Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sancy mountain high: Besse et St-Anastaise

Our recent trip to Auvergne yields lots of surprises: red cows, nail-bitingly narrow roads, incredible views and sweet mountain villages. We spend one morning in the lovely village of Besse et Saint-Anastaise in the Massif du Sancy. This area contains the highest peak in the entire 70,286-square-mile (182,040-square-km) Massif Central region of France.

View of the Massif Sancy from Saint-Donat

The buildings in Besse, made of gray volcanic lava rock (trachyandesite), are noticably different than those back home in the Lot-et-Garonne. The high-pitched roofs throughout this mountaneous region shout that we are in snow country.

Some of the grand buildings from the 12th through 16th centuries have ties to French royalty. The town became part of France’s crown estate with the marriage of Catherine de Médicis and Henri II in 1533. Their daughter, Marguerite de Valois (Reine Margot) is said to have stayed in Besse while fleeing her brother Henri III. (She eventually was arrested in Usson, imprisoned for several years and went on to marry Henry IV, King of Navarre and then King of France. She was the last surviving member of the House of Valois.)

On the sunny morning of our visit, the cafés and restaurants are preparing lunch. A concert is planned for the late afternoon on the square outside Saint-André church.

Église Saint-André in Besse is a Roman-style church
constructed at the end of the 12th century.

Besse merged with the town of Chandèze in 1790 and took the name Besse-en-Chandesse. Another merger in 1973, changed the name to Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise. The area received a much-needed economic boost with the opening of the Super Besse ski resort in 1961.

The sculpture in the Place du Dr. Pipet in Besse,
appears to have once been an architectural feature.

We have a lot on our agenda for today, but before we hit the mountain roads we take a stroll though Parc Louis Perrier.

Parc Louis Perrier in Besse

We spent two comfortable nights and had some great food at
this auberge in Saint-Donat, 22 km from Besse.

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