Unterwegs

AUVERGNE-RHÔNE ALPES REGION

Departments: Ain, Allier, Ardèche, Cantal, Drôme, Isère, Loire, Haute-Loire, Puy-de-Dôme, Rhône, Métropole de Lyon, Savoie, Haute-Savoie.
Population: 8 million
Prefecture: Lyon
Surface area: 69,711 km2
Specialities: Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône and Savoy wines, Lyon specialities (quenelles, cervelles de canut, saucisson), potée auvergnate, Savoyard specialities (raclette, fondue, tartiflettes, diots, crozets), cheeses (beaufort, reblochon, cantal, bleu d'Auvergne, Salers, saint-Nectaire...), green lentille of Le Puy, waters (Evian, Thonon, Volvic) verbena, chartreuse.
Sports clubs: Olympique Lyonnais, AS Saint-Etienne, Clermont Foot 63, Grenoble Foot 38 (football). ASM Clermont, Lyon OU, FC Grenoble, Stade Aurillacois, US Oyonnax (rugby), ASVEL Villeurbanne (basketball), Chambéry (handball), Brûleurs de loup Grenoble, Pionniers de Chamonix (ice hockey)
Competitions: women's football world cup, ski competitions (critérium de la Première neige in Val d'Isère), Tour de France passes, Critérium du Dauphiné.
Economy: (8th European region) high-tech industries, automobile (Berliet), metallurgy, rubber, plastics, chemicals, electronics, food processing, textiles, digital, banks, universities, administrations, viticulture, tyres (Michelin). Design. New technologies (Inovallée) Winter and summer tourism. 
Festivals: Fête des Lumières in Lyon, Nuits de Fourvière in Lyon, quais du polar in Lyon, biennale du design in Saint-Etienne, classical music festival in La Chaise-Dieu
Tourist sites: old Lyon and Croix-Rousse, Puy-en-Velay cathedral, Lake Annecy, Chambéry castle, winter sports in Isère, Savoie and Haute-Savoie, Cantal, thermal resorts, Auvergne volcanoes. Caverne du Pont d'Arc. Castle of Grignan. Bastille of Grenoble. Vulcania. Parc des Oiseaux.
Websites and social networks: www.auvergnerhonealpes.fr

LOIRE (42)

Population: 765,634
Prefecture: Saint-Etienne
Sub-prefectures: Montbrison, Roanne
Number of cantons: 21
Number of communes: 323
Surface area: 4,780 km2
Specialities: râpée du Forez, barboton (meat), sarasson, fourme de Montbrison (cheese), andouille de Charlieu, Brioches Pralus, saucisson Duculty, Maison Troisgros (Roanne), Rigotte de Condrieu and Charolais
Sports clubs: AS Saint-Etienne (football), Chorale Roanne Basket.
Competitions: SaintéLyon (night running raid), Grand Prix de la ville de Saint-Etienne (cycling) Festivals: Foreztival, Paroles & Musiques, Trax, Les Monts de la balle, Curieux Voyageurs, Roches celtiques, Saint-Etienne book fair, International design biennal, Squash Fair in Andrézieux, BD'Art Festival in Rive-de-Gier, Rhino Jazz in Saint-Chamond
Tourist sites: Le Corbusier site, Parc du Pilat, Chalmazel ski resort, La Bâtie d'Urfé castle, Pommiers priory, Cordeliers convent, Benedictine Abbey of Charlieu, City of Design, Gorges of the Loire, Montbrison (most beautiful market in France 2019), Thermal baths in Montrond-les-Bains, Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez, Château de la Roche, Château des Cornes d'Urfé, Renaison dam, Saint-Martin-la-Plaine zoo.
Economy: steel industry, mechanics, medical textiles, optics, design, mass distribution (Casino).
Websites / social networks: www.loire.fr / www.loiretourisme.fr

Km 0.7

ROCHE-LA-MOLIERE (Pop: 9,900)

Birthplace of footballer Georges Peyroche, a figure of Saint-Etienne in the 1950s, who after his career was a coach for Lille and PSG. In 2021, Roche-la-Molière was the scene of a time trial in the Critérium du Dauphiné won by Alexey Lutsenko.  

