Auvergne former administrative region
Auvergne was one of the 27 administrative regions of France.
It is today part of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, one of the 13 new regions created by the territorial reform that took effect on January 1, 2016.
It is situated right in the centre of France and is traversed by the Loire and Allier rivers.
It consists of four departments:
Allier (03 - Moulins), Cantal (15 - Aurillac), Haute-Loire (43 - Le Puy-en-Velay) and Puy de Dôme (63 - Clermond-Ferrant).
It was named after the Arverni, one of the most powerful tribes in Gaul.
The Auvergne corresponds to the historical province of Auvergne, plus parts of the ancient provinces of Bourbonnais, Velay, Gévaudan, Vivarais and Forez.
Southern Auvergne is the land of extinct volcanoes, ancient mountains and lakes.
The département of Allier, in the north, is flat.
The vast Limagne and Bourbonnais plains indeed stretch from Moulin to Montluçon and Vichy.
They narrow and end in the Gorges of the Allier farther south near Clermont-Ferrand where they enter the volcanic land.
Clermont-Ferrand is the capital.
The other major cities are Montluçon, Vichy, Moulins, Le Puy-en-Velay and Aurillac.
Auvergne has a continental climate with short and warm summers and long and harsh winters.
It is also one of the least populated regions in Europe.
Auvergne, an untamed land
Auvergne is indeed a superb region where nature is abundant and green and the landscapes spectacular.
Auvergne is a land of dormant volcanoes:
- Chaîne des Puys and the Puy-de-Dôme, its highest volcano
- Puy Mary, one of France’s leading natural heritage sites
- Plomb du Cantal, Europe’s largest volcano, in the Monts du Cantal
- Vulcania, an educational amusement park developed in the Parc Naturel des Volcans d’Auvergne
Auvergne is a country of water known as the Water Tower of France:
- rivers Loire and Allier
- Natural lakes nestled in the deep of the ancient craters
- 109 natural mineral water springs
- Impressive diversity of ponds small and large
- Spectacular waterfalls
Auvergne boasts a wide range of geological curiosities and historical sites:
- Jonas and Monton Caves and the fairy chimneys
- Gergovie Plateau, the site of the Battle of Gergovia where Julius Caesar defeated the Gallic leader Vercingetorix in 52 BC.
- Medieval festivals in the ancient fortress of Murols and the town of Le Puy-en-Velay or street theater in Aurillac.
Arvernes, the people of Auvergne
This land has been inhabited since at least 10,000 BC as evidenced by numerous archaeological finds.
It was named after the Arverni, a powerful Gallic confederation who settled in the region around 3000BC.
Vercingetorix led the resistance against the Roman invaders but had to admit defeat and surrender in 52BC.
This was the end of the Gallic independence and the beginning of the Roman occupation that lasted until the fall of the Roman Empire in 476AD.
The feudal system immediately implemented across the whole of France by the Frankish King Clovis remained effective in Auvergne until 1213 when King Philippe-Auguste annexed the province to the Crown.
The region's geographical location (a mountainous area with no main overland communication), and therefore its inaccessibility, were most detrimental to its economic development.
All changed with the opening of major north-south and east-west lines of communication.
The A71 motorway or L’Arverne connects Clermont-Ferrand to Orléans in the Loire Valley.
It links to the A75 or La Méridienne that links to Béziers on the Mediterranean.
The A89 or La Transeuropéenne links Clermont to Lyon and to Libourne near Bordeaux.
Auvergne is still be predominantly agricultural, and the percentage of the population employed in the industrial sector is only slightly below the national average.
Dairy products (5 AOC cheeses), natural mineral waters (Vichy, St Yorre, Volvic ...), cattle breeding, tires (Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand), cutlery (Thiers), metallurgy (Issoire) and lace (Le Puy) are among the leading industries of Auvergne.
Their reputation has crossed borders and most export abroad.
Finally tourism is in constant development.
Auvergne boasts 11 communes ranked among the Plus Beaux Villages de France .
Well-rooted traditions and gastronomy of quality are among the many attractions of the region.
These include many regional specialties such as:
Truffade and aligot, tripoux (tripes), potée Auvergnate (pot-au-feu), pompe aux pommes (apple tart), pachade (pancake), râpée (similar to hash browns), petit salé aux lentilles (salted pork and lentils), local ham and saucisson, bacon, roulé (roll of meat) or andouille (sausage)…
Auvergne is a region of lush pastures growing on the rich volcanic soil and dedicated to cattle breeding.
It therefore produces 5 renowned cheeses that have all been granted AOC and AOP labels:
Holidaying in Auvergne
Auvergne is an ideal setting for hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, cycling, vélorails, canoeing or paragliding during summer.
Its medium altitude resorts (such as Mont Dore) are open for most of the winter season.
French people should discover this splendid but little known region that is just on their doorstep.
Foreign tourists should know that beautiful and untamed Auvergne is ideal for relaxing and excellent value for money holidays.
They'll be amazed to discover that France is not only Paris and the crowded Côte d’Azur… it is also Auvergne.
Area: 26,013 km² (nearly 5% of Metropolitan France)
Population: 1,341.000 (01/01/2014)
Photo via Wikimedia Commons: Coat of Arms by Peter Potrowl is lcensed under CC By 2.5 - Oak tree in Foret Troncais Attribution Public domain - A75,A71,A89 Attribution Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license - Vercingetorix Attribution Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license - Lac d'Aydat Attribution Alain Rigaïl Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 France license - Credits Photos: Puy-de-Dôme - Grottes de Jonas - Production St-Nectaire cheese - Festival Puy-en-Velay from cpauvergne - Papou Poustache
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