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Vichy Opera House

The lake at St Rémy sur Durolle

Pitelet from the air.

Home-cured ham

From the gîte garden: La chaîne des Puys above the cloud.

La chaîne des Puys from the Puy de Dôme itself.

Jean Fayet's suntrap

A view of old Thiers

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The small rural village of Pitelet in the commune of Saint Victor Montvianeix nestles amongst the wooded mountains of the picturesque Puy de Dôme, one of four 'départements' which make up the Auvergne region in the heart of France. At an altitude of 750 metres, the air is clear, the water from natural springs and the area rich in flora, fauna and birdlife which makes it ideal for those who want to "get away from it all" and enjoy the area's tranquility and unspoiled surroundings - ideal for exploring on foot or bicycle or just sitting and reflecting. Our commune is 25kms across, has an area of over 11000 acres, has 57 hamlets, is criss-crossed by 300 kilometres of pathways (3900 kms in the Puy de Dôme), varies in altitude from 250 metres to 1232 metres and has a population of 6 people per square kilometre. That, to us at least, is tranquil!

If you prefer more organised activities, there are outdoor heated swimming pool, mini-golf and tennis and squash courts available for hire around the lake at nearby St Rémy sur Durolle (11 kms) as well as restaurants and cafes. The town itself has a small selection of essential shops, bars and cafes and boasts a small Sunday morning market.

Our nearest large town, Thiers, has been the centre of French knife- and cutlery-making for six centuries, a fact that is celebrated at its fascinating Musée de la Coutellerie. The region is the home of the famous "Sabatier" kitchen knife and "la coutellerie" is still very much a cottage industry, still practised by individuals working in a modest workshop attached to their village home. In July each year too, Thiers hosts the lively summer Pamparina music festival with 120 free concerts in the town's streets.

The spa town of Vichy in the neighbouring département of L’Allier (40 kms) with its celebrated opera house and famous for its healing waters, its golf course and its trotting horse stadium, is also well worth a visit. It now boasts a brand new swimming centre complete with olympic-sized pool.

And then there's Clermont-Ferrand (40 kms), the capital city of the Auvergne and the home of Bibendum, the Michelin man. The company has now recently completed and opened a state-of-the-art visitor centre. And then there's the black volcanic stone cathedral.
  
The Montagnes Thiernoise form the northern part of one of France's beautiful natural regional parks, the Livradois-Forez, and a short distance by car to the south-west is the stunning chain of volcanoes from which the 'département' gets its name and its highest peak, the Puy de Dôme. The more adventurous might like to see them from a hot air balloon or paraglider. Or you might want to visit one or more of the area's interesting chateaux.

And when you have worked up an appetite savour some of the local speciality foods. Hams, saucissons, preserves, the delicious Saucisse de Choux made in nearby Arconsat, or tripe in tomato sauce followed by one of the delicious cheeses from the milk of cow, goat and sheep as the region boasts one of the largest number of AOP cheeses in France - accompanied by a glass or two from the smaller, yet equally distinctive choice of wines.