Destination: le Puy en Velay, France

Situated about two hours south of France, this small town is a touristic, but also gorgeous gem that draws plenty of visitors in every year. With its rolling hills (thanks to it located in the Auvergne-Rhône Alpes region) and distinctive UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it makes for a worthwhile day trip to enjoy a bit more of this particular part of France.

Even though I’ve lived in the Lyon region these soon-to-be two years, I had never made the trip over to le Puy en Velay. Considering that it’s only a train ride away, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t gone until last week when I decided to take advantage of the really good September weather, and to get out of my flat for the day.

I took the train in the late morning, and I enjoyed the ride as it passed through the lush hills and winding rivers– it was unbelievably picturesque, as I didn’t know just how gorgeous the region I lived in was!

I arrived into le Puy en Velay about half-past 11:00, and then I set out from the train station to the historic center. After scaling a massive incline, I arrived in the old part of town, where I first visited the Virgin Mary statue, situated high up on one of the small hills in le Puy. It was built in the 1860’s, made from leftover cannons of the Siege of Sebastopol during the Crimean Wars in the mid-1850’s. Besides it’s bright-pink color, one can even climb to the very top of its head and get panoramic views of le Puy and the sweeping hills.

Virgin Mary statue.
Views from the statue.

Next, I headed to Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe, a chapel that’s actually located in the neighboring village of Aiguilhe on top of a small rock. It wasn’t actually a very-long walk over, as I just excited le Puy’s old town and crossed the main road. It was a climb up to the entrance, where I paid to access the small chapel. Also got lovely views of the Virgin Mary statue, which was nice!

Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe.
The chapel.

I then decided to head a bit into the residential part of Aiguilhe, in order to get a comprehensive view of the main sights: the Virgin Mary statue, Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe, and the cathedral, for a photo opportunity. I managed to walk a bit uphill for some decent photos, although it wouldn’t be until later that day I would find a better spot to do so.

Any case, I returned to le Puy where I got a small lunch at Place des Tables, the heart of the historic town. The buildings were colorful and charming, reminding a bit of the pastel-colored ones in the south of France.

Place des Tables.
Up to the cathedral.

Afterwards, I headed up to the Cathedral, with a striped exterior that made it quite distinctive from the usual Gothic ones I’ve seen elsewhere. I took a look around inside before heading east of the city towards Saint Joseph’s Sanctuary, which is actually located in a nearby village called Espaly-Saint-Marcel. It was about a 15-minute walk over, and from the top of the sanctuary, I got the best views of le Puy, with the three main sights to behold. The sanctuary itself was a lovely surprise, as the interior was a former grotto.

The cathedral.
Statue of Saint Joseph.
Grotto interior.
Views of Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe, the Virgin Mary, and the cathedral.

Soon after, it was time for me to head back to catch my train back. I left le Puy around 16:30, and I returned in the early evening. It’d been a tiring, but fun day with incredible weather and great views of the lush, hilly region of France. I plan to head back soon, perhaps with friends!

— The Finicky Cynic

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