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Ideas en route from Michel Bras and the Aveyron to the Ardèche?

johannabanana Jan 28, 2012 10:30 AM

After Languedoc Roussillon (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/830249), we're thinking of driving to Michel Bras (is lunch or dinner better there?) and then through the Auvergne to Saint Agrève in the Ardèche.

We've already received some fantastic advice about the Languedoc and this Massif Central thread was useful too -- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/790106 -- but if anyone has any further input on eateries' and chambres d'hotes we'd love to know!

Currently the main place that sticks out for us is the Auberge de Chassignolles in Le Bourg. Of course, it's run by an Englishman albeit the owner of the Anchor&Hope in London.

Incidentally, it seems to be a tough area guidebook-wise, not least because of the difficulty in working out quite which regions the English language guidebooks want to include it under (e.g. the Aveyron is slipped into the Languedoc Roussillon/Tarn Michelin green guide).

Is getting there in the third week of May better than arriving at the beginning of June in any way?

  1. Yank Jan 29, 2012 09:10 AM

    Forget Bras. Overpriced with incompetent staff. Grat location though so just go for a drink.

    Try Le vieux Pont in Belcastel instead. One star with superb food, great staff, fair prices. Beautiful village in the Averyron.

    My opinion based upon multiple visits to both over the last ten years.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Yank
      Parigi Jan 29, 2012 09:36 AM

      Belcastel is picture-perfect.

      1. re: Parigi
        johannabanana Jan 29, 2012 03:14 PM

        I think we'll quite likely try Belcastel, Parigi and Yank. We've actually reconsidered the itinerary and are thinking of skipping the Languedoc and reversing direction -- flying into Lyon and out of Toulouse. Reading about the Languedoc coastline just didn't inspire us very much. And that way we can check out Gaillac and its environs just before . If anyone has any Gaillac recs for eating, do please say!

        1. re: johannabanana
          Parigi Jan 30, 2012 01:59 AM

          Gaillac is wonderful, and so is nearby Alba.
          I will look up my notes.
          Meanwhile, why don't you start a new thread. That way you will get more pertinent answers, and people researching (haha, nobody does, and the board makes sure of this by goiing as far as to eliminate the word "search" for the search box now) the Languedoc-Roussillon coast will not find a thread that is becoming useless from this point onward.

          1. re: Parigi
            c
            clemx Jan 30, 2012 07:05 AM

            I agree on the incompetent staff at Bras, but I will defend the outstanding food, and some reasonably priced gems on the wine list (François Chidaine vouvray petillant, Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitages etc at 40€ or less). If you go, definitely do lunch, at dinner you would miss the panoramic view.

            1. re: clemx
              Yank Jan 31, 2012 01:22 AM

              Yes, the food is good, but not special. I expect more from a 3 star.
              I found the wine list to be ridiculously over priced. 40€ was at the low end of what was offered.
              Chacun a son gout as they say.

            2. re: Parigi
              johannabanana Jan 30, 2012 12:12 PM

              Have now started a Gaillac thread Parigi: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/830997

              Sadly, the Auberge de Chassignolles isn't opening until late June. If anyone has any more recommendations aside from the Hotel Faurie for between Lyon and the Aveyron (Cévennes, Ardèche), ideally breaking up the journey somewhat, I'd love to hear them!

          2. re: Parigi
            mangeur Jan 30, 2012 11:57 AM

            Belcastel is indeed picture-perfect, however we found it without soul. I have no doubt that in the beginning the sisters' passion pervaded the dining room. But we found little joy at table and none in the sterile hotel room. (Added note that I am always unhappy with a hotel room that has only one chair.) Considering the incredible beauty of the location, there is little sense of place once inside. I remember our meal's being adequate but no more, and breakfast barely that.

            They say that disappointment is a function of expectation. I guess we just expected too much, given the universal praise for this place. I'd say that it was one of the least enjoyable places we have ever stayed in France.

            1. re: mangeur
              johannabanana Jan 30, 2012 12:19 PM

              Wow -- good to know Mangeur! Looking at them, I thought the Pont Vieux rooms looked uninspiring on their website! Do you have any other recs for breaking up the journey between the Hotel Faurie and Chez Remise? We're still considering the Tilleul in Générargues, but it's a detour rather than a stop-off. There's also the Hotel Castel 1904 in Saint-Gervais-d'Auvergne, but likewise it's more of a detour in the opposite direction!

              1. re: johannabanana
                mangeur Jan 30, 2012 01:57 PM

                FWIW, I opened my France atlas to this area and a clipping fell out from the pages between CR and HF. I don't remember putting it there, but it is an interesting concept. The Hotel Les Deux Abbesses is essentially a village in which the tiny houses have been converted into "rooms" that surround an Abbey, the main building. Located in Saint Arcons d'Allier, a couple of km from Langeac.

                Here is the best I can do for a working website: http://www.relaischateaux.com/en/sear... and, again, I have no personal experience with this property.

                1. re: mangeur
                  johannabanana Jan 30, 2012 07:20 PM

                  Thanks again mangeur. We've read some good stuff about Les Deux Abbesses in terms of the rooms and location but their rates are half board (and not cheap), with the food not sounding that amazing. Certainly an idea, though.

                  1. re: mangeur
                    johannabanana Jun 20, 2012 10:36 AM

                    Thank you everyone! Here's the report, hope it's helpful to future eaters:
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/854933

          3. Delucacheesemonger Jan 28, 2012 01:58 PM

            l had lunch at Bras, went to buy many, many knives, then spent the night there. great for the digestion if not the pocketbook. While the Laguiole knives, for the most part, are made in Thiers many of the shops are can't miss spots if any interest in knives exists. While not fussy the little town of Aurillac was fun for a Cantal/St Nectaire cave tour. great cheese at the local aurillac market.
            Do not remember any wonderful food there though.

            1. Parigi Jan 28, 2012 10:33 AM

              In my experience, May actually has a lot more holidays than June, and is often a busier month in terms of road traffic and hotel/resto reservations.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Parigi
                johannabanana Jan 28, 2012 10:49 AM

                Wow, thank you Parigi -- I wouldn't have expected that but didn't know about all the May holidays.

                1. re: johannabanana
                  Parigi Jan 28, 2012 11:08 AM

                  May is still not as bad as July and August. Usually June has great weather. But weather happens. I can't guarantee anything. :-)

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