Tuesday, April 19, 2011


The lesson learned in my last entry about hiking with the Michelin guide as the sole source of direction was reinforced Sunday on our exploration of the nearby spa town of Royat. A large, thermal spa terraced on the slopes of the Tiretaine valley, the waters were utilized first by the Romans who built public baths there. Royat is also home to Royatonic, which I’ve heard much about from other expats here in Clermont-Ferrand and will definitely come back to! After reading blogs such as Cabes in France, I’m a little nervous about going alone the first time. Between the various steps you must take before getting in the pools, I’m nervous about walking into a men’s locker room or mistaking the foot wash bath for a hot tub! For sanitary reasons, they also do not allow the board shorts which are the norm for men’s swimsuits in the States, and so before Roberts can go, he will have to invest in something a little plus petit

We first strolled through the Parc Thermal, taking a short break at the playground, as well as learning (Lauris) to roll down the grassy hills. There were several interesting old caves and gated-off areas, one of which must have been the “Washerwomen’s Cave”, the Grotte des Laveuses, where several springs gush from the volcanic walls before flowing into the Tiretaine. However, it was very difficult to reconcile what I was reading about in the Michelin guide to what we were seeing, and soon we grew hungry and decided to head on to Parc Bargoin to eat our picnic lunch.

As Lauris napped in the shade, we ate our baguette, saucisson sec and fromages, topped off by Reese’s Pieces cups Roberts brought back from the States. As far as I can tell, the French are not big on peanut butter, and so some of my favorite chocolate (plus peanut butter) snacks are either  not available, or I have still to find the proper substitutes. The park was planned by Jean-Baptiste Bargoin in the 14th century. There is an abundance of tree species (over 600 according to the website), including redwoods and other American trees. I was on the lookout for the largest maple in France, over 250 years old according to our Michelin guide. But alas, I did not find it. Maybe this is due to translation error (there was a giant platanus, a plane-tree) or maybe the tree is one of the recent casualties to park safety, or maybe we just didn’t see it (although a tree 7.5 meters in circumference should be hard to miss!). Has anyone seen this tree? 

The large platanus we did find
These two parks are only a short distance from our apartment, easily accessible by bus, and I believe now that we know they are here, we will be more frequent visitors. Maybe to the spa as well? (Hint, hint Robert!) (As you wish… he replies)

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