Roche-la-Molière Castle

Construction: 14th to 18th centuries
Style: fortified castle
Characteristics: for more than ten centuries, the castle of Roche-la-Molière has been standing with its towers and ramparts on a strong eminence of coal sandstone, with important developments in the 15th and 18th centuries. The castle has several listed rooms, including two paintings of the Italian school of the early seventeenth century.
History: it is named in the act of sharing Forez-Lyonnais of 1173. The Lavieu family were the first known owners. In 1772, merchant Jacques Neyron acquired the estate and had major works carried out. The interior was restored in 2013.
Current destination: the town recovered it in 1951 to make it, for a very brief period, a college, before passing into the hands of the local history society. The complex, which is now a cultural space, consists of a vast park dotted with walking paths.
Listing: Historical Monument since 1985

Km 5.4

FIRMINY (Pop: 17,000)

Firminy is known worldwide for the architectural works designed by Le Corbusier (1887-1965) and built between 1954 and 1968. It is the largest urban complex designed by the famous architect after the Indian city of Chandigarh. Firminy is also the birthplace of singer Bernard Lavilliers and former international rugby player Philippe Gimbert. The town has hosted the Critérium du Dauphiné four times between 1985 and 2021 and Paris-Nice in 1999.

Le Corbusier heritage in Firminy

Construction: from 1954
Style: modern movement
History: elected mayor of Firminy and appointed Minister of Urban Planning after the Second World War, Eugène Claudius-Petit decided to renovate his town and called on Le Corbusier, whom he had met in the United States. He commissioned the architect to build a Maison de la Culture, a "cité radieuse" building similar to the one in Marseille, a stadium and the church of Saint-Pierre. Le Corbusier proposed two phases of work in 1958 and 1962 but died in 1965 before the site was completed. The Maison de la Culture was completed in 1965, as was the housing unit. The Firminy Vert stadium was completed one year later. The Saint-Pierre church, on the other hand, remained unfinished and was finally completed in 2006. Finally the swimming pool was built by a student of Le Corbusier, André Wogenscky in 1968.
Listing: Historic Monument / Unesco World Heritage in 2016.  

Château des Bruneaux

Construction: 15th to 18th century
Style: Louis XVI
History: the existence of a castle is mentioned for the first time in 1420. It is only in the 18th century that it really becomes important thanks to the Anselmet family. It was the Charpin family, well known in Forez, who had the present building constructed in the Louis XVI style. In 1896, the castle changed ownership once again to the Chapelon family, which were expropriated in 1967. Since then, the castle has been the property of the commune.
Current use: the castle regularly hosts temporary exhibitions. In the park of the castle was created a "test mine", allowing to discover the history of mining in the region.
Listing: Historical Monument since 1975.

HAUTE-LOIRE (43)

Population: 227,570
Prefecture: Le Puy-en-Velay
Sub-prefectures: Brioude, Yssingeaux
Surface area: 4,977 km².
Specialities: green lentils of Le Puy, Verveine of Velay, Artisou cow's cheese from Haute-Loire, Red pearls from the Monts du Velay, Fine Beef from Mézenc, mountain charcuterie, lace.
Sports clubs: Le Puy Foot 43 (CFA), ASM Basket Le Puy (Men's National 2)
Sporting events: 15 km international of Le Puy-en-Velay, Grand Trail du Saint-Jacques, La Pierre Chany Grand Fondo, Traversée des Sucs (mountain bike)
Festivals: la Chaise-Dieu Festival (classical music), Renaissance Festival of the King of the Bird and the "Le Puy de lumières" show in Le Puy-en-Velay, Country Rendezvous Festival in Craponne-sur-Arzon, Interfolk, Celtic Festival in Gévaudan, Festival du Rire in Yssingeaux, Festival du Monastier
Main tourist sites: Le Puy-en-Velay, La Chaise-Dieu, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, Mézenc/Les Estables resort, Allier gorges, Loire sauvage, Chavaniac Lafayette castle.
Economy: industrial activities of excellence, plastics, mechanics, textiles, food industry, wood industry, tourism, agriculture, crafts.
Websites and social networks: www.hauteloire.fr / http://www.auvergnevacances.com/ / http://www.respirando.fr/ / https://www.facebook.com/haute.loire.tourisme / https://www.youtube.com/user/tourisme43

