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On the road

CYCLING TOURISM
Closest KM: no specific KM, as the route between Clermont-Ferrand and Moulins can be done as is

Cycling in the Central Massif is synonymous with the GTMC! The Grande Traversée du Massif Central is a mountain bike route that crosses the Central Massif from Burgundy to the Mediterranean Sea, following a well-marked trail almost 1,400 km long. Starting from the hills and lakes of the Morvan, the route takes cyclists on a tour of the diverse and hidden beauty of the Central Massif, climbs the volcanoes of Auvergne and ventures into Cévennes National Park and the vast plateaus of the Grands Causses before reaching its terminus on the shores of the Mediterranean! Originally designed for mountain biking, with or without electric assist, it can also be tackled as a gravel grinder by combining the GTMC and small secondary roads.

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
Area: 69,711 km2
Specialities: Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône and Savoie 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 lentil 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 union), 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: (8e European region) high-tech industries, automotive (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

PUY-DE-DÔME

Population: 656,643
Prefecture: Clermont-Ferrand
Sub-prefecture : Ambert, Issoire, Riom, Thiers
Area: 7,970 km2
Specialities: cheese (Bleu d'Auvergne, Cantal, Fourme d'Ambert, Salers, and Saint-nectaire), Salers beef,
Major sports clubs: ASM Clermont Auvergne (rugby), Clermont Université Club (basketball),
Major competitions: Mont-Dore hill climb (car), Volvic cross-country race.
Festivals: international short film festival in Clermont-Ferrand, Europavox, Jazz en tête, Jazz aux sources in Châtel-Guyon, international festival of world music and dance in Issoire, Coutellia in Thiers.
Tourist sites: Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park, thermal spas (La Bourboule, Châteauneuf-les-Bains, Châtel-Guyon, Mont-Dore, Royat-Chamalières and Saint-Nectaire), Notre-Dame-du-Port in Clermont-Ferrand, cutlery museum in Thiers, winter sports (Super-Besse, Le Mont-Dore)
Economy: tyres (Michelin), food industry (Limagrain, mineral water), metallurgy, thermalism, tourism.
Websites and social networks : www.puy-de-dome.fr

Km 0.3

GERZAT

This former fortified town is now a suburb of the north of Clermont-Ferrand. It is also known for pansette de Gerzat, a kind of tripou made from stuffed lamb's belly. It is also the birthplace of Alfred Faure, who took part in five Tours de France between 1904 and 1914 and won a stage in 1904. It was an eventful victory for the adopted St Etienne citizen as in that stage his supporters had attacked his opponents to help him win: fifth in Marseille, he was awarded the victory following the disqualification of the four riders who had arrived before him.  

Sampigny Castle
Built: 1668
Style: classic.
History: the castle of Sampigny was built in 1668 for Pierre de Vernaison, receiver of consignments of Riom. In 1732, by marriage the castle became the property of Count Gabriel-Francois de Sampigny d'Issoncourt, Marquis of Effiat.
Characteristics: the castle constitutes a heterogeneous whole which is composed of a main body of housing of square plan, built at the end of the 17th century, whose architecture is animated with angle turrets, dormer windows and a high roof. It was extended in the 18th century by a more severe wing topped by a flat roof. A long wing of outbuildings, in typically Auvergne style, which appears to be from the same period, is independent of the 17th century main building. In the park, there is a small four-lobed pool to the south of the dwelling, and a narrow water feature
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1976.

Km 10.3

ENNEZAT

Collegiate Church of Saint Victor and Saint Couronne
Construction: 12th century.
Style: Romanesque and Gothic.
History: the chapter of Saint-Victor and Sainte-Couronne was founded between 1061 and 1073 by William, Count of Poitiers. The foundation was approved by a bull of Pope Alexander II. The chapter then comprised twelve canons, a dean and a chaplain. The Romanesque church, of which the nave, the transept, the barlong and the first floor of the octagonal bell tower remain, was built in the 12th century. It is included in the first list of French historical monuments, that of 1840.
Characteristics: the collegiate church is one of the major Romanesque churches in the Lower-Auvergne region, normally characterised by an octagonal bell tower, a "massive barlong", a chevet with an ambulatory, radiating chapels, apsidioles adjoining the transept arms, and specific decorations. However, unlike the five major churches of the complete type (Notre-Dame-du-Port, Issoire, Orcival, Saint-Nectaire and Saint-Saturnin), it lost its Romanesque chevet, which was replaced in the 13th century by a Gothic chevet.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1840.

