Friday, October 2, 2015

The Alps to the Pyrenees

Notre Dame de France (La Vierge), Le Puy's most visible monument

Well, more accurately, we drove from Annecy in the Hauts Savoie to Carcassonne in the Aude Valley. This was a 2 day drive split up with a stay in Le Puy en Velay. And again, more accurately, we didn't stay in Le Puy, but in a village about 10 km away.

Finding our accommodation was impossible without the help of the locals who proved to be friendly and helpful. We went to the village where we thought we should be, only to be told we weren't anywhere near. But then, one of the locals said they would drive to where we needed to be and we could follow them. We then found ourselves staying at a beautiful old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere!

The beautiful stone house we stayed in

We explored Le Puy en Velay the next day. To be honest, I'd never even heard of Le Puy before we started investigating this trip. I now know it is the start of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail where many Catholics set off to the shrine of St James in northern Spain. I was absolutely wowed by the city which boasts much architecture from medieval and pre-Norman times. One thing I would advise anyone that gets inspiration to go to Le Puy is be prepared for some hill walking. The old city is built around a hill, or hills, and the cobbles and steps don't make walking around any easier.

Seeing the sights took some effort....

...but the views were worth the effort

The high point for me was definitely the Cathedral, a beautiful building dating back to Gallic-Roman period, or the 5th Century. Much of the architecture comes from the 10th-13th centuries as like many of these ancient structures, they are renovated over time. The Cathedral has had a good run, missing out on destruction from revolutionaries and invading forces, which means that it is in good condition, taking into account its age.

Le Puy Cathedral is still in excellent condition

St James, the reason so many make the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage

Le Puy is situated in the Auvergne region of France, a landscape of beautiful rolling hills, many of which were formed by volcanoes, which contributed to the lush, green countryside. The central mountain range of France, the Massif Central, is often overlooked due to the Alps and Pyrenees also being a part of France. But the valleys, gorges, rolling hills and colours of this area make it truly beautiful. We headed south from Le Puy to Carcassonne where we will spend 3 days before heading north to England.

Rolling hills of the Auvergne as seen from the top of Massif de Meygal, anothe leg burning hike.

By the way, for those of you who get the Monday blues, France closes on Mondays :D

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