Living Rich in Ancient France


(The single-lane stone bridge into Vieille-Brioude)

Stopping for a coffee or for the night in ancient villages and towns is making me feel a little bit overwhelmed. They are so beautiful, they are so weathered, they are so peaceful… and there’s so many of them. They are telling me something. But what are they telling me? No idea… yet. We keep moving on, as we have a plan to be in a big city by next weekend, but I want to take a moment here to listen to a few of these ancient places.

(On the stone bridge)

We stopped in Vieille-Brioude on our way to Massiac (the Village Étape). Something made me tell Denis to follow the signs. We were on a dual carriageway but I spotted the village in the valley below. A single-lane stone bridge led across a river valley. It was about that time I started doubting the detour. All is well, it was sturdy, we survived.


(Worn down by the years…)

After a peaceful coffee (yes even the coffee has a touch of peace about it) we went for a wander. I took photos of almost every door in the village. They all looked so good, I suppose it helps that the sun was shining but it wasn’t just the sun. Every door seems to tell a story.


(Briode is 4.1km away from Vieille-Briode)

On Saturday after leaving our spot by the river and visiting Puy de Dôme we travelled to Meymac. Here we were lucky enough to wake up to a market on Sunday morning and a story.

(Jean Gaye-Bordas built this house in Meymac during the good times)

Jean Gaye-Bordas was born in a nearby village in 1826. He had a poor start but that didn’t prevent him from leading a very interesting life. He put Meymac on the map with his slogan, Meymac, prés de Bordeaux, (Meymac, near Bordeaux.) Not exactly a catchy slogan, not accurate either as Meymac is nearly 300km (3 hours by car today) from Bordeaux but the people in the north of France didn’t know that nor did the Belgians. They didn’t care, they were delighted with Jean. On with the story…

(The church in Meymac)

You see, Jean had this great idea, the results of which can be seen in the very impressive houses in the town. He had travelled as a young man to Bordeaux doing anything he could to earn a living. He was illiterate but very smart and noticed everything around him. He spotted opportunities, like when he saw a guy sending wine to a relation in Lille (a city in northern France near the border with Belgium).

(The hotel, notice the telephone notice over the door…)

Jean realised, what no one else did, that wine from the south would be most appreciated up north because even back then Bordeaux wine had a great reputation. His idea – travel to Lille and Belgium and go door to door selling wine from “his vineyard in Meymac near Bordeaux“.

(Center of the old town)

You already know Meymac isn’t near Bordeaux and you can probably guess he didn’t have a vineyard either but he didn’t need one. He sold the promise of wine, before it was produced and then used the advance money the Belgians gave him, to buy from real vineyards in Bordeaux and deliver back up north. He was an entrepreneur. You could even say he invented crowdfunding.

(Even the sheds are cute)

Many others in the village followed his example. A lot even made enough money to buy vineyards in Bordeaux, as did Jean. By the time he died on the 30/12/1900 he was penniless. He had won and lost many fortunes. As you walk around it’s possible to see the results a thriving wine business can have on a community.

(Fortunately, we didn’t try to drive down here)

I really like Jean. I was a bit sorry he didn’t die rich but then I realised he lived rich and that’s probably more fun.

Live rich, Mairead.

General Area…
Meymac on left; Vieille-Brioude on right