In France, there is a region where nature is marvelously in harmony with the "savoir-vivre" (good manners) of its inhabitants. This is land where the tender green of its valleys and the earl grey of its rivers are preserved and cultivated by farmers who are like proud fathers nourishing their children.
This land is known as Cantal (part of Auvergne), nestled just to the south of the center of France, it would be hard for nature lovers and even the finest gourmets not to be opulently satisfied.
Castles, better known as chateaus, Roman churches, and a brilliant green landscape that is food for the eyes make up the beauty of Cantal (and in between, of course, food for palate at some of the most amazing restaurants we have ever dined in to calm down our appetite for history).
Today, it is extremely expensive to maintain the many chateaus (castles) that line the countryside. And, so, there are only a few options. Some permit visits by tourists while
others have opened their doors for nightly stays for those who want to experience the spirit of yesteryear.
We visited one of these exquisite castles, the Hostellerie de Chateau de Salles in Vezac. It has rooms for 500-600 francs (about $100 U.S.), junior suites for 700 francs and noble suites for 900-1100 francs (about $200 U.S.) a night.
This chateau also has a wonderful restaurant and for New Year's Eve served a four
course meal which includes:
All this including wine, coffee and aperitif only costs a mere 260 francs (about $45 U.S.).
For those with simpler tastes, L'Auberge des Montagnes in Pailherols, 20 minutes from Aurillac, the capital of Cantal, will warmly welcome you and will offer a large choice of activities: swimming pool, health club, game room, horse riding, cross-country skiing in winter, and hiking.
At night, you will rest and sleep in a very comfortable room for one of the most reasonable rates in all of Cantal: 220 francs (about $37 U.S.) a night!
On top of that, the hotel's restaurant is five star all the way. After an active day, you will want to indulge yourself in a six course gastronomic meal for an incredible 120 francs (less than $20 U.S.)!
Try the pounti (soufflet-like with prunes), truffade (puree potatos mixed with cheese), salmon trout, beef tenderloin, a selection of the most wonderful cheeses, and two desserts each! We could barely walk we were so stuffed! (But we'd gladly do it again!)
You may also get the privilege to meet some of the most incredible chefs: Francoise et Laurent Fleys in La Ferme Auberge du Bruel in Saint-Illide (04-71-49-72-27) are listed in the famous Gault-Millau book, listing the best chefs in France, and will prepare for you an amazing meal that your palate will not quite soon forget.
Reservations are necessary as all of France embarks to this restaurant to sample the delicious escargot (snails), canard (duck), foie gras, beef and so much more.
Louis Bernaud Puech is another son of the region. Rated as one of the top chefs in France in the prestigious Michelin Guide, his restaurant can be found in the countryside in Calvinet at his Hotel Beausejour (04-71-49-91-68/Fax 04-71-49-98-63).
This artisan, as he likes to call himself, will cook only the finest meal with the freshest ingredients. Anything less to this brilliant artist de cuisine is nothing short of a crime.
If you go crazy for foie gras, go and visit the Ferme Teysedou a Labrousette in Pailan (04-71-46-10-93) where you will see how the ducks are fed. Why, you even have a chance
to purchase and bring back their wonderful foie gras.
Finally, if you desire to be one with nature, breathing the pure air of the mountains, rebuilding your mental health in the process as you adjust your senses to the purity of the goodness in life, then Cantal will recharge your vital signs and a whole lot more. Cantal offers the true taste of the authentic.
L'Auberge des Montagnes
The Hostellerie de Chateau de Salles
(Phone: 04-71-62-41-41/Fax: 04-71-62-44-14)
La Ferme Auberge du Bruel
(04-71-49-91-68/Fax 04-71- 49-98-63)
Ferme Teysedou a Labrousette