Central France – St. Enemie and other Gems

Previous post – Renting in Europe

So our French home-away-from-home was in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, snuggled up to the Mediterranean and the Spanish border.  Poor us.  To get there we would have to drive down through central France.

Due to full flights we flew into Charles De Gaulle  on September 28, three days early and recouped in a hotel near the airport in the village of Le Mesnil-Amelot, at the Comfort Inn specifically.  I see today that it is listed as a 2-star … I think it was a 3-star when we booked it.  As I’ve said, we are simple folk and mostly we’ve found that the differences between a 5-star and a 3-star are some smelly lotions in the bathroom, a chocolate on the pillow and, well, location – and that one you want to pay some attention to.

Seeking a one night lay-over hotel in Frankfurt on one of our trips our cabbie asked why we had selected the hotel we did.  Price.  He informed us we were on the edge of the red light district and to be cautious.  Similarly in Buenos Aires.  This didn’t concern us too much; both were short stays, we didn’t go out and about at night and we were always in a foursome.  In Cherbourg, France our 3-star meant no elevator and a narrow staircase up which we had to haul our LUGgage.  Wherever you are it is always necessary to be alert, especially to the possibilities of pick-pockets.  We tourists are an easy bunch to spot.  We have found our 3-stars to be clean and that’s our basic requirement.  Having said all that, I wouldn’t recommend the Comfort Inn in Le Mesnil-Amelot – suffice to say it isn’t on our favourite list and the restaurant was very ho-hum and uninspired.

With the extra day Sister and B decided to go into Paris.   G and I managed to avoid large cities throughout this trip.  N & B went into Paris and we declined … into Pisa and we declined … into Venice and we declined.

On these sojourns my brother-in-law, B, has become our chauffeur, my husband, G, the navigateur and sister and I get to sit in the back seat and do the rubber-neck thing, or, occasionally, sleep.  It works for all of us.  So the route that G had mapped out took us straight south from Paris towards Clermont-Ferrand, which is just about the geographic centre of France.   While it might have been possible to drive all the way to St-Andre in one day – estimated driving time 8 ½ to 9 hours – we opted for a stop just NE of Clermont-Ferrand at St-Gervais d’Auvergne, population 1350 –  at an out-of-the-way inn with large rooms, questionable colour schemes at the time and a very reasonable restaurant – Le Relais d’Auvergne

Menat is in this same area on the way to St-Gervais, a tiny village of 593 souls and a picturesque bridge over la rivière Sioule.

For our second day on the road G had mapped a leisurely route down through the Gorge du Tarn, a canyon about 33 miles long and 1300 to 2000 feet deep.  This diversion led us to the sweet village of St-Enimie and also saved us $$$ – at today’s rates the toll roads from Paris to the Mediterranean coast cost 121€ or $155 … not to be sneezed at.

St-Enimie has the designation of “Les plus beaux villages de France – “one of the most beautiful villages in France’. It sits in one of the narrowest passages of the Gorge and has a mediaeval section that dates to the 12th C.

A little too entranced with the town, we didn’t leave until 15:45, still had the Gorges du Tarn to drive through and several hundred km after that.

At times the road through the Gorges slowed us to 30 km/hr.

We still needed to find a supermarche to buy our groceries for the next few days.  It was a Saturday and we were obviously going to be arriving late; Sunday we anticipated that things would be closed so it was necessary to arrive with food in hand – at the very least a baguette accompanied by some fromage and French wine!   This is where the kitty came in handy.

Obviously Rule No. 1’ – ‘Do not arrive in a Strange Town after Dark’ was going to be broken.  Once in St-Andre our directions consisted of “Drive through town to the slight bend to the right with a large tree on the left. It is the large green door on the right.”

We drove past the house, twice, in the dark of night before siting the large green door with a note from our host pinned to it.  They had expected us many hours earlier.

Here are a couple of other shots found on Flickr:

This one by ErickCausse
and this one by JeanMical

to be continued …

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