Europe 2005-2006 travel blog

Village outside Puy en Velay with volcanic pillar

Puy en Velay (picture quality poor as it was raining)

woman making lace in the old way with wooden bobbins

Street in Puy looking down from steps at Notre Dame

Typical tree lined road in France - I even remember this from...

Village full of stone houses in the mountains outside Puy

You would think two adults who have grown up in the mountains would realize that setting out to explore the mountainous regions of France in October may not be the best idea. We were enamoured with a photo of Puy en Velay in the guidebook and so headed in that direction from Lyon. First, we found out that 90% of the 10,000 French campsites close September 30; second, we found out that Puy en Velay is sitting at about 1,000m in altitude. This presented a bit of a challenge and resulted in naïve Canadian travelers (us) parking in a farmer's field in the mountains with the wind howling and rocking the motor home, the rain and sleet pouring down on us - and waking to 5ºC (without the wind chill). Not fun anymore... but the view across the top of the world was pretty awe-inspiring. We drove through many small villages where all the buildings were made of stones, likely picked from the surrounding fields, but had to wonder what those people were doing living way up in the mountains (likely for centuries by the look of the buildings).

Puy-en-Velay occupies a basin where a series of volcanic eruptions created lava pinnacles. One of them is home to a 52 ft statue of Notre Dame created in the mid 1800s from melted down cannons (?), and the other houses the chapel of St. Michel d'Aiguilhe that is perched upon a 270 foot lava pinnacle. Besides its stunning geographical sight, the city is also known for its historical buildings, its fine, hand-made lace and its pilgrims (this is the start of the Pilgrimage Road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain). We watched a young woman making lace in the old style using about 25 wooden bobbins - she told us it takes about 6 hours to make 1 meter of lace. It appeared to be very complicated to us (the action with the bobbins was almost like watching someone shuffle cards) - and then she explained that they can use up to 1,000 bobbins to create some patterns.

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