Km 24.8

LA SÉAUVE-SUR-SEMÈNE (Pop: 1,480)  

La Sauve-Bénite Abbey

Foundation: end of 12th century
Style: Gothic
History: initially a simple priory, the monastery became an independent abbey in 1255 or 1256. The abbey was deeply affected by the period of the Wars of Religion and was burnt down in 1600. The Revolution marked the disappearance of the abbey and its sale as national property. It became a textile factory before being bought by the town in 1971 and transformed into housing.
Listing: Historical Monument since 1993

Km 43.3

GRAZAC (Pop: 1,100)  

Carry Castle

Construction: 12th to 14th centuries
History: its oldest known owner is Hitier de Vertamise in 1136. At the beginning of the 13th century it belonged to the Lord of Saussac. In 1827, a farmer rented it and used it as a stable. Thereafter, it gradually fell into ruin.
Characteristics: the Château de Carry is on a private property of 13,000 m², strictly forbidden to the public.
Listing: Historical Monument since 1985.

Km 51.7

YSSINGEAUX (Pop: 7,300)

Yssingeaux has a Gallo-Roman origin, mentioned in the 10th century in the Chamalières cartulary. A fortified town with ramparts and towers, it was incorporated into the Auvergne, the county of Toulouse and then the crown. Jean de Bourbon built a fortified house there, a relay between the episcopal see and the summer residence of the bishops in Monistrol-sur-Loire, this building is the current town hall. It is also the birthplace of Jacques Barrot (1937-2014), several times minister between 1974 and 2004 and then vice-president of the European Commission.

Km 68.3

ROSIERES (Pop: 1,570)

In the commune is the remarkable natural site of the Corboeuf Ravines, a fragile canyon of multicoloured clays. Sometimes called the Colorado of the Auvergne, the site can be discovered on foot from Rosières by following the Galoche path. The origin of the ravines lies in the deposits of a large lake that occupied the Emblavez and Puy-en-Velay basin forty million years ago. During the Tertiary era, this basin was covered and fossilised by volcanic eruptions. Green and red clays (kaolinites) and greenish-blue to beige clays (illites) can be distinguished. These ravines are a rare geological curiosity of scientific interest, in addition to their picturesque interest. Their perimeter is approximately sixty-five hectares.

Km 75.3

LAVOUTE-SUR-LOIRE (Pop: 830)  

Castle of Lavoûte-Polignac

Construction: 10th to 19th centuries
Style: Renaissance, classical
History: a former medieval castle, the Lavoûte estate was redesigned in the 17th century by the Viscount of Polignac, Gaspard-Armand XVIII (1579-1659). The castle was sold as national property in 1793 after the Polignac family emigrated to Austria and then to Russia. In the 19th century, the Polignac family bought the castle back and Melchior de Polignac (1857-1925) had the south wing restored, which is the only building of the main building still standing today.
Characteristics: the castle is built with local stones such as volcanic grey stone and the typical ochre of the Emblavez region. The roofs of the castle are "à la française" with high roofs and flat tiles in accordance with the fashion of the time. On the façade of the south wing, which is still there, there is a stone stamped with the Polignac coat of arms and the date 1634.
Special features: it was the family's resting place, whereas the château de Polignac, situated about 6 km to the south-west, was the house of war (from the 11th century).
Listing: Historic Monument in 1967, then in 2022

Km 86.2

CHADRAC (Pop: 2,500)  

At 5 km, in Polignac:  

