The Independent Traveler's Newsletter                                    PAGE FOUR

A Postcard from the Creuse  continued . . .
"Very nice,"  you say.  But what if we get sick of nature and want to have a bit of culture?  This is where Monet comes in.   Not only Monet but a host of other more or less known artistic bods.  The Creuse has a strong link with Impressionism even to the extent of having its own style known as the Crozant School created by Armand Guillaumin.   Crozant is a town and a sixth century castle in the north of the département, and it's not far from there, at Fresselines, that Monet painted his first series in 1889.   Contemporary art is also well represented with the National Centre for Art and the Landscape on Lake Vassivière.   Galleries are plentiful,  and if you want to have a go at creating your own ‘school’,  there are courses and artistic gîtes (rural holiday cottages) to get you on your way.

Cyclists enjoying the rural beautyAnother type of art that is equally well known is that of tapestry making.  Where else to see it at its finest than at Aubusson?  Positioned in the southeast corner of the département, Aubusson and the lesser known town of Felletin, became one of the most important European centers of tapestry weaving in the Middle Ages when the pure water of the River Creuse was discovered by some Flemish weavers.   Tapestries and carpets are still made there,  and it's possible to see them being designed, made or restored.   Because of the many galleries and workshops that exist,  you could also buy your very own Aubusson tapestry.   However, if I could afford one,  there's no way that I would let anyone walk on  it!

Other lesser known artistic endeavors practiced in the area are stone and wood sculpting, pottery and tile making, and glass blowing,  just to name a few.   Of course,  we shouldn't forget the historical culture that is evident around almost every corner.   Castles, manor houses, churches, abbeys, sculpted doorways and windows, roadside crucifixes and monoliths are some of the things that indicate the passage of history dating from the Neolithic.

If, after all this sporting and cultural activity,  what would be better than to please the palate?   It's nature itself that makes the food here taste so good.   Local fairs and markets abound where you can try some of the delicious local specialties:   pâté de pommes de terre (potato and sour cream pie), boudin aux châtaignes (chestnut black pudding) and le Creusois (hazlenut cake).   Many of the restaurants use local produce to create dishes worthy of the best eating places in Paris.   Even the humble bars offer a ‘workers’ menu’  --  terrific value for the money and that,  coupled with the bottle of wine that goes with it,  could cut short any ideas for doing anything in the afternoon!
View from the writer's kitchen window!
Finally, for those teenagers there are a number of cinemas, discos and night clubs (you can forget about getting the last bus home though, because the last one is about 6 PM).   For those missing a certain ambiance from home, if home is the UK,  there are a couple of pubs (yes, pubs not cafés),  and for those who need a flutter there is even a casino.   If you need to recover after nearly losing the money for the ticket home,  you can enjoy a nice relaxing soak in the spa facility attached.

See what I mean?  The Creuse has something for everyone.  And, it's easy to get to from Channel ports or Paris.  Accommodations are simple to find from campsites, gîtes, B&Bs, and farm inns to hotels everywhere.  So, for your next holiday why not try this ‘secret’ that won't break the bank!   I did, and nine years later I'm still here.

 Contact the Creuse Tourist Board or Wanda Glowinska-Rizzi, 
the English Press Agent, at: 
Write or visit Le Comité Départementale du Tourisme de la Creuse 
43, place Bonnyaud BP 243, 23005 Guêret Cedex, France 
Telephone:   33 (0)   Fax:  33 (0) 
Email:   Web Site:

[Photos copyrighted property of  the Creuse Tourist Board and Wanda Glowinska-Rizzi.]

MORE ON THE CREUSE IN OUR NEXT ISSUE:  See the Pantheon, the story of Creuse stonemasons and their contribution to the monuments of France.


Amazing landscape at Maison des Remparts

 Maison des Remparts is a warm and inviting chambres d'hôtes in a romantic
Provençal perched village.  But, more than that, it is a center for painting classes
and Creative Workshops tucked away  in a special corner of country France.
To learn more, contact us at


                                                                 THE RIVER & ITS VALLEY

As  you know,  if you have long been a subscriber to this newsletter, FRANCE On Your Own has always encouraged travelers to discover France, from the cities to the depths of the rural coutryside, on their own.   We try not to provide a precise driving route, although knowing a scenic roadway on occasion is helpful, because the route you choose may turn out to be a far better choice.  But, we still want to bring regions to you that may otherwise go unnoticed -- regions such as the Creuse in central France which offer you another kind of vacation -- perhaps not filled with activity and famous monuments, but offering, instead, the pastoral beauty that is at the heart of the real France.

The département of the Creuse is named for the picturesque river that begins high on its Millevaches Plateau in the granite foothills of the Massif Central.  The Creuse flows northwesterly receiving the Gartempe and Claise rivers along the way and eventually merges with the Vienne just after passing the town of Descartes. It's name means 'deep river' and aptly so, for there are deep and wild gorges along its course -- a course we will explore here to tempt travelers to spend some of their vacation days following its exceptional path.

