|The town from within the cathedral|
Le Puy is the préfecture city of the département of Haute-Loire (43). With around 20,000 inhabitants and an area of just over 6 square miles, it is densely populated, but by UK standards, a relatively small city. Sitting at an altitude of between 600 and 890m which is the equivalent of standing at the top of Esk Pike in the Lake District, the city overlooks the Loire which rises on Mont Gerbier de Jonc some 50 or 60 kilometres to the south-east.
Today, we're going to start with the cathedral Notre-Dame du Puy and the rue des Tables will take you to the foot of the steps leading up. It's a steep climb on cobbles so you will need your four-wheel drive for feet! Romanesque in style, there has been a church on this spot from as early as the 10th century, and it has been, and still is, an important site to pilgrims making their way on foot to Santiago de Compostela at a distance of 1600Km. The church has some beautiful frescoes and paintings but it also contains a statue referred to as The Black Virgin. Regrettably, this isn't the original which was destroyed during the revolution. And before you make your way down into the old town, just check out the interesting geomorphology of the town.
|Old Shop fronts|
Famous for it's lace, since 1974 there has been a centre here in Le Puy to ensure that the practice of lace-making will never be lost. There are some fabulous examples of old and modern lace in a number of exhibition rooms and you can find the museum just down from Place des Tables on rue Raphaël. But I'm heading elsewhere, to the Tour Panessac which stands opposite the statue of the Marquis de Lafayette in the centre of boulevard Saint Louis. What little remains of the 14th century tower was once the royal entrance to the city. Partially demolished in 1850 to widen the street, this tower has welcomed Emperor Charlemagne and numerous other French kings making the pilgrimage to Santiago. The last royal visit was that of Francis I in 1533. If you continue along the boulevard, keeping the tower on your left you will be surprised, I hope, just as I was on my very first visit!
Continue on the boulevard and past place de Breuil until you come to the old distillery of Pagès. You can't miss the style and decoration on the building which is now a museum celebrating the history of Verveine, a liqueur that is flavoured with verbena and you can try some whilst you are there. When you leave Pagès, make sure you take rue de Faurbourg and keeping the museum on your right continue along the street a little until you pass rue Sainte Claire on your left. Then stop and look behind you. There's yet another little surprise waiting for you!
Those are just a few of my favourite sites in this wonderful city. Perhaps, with this tiny glimpse of Le Puy, you can understand why I chose to use it as a location in Merle.