Chez les Auvergnats

IMG_0589Here I am now, in this small corner of the world, of which just few months ago, I even didn’t know the existence. But Life is a big surprise, and moving in an unknown region of another nation it’s a great experience, full of charm.

Let’s start from the beginning: Auvergne is geographically at the center of France, in the mountains of “Massif Central” and his capital “Clermont-Ferrand” is exactly at 5-6 hours of car from any other big city in France (if we exclude Lyon 2,30 h). After living 4 years in Switzerland I felt the need to change my life and I got the chance to move here. Before to take such a decision, I asked informations to my french collegues and friends…. the result was a disaster… “Quoi?? T’est fous?… il n’y a rien!” and so on… I received many negative opinions, but at my fundamental question “Have you ever been there?” the answer was always “No“. Therefore I decided to have a closer look and base my opinion only on my personal experience, that until now is more than positive!

I really enjoyed my first contact with the region and with people. They were extremely friendly and patient with my “still not fluent” french. So here a series of facts, which I hope will make you curious about this region:

1) There is no more french place in France than Auvergne! If you want to immerse yourself in french language and culture, here is the place, the old and traditional France.

2) Nature here is really impressive, if you love hiking and outdoor activities here there are really a lot of opportunities. The region is full of inactive Vulcanos, pure joy if you are a naturalist or passionate of Science and Nature in general.

3) Despite the opinion of my french friends, I found the cultural life really brilliant, not only in Clermont-Ferrand, but even in the small village of 2000 inhabitants where I live! Many associations for different activities,  theatre, sport facilities etc.

4) Wine of the region is not so good, but cheese are spectacular… Saint-Nectaire, Blue D’Auvergne, Cantal, etc. The regional food is basically related to a poor and countryside tradition like the “Truffade“, quite far from the sophisticated french cuisine, but really genuine. For sure Auvergne…. it’s not a country for vegetarian…

5) People are really nice and open-minded, I remember with pleasure my first evening, when I was looking around for a place to eat something, and a group of students noticing my lost wandering, just invited me to join them inside a nice local. I felt really welcome!!

6) People from Auvergne have some major issues with history…. perhaps because they read too much Asterix or because of the statue of Vercingetorix in Clermont, they are convinced that in the place called “Gergovie”, near the city, the “Galouis” inflicted a bloody defeat to “Ceasar“. What in the normal history books is reported like just a minor fight, it’s here a symbol of freedom from the oppressor. It’s difficult to explain them that the identification of  italians with romans was an invention of fascism, and that the identification of french with the Galouis was an invention of Napoleon III. But considering that the village of Gergovie, before the decision of Napoleon III was called “Merdogne”…. (which it sounds like “shitty”), I would have been also happy to change name.

7) The more modern history is also interesting; Here the pope Urbain II proclaimed the first crusaide, from the beautiful romanesque church of Notre-Dame du Port (Unesco site). The chatedral instead, famous for being erected with the vulcanic black stones of the region, is more gothic and I don’t like it so much.

8) People here are crazy for Rugby!!! And they have an amazing team, which apparently is doing really well. In my list of things to do, I signed for sure, “Go to see a rugby match of ASM!

9) Clermont-Ferrand is the city of a famous philosopher and scientist, “Blaise Pascal“… sure… indeed here it’s everything Blaise Pascal. The University, the parking, the school, the bus, the library, the restaurants, everything is “Blaise Pascal“! But it was not the only scientist and philosopher that was born in this surrounding. One of my favourite thinker of the past century “Pierre Teilhard de Chardin” was born in Orcines.

10) Unfortunately the connections of Clermont-Ferrand with the rest of the world (exept Paris, which in France is connected with everything) are quite poor, and without a car it might be difficult. However it’s probably because of this isolation that Auvergne remained this beatiful corner of France.

As a last thought about this region I’ll leave you with a song of one of my favourite french singer “Georges Brassens” “Chanson pour l’auvergnat”, and I let  you the pleasure of understanding the lyric:

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