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Review: Instants d’Absolu Ecolodge, Lac du Pêcher, Auvergne, France

By alison - February 12, 2016

Instant d'Absolu Ecolodge on Lac du Pecher in Auvergne, France

The Instants d’Absolu Ecolodge is the perfect retreat on Lac du Pêcher, in the heart of Auvergne’s Volcanoes Regional Park.

When I think about the elements needed to create the perfect ecolodge, there are a few essentials. First, it must be situated in a beautiful natural setting. It should sit comfortably in this landscape and not compete with the natural beauty around it. Ideally, it should be made from as many local and natural materials as possible. Of course, it must have great food, again, sourced locally. Finally, it should be a retreat from the busyness of the chaotic world outside its doors. It should be a place where you can create timeless moments or Instants d’Absolu.

The Instants d’Absolu Ecolodge ticks all the boxes. The setting is perfection. Lac du Pêcher is in a clearing in the Pinatelle pine forest, in the middle of Auvergne’s Volcanoes Regional Park.

Making our way through the Cantal Mountains, we began to question if we had the directions correct, as we slipped further and further from civilization. Just as we began to debate turning back, we popped out of the trees to emerge beside the lake.

The Instants d'Absolu Ecolodge settles into the landscape of Lac du Pecher

The Instants d’Absolu Ecolodge settles into the landscape of Lac du Pecher

It required a double-take to even notice the low, stone building longing beside the lake. Besides Instants d’Absolu, all we could see was Lac du Pêcher, trees, rolling hillside, and plenty of happy free-range cows, grazing on the hillside.

Despite its discreet appearance from the outside, inside Instants d’Absolu is understated luxury. Decorated in soothing neutral colours and natural materials, our room was a sanctuary. Notably absent are televisions and telephones – thank goodness!

Our room at Instants d'Absolu was relaxing and luxurious

Our room at Instants d’Absolu was relaxing and luxurious
I loved the travel-themed wardrobe!

I loved the travel-themed wardrobe!

To further relax and unwind, Instants d’Absolu offers a small but excellent spa. We didn’t indulge in the treatments but they sounded divine, using products sourced from the local landscape: peat, wild gentian (a plant to which we would soon be introduced) and other botanicals from the volcanic landscape.

I couldn’t resist the ‘Nordic steam room.’ Rather than a room, this steam-bath-for-one looked more like a barrel. I sat down inside, with my head sticking out the top, and Andrew closed it around me. I hit the button and wonderful, hot steam began filling the barrel and easing my tired muscles.

The only thing better was the hot tub. While again, it wasn’t large, it was the setting that made the difference. Perched on the Ecolodge’s terrace, overlooking the lake, the hot tub could be covered by a glass roof in bad weather, or opened to the elements. As we sat and soaked, a thunderstorm rolled by. We watched the power of nature from the comfort of the hot tub. By the time we were ready to dress for dinner, the storm had already passed over.

After the storm we were treated to a rainbow over Lac du Pecher

After the storm, we were treated to a rainbow over Lac du Pecher

We had our dinner inside the Ecolodge’s gourmet restaurant, although in nicer weather you can enjoy dining outdoors. The restaurant’s rough stone walls, wooden bar, and huge fireplace, create a cosy and rustic atmosphere. The food, however, is anything but rustic. The dishes are a fusion of mainly fresh locally-sourced ingredients with a few exotic touches added for international flare.

The cosy restaurant bar at Instants d'Absolu

The cosy restaurant bar at Instants d’Absolu

While we perused the menu, we were offered a local beverage. Andrew opted for an artisanal beer made in Auvergne, but I opted for the hyper-local Gentian, a liqueur made from the wild, yellow gentian that grows on the mountains.

Gentain liqueur served before dinner

Gentian liqueur served before dinner

Andrew started with a cauliflower soup while I opted for a salad. Both were delicious and could have been the main course on their own.

Our soup and salad were large enough to be main courses

Our soup and salad were large enough to be main courses

It will come as no surprise Andrew chose roasted pork for his main course. I chose roasted pigeon. Both were served with a red-wine-poached pear, Jerusalem artichokes, and a wonderful vegetable risotto.

For dessert, Andrew enjoyed a crumble made from red fruit with vanilla ice cream. I opted for something more exotic; a pineapple carpaccio (definitely not local but delicious nonetheless.)

Our main courses were primarily local ingredients with a touch of international flare.

Our main courses were primarily local ingredients with a touch of international flair.

We worked our way through course after course of delicious, beautifully presented food, before collapsing into bed.

The next morning’s breakfast was another local feast, this time featuring Auvergne’s meats and cheeses. Still stuffed from supper, we could hardly do it justice.

Breakfast was a showcase of Auvergne's finest meats and cheeses

Breakfast was a showcase of Auvergne’s finest meats and cheeses

We needed to walk off some of that delicious food, so we opted to spend the morning discovering the landscape around the lake. Instants d’Absolu has devised two hiking paths; one shorter one that sticks to the flat ground and a longer trail that climbs the hill overlooking the lake. We couldn’t resist the temptation of a great view.

Tempted by a commanding view, we set off on a hike around Lac du Pecher

Tempted by a commanding view, we set off on a hike around Lac du Pecher

Along the way, we stopped at interpretive signs where we learned about the flora and fauna of the area. I spotted plenty of the large plants that made up my Gentian liqueur the night before, but also a countless variety of wildflowers.

Signs told us about the flora and fauna as we summited the hill

Signs told us about the flora and fauna as we summited the hill
The giant gentian plants dot the landscape and are known to have medicinal properties.

The giant gentian plants dot the landscape and are known to have medicinal properties.

The hike up the hillside wasn’t easy (at least not for novices like us) but it was definitely worth it for the view.

It wasn't an easy hike

It wasn’t an easy hike
But it was worth it for the view of Lac du Pecher

But it was worth it for the view of Lac du Pecher

On the way back down, we had to walk through a gang of locals…

The locals gave us the eye but didn't bother us as we walked through.

The locals gave us the eye but didn’t bother us as we walked through.

They watched us pretty intently, but they didn’t threaten us. I think they understood how much we appreciate the cheese of Auvergne.

Like all of our Nattitude accommodation in Auvergne, one night wasn’t really long enough to do justice to Instants d’Absolu and its beautiful surroundings. Do yourself a favour and retreat to Lac du Pêcher for at least a weekend or more, before moving on to enjoy the rest of Auvergne’s offerings.

Instants d’Absolu Ecolodge
Le Lac du Pêcher
15300 Chavagnac
Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne
France

Instant d'Absolu Ecolodge on Lac du Pecher in Auvergne, France

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We’d like to thank the team at Instants d’Absolu for an incredible stay and excellent meal. (We’ll be back!) We’d also like to thank the Région Auvergne Tourism office for hosting us in the area. As always, all opinions are our own.

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She is currently slow travelling through Europe in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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