Lavaudieu to Leotoing

As we headed into town with Jacqui the next day at lunchtime we saw a couple of cows wandering freely down the narrow village roads, and only stopping to relieve themselves. Big beasts when you get close to them. Just to be clear, I’m talking about the cattle here 😉.

We ate a really good value three course set menu, including a very tasty steak & perfect home-made chips. Afterwards we came across a French bread machine, which we’d seen empty the previous evening, so knew this would be today’s fresh batch. We decided that Jacqui would be the guinea pig for this and pumping all her loose change, 85 cents, into the machine, she was the proud owner of a baguette.

I’d mentioned that we were ultimately aiming at a hilltop overnighting spot for that night. Jacqui topped up her water supply and then we said our goodbyes.

First stop was Brioude, where they have a motorhome aire and services. Unfortunately, these were of the “Flot Bleu” variety, which effectively mean paying for emptying your toilet cassette. Fortunately, these are very rare. It was very convenient parking next to the centre of town, which had several scattered medieval buildings, but with the benefit of hindsight, would we have bothered stopping – probably not.

Thinking practical again, I was keen to refresh our toilet cassette. Up until this trip we’d always used the relatively expensive standard toilet chemicals, but then, through reading the tips of other motorhomers, discovered that washing machine liquid actually does the required job, and for a fraction of the price. On this basis, so as to maximise freshness, it’s no problem to empty on a daily basis, and particularly in France, where free facilities are virtually everywhere.

So, using the “Quick Search” function on Park4night, I selected “Black Water”, and all the available emptying sites in the area appeared on the map. The nearest was at Vieille Brioude, just down the road. As an added bonus, there’ll invariably be reviews of any stop, and from these I read that Vieille Brioude was an attractive little town, and also that Lavoûte-Chilhac, 20 minutes further South was a must see. So this is our typical style of touring, ie minimal advanced research, focusing on our daily practical requirements, and then being pleasantly surprised by randomly coming across lovely gems of places along the way. We’ve pretty much done this for our 11 years and have covered getting on for 50 thousand miles. It really works for us.

So Vieille Brioude was a great visit, followed by a drive down the valley towards Lavoûte-Chilhac in the lovely early evening sun. En route, on going round a bend, we were presented with an amazing view of an impressive chateau (or perhaps a church), perched on top of a very high hill, near the small village of Villeneuve-d’Allier.

Lavoûte-Chilhac itself was most definitely worth the detour. The small town is based around a large, virtually 360 degree bend in the river Allier, and made for a very pleasant visit.

Time was now getting on, and we’d taken a detour South, when we were trying to make progress northwards. Despite the SatNav’s best efforts, I was determined not to be dragged along some dodgy route over steep hills and so stuck to my guns and returned up the same route to Brioude and then turned West towards the Alagnon river valley.

In Brioude, we spotted another one of those bread machines, and were keen to have a go ourselves, after having persuaded Jacqui to do the same earlier. Jacqui, our willing guinea pig, had let us know that she’d actually made it to the hilltop spot at Leotoing. She warned us that the approach involved a winding, steep, and narrow 2-way hill, and that second gear would be the maximum we’d likely achieve. As we approached along the valley, an imposing castle way high up on the hill loomed above us. Only at that point did we realise that this was where we were heading. Actually, the hill wasn’t too bad, but we were pleased not to meet another vehicle on the way up.

The picnic spot solid grass parking was more than impressive and the views promised to be incredible, but it was too dusky to really appreciate them at that time. No other neighbours again and a very peaceful night virtually guaranteed.

*** Just to mention that our blogs can be up to a few weeks behind reality, as we’re always in catch-up mode ***

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