Le Lorian puts on their artificial snow-making machines at full blast to cover the lower pistes.
Things I have learnt about snowshoeing
- Take long steps – or you catch one snowshoe in the other. It feels a little like walking in giant flipflops as the heel end is loose (as shown in the video around 40-second mark).
- Wear layers as it can get quite hot with the exercise. Bring sunglasses and always wear sunscreen.
- If you get the chance to snowshoe at night by the full moon, do it. Walking around mountains in the dark is both beautiful and exhilarating.
- It’s the perfect sport for the non-skilled and not-too-fit – it is pretty aerobic but, unlike skiing with all its advance prep, all you have to do is know how to walk.
- Bring water – walking on raquettes in the high mountains gets your pulses racing but the dry, cool air is like breathing in ice cubes.
Here is my room:
And here is the view from my window, with the snowy Puy Mary peak far right:
See that mountain opposite? I walked
up along that, I did. Continue reading
From Clermont-Ferrand to Murat takes about 90 minutes by train, and cost me £17 one way. Then it was a transfer by car to Bruno and Valerie’s Auberge d’Aijean, our inn for the night. Just past Murat, you can see the snowline appearing for the first time.
The winter here has been mild. It is still scenic in a wintry way but I can imagine how this notches up quite a few extra beauty points when covered in snow. Still, Valerie guided me on a nature hike this afternoon, which was pretty and helped me acclimatise from my sedentary job to actually walking. Tomorrow morning we get to snowshoe on the Puy Mary volcano peak.
So, the press trip is about to start – the two other journalists are arriving in half an hour and we will begin with a Nordic bath, which I believe is a a sort of alfresco hot tub, before chef Bruno’s dinner.
Apologies for awkward wordflows. I’ve been speaking in broken French for two days and my writing is stuck in transit.