Château de Polignac

Construction: 12th to 16th century
Style: medieval fortress.
History: owners of the castle since the 11th century, the hereditary viscounts of Velay took the name and made it their residence until the beginning of the 17th century. The fortress, which occupied a strategic location commanding the roads to the west and north of Le Puy, could house 800 soldiers in addition to the family and its servants. Well protected in their fortress, the lords of Polignac were able to become the masters of the country. Abandoned during the 17th century by the Viscounts of Polignac, who preferred their Château de Lavoûte-Polignac, the fortress was already in ruins at the time of the Revolution. In 1830, the second Duke of Polignac bought the ruins and restored it. 
Characteristics: it was defended by six gates, the first three of which have disappeared. The fourth gate, well preserved, dates back to the 13th century. Apart from the surrounding wall and the large square tower, the buildings are in ruins. Accompanied by a turret and housing a spiral staircase with 144 steps, the keep is a rectangular building (16 m by 13 m) which overlooks the abyss from the top of its 32 m. The entrance leads into a low room, covered with a new barrel vault restored from the remaining elements of the old one.
Trivia: George Sand set the action of one of her novels, the Marquis de Villemer, here, and Prosper Mérimée, the first inspector of historical monuments, listed it in 1840.
Listing: Historical monument since 1840.

Km 87.5

LE PUY EN VELAY (Pop: 19,200)

Starting point of the Via Podensis, one of the most popular routes to Santiago de Compostela, the Haute-Loire prefecture is also famous for its statue of Notre-Dame de France which dominates the town, for its green lentils and for its lace. The Tour de France has visited Puy-en-Velay four times since 1954. During the last visit by the Grande Boucle, Dutchman Bauke Mollema broke away in the finale to win solo. Before him, Dominique Forlini, Pascal Richard and Giuseppe Guerini had won a stage in Le Puy.

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Construction: from the 12th century.
Style: Romanesque
History: after a first church built in the 5th century, the cathedral was built on Mount Anis. In the 12th century, the influx of pilgrims led to four bays being built above a vaulted porch to compensate for the slope of Mount Anis. In the 19th century, the building was considerably transformed, but the six domes and admirable painted decorations were preserved. Between 1994 and 1999, a comprehensive restoration work was carried out, which included the restoration of the central staircase, which was closed in the 18th century, the restoration of the interior facings and the reassembly of the organ with its 17th century double-sided case. A new altar has been placed at the transept crossing, while the "pilgrims" altar bears the Black Madonna, which has replaced the original statue, burnt during the revolution.
The cloister: a major Romanesque building adjoining the north of the cathedral, it is remarkable for the diversity of its capitals and the richness of its polychrome decorations. The chapter house, decorated with a 13th century fresco of the crucifixion, was home to the canons. Although restored in the 19th century, the cloister has a remarkable series of 12th century historiated capitals.
Listing: Historical Monument in 1862 then 1889 / Unesco World Heritage in 1998.  

Statue of Notre-Dame de France

Inauguration: 1860
Sculptor: Jean-Marie Bonnasssieux.
History: On 8 September 1855, the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin, General Pélissier won the siege of Sebastopol during the Crimean War. More than 200 cannons taken from the Russians were used to make the cast iron statue that the diocese of Le Puy wishes to dedicate to Notre Dame de France. The work of the sculptor Jean-Marie Bonnassieux, the statue was inaugurated on 12 September 1860 before 120,000 pilgrims.
Characteristics: it is 16 metres high and 22.70 metres with the pedestal. With a total weight of 835 tons, including 110 tons for the statue, 680 tons for the stone pedestal and 45 tons for the iron covering, it is an impressive work. From the Corneille Rock, the highest point in the Puy-en-Velay basin, visitors can enjoy an exceptional panorama of the cathedral, the old town and the entire region.  

National Lace Conservatory Workshop

Established: 1976
Characteristics: It is attached to the general administration of the Mobilier national, under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture. It is responsible for maintaining bobbin lace techniques: carding, lacemaking, finishing and assembly. The lacemakers perpetuate the traditional know-how by creating unique works of high quality according to the designs of internationally renowned contemporary artists.

Km 97.2

SAINT-CHRISTOPHE-SUR-DOLAISON (Pop: 950)

Third town on the Via Podensis from Le Puy.  

Church of Saint-Christophe

Construction: 12th century.
Style: Romanesque
Characteristics: it is built in reddish volcanic breccia, with a combed bell tower pierced by four openings. On its southern side it has several tom niches. Its plan is quite rare in the region. It consists of a nave of two bays with barrel vaulting, a transept that does not protrude much and has no apses, and an apse in the form of a cul-de-sac. To the north, a pillar with a replaced capital probably comes from an earlier church.
Special features: The church has important liturgical furnishings and objects of worship, including a 17th-century silver chalice and an 18th-century ciborium. The balustrade of the gallery was made with the old wrought iron communion table of 1785.
Listing: Historical Monument since 1907.

