The puy de Dôme, a large lava dome, is one of the youngest volcanoes in the Massif Central in Auvergne, the central southern part of France, and has a height of 1464 meters. The volcano belongs to the Chaîne des Puys. Similarly to the Dutch Zuidwal volcano, this volcano is not situated on the edge of a tectonic plate, nor above a hotspot.
In July and August, many festivals are being held in the vicinity of the campsite.
These include medieval festivities, cultural festivals, and music festivals.
Campsite La Petite Valette is situated in the part of France that the French affectionately refer to as ‘La France Profonde,’ meaning the ‘deep, original’ France that the French wish to remember: a France where men are wearing blue hats and where women are wearing aprons; where everyone has a vegetable garden and at least a few ducks and chickens; where the days starts with a glass of white wine at the bistro next to the bakery. A France where something is always simmering in a small corner of the wood burning oven, and where literally no one is in a hurry.
The Allier is the most northern department of the Auvergne. The borders of the Allier roughly correspond with those of the medieval duchy Bourbonnais, which was owned by the Dukes of Bourbon for centuries. The many fortresses, castles, churches, and chapels still bear witness to the glorious past of the region. The Bourbonnais offers an incredible variety of exquisite landscapes. Campsite La Petite Valette is situated in a green, hilly region – the Bocage Bourbonnais – that owes its name to the typical bocage landscape with fields fringed with hedges and bushes, which has emerged in the course of the centuries.
Less than ten kilometers south of the campsite, it suddenly becomes mountainous and rougher. The Charroux surroundings resemble Tuscany, whereas the ravines at Ebreuil and Chouvigny resemble those of the Tarne. Further east, in the Montagne Bourbonnaise region, you will imagine yourself in Switzerland. Add the vast valleys of the Sioule, the Besbre, and the Allier to this – the Allier is the last non-canalized large river of Europe with a bird richness which can only be compared to that of the Wadden Sea – and don’t forget the vast silent forests: the woods under Montmarault are undiscovered gems, and the Tronçais forest in the northeast of the Allier is internationally known as the largest and oldest oak forest of Western Europe.
All in all, plenty of natural beauty and history to admire during long walks and bike rides on the deserted little country roads. Or enjoy them during car ‘walks,’ as the French do. And once you feel like you’ve admired enough natural beauty, castles, and small towns; once you no longer feel like visiting the flea markets that are organized by every village on summer weekends; once you’ve canoed in the Gorge de Chouvigny; once you’ve tasted enough of the wines of Saint Pourçain, the mustard of Charroux, and the cheese of Bézenet – then it might be time for a day trip to amusement park Le Pal, theme park Vulcania, or volcanic highlight Puy de Dôme. These are professional, modern attractions which both young and old will enjoy. They are roughly an hour’s drive from the campsite.
Allier is the first department of the Auvergne on the Route du Soleil. Here, the countryside is very well preserved, and it is home to more than 500 castles and stylish homes that you can admire, visit, or... inhabit. The area is rich in bocages and vines in the Saint-Pourçain region. Here, you will also find the « most beautiful oak forest in Europe » that is famous for its listed oak trees and its canopy, which, at some places, is no less than three hundred years old (the timber is highly sought after, especially for building barrels for the great wines of Bordeaux).
Here, you will find no ancient volcanoes, meaning it’s less touristy – yet, there are a few beautiful spots that we would like to introduce you to.
Forêt de Tronçais
This is the oak forest mentioned earlier. One might say that this is the most tourist place of Allier. A forest combined with a few lakes continues to have a great appeal. There are sunbathing areas; sometimes, there are landscaped beaches, and one can participate in water sports.
This town is located south of the famous forest. Montluçon is dominated by a hill with a castle on top of it. Like many castles, it has seen periods of prosperity and decline, and it has had different purposes. Currently, it accommodates a museum: Musée des Musiques Populaires. The small town is perfect for taking a stroll, but apart from a few churches, it has no major attractions.
Besides Vichy, this is the most appealing tourist town of Allier; not in the least for its cathedral with a treasury. The showpiece is a triptych of the ‘Coronation of Mary.’ Additionally, there are a few beautiful buildings that are worth seeing, such as a chapel and a bell tower with animated figures. Moulins also has two smaller museums. Website: pays-bourbon.com
This small town is within a stone’s throw of Moulins and has a magnificent abbey church with an adjacent museum.
The name sounds familiar to us, and indeed: it refers to the spring water. Where there are springs, there’s usually a spa, and it’s no different in Vichy. The Parc des Sources is the heart of the spa. It’s a pleasant area for taking a stroll, and it is, of course, possible to taste the spring water. The buildings where the springs are located are particularly special. The town is also home to magnificent buildings, but it offers no appreciable attractions.
Not far from Vichy, there’s a castle that’s worth seeing: La Palice. When visiting it, you will notice that it’s richly decorated with paintings and carpets.