Km 22.9

AUBIAT

The small town of Aubiat has no less than five castles (Aubiat, Mons, Montclavel, Persignat), which cannot be visited. The most visible is the castle of Aubiat, located in the centre of the village and stronghold of the Bonnevie family.  

Mons Castle
History: The fief of Mons belonged to the de Mons family since the end of the 15th century. Around 1515, Jean Pascal bought the seigneury and added the name Mons to his name. Around 1618, the castle was bought by Gilbert Rigaud, criminal lieutenant general in Riom. In 1660, it belonged to Antoine Forget, councillor at the Presidial of Riom. The estate passed to General Beker, appointed Count of Mons by Napoleon I. Beker was close to the Emperor and was buried in the church in Aubiat. Around 1890, the château de Mons was in the hands of the Bonnevie family.
Special feature: visible from the road, the castle is privately owned and cannot be visited.

Km 26.6

AIGUEPERSE

The town is situated in the north of the Limagne and Auvergne regions, and during the Renaissance was the capital of a small autonomous principality, the Principality of Montpensier. The town has inherited some treasures from those rich times, even if its church has not kept Andrea Mantegna's Saint Sebastian, the first Italian Renaissance painting received in France on the occasion of the marriage of Gilbert of Bourbon-Montpensier, dauphin of Auvergne, and Clara de Gonzaga of Mantua. It was sold in 1910 to the Louvre. However, a Nativity by Florentine Benedetto Ghirlandaio remains. The town also had two important convents, that of the Poor Clares, which today houses the Community of Municipalities of Nord-Limagne, and that of the Ursulines, the seat of the town hall, listed as a historical monument in 1975.  

Holy Chapel of Aigueperse
Construction: 1475 to 1496.
Style: Gothic.
History: it is the last vestige of the castle of the dauphins of Auvergne, destroyed by fire in 1574. The Sainte-Chapelle had a funerary vocation for the Bourbon branch, dauphins of Auvergne. It was built by Louis I de Montpensier, who was the cousin of Duke John II of Bourbon. Its construction is also linked to the formation of a powerful Bourbon domain at the end of the Middle Ages and to the emulation between the cousins, Montpensier seeking to equal the ducal capital, Moulins and its holy chapel of Bourbon l'Archambault.
Characteristics: It is one of the seven "holy chapels" (out of ten originally) that remain in France. It is approximately 21-m long and 7.80-m wide. It was built on the same plan as the Sainte-Chapelle in Riom. It is a single nave building with a pentagonal choir preceded by a nave with two unequal bays. The chapel's decorative style is that of a restrained flamboyant gothic style, with a limited but homogeneous elevation and elegant but small-scale sculpture, reflecting the relative modesty of the foundation by a younger branch of the ducal family. Some remarkable works of art enriched the ensemble, such as the stained-glass windows, Italian paintings and pieces of gold and silverware.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1862.

Km 29.3

CHAPTUZAT

Chaptuzat is above all remarkable for its Château de la Roche, the birthplace of Michel de l'Hospital: poet, protector of the poets of the Pléiade such as Ronsard, adviser to Catherine de Medici and Chancellor of France in 1560, he tried in vain to put an end to the Wars of Religion.  

Château de la Roche
Construction: 13th century, from 1250 to 1270.
Style: fortress.
History: The castle was probably built from an outpost tower of the powerful Montpensier castle, which controlled access to the Limagne plain. La Roche was granted as a fief in the 15th century to Louis de Bosderon and became a seigneurial residence. The castle then went to Jean de L'Hospital, adviser to Charles of Bourbon, Count of Montpensier, and then to his son, the chancellor Michel de L'Hospital, who was born there. He transformed it in the 16th century and his family kept it until the 18th century. In 1812, the estate was acquired by Baron Jean Grenier when he took up his post at the Court of Riom. He then carried out restorations in the medieval style of the 19th century.
Characteristics: a fortified enclosure in the shape of a horseshoe was built around 1250, consisting of a first oval tower and then a circular keep facing south. The present keep was built in the 14th century on the foundations of the circular keep which was ruined following the siege of the fortress at the end of the Hundred Years' War. The dwelling and the other buildings were built in the 15th century, leaning against the enclosure surmounted by a parapet walk and spread around a courtyard. A second wall was built in the 16th century.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1965

