Eight days in the Creuse
Abbey Nicholson of Massage Equilibre with some suggestions of places to visit in the Creuse.
My American parents came for a visit last month. They came to see the new 5 month old grandbaby, they came to see their newly married, to a frenchman, daughter. They came to meet the new family. They came to see THE CREUSE.
I live at La Meule, on a hillside that consists of 5 houses and fields of cows. I live in one house with my husband and son. Our friend Fabiene lives in one on off and when she isn't at her boyfriends, the farmers mistress lives in one about 3 weeks out of the year, a Parisian couple lives in one for 2 months in the summer when they come and arrange old wheelbarrow carts around the village to make it look more quaint, and then there is the house that is a ruin, without a roof, electricity or water (for the low low price of 42,000 euros). I live in the middle of nowhere.
My parents live in Los Angeles or more specifically Hollywood. They live on a block with 11 houses on their side of the street and just as many across. Growing up, I used to know our neighbours because everyone had kids but then they all moved and now my mom just knows people by the dogs they walk at night during their sunset stroll. My parents live next to Sunset which is a major street that goes from the ocean to downtown a 20 mile stretch of nonstop cars and trafficjams. There are no cows unless they are on the BBQ.
My parents arrived on a Saturday on the train from Paris to La Souterrine straight from Charles de Gaule airport and were amazingly tired. After almost 24 hours of travelling and not much sleep they still managed to keep their eyes open and "oh and ah" as we drove past all the towns and villages to get to their B&B. Yes they stayed at a B&B because our little house is little and when our dog ran away from home while we were gone (another story) he ran straight to the most beautiful Gites called Les Trois Ponts run by a Dutch couple who took 4 years restoring the ruin and made a designer 6 room heaven. So off to bed they went to be refreshed for the adventures of the next 10 days.
Luckily they came to see their grandchild and not the tourist splendors of France because in the part of Creuse where I live, near Aubusson, there is not much to see according to the guide books, but there is much to discover on green winding roads and little suprises to find up hidden paths. I don't remember in what order we went to see things nor which day was filled with what event, but the tour, besides meals at friends and families houses, went something like this (and if you have visitors and are looking for things to fill the time here are some ideas)...
Moutier-d'Ahun- route direction Gueret from Aubusson 5min from Ahun
There is a curving Roman Bridge, houses that have been continuously inhabited since the 16th century and a lovely church that is seldom open, it seems, but the carvings at the entrance are worth it alone if indeed the church is closed and you can't get in to see the wood carvings inside. On this day we lived my husbands favorite saying of "These buildings are older then your country". Having Roman buildings and old stone houses that are still standing and lived in is everyday French fare but for us newbie Americans the longest inhabited street of houses is in Phildelphia and from 17 something. And for those of us from LA, the area we live in is designated a Historical Landmark district and it's from the 1920's. So yes the dark and middle ages happened here and my parents were fascinated by the history which I knew very little of, to their disappointment.
Les Loups de- near Gueret follow the signs in Centre Ville
My husband was very proud that the Creuse could build such a nice touristic structure. The wood fort is nicely designed and seeing the wolves at feeding time makes one not want to come across them in the wild. Big huge dogs with yellow eyes are cute and fluffy until you see them swallow a foot sized chunk of meat whole. They have 4 or 5 different packs and breeds on the grounds and the big black Russian ones of which fairy tales are based on have huge feet and a magical shapeshifting quality. If you have kids or are animal lovers, visiting this is worth seeing. Call first to find out the feeding times as it isn't everyday and it really is the best time to see them in action.
Masgot- 8ish km from Ahun
A tiny little walk around a village with funny stone sculptures, that's about it but a good filler if your looking for something to do between meals and live in the area.
Aubusson is small, Aubusson is a one-way main street town. Aubusson is charming for about 20 minutes then you want to find something else to do if youre not in the mood to window shop. Aubusson has the answer with the Tapestry museum. It is also small, about 5 rooms, well 5 huge tapestry sized rooms. And what some of those rooms are filled with. The old tapestries are not the best and in my opinion are the least interesting but the new tapisteries are fantastic and vibrant and "how did someone make that" inspiring. Very much worth the visit and the drive, if you don't live around the area. My parents couldnt believe that there wasn't a huge gift shop with pillows and calendars and books and coffee mugs of the tapestries, because they would have bought all of it. Once again a small city not the Louvre.
