A breathtaking panoramic valley, framed by volcanic mountains in the distance, greets visitors who stay at the Hostellerie de la Maronne in the Auvergne. (Housed in a 19th century maison de maître, or mansion, this charming hotel is located in the Cantal department.) The Maronne River gently flows nearby, gracefully cutting through verdant green pastures where herds of contented brown cows graze on tender grasses. It’s idyllic.
Ask for a room with a balcony that faces out on this vista. Open the curtains and from your bed you will be awakened by the morning sun rising above the mountains, enhancing the brilliant hues of nature. All is peaceful except for the gentle lowing of neighboring cows. At night, you can view a spectacular show of stars vibrantly shining in the dark sky.
The auvergnat style of the Hostellerie, with its dark stone and lauze roof, creates a dramatic contrast with the surrounding countryside. The Hostellerie offers 18 rooms with views of the valley and a 24 acre park-like setting. Also on the premises: a pool, numerous garden areas and a small waterfall tumbling down the hill into a pond. All outdoor spaces are well groomed and provide a variety of comfortable places to relax in.
Below the rooms at ground level is a charming restaurant offering delicious food. The dinner menu we chose consisted of a ravioli entrée, main plate of fish nestled on a purée of vegetables and a fruit crumble dessert. All was fresh and flavourful. Service was congenial and attentive. The local Osez white wine was an enhancing accompaniment.
This location is definitely a quiet and isolated paradise, ideal for hikers and nature lovers. If you want to see more of the area, the perched village of Salers is only three miles away. There, you will find cobbled streets, historic buildings, cafés, shops; all available for a picturesque promenade with the flavour of a true auvergnat village. Venture out further to visit the Buron of Salers on the mountainside to learn about Salers cows and how cheese and the aperitif gentian are made. Or take a longer driving tour into the country to discover the towering mountain peaks of Puy Violet and Puy Mary. The Cantal department in the Auvergne is truly a special place.
Hostellerie de la Maronne, Le Theil, 15140 Saint Martin Valmeroux. Tel: +33 (0)4-71-69-20-33. Website: www.maronne.com . Room rates from 80 euros/night.
Jo Anne Marquardt is the author of My Trip Around the Hexagon: Meandering in France  and Falling in Love with France , both available at Amazon.com. Her first published book, Falling in Love with France, offers responses to the various questions friends and family have asked her over the years about why she visits France so often. The second book includes illustrations and descriptive notes from her travel journals.
Visit Jo Anne’s website to check out her art: www.joannemarquardt.com.