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Posts tagged ‘Puy de Dome’

Nature never did betray the heart that loved her


I’ve been niggled by a think for a while and the think that I’ve been thinking is  that I really should share more of the humungous archive of photos that I have accumulated since I arrived in France.  It’s the first time in my life I have had a reasonably decent camera and, as importantly, the first time I have had the time and place to spend on taking pictures.  I remain resolute in my belief that I am a leading myopic point and shoot photographer and I am happy that the approach does produce some nice pictures amongst the disasters.  Having reached the conclusion that I might do something worthwhile with some of this vast catalogue, it’s a simple question of finding the right mechanism.  After much navel gazing and machination with self I’ve decided on my own personal TWTWTW or TW3, (‘That Was The Week That Was’, that legendary satirical show that aired in the UK from 1962-1963 and in the US from 1964-1965 and spawned some of the greatest ever including David Frost and John Cleese).  Except my TW3 is ‘Those Were The Walks That Were’ – hardly praiseworthy semantics but enough to amuse my frou-frou brain.


My Two Brained husband calculated recently that I have walked more than 3,000 km in the Cantal since arriving in the Autumn of 2013.  This means that The Bean on her much shorter but markedly springier legs has also walked the same distance.  She is heartily impressed with herself.  With 340 PRs which stands for petits randonees – the network of waymarked paths in varying degrees of difficulty that you find throughout France to choose from, I don’t need nor want to go off-piste.  Sticking to the laid paths is no hardship at all.  Some are very well marked and easy to follow, some less so, some frankly, barely at all.  Which adds a frisson of farce to keep complacency at bay.

One of the very first walks I did and one that has become my standby, my head-clearer, my go-to when I arrive back from England ravaged from the 1100 km drive on my own with unhelpful small dog or a 9 hour round trip to drop The Brains for a flight from Lyon or yet still an 11 hour round trip to pick up a visa in Paris, circumnavigates le Lac de la Cregut.

It’s a 15 minute drive from my village give or take a bovine hold up or two and about 350 metres (1150 feet in old money) higher.  It’s a glacial lake  and forms part of the hydro-electric system for the Massif Central as, in fairness does most water  in our area.  The marked walk (named ‘L’histoire de l’eau’) is 6km and designated blue which means it is easy.  It has a  déniveler of about 150 metres (that’s the difference between the lowest and highest point on the walk  …. it’s quite a crude indicator without an OS map to show you the contours since it could be a single trudge uphill or several undulations – in this case it’s a single stretch that accounts for the majority of the relatively light lift).  The path has a series of educational panels along the way.  They tell you about the fish in the lake, the birds in the woods, the animals and the way the lake was formed.  There are four devoted to the birds of prey found in the vicinity – you turn big cubes to find the information about each one.  It’s aimed at children but I’m not too proud to learn and of course it’s in French so it helps with bits of language that one might not learn otherwise.  Like lombric which is another word for a vers de terre or earthworm.  I might never have learnt that word.  And it took me a while to remember it.  In the end I drove home muttering over and over to myself ‘Herbert Lom likes Bric-a-brac’ …. it worked and now lombric is in my venacular along with the very useful tattou (armadillo).  You never know when you might need such words and in what combination.


I have walked here in all seasons and most weathers – in the heat of summer when a little altitude is a relief and the harsh frozen winter when it takes on a Narnia like appeal for a girl who loves snow.  I’ve walked it with my husband often, two of our four daughters and a friend or two.  I’ve strolled it, struggled it, marched it, rambled it depending on my state of health, wellness and fitness at any given time.  I’ve shocked the cobwebs out of my musty mind and I’ve slain the anxiety that sometimes sets in when you spend too much of your life on your own.


