We awake in Limoges under pissing rain; not reconciled with the city after my atrocious drive last night, I’m anxious to get going and try to find some better weather. We manage to quickly get out of it and into the countryside. We’ve decided to carry on seeking scenic routes through France’s wild central region.
Unfortunately, the weather is truly pants, with a persistent rain and low grey skies. But the region is so beautiful that even rain cannot prevent us from loving driving through it. First of all, we’re pretty much alone on all the roads; we can dawdle, we can stop to take pictures or walk around or smell the pine trees. There are gorgeous, big-horned ginger cows in the fields, and stout shaggy horses. We reach a forested area around the village of Eymoutiers (a recommendation from my folks) and impulsively leave the road to head towards the Vassiviere Lake, then follow signs to a waterfall.
The waterfall is not spectacular, but it’s nice to get out of the car, head the rushing river, smell the wet vegetation. The rain does not let up though, and it’s pretty freezing; Eliza in the sling is hiding her face in Heather’s chest, so we make the walk short and get back in the car towards the lake. What a road! It’s jaw-dropping. The colours especially are wonderful: the green of the forest moss and the spring grass, against extraordinarily vivid russet reds from dead ferns and fallen leaves, and the purplish tinge of the new birch twigs. We delight in all the twists and turns of the road above the lake which we can see below.
By the time we emerge on the North side of the lake it’s more than time to find somewhere to eat; we stumble upon a little restaurant / bar in the village of Royere-de-Vassiviere. Inside we’re warmly welcomed by a waitress with beautiful tattoos and more than a little moustache; her name is Nadia and she’s in love with Eliza. As we tuck in to a three course lunch (there was a bargain formula!) of salad and charcuterie, veal stroganoff and spiced pear cake, Nadia picks Eliza up in her arms and gives her an enthusiastic tour of the restaurant, including the kitchen from which staff emerge to tell us how lovely Zaza is. We happily chat away with Nadia, before setting off again all gladdened to have found such a lovely lunch spot.
What follows next is a leisurely three hour trip cross-country through the Millevache plateau, with beautiful views galore; we pass some gorgeous rock formations in the shape of organ pipes and some more forested hills; we crest some grassy hills with sheep and fences silhouetted against the sky.
Finally, we near our overnight destination of Saint-Flour as night is falling. Our hotel looks on to the impressive Ville Haute (high city), perched on top of a rocky outcrop; so we decide to head up there for a wander and some dinner. The city is sleepy, a little forlorn under the grey rainy sky; we walk all over Ville Haute finding very little that is open. It’s now quite chilly, too! Finally we settle on a tiny restaurant where Heather, after swearing she would have absolutely nothing heavy, orders a hare civet (a super rich, gamey stew). Turns out she doesn’t like hare much, so she shares my plate of aligot (a local concoction of melted cheese mash) and sausage. Zaza has decided that she’s had enough of being quiet by this point, so around us the other patrons’ smiles become more and more strained as we lunge / swing / bounce near our table with the baby. In the end it’s time to get back to our hotel for some well-earned rest.