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The French Cycling Bicycle Gourmet - French Country Travel Life Film Maker and Author. Your non-snobby Gourmet Guide to food, wine travel and Lifestyle Adventure!

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The Heart of France

There is a place in France that marches to the beat of a different drummer. A way different drummer. A drummer with only one stick. The French call this place – “La France Profunde.” Deep France. France the way it used to be. In the good ole’ days. (you remember them, don’t you?)

cantal villatge, deep france

No Boutique – No Swingin’ Hot Spot

Deep France is France in the slow lane. No stress. No pressure. No worries. Rural. Bucolic. (not a cow disease, but a ten dollar word for “booty-ful”) It’s a place where the wide open spaces are wider. The air fresher. And freeways are a crazy urban circus you only see on TV.

The location of this magical place where time runs on two speeds – dead slow and stop – is subjective. Because there is more than one region that qualifies. But the name most associated with “La France Profunde” is “The Cantal.”

Geography 101

The Cantal is a region of France within the department of Auvergne. It’s at the bottom left on the map, bounded by the Haute Loire region on the right. While it’s impossible to say which city/town is the “big smoke” in the Cantal, the administrative centre, and most prominent on the map, is Aurillac. (iaurillac.com) That said, the Cantal is “choc-a-block” with medieval villages. Extremely well preserved. And functioning today with very few changes. Other than the obvious “Mod Cons.”

Medieval Beef

This is because the Cantal is quintessentially a rural environment. Way rural. The locals describe it as :” 10,000 people, 100,000 cows.” And so, you will truly find that the hills are alive with the sound of “moo –sick.” The beef the Cantal is famous throughout Europe for, comes from the Salers cow. From the city of the same name. Ok, unless yer in the breeding/selling biz….a cow is a cow is a cow, right? But the medieval village of Salers, is very much more than your standard“can’t believe it’s so old” collection of crumbling ruins. Put it high on your list. (salers.fr and salers-tourism.fr)

cantal cows, deep france

Da BG’s other medieval Cantal recommendations are Laroguebrou(chateau perched on a hill above the gorge du Ceres – info from : chataignerie-cantal.com), and Marcoles. (marcoles.fr)

Who Loves ya Baby?

But wait – There’s more! (three “mores” actually) The first being FOOD! And, as you might expect in a cow filled land, beef figures in the menus big time. The centre of “gastronomy”(fancy eatin’) in the Cantal is the tiny(pop. – 1500) of Laguoile.(Curiously pronounced “la-ge-ol” by the locals, and “la –yol” by the rest of France.) THE place to chow down there is the Hotel/Restaurant Augy. Jean-Pierre and Isabelle Augy(she’s the chef) will take good care o’ you and yer stomach.

A Cheese runs through it

A huge contribution to France gastronomy are the cheeses of the Auvergne. Particularly the Cantal cheese. This is a semi-hard frommage(think consistency of cheddar)coming from the aforementioned Saler’s cows, that’s aged up to 18 months. Here, I promise you, more than any other region, you’ll chow down on an incredible variety of exceptional cheeses. (and the wines not too bad either!)

cantal cheese, deep france

The second more, is, ……a knife. The Laguoile knife.  Internationally renowned for the quality of materials, and workmanship. Virtually ever self-respecting Froggie Male has one on his belt  And, of course, there are steak knives, dinner sets, knives for every occasion, yada,yada,yada. The handmade versions can put a serious dent in yer wallet.(2000 euro plus) Naturally, they’re a “must have” souvenir for touring Texan cattlemen!

The third more, is “Le Nature.” The landscape. Miles and miles, of miles and miles.
A paradise for walkers. And, for most o’ the rest, jus’ a paradise. Especially if QUIET is at the top o’ yer paradise list. And, happily, there is an association of country inns that specialize in quiet. They’re :  relaisdusilence.com Locations all over France. And that includes the Cantal.

Cantal canoes, deep france

Enough ta get ya started?


What are ya thinkin’?

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20 Responses to “The Heart of France”

  1. margo pawson says:

    Incredible! the only word for this place. Fantastic your reportage. Keep sharing these treasures!

  2. annik reparetet says:

    Can only add a big “amen” to the previous comments. A region i definitely will put on my “must see” list.

  3. Bill Martin says:

    this post really gives the flavor of this region. never heard of it before.
    but glad I was lucky enough to benefit from your fine reporting!

  4. cindi taylor says:

    so much info here! – plus the photos make me want to jump on a plane and head there NOW! (we..ok, maybe when the weather is a little warmer lol!)
    really meaty post. keep it up!

  5. I always appreciate the detail you put in your posts. Your information is always (at least to me) new and complete.Something I rarely see on other sites dealing with france.

  6. Stanford said it all for me. Your perspective on Franch life and Culture is truly unique, and always appreciated.

  7. Katie Price says:

    your photos harmonize perfectly with your text. and definitely amplify the feeling of this amazing place. thanks to you, it’s now on my “must visit” list. Many thanks!

  8. I agree with katie 110%. along with your descrip^tions and info;, your photos absolutely transport the reader to this “heart of france.” Your photos, I assume?

  9. Daphne Goode says:

    tim – as a long time fan of da bg, i’m not going out on a limb when i confirm your assumption. and, if you want to see more of his incredible images, just click “images” at the top of the page;

  10. carl winters says:

    I actually have one of those knives – as a result of our visit to Lagouile. But we didn’t realize just how much we missed in that area, until this post.
    we’ve made notes! (lol!) and will definitely be going back!

  11. the cheese looks fantastic!..but then, would else would you expect from a country world renowned for it? your photo on the marble slab really does the cheese justice.

  12. as a confirmed meat eater – with a penchant for aged beef – i wasd over the moon to learn about the salers beef.(i’ve since reserched it further -thanks to you)yet another ,of the many reasons to visit this “heart-” of your fantastic adopted country; (Yes, I’M JEALOUS!!!)

  13. evan wright says:

    another informative/entertaining post..in your usual easy to read – no – make that FUN to read style! particularly love that line “a drummer with only one stick.”

  14. it seems like every place you focus on is “the best place in france.” Now, of course, that’s an exaggeration – but it’s hard for us big city americans to imagine how one country could have so much to offer. But, hey, that’s why you’re there – right?

  15. matts olssen says:

    megan – i know what you mean. but as a swede who’s closer to france than you, and having visited france several times..i’m happy to tell you the reality is even more than you can imagine. we go at least once every year for the last 10 years. Always to a different region. and always amazed.
    if you haven’t been – you need to get there!

  16. evan wilson says:

    thnaks for all this information and the great photos with it. The combination of the two really makes you feel that it’s a place you visited

  17. dahila blass says:

    my husband and I having been trying to decide which part of france to visit first. You just made up our minds with this fantastic post; Many thanks!

  18. tony rames says:

    i’ve never been there..but my cousin has and he bought some of those knives you were talking about. hhe’s still raving about the place. after reading your info/pix – i can totally understand!

  19. bill tremain says:

    i’ve never been there..but my cousin has and he bought some of those knives you were talking about. hhe’s still raving about the place. after reading your info/pix – i can totally understand!

  20. wilson mathers says:

    until i saw your post, i was planning a holiday somewhere in the south of france. but not the riviera…someplace quieter. but after researching further, i didn’t seem to find a quiet alternative there…so, your post was a total inspiration..and it sounds like just the place for us.

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