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Puy-en -Velay- The sacred and the enjoyable.

Updated: Aug 2, 2023



First impression:


When I first saw a photo of the city Puy-en- velay in the region Auvergne, Haute (high) Loire, I was stunned. It looked like nothing else I have seen before.

An enormous sculpture of the Virgin Maria holding the baby Jesus placed on a high hill watching over an ancient city with colourful roofs. It was almost a visionary sight.

Is it extraordinary as the picture? I was nearly doubting that it might have been photoshopped.

A few months later, end of June, the beginning of July, I was on my way to a city that appeared like a decoration of a fantasy ,or a set design of a classical play.

The way in the train between Saint Etienne and Puy en Velay was already a promising start. I was plunging into the loveliness of green valleys and the river Loire flowing between them, assuring me a graceful welcoming.


Puy en Velay- sights and stories


It was a relatively hot summer day, and the city was prepared to embrace the evening. Although it was 7 pm, there was a lot of light, as the night falls quite late, towards 10 pm. I could stroll easily through the narrow paved streets and learn about the city's structure. I realized that, in reality, the charm and the beauty were even more incredible than in the image I saw. Not only the image wasn't photoshopped but in real it was even more striking.





I was thrilled to explore it. The first square that I saw on my way to the center town was the town hall square . I was straight away taken by the festival of coloures of Puy -en-Vellay. It was just the beginning..





Waiting, reflecting, pondering. This statue is one of the city's symbol..



The main square in the town center, "Place du Plot" gives the impression of an Italian city. Primarily the flamboyant, coloured houses around (differed from the half- timbered houses in Alsace). These were bright and dazzling in: orange, yellow, pink, and you could see all kinds; blue or purple windows on some of the old renovated buildings.

This square is distinguished and holds the identity of this city, also thanks to a remarkable sculpture of a pilgrim - in a moment of pose, or meditation, on the long journey of Saint James. Before or after visiting the holly monuments. The brillant sculptor is the Hungarian Andras Lapis. I stared at it each time I passed through the square.

Puy en Velay is an historical town with sacred monuments that attracted pilgrims worldwide to discover the Black Virgin in the main cathedral, the sumptuous sculpture of Maria holding Jesus on the top of the hill, and the chapel of Saint Michel d'Aighuile.

The places are located on - The St James Way. It is named after Saint Jacques, the evangelist of Jesus.

In many roads (especially in the ones that lead to the important monuments) you will meet the pilgrims, walking with their backpacks, greeting you with a smile.


I want to share this experience with you. Although I didn't arrive for religious grounds, this city filled me with spiritual feelings and gratefulness. The pleasure and the scared integrated perfectly.



Notre Dame de France

Yes. You can go up, inside this enormous sculpture One of this world's wonders


The sight of Maria from bronze is thrilling, (whether you are a believer or not), it is a breath taking monument, surrounded by delightful nature. It is empowering to grump up the hill and to get closer to the sculpture, that becoming more and more imposing. This statue is incredible, you can climb inside the stairs in the monument till the top,to view the city. Still, even if you don't reach the highest level it is an adventure not to miss. "Meeting in person" Notre Dame de France," the goddess that protects France. (At the beginning of July was a massive disruption-vandalism and burning cars in some major cities, which gave another meaning to her pacifying, royal presence.)


Polignac-the village and the Fortress





The whole region where Puy en Velay is located invites you to explore and learn about its origins. As I didn't have a car, I went by bus, which was very convenient to a pretty village, "Polignac" Inside, there was a Fortress that was loaded with sights and architecture. It belonged to the family Polignac.

From far it appeared empty and abandoned, but once I reached there, it was a surprisingly massive landscape to enjoy. I loved the cave, which has a mysterious



atmosphere, especially standing in front of an enormous mask statue of Apollon from antique times. It is very unusual, and hints some legends and myths about its creation.





Between these Middle Ages stones, and ruines, a beautiful garden has invited me to sit on a bench and relax there. listening to the singing birds. It was a healing feeling.

Below the Fortress, there is a convivial restaurant (the dishes looked appetizing). The owner was kind enough to let me drink just a coffee during lunchtime.

it was cold and rainy all of a sudden. I will give you later other excellent addresses where to eat and drink in lovely Puy en Velay.



Colourful typical street


Great coffee shop- la brulerie

In the afternoon, I was cheerful in the bubbly town. Friday afternoon and it was lively, with many shops and cafes open. I was impressed again by the colourful, bright houses, and as I was keen to discover the best Cafes, I landed in one that is charmingly

decorated and has refined roasted coffee. " La brulerie" a few minutes' walk from my hotel and near the center.



Besides the tasty coffee, I was glad to find original shops for jewelry and lace, one of Puy- en -Valley- trademarks. From the Middle Ages, it was one of the well known commerce, and women weaved lace in the old town, for a main source of living. I purchased a few beautiful accessories in lace.




It is advisable to visit the lace center in the old town. It is a compact, interesting museum showing the various works of art that were done with lace.

The first evening I dined in a refined restaurant with a gastronomic cuisine. Right in the old city center in the beautiful Raphael street 19 - the Chamarlenc. Cosy and sophisticated at the same time.




