The Burning mountain and the Acacia forest. Part 2

The spa in Cransac, made from acacia wood, and sitting above the town on “la montagne qui brule” is surrounded by the largest acacia forest in Europe. If you  visit “La forêt de la Vaysse” in May  the air is full of the smell of acacia blossom (a glorious mixture of the smell of honey and jasmine) and the sound of the bees working away on the early summer treat acacia honey. Go on a Saturday and you can also treat yourself to some acacia fritters or buy a bottle of the syrup at the local market.

 

 

The thermal springs, that have been know since antiquity, became famous throughout France in the 17th century and people still come to take the water, a “cure” can legitimately be prescribed by your doctor.  The “curists” are a much sort after section of the tourist market. Walking through the forest you sometimes see the pipes weaving through the trees taking the precious waters to the spa and even the ground steaming as the mountain “burns”.

The burning mountain

http://www.cransac-les-thermes.fr/en/explore/natural-heritage/spa-park.php


		
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Article from the Independent on Rodez

SATURDAY 10 JANUARY 2015

Rodez: France’s new cultural attraction

A new museum in Rodez celebrates art and local cuisine, all in one, says Philip Sweeney

PHILIP SWEENEY Saturday 06 September 2014


The southern, sparsely populated département of Aveyron is known for beautiful scenery, from the flower-strewn pastures of the high Aubrac to lush winding river valleys. It’s also renowned for excellent catering: many of the café proprietors of Paris were traditionally Aveyronnais. The region’s few architectural wonders – Notre-Dame Cathedral at Rodez, the abbey of Conques and the slim white motorway in the sky that is Norman Foster’s Millau Viaduct – are cerises on the gâteau. This summer however, the Aveyron acquired a new attraction that manages to encapsulate architecture, art, food, and a sort of distillation of the essence of the Aveyron terroir.

Driving up the hill to the centre of the regional capital, Rodez, you used to pass a large car park, lawns, and a 19th-century bandstand, overlooked by a 1980s mini-Louvre pyramid, the departmental seat of government. For decades this was the town’s pinnacle of architectural innovation.

In place of the car park, there’s now a dramatic line of giant boxes in rust-patina sheet steel, cresting a newly planted slope of moorland grasses and flowers. This is the Musée Soulages, opened in May by the President, François Hollande. It was created to house the life’s work of one of France’s most eminent living artists, Rodez-born Pierre Soulages, creator of huge black canvasses worth tens of millions of euros to American collectors. Post-apocalyptic fortress on the outside and brilliantly successful display space within, the gallery has elevated little Rodez to a cultural big shot.

At the same time, in an artfully distressed metal side wing, the museum’s restaurant is upping the town’s culinary ante. Café Bras is devoted to the work of another Aveyronnais star, Michel Bras. He is the proprietor of the region’s temple of gastronomy, the eponymous Michelin three-starred restaurant perched above the cattle town of Laguiole – also known for its cheese and knives – to the north.

Dinner and a show: Café Bras, at Musée Soulages

To experience the Bras amalgam of luxury and austerity, innovation and tradition at its most exquisite, I drove up through oak groves, hay fields and hillsides grazed by beautiful chestnut Aubrac cattle to Bras’s glass-sided mountaintop eyrie, to be seated at the kitchen guest table with a helicopter pilot who’d ferried a party up for lunch.

Dinner and a show: Café Bras, at Musée Soulages Dinner and a show: Café Bras, at Musée Soulages Around us, two dozen quietly concentrated young people in white turned out an extraordinarily moist biscuit of east European kasha grain and local cheese in a sauce of truffles and “rancid” olive oil flavoured with aged lard. At a side station, a special aligot stirrer worked at the rich elastic purée of potato, cream and Laguiole cheese, a virtual emblem of Aveyronnais granny cuisine.

The same blend of old-time dishes and state-of-the-art accoutrements characterises the Soulages museum café. This is the Bras interpretation of a modern brasserie, and as at any good brasserie there was a queue when I visited. There was a new Bras invention named the miwam, a sort of stuffed waffle, and a constantly changing repertoire of traditional delights: pascades, thick unctuous pancakes flavoured with onion; three varieties of tripe, once eaten by country folk for breakfast; farçous mini-rissoles and bourriols (sweet potato cakes).