Km 43.3

SAINT-QUINTIN-SUR-SIOULE

 Castle of Saint-Quintin-sur-Sioule
Construction: 10th, 13th and 17th centuries.
Style: medieval.
History: built in the 13th century, the castle illustrates the styles that followed one another until the 17th century.
Characteristics: the building consists of a main building framed by a rectangular pavilion to the north and a round tower to the south. The south wing is built into this tower. The north wing extends the pavilion and is set back from it, forming a strong westward projection. In the corner of the north wing stands the staircase tower. The castle has retained its medieval character, with the other periods being particularly marked in the openings (late Gothic, Renaissance, classical). Inside, a set of paintings is said to be the work of painter Louise Moillon and was executed around 1653. Older than the castle, only the eastern part of the chapel remains. It is certainly an ancient sanctuary dating from before the 11th century.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1973.

ALLIER (03)

Population: 335,628
Prefecture: Moulins.
Sub-prefectures: Montluçon, Vichy.
Area: 7,340 km2
Number of municipalities: 317
Specialities: potato pâté, Charolais meat, andouillette, Saint-Pourçain wines (AOC), Chambérat du Bourbonnais, Charroux mustard, Moulinois, Lapalisse truths and Vichy pastilles.
Sports clubs: Moulins Yzeure Foot 03 Auvergne, Montluçon Football (men's football), Yzeure Allier Auvergne (women's football), Jeanne d'Arc de Vichy Val d'Allier (basketball). FC Moulinois (rugby union). Ligier (motor racing).
Competitions: Ironman Vichy, Vin'Scène en Bourbonnais, Foulée vichyssoises (pedestrian race),
Tourist sites: Thermal baths: Vichy, Néris-les-Bains; Lapalisse castle and its famous Renaissance coffered ceilings, Bourbon-l'Archambault castle, "cradle of the Bourbons", Grand Casino of Vichy, Jacquemart belfry in Moulins, Chareil-Cintrat castle, the historic route of the Auvergne castles; churches and abbeys: Moulins cathedral and the triptych of the Virgin in glory, Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul priory church in Souvigny. Museums: national centre for stage costumes, museum of the Visitation and Bourbonnaise life, Anne-de-Beaujeu museum, museum of youth illustration (MIJ), building museum and Maison Mantin in Moulins, Augustin-Bernard museum in Bourbon-l'Archambault, Museum of popular music (Mupop) in Montluçon, Museum of African and Asian arts in Vichy, Museum of Wine in Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule, Souvigny Museum, Historial du paysan soldat in Fleuriel, Street Art City in Lurcy-Lévis. Villages: Charroux, Hérisson, Souvigny and Verneuil-en-Bourbonnais.
Festivals: Jazz in the Bocage, Jazz along the Cher, Musiques Vivantes, Opéra de poche, Fall Musical Days in Souvigny, Monts de la Madeleine music festival, Bourbonnais musical festival, Festival lyrique en Tronçais
Economy: agriculture still occupies a large part of the employment market. Tourism and thermal baths are also important. Industry is very present, mainly with metallurgy, mechanical engineering, electrical equipment and foodstuffs manufacturing, but also with rubber and plastic products, which account for half of the department's industrial jobs. The mechanical/electronic/computer/automatic/plasturgy sector includes large groups such as Sagem-Safran, Potain-Manitowoc, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Dunlop Goodyear (in Montluçon), Erasteel-Eramet, Amis, Bosch (in Yzeure). Its development is based on the Viameca competitiveness cluster and on local technical training (Montluçon). The wood industry, linked to local forestry, includes leading groups such as Berry Wood, Chignac Bois et scierie, Ets Canard, Ets J. Bourdier, Ets Roy et Fils, Fournel Emballages, Menuiserie Charpente Philippe Guillaumin, Menuiserie Dutour, Office national des forêts, Sedec, Sefic, Stand Expo Deco, Tonnerre. The food industry is based on a strong local agricultural tradition, quality and top-of-the-range products, mainly water and meat, as well as the Cereals Valley international competitiveness cluster. It includes large industrial groups (Alliance Bigard Charal, Compagnie de Vichy, Épicentre, Kraft Food, Ldc, Sicarev, Société commerciale des eaux du bassin de Vichy, etc.) and numerous SMEs (Allier Volailles, Convivial, Pouzadoux, Puigrenier, Sicaba, etc.). The nutrition-health sector includes about ten companies active in manufacturing, packaging and biotechnology, grouped together in an association (Nutravita). It benefits from the dynamism of the Naturopôle Nutrition and Health Park and the Vichy BioPark (L'Oréal Cosmetics in Vichy).
Websites / FB: www.allier.fr, www.allier-auvergne-tourisme.com, Twitter: @Allierdpt

