14 September 2009

Getting away from it all

A priori, Saint-Chamant would be a nice place to live. If you can get a DSL connection there, that is. And I bet you can't. It would be hard for me to live without a high-speed Internet connection, now that I'm used to having one.

Another disadvantage of living the life in Saint-Chamant would be the distances you have to drive to go to a market or supermarket. There's a little Vival superette in St-Martin-Valmeroux, about 10 minutes by car from Saint-Chamant. And there's an outdoor market there on Fridays. I went, but there wasn't much to it. There's also a butcher's, and two bakeries.

The hotel in Saint-Chamant, a village inside the boundaries
of the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d'Auvergne

The real supermarkets — Carrefour Market, Intermarché — are in Mauriac, and it takes 30 minutes or so — in good weather — to drive up there. There's a pretty big outdoor market in Salers, at least on Wednesdays, but that's a 20-minute drive on good days too. And it can be crowded with tourists. There's a nice-looking SuperU up in the town called Ydes, but that's well north of Mauriac and a good 45-minute drive.

There are probably more cows than people in the Cantal.
These are the local breed called Salers, and they're everywhere.

It would be great to live in that huge house in Saint-Chamant, the one we rented as a gîte rural. But you know what? You'd have to heat it in the wintertime, which has got to be long and cold down there in the mountains. Did I mention that the elevation of Saint-Chamant is 3,000 feet? It must snow quite a bit.

There's an old school in Saint-Chamant.
It's probably mixte, as we say, these days, though —
not separate classes for girls and for boys.

It certainly is beautiful, though. Wikipedia says the population of the village was 528 in 1962, but it has declined steadily ever since and is now 280. Nearby Salers looks much bigger — more like a town than a village — but its population is only 368 souls. It's really more a tourist attraction than an actual town. Halfway between Saint-Chamant and Salers is Saint-Martin-Valmeroux, where 911 people live.

The countryside around Saint-Chamant, in the Cantal

Even Mauriac, which seems like a larger town when you drive into it, is no bigger than Saint-Aignan (pop. 4,000). The "big" town of Aurillac (pop. 30,000) is 30 to 40 minutes south. By comparison, Blois is twice as big. The Cantal department is about the same size as our Loir-et-Cher — 6,000 km2, a little over 2,000 sq. mi. — but it has half the population — 150,000 vs. 315,000.

Another plaque on the school at Saint-Chamant
shows that it used to be the village hall too.

So I thought we lived out in the country — and we do — but Saint-Chamant is nothing if it is not remote. And beautiful. It's a great place to visit if you want to get away from it all.


  1. Beautiful photos.
    I agree with what you're saying. Beautiful and remote is good for holidays but not for all year round. The lack of facilities would get very annoying, I'm sure. And if the main industry is tourism, what is the place like when they've all gone home?
    You have just the right balance in St-Aignan.

  2. I agree with Jean that you do seem to have the right balance living near St-Aignan. It seems to suit your chosen lifestyle beautifully.

    Great photos again today! The one of the cows is really especially nicely framed :)


  3. A priori, I think that you really, really got smitten with St Chamant but you are talking yourself into the negatives and you are right. My sister in Aveyron has the best deal. She and her husband have a house near Rodez and a house out in the gorgeous countryside. They (mostly her) spend 3 days in the city and the rest in the country. That I can live with. And they do have their computer in the country.

  4. yes, i would have to be sorta close to a grocery store and have high speed internet too....in the nc mountains there r some million dollar houses with gorgeous views in some of these new developments, but lord knows where they shop....also is nice to be close to an airport (or in ur case a train station) y'all have a good set up where u are

  5. Ken, to get off subject, and I don't want to offend anyone but as I am checking out other blogs, are you as sick as I am of "verrines" or is it just me?

  6. Nadège

    Est-ce que ce n'est pas un "must" en cuisine? :-)


    Sorry for butting in uninvited ( run for cover)
    BTW: Word verification: Vento

  7. Merci, Cousine, for the link. I had no idea whatsoever of what a verrine could be. Believe it or not, I had to ask Google in English to have an explanation of a French word!

    For once, it is an interesting neologism modeled on "terrine". It sure is better than smoothies [pronounced smouzies!].

    If I was offered a sweet one, I'd be delighted.

  8. Nadège, I agree with you. Verrines are a gimmick. They feature them on cooking shows on Cuisine TV all the time. What counts in what is in the serving dish, not what dish you serve it in.

  9. Oh THAT is what a verrine is! I wondered why I kept seeing recipes for things made in little glass cups. It's a clever little name, and I'd be happy to eat one if it were delicious, but we probably need no more recipes for them :))



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