21 - 22 April 2018
Annual Fete des Jonquilles (Daffodils) in Chambon-sur-Lignon, with a carnival procession, music, folklore and the election of Miss Daffodil.
June - August 2018
Music lovers can enjoy an annual season of around 40 concerts held in the high Allier Valley between Brioude and Langeac. Venues are often small and include some the region’s beautiful medieval churches. Highlights are concerts held in the basilica at Brioude. Prices are reasonable and standards first class. These events have helped earn the area a rural classification of ‘Pays d’Art et d’Histoire’. http://music-valley.org
15 August 2018
Fetes Mariales celebrate the Feast of the Assumption with a procession of Notre-Dame-du-Puy’s Black Madonna through the town, street entertainment, food and craft stalls.
51st classical music festival in the majestic setting of the ancient Benedictine abbey of La Chaise-Dieu.
Tel: (00 33) 471 00 01 16
Third weekend of September (15 - 16 Septmber 2018)
Fetes Renaissance du Roi de l’Oiseau involves a march of 400 costumed residents through the town, a 500 year old archery competition with the winner being crowned King of the Birds plus perks such as a year’s tax exemption. Free street entertainment, theatre, music and dancing, food and wine. Tel: (00 33) 4 71 09 38 41.
The volcanic cones at the heart of Le Puy, 600m above sea level, make a spectacular setting for the last aerostatics gathering of the season. An international event with stunning displays of up to 40 brightly coloured balloons gathered here from as far a-field as the USA. Viewing free all day. Tel: Le Puy tourist office (00 33) 4 71 09 38 41 or see www.montgolfiere-en-velay.fr
21 - 28 July 2018
The 11th edition of the festival this year, combining art history and music. A series of classical music concerts take place around July, each one in a historic venue in the Brivadois region, next to la Brioude. For more information , please, visit www.escalesbrivadoises.fr
27 - 29 July 2018
Country and western music festival attracting top performers from Austin and Nashville (USA) and also Europe. Concerts happen in a natural amphitheatre, surrounded by pine forests with incredible views of the mountains of the Velay and Ardeche, in Craponne-sur-Arzon. The festival attracts 35,000 people every year and has a wonderful family atmosphere. For more information telephone: +33 (0) 4 71 03 25 52
This cottage museum in the isolated rural highlands of Mezenc houses a miniature village and shows how life was for early twentieth century peasants. Other restored low stone cottages in the village have small windows and doors with typical high sloping roofs of rye thatch or volcanic slate to counteract winter snow fall. Nearby Moudeyres is another similar village where architecture has changed little since the Gallic era.
Lace-making in Haute Loire is a tradition going back hundreds of years which brought together villagers in isolated rural communities. Visit the lace museum in Retournac. Brioud has a lace workshop, exhibition and training centre where you can take courses at Hotel de la Dentelle, tel: (00 33) 4 71 74 80 02. The Conservatoire National Workshop for spindle lace in Le Puy exhibits items from handkerchiefs to bed sheets. Tel: (00 33) 4 71 09 74 41 as opening times vary.
Bobbin lace-making was developed in Le Puy around the fifteenth century and blossomed onto everything from clothes to furnishings by the 1600s. Bizarrely, at the height of its success, Louis XIII ordered a ban on production which was only lifted after vigorous campaigning.
In 1665, women known as Beates, were sent to country villages to teach religion and lace-making techniques with extended duties to help the sick and teach children to read and count. In the evening, villagers would meet (couvige) in the Beates house and the women would make lace. You can still see old Beates houses in Velay villages.
Lace-making almost disappeared in France after the Revolution but a revival in the later part of the nineteenth century, along with the creation of trade unions for workers and a design school meant Le Puy lace was much in demand from Paris and Normandy due to high quality of work and low labour costs compared to other places. Mechanisation and 2 world wars were amongst factors which led to a decline in the early twentieth century, despite laws being passed in Calvados and Haute Loire requiring the teaching of lace-making in schools. The Bobbin Lace Learning Centre in rue Raphael, Le Puy-en-Velay, created in 1974, has played a major role in the revival of handmade lace-making. Visit its fascinating exhibition, learn about Le Puy’s annual international gathering of lace-makers, buy lace products and take courses. Tel: (00 33) 4 71 02 01 68 for more or see www.ladentelledupuy.com
The warm dry summers of Velay have a southern feel, and it is no coincidence the local dialect heard in rural villages and markets resembles the patois of Languedoc rather than Auvergne. Historically, people here have always felt stronger links to the Midi and Massif Central.
Long before France was unified under the kings of northern France, Velay was part of a vast independent southern region (including Provence) sometimes referred to as Occitania, bounded by the seas of the Mediterranean and Atlantic and mountain barriers of the Pyrenees, Alps and Massif Central. Here the Romance language of Occitan or ‘langue d’oc’ was spoken.
Before the Revolution of 1789, Velay was part of the old province of Languedoc. Occitan was the preferred language of Richard the Lionheart and his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine; a language of literature and poetry. Many twelfth and thirteenth century troubadours came from Velay and Le Puy-en-Velay was a renowned literary town of the Middle Ages where students came from all over Occitania to study in schools like Saint-Mayol academy.
Visit the pretty little town where nineteenth century Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson began a solo 12 day trek in 1878 along what is now known as the ‘Stevenson Trail’. Stevenson chronicled his journey in ‘Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes’. His hike took him from Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille to Pradelles in Haute Loire and on to St Jean-du-Gard in Lozere, with Modestine, his 4 legged companion. The entire 220km route is now the GR70. Stevenson’s book has been classed as an early example of travel writing pioneering, hiking and camping. Poor Modestine was purchased in Le Monastier to carry his prototype sleeping bag - it was so heavy! The town holds an annual Brass Music festival during the first 2 weeks in August involving 3,000 musicians. Concerts take place around the town including Monastier’s Abbey Church.
Please check precise details and dates with event organisers before making your holiday and travel arrangements.