Leaving the beautiful valley of the Dordogne River, we set off for Lyon, with a planned route through the Auvergne Volcanoes National Park. We had reservations at an old castle, Chateau de la Vigne. Here, we found French hospitality at its finest. Bruno and Anne du Fayet de la Tour were friendly, gracious and interesting hosts. Their ancient family home sits over rolling fields near Ally in the Auvergne region. Surprisingly, Chateau de la Vigne is home to one of the world’s largest private assemblies of miniature collectibles, largely cars, trucks and fire wagons. It is housed in the upper levels of the castle, accessed by a winding stone stairway.
That evening, we dined with the couple and a son, sharing fabulous regional foods before a giant fireplace. We learned history of the family and the property and, after a relaxing time of wine and conversation, retired to the Louis XV bedroom. There in 1767, political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau stayed for three months. His quiet presence in the Auvergne was probably because he was officially banned from France at the time because of religious and political writings.
Sleeping in an ancient castle was a new experience. We were first time visitors to the Auvergne region as well. In early autumn, France is a particularly beautiful country and the Auvergne is truly unique. In one valley of the Cantal, we sat quietly beside mountain pastures, listening to a symphony of bells played by the Salers cattle. Nearby animals provided the melodies and tuneful harmonies reverberated from cow bells all over the surrounding valley. Reluctantly, we moved on as the concert continued.