Km 112

LE BOUCHET-SAINT-NICOLAS (Pop: 230)  

Lake Bouchet The most popular natural site in the department, the volcanic lake of Le Bouchet is a haven of peace in a forest setting. It is a listed site. Every year it welcomes thousands of visitors attracted by the practice of sports activities, the beauty of the natural areas and the quality of the water. Since 2016, new facilities have been built on the site to enhance the exceptional natural qualities of this lake and improve the reception of the public. The lake is fed by rainwater, runoff from the catchment area and a few small springs. The water level varies little (more or less 10 cm on average over the year).

Km 118.7

SAINT-HAON (Pop: 280)  

Saint-Haon Church

Construction: 9th and 16th centuries.
Style: Romanesque
Characteristics: of Romanesque origin, the church has a chevet with a system of arches falling on modillions sculpted with human or animal heads. The decorative effect is reinforced by the polychromy of the materials. The wall-belfry has 2 pyramidal bells and 4 classical bells. Each of the 4 bells bears the name of a child of the village.
Listing: listed as a historical monument in 1913.

LOZÈRE (48)

Population: 76,604
Prefecture: Mende (Pop: 13,100)
Sub-prefecture: Florac
Surface area: 5,168 km².
Region: Occitanie
Specialities: aligot, truffade, dry sausage, fricandeau (mixture of lean, fat and pork offal cooked in a crépine), manouls (cooked mutton tripe), grass sausage, sac d'os (stuffed pork belly), pouteille (pig's trotter in red wine with potatoes), cow's, sheep's and goat's cheeses (PDO Pélardon), honeys, chestnut-based products, Quézac water, croquants, pearl barley soup, coupétade (Lozère pudding with prunes and dried fruit).
Sports clubs: Mende Volley Lozère, Avenir Foot Lozère, Team VTT Lozère Sports events: Tour du Gévaudan cycling, Gévaudathlon (multi-sport raid), Trail Lozère Sport Nature, Trèfle Lozérien (enduro race), Marvejols-Mende half-marathon, 160 km de Florac (equestrian endurance race), Lozère rally, Mende Pétanque National.
Economy: agriculture, tourism and nature sports, medico-social, wood industry, food industry. Lozère boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in France, around 10,000 businesses, 700 of which are industrial, 1,000 in the building and public works sector, as well as significant activity in the agri-food and wood sectors.
Main tourist sites: Mende Cathedral, Puech des Bondons (2nd largest megalithic site in Europe), Aven Armand cave, Gévaudan Wolf Park, Bagnols-les-Bains and La Chaldette thermal spas, Sainte-Enimie medieval village, Runes and Déroc waterfalls, Aubrac (St Jacques de Compostelle path), Naussac Lake, Dargilan cave, European Bison Park, Vulture Belvedere in the Jonte Gorges...
Festivals : Festival d'Olt in Le Bleymard (contemporary music), Détours du Monde in Chanac (world music), Festiv'Allier in Langogne (new francophone scene), Marveloz Pop Festival in Marvejols (pop culture), Musical Encounters in Le Malzieu-Ville (classical music), 48e de rue in Mende (street arts), 48 image per second in Florac (cinema), Tales Festival (storytelling), Vébron international film festival, Rock Country in Cévennes Festival, Interfolk48 Festival in Langogne, Grand Sud Opera Festival, World cultures Festival in La Fage-Saint Julien, Phot'Aubrac Festival.
Websites and social networks: www.lozere.fr / www.facebook.com/DptLozere / www.lozerenouvellevie.com / www.lozere-tourisme.com

Km 122.5

SAINT-BONNET-LAVAL (Pop: 250)  

