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Aurillac, a capital in the countryside

by catherine levesque

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Don't trust the weather reports; far from being the coldest city, Aurillac is one of the sunniest cities in France with 2 084 hours of clear skies per year. "The misunderstanding comes from the fact that Aurillac is the higest altitude (600 m) French city which is reported on in the national weather forecast..." explains Guylaine Gibert, group guide for the tourism office. Uncontested captial for du théâtre de rue, this city of 30 000 residents offers a exciting journey all by itself. But a guided visited seems truly captivating just as the city is full of unsuspected treasures. Who indeed knew, other than natives, that the the city was founded in the 9th Century by Saint Gerald, whose pupil Gerbert would become the first French Pope, known as Sylvester II.

 

Centennial shoppes and
historic façades

Now to the 10th Century, the abbey city was essentially a circle surrounding its heart, Saint Gerald's Plaza, where the church of the same is located; its impressive bell tower towering at 77 meters tall, as well as a serpentine-stone basin, carved from a single block.

 


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Just steps from there, on the rue du Collège and rue du Consulat, one can find two beautiful private mansions from the 15th and 18th Centuries, in particular the maison consulaire (1580), where you can find a highly-detailed façade.

 

The Hôtel de Ville in a typical Empire-style architecture, with its classic pillars, displays a surprising orange colour and a bust of Napoleon.

From this vast historic plaza, one can easily lose oneself in the maze of back streets and alleys filled with centennial shoppes.

From the renowned umbrella of Aurillac to the Destannes cutlery, and not forgetting cured meat houses, cheese affineurs, wine dealers and liquorists, the city center is an ideal place to find authentic products.

 

From there one make's their way to the beautiful and Hausmannian Vermenouze Square, before climbing up to the chateau to take in the city from above, then finish their visit along the banks of the Jordanne with its timber-framed houses, just off the water.