France: Auvergne & Rhone-Alps
An important Celtic settlement was living there, in Lyon, at the confluence of the Rhone and the Saone rivers, when Hannibal crossed the Alps with his elephants in 218 BCE and when Julius Caesar invaded Gaul.
Merovingian and Carolingian Kings followed. Earls, Counts and Kings fought many battles along the centuries to conquer the various territories. They also married for convenience of enlarging their possessions. The last event being the attachment of Savoy to to France in 1860, at the time of the Italian unification. During world war II, Vichy became the headquarter of the government of the French State. Lyon and the Vercors mountains became quite famous after WWII, after being the nest of the underground resistance for four years.
Auvergne Must Know
Auvergne is a walking country with magnificent sceneries of dormant volcanoes, lakes, therapeutic spas, romanesque octogonal bell tower profiles. It is a very green region, quite cold in winter.
Clermont Ferrand is the industrial capital. the Michelin Brother started the rubber and tire industry. The Romanesque Notre dame du Port contrasts with the black looking Notre Dame de l’Assomption build in lava stones.
The Gothic masterpiece of La Chaise Dieu Abbey is worth a detour.
Le Puy-en-Velay has a unique appearance with its high surrounding dominating peaks: Rock Saint Michel hold a romanesque chapel, Corneille Rock holds the episcopal city and the statue of Notre Dame de France. The street “Rue des Tables” leads to the cathedral Notre Dame, a Bizantine Romanesque building attached to a beautiful cloister.
Spas are attracting many visitors for their casino, thermal establishments and therapeutic waters: Vichy, La Bourboule, Royat and Le Mont Dore are the main ones.
Cheese lovers can follow the “Auvergne Cheese Road” to appreciate Saint Nectaire, Bleu d’Auvergne, Fourme d’Ambert and other delicious local cheese. Other specialties for the good food amateur are the green lentils, a dried vegetable usually accompanied with “petit sale” (salted pork belly), sausages and spare ribs. Some wines have good reputation like the Saint Pourcain, as well as liquors or aperitifs made with wild plants and herbs coming from high pastures, such as gentian and verbena.
Rhone Alps limits
The Rhone Valley has always been very active way of communication and transportation, parallel for a while to the huge Alp massif which extend far away to the Mediterranean, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. This part of the French Alps is limited to the Swiss and Italian border on the East and to the included the Drome “departement” in the South.
Skiing And Mountaineering
The Rhone Alps region is a paradise for skiing and mountaineering with numerous resorts like Vald”isere, Tignes, Courchevel, Meribel, Chamonix to just name a few.
Main Cities To Visit
We can’t name them all. They are so many and each of them has character and attractions. Annecy is a must with its lake, its old town and castle.
Briancon was fortified by Vauban and its appearance has very little changes from what it was at the time of Louis XV. Chamonix at the foot of high needled peaks is a world attraction for alpinism. Grenoble is the intellectual capital and a booming city.
Last but not least, Lyon the 2nd largest city of France has a long history since the Gallo roman period.
“La Croix Rousse” and the “traboules”, hidden passage between buildings, are the part of the city which reflects the times of the “Canuts” and the silk industry. Fourviere Basilica dominates the city. The contemporary Museum of the Confluents just opened. The “Vieux Lyon” also known as Quartier Saint Jean spread around the Cathedral and is the place of the “Bouchons”, a name given to the unique reasonably priced local restaurants of this part of the city. The top gastronomic reputation of Lyon is with no doubt due to its location where cattle from Charolais, poultry from Bresse, game from Les Dombes and fruits and veggies from the Rhone valley are in abundance.