Saint-Privat church

Construction: 12th century.
Style: Romanesque
Characteristics: 12th-century church that has not been altered in any way, apart from the sacristy set against the apse. A small gabled bell tower with three bays rises above the arch that reinforces the western façade. The nave is barrel-vaulted, the apse is arched. The west façade opens onto a porch with a semi-circular archivolt resting on columns with capitals.
Listed as a Historic Monument since 1939.  
Condres Castle Construction: 15th to 18th centuries.
Characteristics: a fortified house whose exterior and interior appearance is the result of two major construction campaigns. The first was undertaken in 1624 and gave the building a fortified silhouette with a sentry walk, watchtowers and large stone cross windows used to light the rooms on the first floor with French painted ceilings. The second campaign took place in the 18th century. Comfort improvements were made.
Listing: Historic Monument in 2011.

Km 137.5

GRANDRIEU (Pop: 750)  

Saint-Martin Church

Construction: 12th and 13th centuries.
Style: Romanesque
Characteristics: the building is entirely built of granite. The plan is cross-shaped, with a nave with side chapels and two choir chapels forming the arms of the cross. The building ends with a pentagonal apse. Inside, there are sculpted lamp bases (human heads, animals, foliage, geometric representations). Around 1923, work in the south side chapel revealed frescoes with Gothic figures, scrolls and letters. The construction of the side chapels could be the work of Englishmen, which is suggested by the representation of popular English saints such as Bartholomew and Onuphrius.
History: There are two theories about the origin of the church. For some, it is due to the lords of Montauroux, on which Grandrieu depended. For others, the presence of Norman or Breton saints suggests that it was built by monks from Brittany.
Listing: Historical Monument since 1930.

Km 154.1

CHATEAUNEUF-DE-RANDON (Pop: 530)

This Lozère village owes its fame to Bertrand du Guesclin, Constable of France and Castile, who died here on 13 July 1380. The "Black Dog of Broceliande" was besieging the castle which gave its name to the village when he died of a high fever, attributed to drinking water that was too cold. In the village, a statue of Hector Lemaître pays tribute to Bertrand du Guesclin, to whom a cenotaph is also dedicated. All that remains of the medieval castle is a tower.  

Cenotaph of Bertrand du Guesclin

Construction: 1820
History: the cenotaph was built by national subsidy and subscription in 1828. The recumbent is a blue limestone reproduction of du Guesclin's tomb in the royal basilica of Saint-Denis. The building was replaced in 1911 by a mausoleum made of granite. The recumbent statue was replaced in 1980 by a zinc sculpture by sculptor Philippe Kaeppelin.
Characteristics: the cenotaph is located in the hamlet of l'Habitarelle on a small mound, accessed by a staircase. The monument bears inscriptions on three of its sides: . Front side: "Bertrand du Guesclin, Constable of France 1313-1380". . Right side: "Here on July 13, 1380, Bertrand du Guesclin received on his deathbed the keys of Châteauneuf-de-Randon taken from the last chiefs of the great companies. . On the left-hand side, "This monument was erected by the government of the Republic and the department of Lozère in memory of Bertrand du Guesclin, precursor of Joan of Arc in the work of national recovery."
Listing: Historical Monument since 1911.

Km 177.4

PELOUSE (Pop: 240)  

Church of Notre-Dame de la Rouvière

Construction: 12th century
Style: Romanesque
Characteristics: this rural sanctuary has the characteristics of the Romanesque churches of the Gévaudan region: a single nave with four barrel-vaulted bays, a pentagonal apse and a seven-sided apse with a semi-dome vault. An arcaded bell tower is placed on the west gable and a cemetery borders the church on the south.
History: there are two churches in the commune as the church of La Rouvière was the parish church in 1364. It remained so until 1889 when Pelouse became the main town of the commune, taking the title from La Rouvière.
Listing: Historic monument since 1973.

Km 183.5

BADAROUX (Pop: 980)

This is the birthplace of Joseph-Antoine Chaptal (1756-1832), chemist and politician, inventor of chaptalization, a process which increases the alcohol content of wines by sugaring, and which revolutionized the viticulture of his time. In addition to his brilliant career as a minister, Chaptal held the highest political positions: Napoleon Bonaparte's Minister of the Interior in 1801, he notably created the arrondissements of Paris. He was twice made a Peer of France.

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