My DB warned me that I couldn't just waltz into a bar with a bag of croissants and start eating - it wasn't done, and anyway, the bar would probably want to sell me a croissant (with mark-up). Maybe in some places... but we found a bar that was just opening - the lady was still cleaning the floor - and when I asked if I could eat my croissant with my coffee, she said it would be fine. Result!
We drove around the village a bit, made the mistake of not buying bread and cheese, and set off into the wilderness along the Col de Neronne towards Puy Mary (still closed). I'm sure the views would have been fantastic had they not been shrouded in low clouds. Visibility was extremely bad, which made driving along the narrow lanes somewhat hairy.
Having missed the Col de Neronne, we then missed the Vallée du Mars thanks to the pouring rain and low clouds. The morning was advancing, and we had nothing for lunch (except more walnuts), so we kept a look-out for a boulangerie. Hamlet after hamlet yielded not a single shop, although cows and green pastures were abundant. The one tiny Vival store we found was out of bread, so we decided we'd better just drive to Mauriac, population of more than 10 (actually around 3800), where there would be a proper supermarket.
Sure enough, Mauriac had a very large Intermarché where we got cheese - Laguiole, Salers/Cantal- crisps, lettuce, bread, and had a difficult choice between all of two bottles in the 'extensive' selection of Côte d'Auvergne wine...
We found a picnic spot near a viaduct and, although it had stopped raining, it was very damp, so we ate in the car (hurrah!). The Laguiole was excellent, the Salers/Cantal less so.
In the afternoon, we drove along the Gorges de la Rhue in the rain, didn't see much, but the road did go through a luscious forest of moss-covered trees and rocks. At one point we followed a sign to an 'Arbre remarkable 340m' up a delightful forest track. We went all the way to the end, but didn't see it, so turned round and looked more carefully on the way back. Sure enough, we found it - a rotting 200 year old beech tree 43 metres high... Remarkable?
As we crossed the border into Puy de Dome, the sun promptly came out. Miracle! It made the moorlands which were carpeted in thousands of tiny jonquils positively glow. We made a short detour to see the ski resort Super Besse, still with a little snow clinging to the hillsides as my DB likes to see ski resorts out of season. There was a surprising number of vehicles about, and the cable cars were running, although the top of the hill was shrouded in cloud so I don't know what you were supposed to do once you got to the top! I always understood that if you were on a mountain and caught in fog, you should stay put in case you fell off. Maybe there's a restaurant chalet up there offering consolation for the fog-bound! In general, I thought the resort looked very down-at-heel without its improving cover of snow.
The weather closed in again, and we drove on through rain and 100% humidity trying to spot volcanoes. We were getting very bored with driving and not seeing much. At last we arrived at Le Mont-Dore (of the cheese you melt) which is a spa town and ski resort with casino and where we were to stay the night.
|Le Mont-Dore looking cold and wet|
|Le Mont-Dore - lovely views...|
The bread, cheese, and wine and bits and bobs went down very well, especially the Laguiole (which disappeared). A last look at the weather forecast for the next day - cloudy with sunny intervals - had us wondering if we should stay or should we go.