Along the way are trees, of course – its a mixed disiduous and coniferous forest which forms part of the landscape of the lightly populated but widespread commune of Tremouille.  It straddles Cantal and Puy de Dome the next departement north in the Auvergne.  The trees are blanketed in mosses and laced with lichens and many sport Conks of differing flavours.  Fungi are positively frenzied whenever the weather is warm and damp, flowers abound in spring and summer and for a while we are graced with the lovely lillies that float like lanterns on the water.  There are deer and boar and smaller animals too, of course, and bugs and beasties and birds.  I don’t necessarily, in fact rarely ever see any of them. I just know they are there and I get a sense of great harmony with my earthly companions.  There is a pit along the way which we believe to be a wolf-trap having seen one identified as such before.  I remember the old fellow who told me there are wolves but if I see one to please not tell for fear of man going into panic overdrive and destroying them all over again.  The ultimate maligned of creatures wolves are.  I find it to be the  most peaceful of interludes walking under the changing canopy passing rushing water hurling itself over rocks and lacing and tracing to the lake’s edge.



The very first time I walked it and several times after, I happened past a farm which I silently christened ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ and briskening my step, hoisted The Bean into my arms as we were pursued by a hunting dog, it’s deep bass hoot echoing behind us in that particular combination of folorn and forceful that is peculiar to these dogs.  On every mound and trailor and joining the hootathon with laudible vigour were other dogs.  A pack numbering a couple of score at a guess.  The farmer bellowed valiantly at his escapee to come back.  To no avail as it buttoned its ears soundly and carried decisively on.  It seemed an eternity before it eventually deigned to give up on us.  It was, therefore with deep joy that I discovered some months later that I had no need to pass Cold Comfort Farm at all – I had missed a mark and had been moaning  falsely about the length of time spent on the road since in truth you veer straight off the road almost as soon as you come on it, penetrating back into the woods above the farm.  The farm itself looks so much prettier viewed from aloft with its magnificent backdrop of les Monts du Cantal and les Monts du Cezallier beyond.  Turn 180 degrees, by the way,  and you get les Monts d’Or just in case two handsome ranges aren’t enough for your greedy self – I’m a self confessed glutton for mountains so the third is a welcome bonus.  After making this momentous discovery we had a couple unpeturbed walks before the darned dog spotted our game and hared across the road (it’s a very tiny one car a day kind of minor road so don’t panic on her behalf) to pursue us through the woods.  It’s a small price to pay.  We play the game whenever we do the walk.  She follows us, The Bean feigns alarm, I walk resolutely onwards ignoring her and when she gets to a particular tree she slings her undercarriage downwards, takes a long and purposeful pee and goes home.  The Bean nips back and over-pees the pee.  We are all happy.  It doesn’t take much.



PS:  For the avoidance of doubt and because the seeds of uncertaintly have been sewn in me by Two Brains when I read the ongoing to him – it’s the DOGS that pees at that particular tree.  Not me.  I save mine til I’m safely round the bend – which is my favoured default in life.

 The title is Wordsworth from ‘Tintern Abbey’.  I chose it for two reasons …. that Wordsworth was of the Lake District and this area resonates with us as strikingly similar to that beauteous region of England.  And the poem is written about a walk – with his sister at the magical ruins of Tintern.

Climb every mountain ….


The Weekly Photo Challenge this week asks us for a picture that illustrates ‘Achievement’.  Here is The Bean being hoist high after successfully conquering the col de Croix de St Robert.  1451 metres (that’s 4760 feet) on short legs is not to be sniffed at and besides its an opportunity to use a line from The Sound of Music – something which must never be missed.

The peak is in the Mont Dore Mountains of the Auvergne in the Massif Central in France.

Beauty wakes the soul to act

I love taking pictures though I claim no skill whatsoever but I decided to start taking part in some of the challenges available to encourage a little discipline – always a challenge with me.

To that end, here is my effort for The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – DescentThis week, show us your interpretation of descent — experiment with your point of view and angle, or go even deeper with the theme.‘  The image is taken above Les Roches de Tuileiries at the foot of the Massif de Sancy in the Puy de Dome Departement of the Auvergne,  looking back down the gorge as a mighty storm was clearing:



Les Roches de Tuileries, Puy de Dome, Auvergne

PS:  The title is Dante Alighieri of course … it seemed appropriate to quote him in a challenge entitled Descent given our assumption that one falls not climbs to the Inferno


<a href="">Descent</a>

I don’t mind making jokes – but I don’t want to look like one

There is always a why.  In every situation there will be a reason.  Sometimes it burnishes the surface and gleams for all to see, sometimes it lurks deep down but take a look and there will always be a blazingly obvious reason why.  For many a move to France is all about the lure of more house and land for your money.  For some it is the culture – the perception that life in France means wine, food, wine, more food, wine.  You get my drift.  For us it was about people.  We had friends here.  French friends.