Km 45.4

EBREUIL

Ébreuil, which in December 2018 obtained the tourist label Petite Cité de caractère (Small city of character), is renowned for its Romanesque abbey church, which is a listed historic monument. The town was known for its lime, which is very pure, an activity that is still carried out today by craftsmen. Thanks to the importance that Saint-Léger Abbey had in the region, Ébreuil saw many personalities pass through or stay here, from Louis the Debonair to Charles VII, from Catherine de Medici and her son Charles IX to the Marquis de Sade, whose uncle was the abbot of Ébreuil. The famous highwayman Mandrin was also seen there. In 1754, after being surrounded with his men, he was wounded by two rifle shots, which did not prevent him from fleeing and, a few days later, in Ébreuil, from being confronted by five customs officers from the Vichy brigade, whom he massacred before being arrested a few months later.  

Saint-Léger d'Ébreuil abbey and abbey church
Construction: 10th to 18th centuries.
Style: Romanesque.
History: at the end of the 8th century, Louis the Pious (also known as "the Debonair"), son of Charlemagne, Emperor of the West, established one of his royal residences there. In the 9th century, the translation of the relics of saint Maxentius and saint Léger (Leodegar) by the monks of Saint-Maixent in Poitou, fleeing the Norman raids, ended up in Ébreuil where the Carolingian sovereign installed them in the royal chapel. The relics of saint Leodegar remained in Ébreuil, those of saint Maxentius left for Brittany. The possession of the relics of saint Leodegar attracted the veneration of pilgrims and contributed to the wealth and fame of the abbey. The monastic buildings were destroyed in the 18th century, as well as the south side of the abbey church. A hospital-retirement home was built in place of the monastery buildings. Today, nothing remains of the abbey except for the Carolingian, Romanesque and early Gothic abbey church. It is the only Carolingian church in the Auvergne and is one of only five Carolingian churches in France to have preserved its wooden roof structure.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 2010 (abbey church).

Km 58.4

NADES

Nades, whose Saint-Jacques church is partly listed, was distinguished by its château, known as the "château du parc", built in the mid-19th century by the Duke of Morny, half-brother of Napoleon III. He received celebrities of the time such as Jacques Offenbach and Alphonse Daudet, and built a model farmhouse which remains today, unlike the castle. Nades is also the birthplace of philosopher Sylviane Agacinski, wife of former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

Km 61.7

ECHASSIERES

The village is notable for its large deposit of high purity kaolin, which is used in the manufacture of tiles and porcelain. It also has significant lithium resources which will be exploited for the manufacture of mobile phone batteries.  

Beauvoir Castle
Construction: 12th century.
Style: castle.
History: the lordship and the castle of Beauvoir belonged from the 12th century to the beginning of the 16th century to the Le Loup family, an important family of the Bourbonnais, then passed by marriage to the Alègre family who kept it until 1775. The castle then changed owners several times. Today, the castle is the headquarters of the Société des kaolins de Beauvoir, which exploits the kaolin deposits in the Colettes forest.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1929. 

Bouble Viaduct
Construction: 1868 to 1871
Style: railway viaduct.
Characteristics: it allows the railway line from Commentry to Gannat to cross the Bouble valley. The main viaduct is an iron truss bridge with an upper deck. The access viaduct is a semi-circular arch bridge built of masonry. The length of the main viaduct is 300 metres. It consists of six 50-metre spans resting on five cast iron piers. The masonry section has 17 arches. The height of the structure in relation to the valley floor is 62 metres.
Special features: with the viaducts of the Bouble, Belon, Rouzat and Neuvial, the railway line from Commentry to Gannat, 54 km long, has 4 viaducts listed as historical monuments.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 2009.

