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We leave for France, to Vezelay and then the Auvergne

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Tuesday 06 June, we leave for France, to Vezelay and then the Auvergne

Today we leave again for a holiday, we have not been abroad yet this year. We both feel that we are in need of it, but quite frankly, we can always go on holiday. We do not really banish the pressures of everyday life, it is more an addiction to a certain kind of freedom that we can not (yet) find in daily life and of course the urge to discover other, unknown places. And so we can mention a whole list of reasons, but in the end it comes down to the fact that we love to go on holiday.
There is actually not much to tell about today; we are on our way to France where we have not been for years, we only drove through it on the way to Spain and Portugal, and it is still a country that is definitely worth exploring. We used to go here before, but that was at a time we didn't have a camera with us. We have now selected 4 regions to visit, but the question is whether we have time to see them all: the Auvergne (extinct volcano area) in the middle to south, the Languedoc south of it near the Spanish border, the Cote d'Azur in the southeast and the French Alps north of it. If we see half of it, it is good too.
In the Netherlands we encounter nothing more interesting on the way than a little castle that we see from the road at Houten and the thermometer that slowly rises while we drive south: it will be a maximum of 16 degrees today and it is the beginning of June! For a month now it has been cold, wet and windy and we long for some warmth, just walking outside without a jacket, preferably without a sweater.
In northern France, the temperature rises above 20 degrees (after a small problem with our navigation that wants to bring us to Brussels again and again if we do not want to take the motorway south via Paris ...) and after 800 kilometers and 9 hours feel it is time to stop, especially when we see a hotel for € 30 see on the outskirts of Auxerre. At 7 o'clock in the evening we walk in a t-shirt outside and that already feels like a luxury. Tonight we go early to bed and tomorrow further south, on to even more sun. We hope ...

Wednesday 07 June 2006, to Vezelay and the Auvergne

It is vacation, so we wake up later than normal. Although, sometimes we get up a lot earlier because it's a holiday and we want to do a lot. The sun is smiling at least and the announced luxurious buffet consists of dry rolls with jam does not spoil our pleasure either.
The basilica of VezelayWe do not have to drive very far today because a campsite south of Clermont-Ferrand is our goal. On the way there we first go to Vezelay, a quiet village in Bourgondy, which lies against a 300 meter high hill with a famous basilica at the top. The village has been a pilgrim town and pilgrimage for more than 1000 years. It was a gathering place for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Via a narrow and steep road we drive through the village to the square where the large cathedral towers over the village and the surrounding valleys.
Although there are only about 500 people living, the village has a rich and tragic history. In 1120, more than 1,000 pilgrims died when the church went up in flames. In 1146 a large crowd was gathered here, against the slopes, which was summoned by Bernard of Clairvaux to start the 2nd crusade to Israel. Later crusades (1189, 1248 and 1270) departed from Vezelay, without having much result, incidentally.
The basilica of Vezelay VezelayIt is pretty quiet in the village, we had expected a lot more tourists, but it is still early in the season. We look at the Sainte Marie-Madeleine basilica and the village at ease. In the catacombs of the church we see relics, but whether the bones of Mary Magdalene were included, as the legend tells us, we do not know.
View from VezelayIn the Middle Ages, this was a famous place where, of course, famous people such as Thomas Beckett and Franciscus of Assisi went. And in 1146 it must have been a true spectacle with thousands of crusaders who occupied the slopes and were in ecstasy because they had something to fight against. Historical moments to get goose bumps when you imagine it happened in this place, although we personally see the medieval and contemporary Crusades as pretty black pages in history.
In the sun on a terraceIn a small village we pause for a cup of coffee in the sun but we look surprised when the owner does not want to accept our money: we still have 2 notes of 5 euros in our pocket, both false according to the best man. After a whole discussion he still accepts 1 of the 2 notes because there is no ATM in the village. We keep the other note and let us check it at home an it tuned out to be false indeed. We still know where we got the five as change, would that shopkeeper have a business?
We also need gas refueling again, so it is also time to pin. A cash machine is quickly found, at almost every bank there is one. We also find a gas station with lpg faster than expected! 15 years it qas quite a quest to find some retreated places where the lpg tank was often hidden far away behind the petrol station, but now more stations have LPG (or GPL as the French call it). And the Dutch paranoia also seems to be over. In the past you were often not allowed to refuel yourself and you had to wait until you were helped. Because those Dutch people tend to run away without paying, a pump owner once explained to me.
Castle at Chouvigny The Sioule valleyWe now first drive over the N9 to the south, into the Auvergne, to turn off at Gannat to the first gorge of this trip, the Gorges de la Sioule. We have left the lovely Burgundy with its gently sloping hills behind and the area becomes more rugged. We know that somewhere in the gorge there is a castle, but we are still surprised when we suddenly see it from a parking lot at a distance, we had almost forgotten it was there because we were so enjoying nature. The Sioule is a small river that has carved out the rocks and has formed a steep and deep valley.
Flowers on the rocksWe are now in the northern part of the Massif Central, a mountain area in the heart of France with extinct volcanoes. But besides volcanic rock such as granite, there is also a lot of limestone where trees and plants can miraculously attach themselves to and just seem to grow out of the stone. We have never been in this area but it seems to be a favorite place for Dutch people.
Rocher castleAt Rocher we come across our second castle, we are glad we do not have the ambition to visit all the castles in France, that is just too much. In the Auvergne you can visit many compact castles and ruins from the 13th century that are often strategically placed on inhospitable summits. This time we are satisfied with just a photograph. We feel completely away from home (which is a good feeling even though we have a nice home) and enjoy the hills and valleys and notice that our car is actually a little too light for this work uphill. Annoying for the people behind us on the road, but well, we can not do anything about that.
We are now trying to get to the planned campsite without taking toll roads, but our navigation wants to send us through very steep and very narrow roads in the outskirts of Clermont-Ferrand and eventually we succeed, but we are regularly disobedient to our navigation. It is unfortunate that there is no penalty system in place, for example that the voice becomes a bit stricter or harsh if you do not follow a clue a couple of times, that would make it a lot more fun! Maybe a tip to deliver as an option with the software!
The tent is ready, in OrcetOn the internet we have already selected a campsite in advance that seemed good enough for us and around 7 o'clock we arrive at Le Clos Auray in Orcet, just below Clermont-Ferrand. We are received in Dutch and can choose a place ourselves. The pitches are all large and we find a nice spot at the back of the campsite. In advance we have already practiced to put up the new tent which is a lot bigger than the previous one and we doneed 45 minutes to finish it. And then we are completely sweaty because it is already much warmer here than yesterday when we left. At 11 o'clock we are still outside, the holiday has really started!


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