Just back from a week in the centre of France in a little known area called the Cantal. It may be "one of the most sparsely populated and geographically isolated French departments", according to Wikipedia, but it does have one big claim in that the region encompasses Europe's largest volcano. Snowshoeing a sleeping volcano seemed an irresistible storyline.
Cantal is 70km across and not a classical cone-shaped volcano but one which has been carved through millions of years of glacial activity which have shifted its lava stone into a series of mountains, valleys and plateaux.
Of course, Cantal also boasts much in the way of traditional 'Frenchness': an astonishing array of high-spec cheese, gourmet cuisine, glorious wines, chic boutique auberges and historic vintage. But I was there to cover my pitch: 'Snowshoeing in the French volcanoes'. (France has volcanoes? Yes, albeit extinct ones.)
While I'm writing the feature for the Sunday Mercury in the Midlands, thanks to free wifi in all our accomms, I did get to do a considerable amount of blogging – which I'm using as trip notes and practice for creating multimedia content to tell the story of a press trip.
Foreign journalists are so rare (in winter) that we even found ourselves the subject of a feature for the local daily, La Montagne.
Anyways, as well as the video above, here is the series of text, photo and video-blogging posts I produced (including the rail trip there and back):
- The journey's the thing – video post covering the 11-hour rail journey from Brum to Clermont-Ferrand.
- Bicephalous Clermont-Ferrand photowalk – a solo travel stopover and photowalk around 'the Liverpool of France', Clermont-Fd.
- Journey into the Cantal, Auvergne mountains – short video showing the landscape on the way to Cantal. On the return journey from Vic-Sur-Cere, I discovered that the track rises up into the mountains after Murat – a far more scenic option if you're booking a route.
- Trip notes: Auberge d'Aijean, Cantal – notes on the accommodation while waiting for the press trip proper to start.
- Snowshoeing Cantal: Europe's biggest volcano – a video post featuring things I learnt about showshoeing and what happens when there has been no snow.
- Le Lorian ski resort and Chez Lucy's choc pud – I can't ski but there was plenty to film on the pistes at the highest summit in the Cantal, including a mountain rescue.
- A mountain refuge in the Cantal – no snowshoes but we still hiked half way up a mountain to reach Bernard's hut. Video/photo post.
- BBQ duck in a hut – I didn't like duck until this method of cooking changed my mind. Photos, video and trip notes on a Finnish-style grill hut and campsite.
- Fell in love with a dog at La Roussiere – photogenic animals in the Siniq Valley.
- Around the Cantal in 10 dishes – French press trips serve up some awesome food. Overindulged – and suffered for it.
- Gare de Lyon's tropical garden – in surprise tourist news, there is an underground tropical rainforest garden alongside Metro line 14 platform (direction Olympiades).
There may be more posts to come, but I'd better get on and write the feature first.
Meanwhile here is my plea to do more of this kind of recording of stories for tourist boards, tour operators and other travel brands and conferences.