Ballater Walking week in Scotland

Walking holiday in South of France (Provence)

Waking in La Palma

Cycling holiday in Hungary visiting hot spa

Cycling in Hungary

Levada walking holiday in Madeira

Sailing in Clipper 68

Scottish country dancing summer school at St Andrews

Ski holiday at Kaprun and Zell am See Austria

Cycling holiday in Hungary - Vienna to Budapest via Lake Balaton

Walking in France

Five day walking holiday in France near Les Estables in the Massif Central area of central France

Arriving at Lyon airport in the sunshine we were met by Bernard Aubry in one of his mini-buses. He took us straight to Hôtel de Découverte. The route was round the south of Lyon and via the A47 motorway towards Le Puy-en-Velay. We turned off south at Yssingeaux and headed toward Les Estables via a maze of minor roads crossing a rolling landscape, with small volcano hills in great number and in every direction. Total journey time was about two hours.

Hôtel la Découverte was up the slope just outside Les Estables in the Auvergne and was a purpose build ski-walking holiday hotel. Everyone in the hotel participated in the walking holiday and we all ate together as a group. Its main rooms faced south with large windows over the valley views of Mont Mézenc and the sunsets at supper time. There was a really warm indoor swimming pool.

Viaduc la recoumene - popular for bungee jumping

Walking in France - typical picnic brought to us walkers at lunchtime, complete with table

Walking up the hill above Viaduc la Recoumene

After feeling unwell in the night I gave walking a miss the first morning and slept for several hours. At noon however I was better and we joined the bus leaving to take the picnic to the walkers at Vachères. The lunch table was set up in the woods under an improvised canopy by the minibus. The two groups of walkers soon arrived - the fast group called the hares and slow group called the marmots. We ate around the foundations of an old railway station track built around 1910 but never completed. After lunch we visited an old 2km rail tunnel (never used) where we wondered about the height of the tunnel and why the ends of the tunnel were cranked sideways so you could not see all the way through. The mini-buses then took us to the Viaduc de Recoumene where we started a circular walk up the hill behind.

View down to Monastier from Viewpoint on ridge



Walking along ridge above Monastier at Viewpoint with white statue

A big striped yellow and black spider along the footpath attracted attention, the brown and white cows in the fields less so. We stopped briefly at a viewpoint looking down on the town of Monastier sur Gazielle

Cows in the fields near

Church at Monastier

Oldest church organ at Monastier

Down in the town we visited the old church with its complex architectural features and with the oldest working organ, before returning along the flat to the Viaduc, which had no obvious purpose now other than as a base for bungee jumpers and a footpath for those of us on a walking holiday in France.

It was chucking it with rain this morning so instead of a walk we went off in the buses to an ancient 1622 farm: Ferme des freres Perrel at Mondyres near Gerbier de Jonc. It was a large, two story wooden structure made of giant 'A' frame tree trunks and thatched with broom. We were given a demonstration of how the broom fronds were inserted to form the thatch. Given the heavy rain at the time we also learned how well it worked. Considerable renovation had been applied and the farm house was now a museum with old farm machinery and a local farmer to explain how life used to be. Two families lived there, one downstairs at the end and one upstairs above. The downstairs bedrooms were in holes in the wall. Most of the floor space was for animals downstairs and for food upstairs. We went back to the hotel for lunch and spent the afternoon by the pool.

Walking in France: setting off for walk near St Julien Chapteuil

Walking up and near the summit of Suc de Chapteuil

Summit of Suc de Chapteuil with ruins of Château de Chapteuil

Nice sunny start to the day and two good walks. We left the village walking past fields with hedges full of blackberries till we emerged from the woods near the peak of Mont Rojes, with fabulous view in all directions from the old castle at the top, built on beautiful hexagonal basalt crystal columns. Leaving the hill via a different route we passed through the castle gateway - one of the only structures still recognisable.

Basalt crystal columns on Suc de Chapteuil    Gateway at the ruins of Château de Chapteuil.

Monedevres: A church type building which was built but no religion agreed to use it so it is now a community hall

Moulins Neyzac

The village of Monedevres had a "false church", a building put up as a church but the various religions could not make up their minds so it never became a church and ended up as a community centre.   At les Moulins de Nezac we saw some old water mills powered by a stream. These vertical shaft grain/corn mills were powered by a horizontal water propelled rotor deep underneath.

Soaking wet attempting walk around Mont Alambre

Abandoning the walk around Mont Alambre, in the mist

Returning to Hôtel de Découverte

This was supposed to be our day off for sightseeing in Puy-en-Velay. But it was raining again and so we decided to do our own thing and set off for self guided walk around Mont d'Alambre volcano behind hotel. We were given packed lunches and one map with French instructions. We set off via Les Estables and then up the hill alongside the ski drag lifts. We got completely lost and after about 30 minutes wandering about on boggy fields and negotiating multiple electric fences we were no more than 500 yards from the Hotel. So we went back. The other two people continued. We had our packed lunches at the hotel and went swimming to warm up and then read books all afternoon and exercised our minds with Sudoku.

Near Moulin de Savin - setting off for our walk

Climbing in woodland near Moulin de Savin: GR70

Grande Randonnée GR70 red and white sign footpath mark

Started at le Moulin de Savin, down by the river crossing of the river Gazielle at Monastier, and climbed slowly up through woods, on footpath GR 70, till high up on the south side of the valley near Le Cluzel.  Continued at high level with good views across the valley and crossed tributary valley with waterfall.

View over Monastier valley

Pollarded trees in France

Picnic beside river Gazielle, France

Eventually down through woods with strange shaped pollarded trees, and finally crossing the bridge over the Gazielle at Colempce to reach the lunch spot by the riverside some 3 miles up the valley from our starting point. No gold found in the river here. Told that Allier river is a better idea for gold.  Returned along top of high escarpment along north side of valley. Passed a radio mast with cell phone antennas and also a receive-only satellite dish. Finally back down to Monastier where we stopped by the church to await the mini-buses. Best day so far, with fine weather.

Orgues des Ceyssoux

Walking in the rain

Distant view of Mont Mezenc which we might have climbed

Clear sky before breakfast so we optimistic at that time about a planned climb of Mont Mézenc, at 1753m, the fourth highest peak in the Massif Central.. Unfortunately by the time of departure the cloud had come down and went for alternate walk in the rain around the Orgues des Ceyssoux. Complex route amongst trees, up and down paths, varied views and actually met some other walkers for the first time. Some of the footpaths were part of the Grande Randonnée (GR) system. For more details of an example see:

A friend of mine enjoyed one of the more difficult GR routes - the GR20 path in Corsica, so if you want something really strenuous and taking several days try reading the Rough Guide to Corsica.

Pink flowers seen on French walking holiday

Blackberries eaten on French walking holiday

More Pink flowers

Yellow flowers

French spider number 295 with yellow and black stripes

Wild flowers in France

Some of the wildflowers, blackberries and the black and yellow striped spider ( numbered 295 ;) seen on our walking holiday in France.

► Page created 12 Sept 2005, amended 1 August 2015 Eric Johnston.
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