The chambres d'hôtes is 3 kilometers from the village of Bellenaves between the towns of Montmarault, Saint Pourçain, Gannat and St. Eloy. Forty-five minutes’ drive from here are the big towns Clermont Ferrand, Moulins, Vichy and Montluçon, each with its own character.
Clermont-Ferrand, a big town at the foot of the Auvergne Volcanic range. Beautiful nature surrounds it and the Auvergne Volcanos such as Puy de Dôme. The town has its origins in the fourth century BC and the very rich history: medieval houses, are part of the ancient quarter of Clermont Ferrand. There are also several ancient religious buildings. The cathedral Notre Dame de l’Assomption (1284) is a tall gothic building (96 m), made of black lave stone. There are wonderful stained glass windows. The basilica Notre-Dame-Du-Port is an example of the twelfth century roman architecture. It’s well worth a visit. In 1998, the church was given Unesco Heritage listed status. The Place Jaude with the statue of Vercingetorix on horseback, is the heart of the city. If you like shopping, you will find big shopping centers, with all the big names, as well as a lot of small boutiques in the pedestrian area.
Vichy was founded in the first century, around the hot water springs, next to the river. In the 19th century, Vichy became the fashionable place for thermal spa cures. In the 1950s and 60s, it became a tourist center and today Vichy is a town with many nice restaurants in the center and along the river Allier. The old buildings have an elegant and retro style. In the center you can visit the hot water springs from the roman period as well as a lot of attractive small shops and galleries. You will enjoy visiting the botanic gardens and the marvelous parks, along the river Allier.
Moulins is the capital of the Allier. It’s a pleasant place to visit with the Palais des Ducs de Bourbon, the craftsman’s houses, the Belfry, little medieval squares and narrow passageways. It’s a picturesque French town, with a lot of possibilities. Around the central square there are many restaurants, including the Grand Café, a cafe of Baroque style that you must see.
Montluçon is the biggest town in the Allier with 37.000 inhabitants. The buildings to see are the Chateau des Ducs de Bourbon, some beautiful churches and the historic center with his picturesque narrow streets and medieval houses. The town’s park is an example of the Wilson garden (of geometric design). The town is a good place to go shopping and outside of the old town, are several shopping centers.
Located on the "Colettes" forest, recognized as one of the most beautiful natural beech forests in Europe, Bellenaves is a walkers paradise with marked hiking, horse riding and mountain bike trails. Come and visit the gardens of Bellenaves Castle, of medieval origin. Do not miss the Romanesque church of Saint-Martin (12C), famous for its beautiful Cluniac carved tympanum and listed as a historic monument, or the famous Automobile Museum which presents almost 45 vintage vehicles from the 1910s to the 1980s.
The little village of old Charroux, 11 km from Balady, is the eleventh village in the list ‘les plus beaux villages de France’. It’s a medieval village with a rich history. It’s pleasant to walk around, to see the beautiful architecture, the stone houses and small squares. There are small shops with local crafts, such as mustard, sweets, jams, soaps, perfumed candles, minerals and even some workshops where artists exhibit their work.
East of Balady (11 km) is the little village of Chantelle, above the gorge of the Bouble river. Beside the bakery, the butcher and the small supermarket, there are a few other shops. You must see the magnificent Abbey Benedictine Saint-Vincent: a roman church, its walls and the convent buildings. The church is open for visits, but the abbey itself, is home to a community of Benedictine nuns.In the abbey shop, you can buy soaps and other homemade cosmetic products. The abbey is the starting point of a wonderful walk of 4 kilometers, following the river Bouble in and around its stunning gorge.
The pretty village of Monétay-sur-Allier is bordered by rivers. First of all, the Sioule which ends its journey and flows into the river Allier that once flowed at the foot of Monty. The pearl of the village is undoubtedly the Saint-Fiacre church. The building is mentioned in the archives as "one of the most beautiful churches in the region. The small monument was of Romanesque architecture and crowned by a beautiful bell tower with light columns". Monétay has a remarkable location in the heart of the Val d´Allier nature reserve where the flora and fauna are preserved and protected.