Km 81.3

COMMENTRY

This mining town experienced strong growth in the 19th century thanks to its open-cast coal mine. It was Nicolas Rambourg (1751-1827), master of the forges of the Tronçais forest, who became the concessionaire of the Commentry mines in 1821 and triggered the industrialisation of the town. It was the first town in France to elect a socialist mayor, Christophe Thivrier, in 1882, and as such became a symbol for this party, which organised a congress there in 1902. Commentry's heritage dates mainly from this period of development. The town hall, built in 1897, houses frescoes by Marc Saint-Saëns and a triptych by Charles Duvent, La Joie au travail, as well as La Liberté guidant le Peuple, by Lucien Pénat, a copy of Eugène Delacroix commissioned by the municipality to decorate the main hall. Commentry also has a rich cycling history. It is the birthplace of Hippolyte Aucouturier, winner of Paris-Roubaix in 1903 and 1904 and Bordeaux-Paris in 1903 and 1905. Nicknamed the "Hercules of Commentry", he was a formidable sprinter and also won five stages of the Tour de France, finishing second in 1905 behind Louis Trousselier. Recognisable by his moustache, he had also won four of the six stages of the 1904 Tour before being disqualified. A major criterium in the 1960s and 1970s, Commentry also hosted the Tour de l'Avenir in 2008 and Paris-Nice in 2016, when Michael Matthews won the stage.

Km 90.1

NERIS-LES-BAINS

At an altitude of 352 metres, the town is situated in the foothills of the Massif Central and more particularly on the Combrailles plateau. As its name suggests, its main activity is thermal spas, initiated by the Romans, who exploited the town's water under the name Aquae Nerii. The waters were used for therapeutic purposes and two luxurious thermal establishments were created. Many monuments were built: temples, thermal baths, villas... The 8th Augusta legion was stationed there towards the end of the 1st century and a theatre-amphitheatre was built to offer circus games and theatrical performances to the soldiers and inhabitants. There are still many remains of this golden age: the villa of Cheberne, the Roman camp of Chaudes. The reputation of the waters of Neris did not falter, as they were mentioned by Rabelais. In the 19th century, new thermal baths were created, as well as a casino and a theatre, and the curists were celebrities: Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Musset, Empress Eugénie. Néris-les-Bains hosted the Tour de l'Avenir in 2008 and is the birthplace of Hubert Bastianelli, who took part in the 1953 Tour de France. 

Thermal baths of Néris-les-Bains
Built: 1826
History: the establishment was built in 1826 on the site of Gallo-Roman baths, the first stone having been laid by the daughter of Charles X.
Characteristics: building of ancient inspiration, vast rectangular ensemble with four square corner pavilions. The central part of the south façade has been slightly shifted to make room for a basin bordered by a grid, containing the thermal waters. This façade is preceded by a peristyle, formed by eight rectangular pillars with capitals decorated with a few mouldings. Inside, the south gallery contains numerous lapidary elements from the old thermal baths.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1984.

Km 96.6

MONTLUÇON

Montluçon was once a fortified town, located on the border of several large regions, Berry, Marche and Auvergne. Historically, it was first part of the Bituriges' territory during Antiquity, of Berry for a good part of the Middle Ages, then was united to the lordship of Bourbon in the 13th century. For a long time it was a rival to Moulins, which was more populous and influential. It prospered from the end of the 19th century when industry developed thanks to the Berry canal and the presence of coal. Firms such as Dunlop were established here and made the town famous before the decline of the post-industrial era. It is also the birthplace of former socialist minister Marx Dormoy, composer André Messager and actress Audrey Tautou. It is impossible to talk about Montluçon and cycling without mentioning the personality of Roger Walkowiak, the surprise winner of the 1956 Tour. This son of a Polish immigrant from Montluçon certainly took advantage of the absence of many of the favourites and the discomfiture of the others to win what is known as "a Tour à la Walko", but his victory was essentially due to his merit and his form at the time. Roger Walkowiak, who passed away in 2017, also won a stage in the Vuelta in 1957. Montluçon hosted the Tour de France six times between 1953 and 2008. In the latter year, it was Sylvain Chavanel who took the first of his three stage victories in the Grande Boucle. Among the other riders from Montluçon, we can mention Florian Vachon (six participations in the Tour de France between 2014 and 2019) or Maurice Gandolfo, cyclo-cross world silver-medallist in 1962. The most successful of them all is Julian Alaphilippe, who, although born in Saint-Amand-Montrond, grew up in Désertines, on the outskirts of Montluçon, and started cycling at the Entente cycliste Montmarault-Montluçon.  

