Visit Auvergne

Monsieur Aurélien: Art Nouveau Ambience in Mont-Dore

Mont-Dore, though little known to Americans, is the clou of the French artistic and social summer resorting…

– Fannie Edgar Thomas

Treasured for its rejuvenating thermal springs since the days of Ancient Rome, Mont-Dore is a pleasantly situated mountain retreat that has all the hallmarks of a fountain of youth. Yet the town was perhaps at its most glamorous during the Belle Époque. In those days, Mont-Dore presented like a montane Vienna. Its operas and grand hotels had a mesmerism to them, an enthralling opulence that attracted everyone from imperial nobles to musical celebrities.

A view of the Sarciron’s reading room in 1907

Many of these well-to-do tourists took up rooms at the Sarciron, a palatial hotel designed by the Auvergnat architect Louis Jarrier. Today, part of the building is occupied by Monsieur Aurélien, an Art Nouveau concept store and tea salon that has the ambience of an old-timey soda parlour or sweets shop. Monsieur Aurélien offers artisanal homeware as well as a range of gourmet chocolates, teas, candies, canned foods, and other Made-in-France goodies. Conveniently, patrons can shop and dine on-site.

To learn more about the store, I spoke with its creator Aurélien Lecomte, an entrepreneur and former hotelier.

Monsieur Aurélien. Photo by Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

A.D. Manns: When and why did you decide to create the Monsieur Aurélien brand?

Aurélien Lecomte: I created the Monsieur Aurélien brand when I was developing/creating the boutique at the end of 2017 and looking for a name for my Concept Store. Monsieur Aurélien echoed the dandy side of the Belle Epoque/Art Nouveau period when the Palace Le Sarciron, in which my boutique is located, was built and operated.

AM: What led you to choose Le Sarciron as the store’s location?

AL: As I’m passionate about architecture and historic buildings (in which I worked for over 13 years when I ran the hotel group Les Hôtels Particuliers (Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay, Château d’Ermenonville, Citadelle Vauban, etc.), Le Sarciron was an obvious choice. What’s more, the shop boasts an Art Nouveau façade that has been listed as a historic monument, and is ideally located between the thermal baths and the Casino du Mont-Dore. It all came together!

Aurélien Lecomte (left) assisting a customer

AM: Were you always interested in the Belle Époque, or was this something that you developed a passion for after you arrived in Mont-Dore?

AL: I’ve always been interested in art history and when I bought the shop, I immersed myself in the Belle Époque to find out more about it and to restore and enhance this heritage.

AM: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of managing Monsieur Aurélien?

AL: There are no particular difficulties. You have to be organised, rigorous, present and work with passion!

AM: What’s most rewarding about working in Mont-Dore?

AL: Bringing this heritage to life and promoting it. Monsieur Aurélien takes up the broad lines of the shops that were available in the Belle Époque: a place for the art of living and gourmet delights.

AM: As someone who’s lived in Paris and spent time in a number of different cities across France, what would you say is most unique about Auvergne?

AL: The exceptional and unique natural environment. And its historical heritage — particularly the spas, which — unfortunately — aren’t promoted enough!

Aurélien Lecomte also manages “Le Boudoir”, a rentable apartment inside the former Sarciron hotel.

For more information on Monsieur Aurélien and Le Boudoir, see here.