When we announced our intention to friends in other parts of France they literally laughed, then looked puzzled when they realised we were serious and then set about trying to dissuade us from such terrible folly.  The Husband with Two Brains had lived and worked in Grenoble for 9 years in the 80s and his friends there who had always suspected him to be nuts honestly now knew he was and is certifiable.  It is possible that he could be a danger to himself or those in close contact with him because he has, we have, chosen to live in le Cantal.

DSCF3193_croppedLet me explain. Le Cantal is one of the least populated departements in France. It is, as a matter of fact one of the least populated places in Europe.  The locals will tell you, only half jokingly, that there are three cows for every person living here. The perception of those looking in is of a backward community who have only recently started to walk on their hind legs.  In fact as you will discover on my journey here that is absolutely not true.  As the cast of characters are revealed you will meet interesting, forward-thinking, intelligent, decent, delightful people.

My husband first brought me here in August 2012.  He had just asked me to marry him and when we returned in November it was to agree with Monsieur le Maire de Champs sur Tarentaine-Marchal that he would allow us to be married here in June.  Which we were.


That is another story – you will by now realise that I have stories and stories and stories and if you stick with me you will hear them all one by one.

Cantal is one of four departements that make up the Auvergne Region.  The others are Haute Loire, Alliers and Puy de Dome.   Cantal is definitely cast as Cinderella.  Her biggest town is Aurillac with a population of 28,641 in 2008 which given that the population has been steadily declining since 1990 is probably down on that figure now.  The total population is 148,000 in a departement (that’s a county if you are in the UK or the US)  covering 5,726 sq km.  Her three sisters are all more densely populated.  In fact even with my tenuous grasp of mathematics (when he was alive it was dangerous to mention my name and maths in the same sentence in the presence of my Nuclear Physicist father) I have worked out that Cantal has 25 inhabitants per square km, Allier has 47, Haute Loire 45 and Puy de Dome a positively whopping 79.  Across the departement more people are moving out than in.

DSCF6396For now we live in a rented appartement above the Ecole Maternelle.  I work to the sound of young children aged 2-6 (about 12 of them this year which is pretty much as big as the school has ever got – the numbers have been as low as 5 tiddlers).

We have rebuffed that British thing of immediately buying a great big old house in grand terrain and then moaning because the French don’t do things in the way they should be done.  Translate that to ‘they don’t do things the way we do them’.  I say  ‘Get Lost!!’  We have moved into a community and we move amongst them.  We are les etrangers.  It is for us to bend and blend not for us to expect that the people who were born and raised and lived all their lives here should adapt to us.  Every day I practice my French.  Mostly to The Bean.  My neighbours are young and often stand smoking on the balcony – I fear they know what you will discover … that I am entirely whackadoodledoo!  What do you expect?  I did marry a nutter, after all.

DSCF2704Now as I let my roots feel the earth and take a hold I will take you on a journey if you care to join me.  Who knows what we will find.  I already have a hatful of stories.  None of them are about me.  Most are about this place, her people and my attempts to become at one with it and them.  By writing of this place, I hope to encourage you to come and visit.  See for yourself and bring a little revenue into an area that needs just a teeny bit of help to survive.  A meal at one of the wonderful Auberges, staying at one of the simple hotels, buying a little pate from the boucher, a morceau of cheese, some bread from the boulanger and a cake from the patissier.  Maybe even a bottle of wine to wash your picnic down as you sit in the stunning terrain breathing in the clean clear air … tempted?


PS:  The title is a declaration by Marilyn Monroe … I think we can all agree that she was right.  I can agree that my choice of place may be eccentric in some eyes but is absolutely, with certainty, not even slightly, a joke.