Auvergne and Quercy
We returned to Aurillac, home
to the cult of Saint Gerald, and managed to find an apartment
overlooking the church that was once the center of the medieval monastery dedicated to him.
It looked out over part of the modern city and to the hills beyond. We really enjoyed sitting
on the balcony in the evenings, seeing how different the same landscape could appear.
Out one of the side windows of the apartment was a view of the castle higher up on the hill, said (wrongly) to be where Saint Gerald was born.
One of our favorite activities
this trip was spent on a tour of the archeological dig that began in the summer
next to the church of Saint Gerald, which is uncovering traces of the medieval monastery, demolished long ago.
Among the most unexpected
of finds are a number of sarcophagi (coffins) made of wood or stone,
from a cemetery that seems to have been here in the ninth century, before the monastery was built.
From Aurillac we took several day-long drives along the small roads that wind alongside rivers, dotted with picturesque villages.
Southeast from Aurillac we drove along the Lot River, stopping in Montsalvy, . . .
. . . Entraygues-sur-Truyère, . . .
. . . Estaing (family home of former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing), . . .
. . . and Espalion, with its eleventh-century church.
Another day we drove northwest from Aurillac, into the old province of Quercy, and along the upper Dordogne River.
We stopped first at Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, . . .
. . . with a beautiful carved portal on its Romanesque church, . . .
. . . a gilded Romanesque Madonna and Child, . . .
. . . and its shrine to Saints Primus and Felicianus, another pair of male saints, also Roman martyrs.
We had lunch in Carennac (probably the best of the trip, served on a balcony overlooking the Dordogne River by the waiter, who was also the cook).
We stopped to take a photo of the ruins of the castle of Turenne.
We ended the day with a stop in cute-but-touristy Collonges-la-Rouge, named for the red stone of its buildings.
Another of Chef Joe's meals: an Auvergnt version of the burrito, called a bouriol and made with local Cantal cheese and duck.
A third day saw us drive northeast from Aurillac, into the mountains of Auvergne, with a stop at the town of Salers.
The countryside around Salers is breathtaking, with hills and valleys growing ever steeper. It is a land of extinct volcanoes.
The day we left Auvergne, we stopped for
lunch in Saint-Flour at the home of Pierre and Pascale Moulier,
who invited Matt to Auvergne and who have also researched and written on Saint Gerald. They showed us a bit of the town:
its unadorned Gothic cathedral, . . .
with stained-glass window from the 1920s depicting Saint Gerald and his mother Adeltrude, and a fifteenth-century fresco, . . .
. . . and the library of the Catholic diocese of Saint-Flour (where Pascale works).