Castle of the Dukes of Bourbon
Foundation: 1070
Style: castle.
Characteristics: the castle is the emblem of the municipality and is an imposing two-storey rectangular building. It is covered lengthways by a steeply sloping gable roof and is flanked at its south-western corner by a square tower serving as a keep. On the east side of the building, the square turret with the clock dominates the whole building.
History: In 1070, Guillaume de Bourbon became lord of Montluçon and had a first fortress built. What remains of the castle is built from 1370, in the middle of the Hundred Years War, by Louis II of Bourbon. When the Bourbonnais region became part of France, under Francis I, the castle was abandoned. The town of Montluçon bought it in 1816 with the aim of turning it into a barracks. It was at this point that the most irreversible demolitions took place. The castle was stripped of its wooden gallery to make way for concrete. The interior was redesigned several times to accommodate a court, an auditorium and the offices of the Montluçon town hall. 
Current use: From 1959 onwards, the castle was used as a museum for popular music. It is now used as a storeroom for MuPop but cannot be visited as a monument.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1926.  

Museum of Popular Music (MuPop)
Opening: June 21, 2013.
History: MuPop houses the largest collection of musical instruments and objects in France since the mid-18th century. It opened its doors on 21 June 2013, the day of Fête de la Musique. It is housed on a 3,300 m2 site in the historic Charnisay and Méchain hotels in the city centre, which house the instrument collections, while a modern extension houses the entertainment areas.
Features: there are 3,500 musical instruments spread over three routes (immersive musical route, enriched instrumental route, interactive digital route), 200 mobile listening points, a temporary exhibition space, a mediation space and a documentation centre.
Label: Musée de France.

Km 115

AUDES

The village is home to the Berry Canal Museum (museecanaldeberry.fr).  

Château de la Crête
Construction: Middle Ages, 16th to 20th centuries.
History: the old castle was the stronghold of a seigneury considered to be one of the milestones of the Bourbons' settlement in the eastern part of their territory.
Characteristics: built in a ravine and surrounded by an artificial pond, the building consisted of two L-shaped buildings flanked by round or square towers and arranged around an enclosed courtyard. Certain details indicate a 14th or 15th century construction. The outbuildings and a chapel were built between the 16th and 18th centuries in a mixture of local ochre and red sandstone. A new castle was built in the 20th century as well as a courtyard of honour. This last building adopts an eclectic style mixing neo-Gothic and Italian classicism.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 2006.  

Canal de Berry
The Berry Canal, first called the "Cher Canal", then the "Duke of Berry Canal" before taking its present name in 1830, was built between 1808 and 1840. It was initially 320-km long: it was used until 1945 and then decommissioned and disposed of in 1955. It links Montluçon to Vierzon, in three branches.

Km 127.4

HERISSON

Hérisson is a medieval village in the north of the Allier, nestled in a basin, with its castle at the top of a hill overlooking the Aumance, the river that runs through the village. Part of its territory is concerned by the Natura 2000 protection of the "Hérisson bat shelters". Nine buildings in this picturesque village are listed or registered as historical monuments, including the old rampart gates, the former Saint-Sauveur church and the town houses. Hérisson is also a stronghold of theatrical creation in the Allier. 

Hérisson Castle
Construction: 11th and 14th centuries.
Style: medieval
History: the primitive castle had a square keep and a second smaller one. It was extended in the 14th century by Louis II of Bourbon. The present castle replaced the first one, with the creation of fortifications. On the orders of Mazarin, it was dismantled in 1652 and used as a stone quarry. In 1830, it passed from the de Condé family to the Duke of Aumale. Then in the middle of the 20th century, it belonged to the Touring Club of France, which organised restoration work there. In 1983, the castle was acquired by the town of Hérisson.
Characteristics: The remains stand on a rocky mound measuring 90 m by 35 m, dominating an intermediate terrace between the castle and the village, both of which still retain much of their enclosure flanked by cylindrical towers, four of which are still standing tall. The village at the foot of the castle also had a complete enclosure, of which significant parts remain.
Current destination: the association Sauvegarde du château féodal d'Hérisson (Herisson Feudal Castle Preservation Society) is working on its restoration, under the supervision of the chief architect of historical monuments. It organises events there (medieval battles, illuminations, etc.)
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1986.

