Sunday 3 September 2023

Parc naturel régional des Volcans d'Auvergne

Sunday 3 September 2023

Nido's parked up at an aire in Aydat.  Actually it's more like a campsite with grass pitches separated by small wooden fences.  We've just had a walk around the wetland boardwalks that lead to Lac Aydat; the sun was almost gone and the bats were dipping low over the water (and us!) to hoover up the myriad flying insects.

We've had a couple of days in this natural park.  It's been a busy time - imagine the Peak District or Lake District over a sunny bank holiday weekend...that kind of busy.  But it is the last weekend before La Rentrée, when children return to school and grown ups return to the grindstone.  So it was always going to be busy.  It should quieten down for our remaining time in France.  But it's no surprise this area is touristy and lively, because it's beautiful.  We've been from deep lush valleys, through wildflower meadows with cows and their bells, through tiny hamlets and villages and up to the windy and exposed highest ski stations, now very quiet out of their season.

Empty and closed ski station with the summit of Puy de Sancy in the background

We left the cool of Miremont yesterday morning and drove to the heat, hustle and bustle of the city of Clermont Ferrand, the metropolis of the Auvergne.  We're not city visitors, but it was interesting to drive through.  After a stop off at a Le Clerc supermarket we drove on the the aire at La Tour d'Auvergne.  This was a free stop over and the parking was over several terraces, overlooking the small swimming and fishing lake and the old village perched on a hill top.  After a Salty walk around the lake, then dinner, we left him in the van and walked into the old village.  Despite it being a Saturday evening it was very quiet; only a couple of bars and restaurants were open.  From the viewpoint we had a commanding view for miles over the countryside and extinct volcanoes.  The skies were dark all around us, with the odd rumble of thunder in the distance, but we stayed dry through the night.  We had a good wander around the narrow lanes and steep-stepped ginnels.

This morning our plan was to drive to a parking area and walk along a gorge to some waterfalls.  Unfortunately the parking was unsuitable for the van, so plan B was a 5 mile walk starting at Lac Pavin.  Although very busy, we managed to bag a parking spot in the shade, made some packed lunch and headed out on the walk.  The lake is actually a volcano crater, with some parts of the walk close to the water and the other side much higher.  The water was crystal clear but, much to our dismay, it was 'baignade interdit'. Salty managed a quick dip at the beginning and end of the walk and we weren't jealous at all!

The walk took us along the edge of lake before we turned off and started to climb the forest paths.  Eventually we made the summit of  the extinct Puy Montchal, before descending into the grassy, tree-lined crater, where we stopped for lunch and to enjoy the sunshine, cicadas and butterflies.  The rest of the walk was along forest paths and roads, before we returned to the lake and descended back to the car park.  The temperature today was in the low 30s - so hot - but a breeze and plenty of tree shade made it more bearable.  But by the time we made it to the aire here in Aydat (after trying a couple of others that were too close to the road with many very loud motorbikes flying past) we were shattered. After showers, watermelon, a pot of tea and a red thai curry, we felt refreshed enough to take a walk to the lake before bedtime.

Swimming forbidden!

Puy de Sancy from the summit of Puy Montchal

Volcano crater

Tomorrow is planned as an admin day - food shopping, laundry washing and top up with diesel and LPG, although the LPG may have to wait until we're back up towards Clermont Ferrand.  It's quietened down now; even the motorcyclists have left, perhaps getting their work clothes ready for the morning.  

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