The heart of Puy en Velay is divided into two, above with two phenomenal monuments, the Notre Dame de France and the Rock, with the chapel of Saint Michel d'Alguihe. and down in the Valley the preserved old town.

It was a kind of grey sky with ray of lights that flared up from time to time, creating a dreamy vision while I was grumping up the enigmatic rock.



Another perspective on the city, seeing from the Rock Saint Michel

The rock itself is sort of a miracle nature creation, as volcanic eruption created it, which makes its value even more outstanding,




once reaching the highest point, you are facing an extraordinary Roman chapel front.Scary heads of monsters and nymphs among other fabulous creatures, are sculpted on the entrance gate, and inside the chapel, byzantine frescoes from the 10th century.

There is a sensation of calmness and serenity when walking on the rock, as I felt at the Fortress of Poglinac.





Puy en Velay is charged with irresistible sites, like the "Place des Tables" The square with the fountain in the middle, looks so scenic.

It has plenty of colours and beauty; you can sit in one of the ice cream shops around the square and have a treat.

By the square is the prestigious cathedral. you would need to climb up the high stairs to reach it. It is another sacred monument for the pilgrims on the "way to Saint James".





Inside is waiting for the visitors the Black Madonna- (la vierge noire). Wise and peaceful, as if she is waiting just for you, to confess your deep thoughts and secrets. She reminded me of the queen of Sheba.






Saturday morning, you can meet the locals in the market selling all the goods, it is a traditional very good food market, "Place du Plot" turned as well to be a meeting point for everyone.



At night it was July, the first, the lights festival began, and different projections of the history and legends were screened on the essential monuments of the city.

It was a good reason for children to stay up late, and the Puy en Velay was all lights and glimmers telling different stories on the walls of the city.





Before the darkness falls at 10 pm( in summer), I enjoyed having a dinner in a great restaurant near by the cathedral. The chef likes to surprise the guests with special, delicious dishes, not before the kind waitress does take care and ask for your preferences. Meat lover or vegan, and the dessert will be accorded to your taste. The restaurant has a lovely, with plenty of atmosphere, courtyard,"Comme à la Maison " 7 rue Séguret








The last day, I consacrated to art galleries. I visited two museums. The first one is the Museum Crozatier. It has a vast collection of artworks from previous centuries. I was thrilled to discover more drawings of the city's lace history on the ground floor. The highlight was a marvelous exhibition of autoportrait from Cezanne to Van Gogh. (The exhibition is up to 17 of September )They were other autoportraits of various famous artists.

The museum offers a large section of paintings and sculptures, I was glad to bump again to the "Black Virgin" This magnificent portrait is in the permanant collection.

The stroll to the Museum is lovely as you can cross a beautiful park, which leads to the museum and it is nice to relax, among the plants, before or after.


The other Museum, nearby the old cathedral, is "Hotel des Lumieres " It is a virtual-immersive journey to the world of Leonardo de Vinci , the journey to freedom and Compostella. I thoroughly enjoyed these experiences.





I mentioned before the nature surrounding Puy en Velay. You might need a car to see all the unique hidden places like the waterfall de la Beaune, but I managed to see other places, with the train, after a couple of stops, I arrived at a charming village Vorey. The village is small, but it is immersed in the generous nature of Auvergne, I had a great walk along the Loire. A vibrant green embraced me from every single corner.


What an enchanting experience was the visit in the astonishing Puy en Velay: fabulous preserved architecture and variegated houses, charming views, together with high qualities products. A city sealed with a tremendous history, and deserves your attention, next time when you are in France.



Text and images- Niva Josef




******


Not only the lace, is the city's proud product, but also the green lentil and the Verveine Pages at "Espace Verveines Pagès"

You can taste in the boutiques, I tried the Verveine liqueur, which was very nice and bought some Verveine tea.



I would like also to mention, the trendy restaurant" Le Zebre", -17 street Vibert.

tasty dishes, in a very nice location, the street and the restaurant.



The hotel Ibis Styles where i stayed, was above all expectations. It was super comfortable, the room and the restaurant for breakfast with variety of fresh food, and orange juice. I highly recommend this lovely hotel that had an ideal location- close to the city center and the train station.






click inside the picture for Puy-en Velay- tourism office.



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I just now discovered your site! very interesting

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Next time in France, I will go to Puy wn Velay. Thanks for the article and recommandations.

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Amazing as always!!!

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Niva
Niva
Aug 12, 2023
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Thank you very much😀

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עיר מאוד מרשימה. כתבת יפה.

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Niva
Niva
Aug 12, 2023
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תודה רבה לך.

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Guest
Aug 02, 2023

It sometimes feels like a new place is waving to you to come closer, wanting to tell - or maybe retell - its story, feeling that somehow it must be important to you to hear it. It is magic to really feel and hear the place with both your heart and mind. You capture the spirit perfectly, Niva.

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Niva
Niva
Aug 03, 2023
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You know when I read comments like yours. i feel the river of communication flowing in the right direction.

Thank you so much for your words.


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