Km 135.4

COSNE-D'ALLIER

Born in Cosne-d'Allier, Philippe Suchaud won 14 world petanque titles between 1995 and 2021, making him one of the French sportsmen with the most world titles, all sports combined, with his partner Philippe Quintais (one more than Jeannie Longo). However, they are still far behind windsurfer Antoine Albeau, 25 times funboard world champion.

Km 154.6

GIPCY

Gipcy is the birthplace of Armand Blanchonnet, Olympic cycling champion at the 1924 Paris Games. Nicknamed Le Phénomène (The Phenomenon), he won the individual road race and the nations' race. An atypical and wiry athlete, he was a member of the VC Levallois like all the stars of the time. He turned professional in 1927 for the German Opel team and became a specialist in the Six Days, where he lined up with Charles Pélissier. His only title of glory on the road in the pros was to become French champion in 1931 with a large lead over his rivals.

Km 166.2

SOUVIGNY

The town is the cradle of the Bourbon family, who installed their necropolis there. Souvigny has an exceptional heritage linked to this seigniory and to its affiliation with the powerful abbey of Cluny: the most distant known ancestor of the Bourbons (Aymar, viguier of Deneuvre), had donated land to the abbey of Cluny and this order had built one of its main priories there. The museums and gardens with their annual exhibitions, as well as the visits to the church, allow visitors to rediscover the history of Souvigny with its centrepiece, the Zodiac column (12th century). For some years now, green tourism in the Souvigny area has been developing; enthusiasts of Romanesque or Gothic churches, castles and walks have been taking advantage of its preserved bocage. In addition to the recumbents of the last Dukes of Bourbon, the priory church, the largest religious building in the Allier department, contains the relics of several saints, including two abbots of Cluny who died in Souvigny: Mayeul, 4th abbot (died in 994), and Odilon his successor (died in 1049). The town has no less than eight sites listed as Historic Monuments, including the old church of Saint-Marc, which appears on the first list of 1840.  

Priory of St Peter and St Paul
Construction: 11th, 15th and 17th centuries.
Styles: Romanesque and Gothic.
History: In the 10th century, two illustrious abbots of Cluny, Mayeul and Odilon, came to die in the monastery. The abbey became a place of pilgrimage where even French king Hugh Capet went in 994. The church was rebuilt to accommodate the growing number of faithful on the model of Cluny III. The Dukes of Bourbon decided to install their ducal necropolis there. The building was then enriched with chapels and the upper parts were rebuilt. Closed during the Revolution, the prioral church was returned to worship in 1852.
Characteristics: the prioral church, with its double transept and double aisles, bears witness to the Romanesque and Gothic styles. The structure is Romanesque (eaves walls, etc.) but the vault is Gothic. This priory allowed the Burgundian style to develop in the numerous Romanesque churches of the Souvigny region thanks to its membership of the powerful abbey of Cluny.
Special features: in this church was found a sculpted pillar which was given the name of Zodiac of Souvigny. This Romanesque pillar shows a calendar with the work of the month in the fields corresponding to the signs of the zodiac. It can be seen in the Souvigny museum. In 1783, the king's organ builder François-Henri Clicquot had an organ built; it accompanies the services and is the subject of numerous musical events, notably during the Musical Days in Autumn.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1846, then 1926.

The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, stretching from central France to the Swiss-Italian border, combines historic cities and vast natural beauty. Amongst green national parks you can find dormant volcanoes and mountain ranges ideal for hiking and sports.   Make the most of a rest day in Clermont-Ferrand. This interesting city offers impressive attractions and architecture, not yet overrun by tourists. Take in the majestic Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption or visit one of the museums to learn about art and local industry. This is also the birthplace of the Michelin brothers, so expect fine cuisine!   Wine connoisseurs cannot miss out Beaujolais, a chance to sample the local produce among vineyards and beautiful villages. Santé!

Top 5 things to see and do:

1. Wander round Clermont-Ferrand's city centre
2. Hike up Puy-de-Dôme for epic views
3. Tour the wine-making region of Beaujolais
4. Appreciate the region's history 
5. Dine in the birthplace of the Michelin brothers

 

Provided by lastminute.com

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