Le Puy-En-Velay, France 2005 & 2007

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We have visited this exciting city twice on our travels. We stumbled upon it by accident the first time. We were travelling from the Ardeche up towards Clermont Ferrand – as we drove down into the city we saw this amazing pinnacle of rock with a giant statue on it. We wanted to stop but the weather turned nasty so we thought we would keep going. As we made our way to the Clermont road we saw a tiny campsite sign and decided to pull in for the night.

The campsite turned out to be an excellent choice. It lay near the river and close to the old part of the town. The statue we had seen and another volcanic pinnacle with a tiny chapel on it can be seen from the campsite. An hour after we arrived the rain stopped and the sun came out – we decided to explore. We visited the Statue of Notre Dame de France. It stands in the centre of Le Puy high on the top of a pinnacle of volcanic rock. The steps up to it are steep and quite arduous we were glad we decided to do this climb in the late afternoon. The views from the base of the statue are spectacular. We climbed up inside it – there is a steel staircase which can be climbed right up into the head. The whole thing is made of bronze castings, bolted together. The bronze came from cannons which had been melted down.


Next day we visited the Chapel of Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe. It too is a long way up -but it is a special place. There is an air of peace about it; it is tiny, but beautifully formed. The wall paintings are exquisite. When we returned two years later we visited it again – it was so special.

The streets around this area are narrow and steep. The properties are very old, shabby, but full of character. The Cathedral is also in this area and we visited it and saw the famous Black Madonna. Later we walked into the commercial area of town which had many shops and squares. The weather was extremely hot and the place felt very mediterranean. It has a lovely park, and an interesting museum.

On our second visit to Le Puy in 2007 we walked from the campsite to another large statue near the edge of town. It is of Saint Joseph and built from concrete. Beneath it lies a tiny cave chapel which was simple but impressive. It had a lovely stained glass window. We had it to ourselves and felt privileged to be allowed in. If you ever visit this area, Le Puy is a place not to be missed.

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