Forging a character

In the Loire, you could say we’ve case-hardened our character. To see what we mean, just come to Gier valley and the foothills of the Jarez. The first stop will be La Mourine at Saint-Martin-la-Plaine. Here they forged a history that burned as bright as the blacksmith’s brazier. Drawing on the air, water, coal and iron, this interpretation centre will set you alight. A visit off the beaten track, in a place that is a sheer concentrate of local history and ancestral know-how. If you push on a little further, you might be surprised by your next encounter. In, Saint-Martin-la-Plaine, we also have gorillas! Amazing as that may seem, this is actually a world-renowned conservation centre for the great apes. At the zoo, founded in 1972 by Pierre and Éliane Thivillon, the animals are treated divinely. Go and have a look and say hello to the chimpanzees, ring-tailed lemurs, snow leopards and other animals. The region is also a haven of peace and tranquillity, with endless possibilities for stretching your legs a bit. There’s no need to go far! Take in some of the Châteauneuf villages, for example Tartaras or Chagnon, where the footpaths will take to you to discover the Cave du Curé, the Rocher Percé, or the Saint-Joseph hill.