The Casino at La Roche PosayWe'll begin just south of Descartes near in the charming medieval village of La Roche-Posay along the D5 on the left bank of the River Creuse, just after it had merged with the Gartempe.   This is the département of the Vienne, part of a region that is well-deserving of a visit and probably not high on the list of most tourists -- not because it doesn't have a lot to offer but because it is rural, peaceful and not very well known.  Consider how much more enjoyable a destination is if the crowds haven't discovered it! 

La Roche-Posay has a charming main street, a continuation of the scenic D5.  A surprise is what you will find in this small village -  a casino, a thermal spa, a racecourse and more!   The casino, one of a chain owned and managed by Groupe Partouche, is located on avenue Georges Deloffre and is quite grand as you can see by the photo.  It opened in the year 2000 and draws many visitors from the surrounding region.  Perhaps a more well-known offering of La Roche-Posay is its world-famous thermal spa and mineral waters which have been enjoyed for over five centuries.   The Centre de Balnéothérapie Thermale Mélusine, Parc Thermal, 86270 La Roche-Posay is open from February through October. These thermal waters have spawned a skin-care products industry world wide, all using 'La Roche-Posay' in their name, and offering cosmetics, sun protection, skin and scar treatment products, and applications for sensitive skin.  Then there is the Hippodrome de La Gâtinière for those who enjoy horse racing.  Beginning at 2 PM, races are scheduled for certain days in June, July, August and early September.  Admission is EUR 6 for adults over 18 and is free for those younger than 18. 

Gardens of La Roche PosayLet's not forget the most beautiful part of the village:  Jardins du Parc Thermal de La Roche-Posay.  These gardens are made up of different focal points covering two hectares which include an English garden at the Pavillon Rose, the Thermal Spring, the Checkers and Chess Plaza, the heath terrace, and a lavender field among other attractions.  Nearby is an 18-hole golf course and, of course, the rivers.  Yes, this little village is full of surprises! 

Our time in La Roche-Posay this past autumn included a marvelous lunch at the restaurant of Hôtel de L'Esplanade, 37, cours Pasteur across from the place,  where we thoroughly enjoyed an entrée of julienned céleriac, leeks and rice, followed by our main course of fillet of doré with spinach, accompanied by a half bottle of Côtes de Bourg (we drink red wine with our meals, even when a white is probably called for) and ending with selections of cheese and fromage blanc.  The incredible cost?  EUR 26.50 for two including the wine!   The service was prompt and courteous, and it was a very enjoyable meal at a very pleasant price.  The hotel is open March to November and their phone is and their Fax is 33.5.449.86.64.64.

For those who would like to rent a small château in this region, please visit Château d'Alogny [see drawing below].  Located only 11 kilometers north of La Roche-Posay on the D5, this cozy and charming small château sits high on a hill overlooking the picturesque countryside.  Views in all directions will astonish you.  A week or two here will allow a proper introduction to this very French and very pleasant part of France.  Contact the owner, Dr John Cooke,  at for rental information.

Château d'Alogny

Farther  south along the Creuse, now traveling on the D950 in the Indre département, we come upon Fontgombault and its fine abbey.  Stop here if only to hear the marvelous chorus of the monks or,  perhaps, to visit the small chapel on the grounds.  The Benedictine Abbaye Notre Dame de Fontgombault was founded in 1091 by Pierre de l'Etoile and his hermit companions.  It has a long and fascinating history, as do all of the abbeys of France.  Today, as home and spiritual center to nearly 60 monks, the abbey offers diverse activities to visitors including retreats for those who come here.  And, the monks are busy baking, tending their vines, producing cheese, liqueurs, honey and so much more.  Their store is open every day except Sundays and holidays.  Medieval times may be long gone, but the closeness to nature that existed in the monasteries and abbeys of centuries past continues today at Fontgombault

Proceeding southward along the Creuse we come upon the small town of Le Blanc where the river is now approaching directly from the east.  It is along here that its rural charm becomes quite captivating.  Very scenic from the hamlet of Scoury all the way to Argenton-sur-Creuse, one begins to appreciate the tranquility and beauty of the river as the country roads follow closely along its banks.    Argenton-sur-Creuse dates back to Gallo-Roman times when it was known as Argentomagus.  Today, its modern museum brings to life a thousand years from prehistoric times to the end of the Roman era.   The city's once magnificent château with ten towers was built by Philippe Auguste in 1188, added to by Henri IV in 1589 and finally dismantled by Richelieu in 1632, by the order of Louis XIII.  Situated on the left bank of the River Creuse, Argenton is proud of the ancient buildings still remaining, its park designed by André Le Nôtre and the beautiful church, La Chapelle Saint-Benoît.                                             continued on page 5

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