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Moulins
 
Moulins

Moulins is the capital of the Allier dpartement (postal code 03) in the Auvergne region. It is a fairly provincial town, surrounded by a very green landscape of hilly fields and woods. The town is build on the eastern bank of the Allier river. There are about 40 000 inhabitants and one of the main activities (on top of the various administrations) is tourism.

The town is about one thousand years old and was the capital of the Bourbonnais Duchy, at the time of the kings. Its is the origin of the last French king dynasty. It features numerous historical monuments dating back to the Middle Ages. Most of them are concentrated in the medieval centre, around the Jacquemart (the clock tower with its automatons ringing each quarter), the Malcoiffe dungeon and the cathedral.

Though the town has had better times, it is now getting busier and several investments have been made to better accomodate the visitors. There are two museums: one is the archeological museum, in the old Renaissance palace of the Duchess Anne of Beaujeu, while the second, in a former barrack on the western bank of the river, shows scene (theater) costumes. The eastern and western banks of the river are linked by the Rges-Morte bridge. Damaged during Second World War, but now restaurated, it is still an important monument in the heart of the inhabitants. It has the particularity to have been build with a mortar mixed with egg whites!



The gothic cathedral is mostly famous for its treasure which includes a rare medieval masterpiece: the tryptic of the Maitre de Moulins. It is a religious painting in three parts, with vivid colours and delicate characters, considered one of the finest French paintings of the late Middle Age. Other churches are also presenting a religious or historical interest, such as the main roman church of Yzeure, the sister town on the hill east of the city.

Moulins also provides some very decent restaurants and hotels. It can be reached by train (the station is at the crossing of the Grenoble-Lyon-Nantes and the Paris-Clermont-Ferrand-Bziers lines). But there is also a motorway, the former national road 7, also known as the holiday road by most Frenchs. Unfortunately, there is no nearby airport with regular flights.

The region around the town is also particularly appealing, especially for amateurs of bicycle, horse riding or walking tours. The hundreds of small villages scattered over the country are as many base camps for excursions in the nature. Another particularity of this area is the incredible density of castles, the highest in France. A lot of them can be visited and some propose accomodation.


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