Clermont-Ferrand- route 941 (not technically Creuse)
I like Clermont better then Limoges and I think it is partly for the drive on 941 passing all the villages and then descending into the valley of Volcanos. The black gothic cathedral is not covered in soot but made from the Balsat stones of the volcanos and it gives it a creepy presence when you see it just on the outside, but once you enter, the stained glass is marvelous and gives one the sense of "ahhh" that churches are supposed to inspire. Also if you're not spending time in Paris you still get to see some good gargoyles. There is another cathedral that is under construction but the outside is so different in architecture, being roman, that the walk is worth a peek. Then just wandering the old town, and eating at a student filled square, is a very fulfilling day.
La Roussie Cheverie route 941 direction Limoges
About 20 min from Aubusson follow the sign for the Cheverie and a gites Papillon Rouge.
This was a family dinner as it is my husband's Uncle and Aunt who run the goat farm and make the cheese but it is open to the public. If you want to buy what I think is the best goat cheese around, and have a tour in English this is the place. Richard is very happy to explain all there is to know about goats and the making of cheese. They have around 50 adult goats and 6 types of cheese. Richard explained to my parents that cheese is made from heated milk with the example of when a baby spits up and it is chunky it is because the milk was sitting in the warm stomach turning into cheese before it came back up, maybe not the prettiest way to think about cheese but for the rest of the vacation whenever the baby spit up my parents would say "look he's making cheese".
La Chassange route 941 about 20 min from Aubusson (http://www.stagebijoux.com for directions)
Another family dinner with the meeting of the inlaws with only my mother-in-law being able to speak passable english. I mention this meal because Eveylne, my mother in law, teaches a jewellery workshop here and if you have folk interested in making jewellery this is the high quality place to learn. Her pieces are extremely beautiful, blending silver and nature and if I could I would, and I would learn it from her.
Felletins Friday Market- from Aubusson dir Felletin 8ishkm (9-noonish)
This is a bustling and vibrant farmers market. You can buy lots of great local stuff like Felis Beer made in Felletin or some great Apple Cider Vinegar from Mainsat and the Cheese Pepper rolls from the Organic Bread people. Plus all the rest that you normally see at the markets. Great for people watching and seeing a small town/village square being flooded with life. After the Hotel on the Square does a nice Steak Frites and Menu Du Jour Lunch and has some of the best Chocolate Mousse I have had so far. The red velvet flower wallpaper reminds me of the french brothel of yesteryear.
Lac du Vassiviere
On a Sunday we quickly went to the supermarket before it closed and picked up a simple baguette, cheese, pate, fruit meal and headed off to the Lake for a picnic. The island in the middle with the Contemporary Art Muesum is a wonderful place to take a big walk, find the outdoor sculptures then sit next to the lake and have a picnic. Or have the picnic first so you're not walking around with heavy bags of food. My favorite is the Andy Goldsworthy wall which I stumbled upon not knowing it was there and he being one of my favorite artists. It encircles a group of trees then winds into the lake and depending on how high the water is you see either more or less of the wall. Simple and flowing. Depending on the exhibit, the museum can be a nice visit or it can be an intellectual contemporary art nightmare of "huh, why? or, I could do that". The stairs in the lighthouse are beautiful and fun to climb. When passing Royere-De-Vassivere there is a bar called L'Atelier that is very nice to sit and have a drink or even go to one of there nighttime concerts which range from folk to punk.
SERMUR- from Aubusson dir Bellgarde en Marche past Bellgarde dir Lupersat past Lupersat then there is a small sign on the right
And last but not at all least and I almost think I shouldn't tell it because it is my secret place. Sermur is the place to take the 360* view picnic on a clear day. It is on a hill with a tower ruin at the top and has the most amazing view of this area. The best part is that there is never anyone there. The village is cute to walk through, but it is the view and the good food you bring on a picnic that make this place amazingly special and a day you won't forget. It is a tiny bit hilly and could be a hard walk for the older and unfit folk but if they go slow it is worth the huffs and puffs and normally only a 5min walk for the rest.
There are many other places to visit in the Creuse and this was just what I did with them this go around. We missed some nice resturants by the lake, the summer music and dinner at La Note and swiming in the rivers and lakes around. They will come again,though, and while I am sure we will repeat Sermur and Felletin we will also find other adventures to go on. So have fun with your visitors, it is a beautiful place here and I only live in this one tiny part of Creuse. If you have any suggestions of other places around I would love to hear.
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