Moulins in Auvergne is the former head of the duchy of Bourbon and has a well-preserved cultural heritage.
According to legend, Moulins is said to have been founded around 990 AD by the Sire of Bourbon, Archambault, who, after a long day's hunting, sought refuge at a miller's house and fell in love with the beauty of the area. After having constructed a hunting lodge that then became a castle, the city grew up around it and the dukes of Bourbon ruled from here throughout their tenure from 1327-1527. Peter II and Anne de Beaujeus, eldest daughter of King Louis XI invited artists to the court here - the creators of the wonderful architecture and paintings of Moulins. The river Allier provided power to the many mills that popped up along its banks and is one of the last wild rivers in Europe. Wandering through the cobbled streets of the historical quarter you'll find the stunning Flamboyant Gothic Moulins cathedral containing the famous triptych (painting of three panels) created by the Master of Moulins, the Chapelle de la Visitation with a painted ceiling dedicated to the glorification of the Virgin Mary in the mausoleum of Duke Henry II of Montmercy, and the Jacquemart, a 15th century belfry where a family of figurines ring the bells at certain times of day - the parents ring out the hours and the children mark the quarter and half hours!
Take a turn through the history of Moulins and visit the city's best museums - the Citévolution where relief maps and models show the stages of the city's construction and the Musée Anne de Beaujeus, an arts museum containing medieval Bourbannais sculptures and 19th century paintings with a model of the castle of the Dukes of Bourbon in the lobby. There is also a museum of youth illustration holding nearly 3,500 works by 25 illustrators from books and, specifically, children's books that has an interactive area for children. A stroll through town will take you past old mills, medieval timber framed houses, and historic mansions. Bordered by the beautiful countryside of the Bocage bourbannais, a landscape of meadows criss-crossed by hedgerows, and Sologne bourbonnais, an area of isolated farms and many forests filled with deer, wild boar and small game, Moulins is a city with much rural beauty. Outside of the city is an area of wetland known as the Réserve Naturelle du Val d'Allier that is home to 250 species of bird. Why not walk the beaver trail, the Sentier des Castors, a 6 km trail through the nature reserve that both young and old will enjoy? If you're still feeling active then try some canoeing on the river too! If you prefer spectator sports, then Moulins also has a 1,000 seat hippodrome for horseracing that stretches over 27 acres and has a panoramic dining area.
Moulins is a great place to shop for handicrafts and there are pottery and wood carving workshops in the city that are open to visit. Taste some great local produce at the food market and be sure not to miss out on sampling the decadent palets d'or - dark chocolates traditionally filled with chocolate or coffee ganache. The Auvergne is also known for its cheeses (this region accounts for 26% of France's quality-labelled cheeses by itself), garlic and fantastic wines from the Saint-Pourçain region.
Holidays in France
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