23 March 2018

Vues d'en haut

Views from on high. The top of the Puy Saint-Ambroise is at a mere 1400 feet (464 meters) but the views are panoramic. Remember that you can always click, tap, or pinch the images to enlarge them.

You can drive to the top and park near the table d'orientation. That's our Citroën in the photo below. Then you can walk quite a way around the top on fairly flat terrain to see views in several directions. They say that the views extend out over as many as seven different French départements from up there.

The summit of the Puy Saint-Ambroise is the site of an old Benedictine priory, but it is on private property and not open to visitors. The one other person who was up at the top when we were told us that people from Moulins have a house there, out of view.

A puy, by the way, is a geographical feature that's common in the Auvergne region of France. It's a "volcanic mountain with a rounded profile," according to one dictionary.

Some of the extinct Auvergne volcanoes are much taller — the famous Puy de Dôme to the southwest tops out at 1,465 meters (4,806 feet), and the Puy Mary, farther south, rises to a height of 1,783 meters (5,850 feet). I just read on a Wikipedia page that the Puy Saint-Ambroise, where we were, is not actually volcanic at all, but just a round mound.

22 March 2018

Saint-Léon et le Puy Saint-Ambroise

It was March 6, our first full day on the car trip we took over to the old Bourbonnais province in central France earlier this month. After our walk around in the town of Lapalisse under the shut-tight 16th century Château de La Palice, we drove north through Jaligny and on to Saint-Léon, basically down the valley of the Besbre River.

Saint-Léon (pop. 601) has — surprise! — a big church at its center. The church dates back to the 12th century, at least in part. You get used to that in France, because there are 11th and 12th century churches all over the country. Most of them have been maintained, modified, added-onto, and restored over the centuries. In French, a village is by definition a settlement that includes a church — no church, no village.

Saint-Léon also has sights like the house above, as well as a good bakery/pastry shop (below) where we got some bread to have with our dinner of home-made blanquette de veau back at the gîte (brought in a cooler from Saint-Aignan). From the boulangère we also got some advice and directions on which road to take back 25 miles north to the big town of Moulins, where we were staying.

When I took these three photos, we had just come back from the top of the nearby Puy Saint-Ambroise, an extinct or at least dormant volcano where you can enjoy panoramic views out over the valley of the Besbre River and the fields, hedgerows, and farmhouses of the bocage bourbonnais — and beyond!

21 March 2018

Le printemps

Les saisons se suivent et se ressemblent. One season is not very different from the last. That's life here right now. Nobody much noticed that spring arrived yesterday afternoon. It was cold outside, with a frigid wind blowing from the northeast.

Here are three more pictures I took in Lapalisse two weeks ago. The weather was much nice back then, despite the fact that it was wintertime, than it has been here over the last week or two. We know we were lucky.

Walt and Tasha were enjoying our walk through narrow streets tucked up under the huge old château. I was too. It's a good memory.

It's too bad we didn't get to see the château from inside the entrance gate. The place was closed for the winter season. Always save something for later, they say. We did — no choice.

20 March 2018

Just two days

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Monday, March 19, 2018

19 March 2018

Walking around in old Lapalisse

Old doorway

It snowed here in the Saint-Aignan area overnight. It seems to be a wet snow, and the temperature is not below freezing. We are lucky that we didn't have bad weather like this two weeks ago, when we were exploring the Bourbonnais region.

Narrow steps

We were in Lapalisse on a Tuesday afternoon. The sun was shining, though the breeze was not particularly warm.

Château looming

The streets up around the château were empty of pedestrians. The château itself was closed for the season, with re-opening for guided tours scheduled, I believe, for April.

Broken blinds

We had spent the morning in the car, and had eaten a picnic lunch at a little roadside park with tables for people like us. Tasha had been well-behaved all day.

Need paint

So it was nice to be able to get out of the car and walk around the town, taking pictures of the sights we were seeing.

Line drying

I found Lapalisse picturesque — slightly down at the heels, but not dingy or depressing. Judge for yourself.