The Haute-Loire is known for its still wild nature, its festival of La Chaise-Dieu, its route on the roads to Santiago de Compostela, its religious past, its lace, green lentils... and its mushrooms. You can pick them, buy them and, above all, taste them. It is a delightful excuse to venture into this mountainous heart of France, pulsating with all its white waters, hidden under a green mantle of meadows, containing many trésors : peaks, escarpments and organs spring up from the valleys to crown themselves with villages and castles.
The mushroom, king of the forests of the Haute-Loire
Here, the mushroom is the king of the forest. It is sometimes traded under the mantle or in broad daylight on the markets, or at the dried mushroom fairs held around All Saints' Day in some villages. A good opportunity to exchange some recipes. But before cooking the mushrooms, they must be picked. The Haute-Loire has a wide variety of trees and slopes which give it some advantages for a diversified growth. Spring is the season for the first mushrooms, the gyromiths, which can be found around the Lac du Bouchet, among others. They look like a morel and are considered as mortels ; this does not prevent connoisseurs from enjoying them with friends since they have disappeared from sale. It is in June that the first chanterelles appear in the deciduous and fir woods - surtout if it has plu -, which can be picked up until December just like the monsoons or the sheep's feet. The region of La Chaise-Dieu is quite favourable. One will also find, at the edge of the hardwoods, some summer ceps that the connoisseurs are reluctant to pick, arguing of a lesser quality in terms of flavours. When the first rains of late August or early September come to refresh the soil, the great season begins and all the species make their appearance. Ceps appear in every corner of the department, especially in Sorgues and at the Lac du Bouchet, as do grey chanterelles and charcoal trees that grow in the coniferous woods. On the other hand, as soon as the first frosts occur, the great season comes to an end and the exhausted mycelium goes to rest. To collect them in " terre inconnue ", it is best to hire a native who knows about good mushrooms and " bons coins "
Salmon, lentils and cold meats, a diversified gastronomy
The Haute-Loire is crossed by many small rivers and streams that were, for a very long time, populated by crayfish. Today, some of them are still fished, but this is often more a matter of poaching. Also, it is omerta on the preserved corners. Some names are sometimes whispered like the Seuge, the Gazeille, the Panis... On the other hand, salmon farms are numerous because these fish go up the Loire and Allier rivers. Brioude has long been considered the salmon capital of Europe and its Maison du Saumon et de la Rivière (House of the Salmon and the River ) is the conservatory of this highly migratory species. Among the other specialities gastronomiques : charcuterie, cheese and the famous green lentils of Le Puy. It is the only dry vegetable with a registered designation of origin and a brotherhood was even created in 1995. Velay verbena is also very popular. It is a liqueur aged in oak barrels, based on more than 32 plantes and more particularly on verbena grown, harvested and dried in the Velay
The department has other treasures, such as lace. The Centre d'enseignement de la dentelle au fuseau du Puy proves that this art is not extinct. For the amateurs, Brioude and Retournac are the two communes which cannot be ignored in this field. On the other hand, all the towns sell lace and the streets of Le Puy abound with shops where lace-makers and lace-makers give demonstrations
The Haute-Loire, a land of pilgrimage
The religious heritage is another wealth of the department. The Haute-Loire is crossed by a road to Santiago de Compostela, lined with beautiful Romanesque churches, abbeys and cathedrals. The one in Le Puy-en-Velay is mérite : you have to climb 134 marches before entering Notre-Dame, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Inside, the Black Madonna actually dates from XIXe siècle, the original offered by Saint Louis on his return from the Crusades and probably of Coptic origin having been burnt by the revolutionaries. The Fever Stone is a curiosité : this volcanic table is said to have witnessed apparitions of the Virgin during the Gallo period-romaine ; miracles are said to have followed. Even today, many people still lie on it to obtain benefits... The cloister, considered to be one of the most beautiful in Romanesque art, dates from the 11th century and XIIe siècles. But it is impossible to pass through Le Puy-en-Velay without looking at the Virgin and Child dominating the town. This project took shape from 1853 onwards thanks to numerous donations and a national subscription. For the material, 213 canons of the battle of Sebastopol was melted down and Notre-Dame de France was inaugurated on 12 septembre 1860 in front of 120 000 pèlerins. One enters inside and, from the windows, the panoramic view is exceptional. However, to climb the Corneille Rock from 754 mètres you have to climb its 262 marches ! The rock of Aiguilhe is also a curiosity. It is actually a volcanic chimney, eroded by erosion, on which was built at Xe siècle a chapel dedicated to the archangel Saint Michael. In La Chaise-Dieu, the abbey impresses by its dimensions imposantes : 76 mètres long and 24 mètres wide. The famous painting " de la Danse macabre " is also one of these marvels, as is the tomb of Clément VI which stands in the middle of the building
The department also has some " Plus beautiful villages of France " : Arlempdes, which grew at the foot of the castle of the same name dominating the first meanders of the Loire ; Blesle and its forty or so half-timbered houses, sometimes with encorbellements ; Lavaudieu and its alleys surrounding the medieval Benedictine abbey. Finally, Pradelles preserves within its fortified walls the traces of a past marked by its strategic position, at the crossroads of the roads to Mende and Aubenas.
When? Every season, its charm! To pick mushrooms, it's in autumn that you have to arm yourself with your basket. For tourism, it is necessary to avoid full winter where the roads are often snowy.
To get there. The car and the train are the most practical means of transport
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