The café is not the only new outpost of the Bras empire, which is becoming something of a gourmet template for south-west France. I travelled to Rodez via Toulouse to visit the brand new Capucin Signe Bras, a rather soigné fast-food café in the chic shopping area around the Victor Hugo market. The capucin is a Bras invention – a conical buckwheat crêpe filled with daily changing combinations: aligot (mashed potato with melted cheese and garlic) with truffle sauce, Roquefort and pears. It’s named after a traditional Aveyronnais cooking implement, a container used to drip fat on to grilling meat, which inspired the shape of the machine Bras designed to turn out his new fast food.

To trace the capucin’s genealogy, I followed the Bras trail south from Rodez down the A75, the wonderfully empty autoroute which swoops through the Massif Central. Just before the spidery, white immensity of the Millau Viaduct, a stone-and-glass converted farm on the hillside constitutes Bras’s take on motorway services, Goûter l’Aveyron. Here, the prototype capucin machine works like a Gatling gun, while cabinets display the finest produce of the region. And not just food: the famous horn-handled Laguiole knives feature prominently. Michel’s brother André, director of the motorway complex, used to run the Forge of Laguiole, which relaunched local production of the knives in the 1980s.

Apart from grub, the Bras outlets offer another considerable resource for the food tourist: a personal address book of the region’s food producers. Source notes may now be a cliché of every UK high-street coffee retailer, but the Bras family take their suppliers very seriously, listing by name the providers of everything from tripe to tomatoes.

The Bras drinks listing is equally impressive: the best of the local wines of Marcillac and Entraygues-le Fel, local gentiane and Ratafia aperitifs, flower infusions …. In the lovely little river town of Saint Geniez d’Olt I visited Bras’s supplier, the Olt Brewery. Proprietor Sebastien Blaquiere was mulling over the plans for the derelict 19th-century café he’s restoring and the bulging order book for his elderberry sodas, Aubrac beers and Aveyron cola. A black lemonade for the Soulages Museum – a homage to the great artist – is on the backburner, but the way business is shaping up in Rodez, it must be heading for the café’s drinks list soon.

Getting there

Philip Sweeney travelled with Voyages SNCF (0844 848 5848; uk.voyages-sncf.com). Fares from London St Pancras to Toulouse (via Paris Gare du Nord and Austerlitz) start at £119. Rodez is served by Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) from Stansted.

Visiting there

Musée Soulages (00 33 5 65 73 82 60; musee-soulages.grand-rodez.com). Open 11am–6pm at weekends, 10am-noon and 2-6pm from Tuesday to Friday, closed Mondays; admission €7.

Michel Bras: bras.fr

More information

tourisme-aveyron.com

http://www.toulouse-visit.com

tourism-midi-pyrenees.co.uk

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/rodez-frances-new-cultural-attraction-9713785.html

Peyrusse le Roc

Peyrusse le Roc is quarter of an hour away from us and somewhere I really like to take visitors.

It’s rarely very busy as it isn’t very well known, but it is really impressive as you can see from the photo.

This being Aveyron there is not too much worry about health and safety either you can clamber up the side of it, if you’re that way inclined and one of my nephews did! I don’t have that on film, I was too busy screaming hysterical, but some more sensible members of the family are pictured climbing what looks like a very precarious ladder to me!

The towers are what’s left of the fortifications, but the vestiges of the rest of the town can still be seen. The full walk takes about an hour and a half, the first half of the walk takes you gently down into the valley, but be aware it is lulling you into a false sense of security the second half takes you back up in a much more brutal manner and is not for the faint hearted. (although it does have the advantage of wearing the kids out!) About half way down are the ruins of the old abbey, lovely place for a picnic.

The History Bit

The written records of Peyrusse go back to 767, when it was besieged by Pepin le Bref who took possession of it from Waïfe the Visigoth chieftain in August of that year.

It is mentioned  through the centuries Robert II of France stayed there  in 1031.

In 1269 Peyrusse received  Alphonse de Poitiers and the count of Rodez came to pay tribute.

In 1369, a Charter was granted to the town by .Charles V

The city of Peyrusse had up to 40 noble families, as well as  six notaries, a money changer, and several factories. Trade was important (several fairs and two markets per week). It was the chief town of the larger Bailiwick of Rouergue (106 parishes) and housed within its walls 187 men in arms and 4 Knights. Peyrusse also exploited the silver mines that had existed since antiquity.The city’s  population started to wane during the 13th  century .

What remains today is a credit to a small group of dedicated volunteers who had the foresight to step in in the nick of time.