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To Vulcania and the Puy de Dôme

Home -> Europe -> France -> Travelogue France -> 08 June 2006

Thursday 08 June, to Vulcania and the Puy de Dôme

We wake up with a radiant sun, which fortunately just does not shine on the tent because it would soon be too hot inside. At 9 o'clock we are waiting with a very large group for the bakery that comes every morning along the campsite with fresh bread, but the best man apparently has a day off, so we just talk to each other. And what appears, 95% of the campers is Dutch. There is a single lost German or Englishman, but for the rest retired people and families with very young children. Can not they prohibit that??? The Netherlands is highly populated, but wherever you come in the world, there are always a few or very many Dutch people around, so the Netherlands is probably a lot more empty than we think!
The village Orcet Clermont-FerrandWe start late and wander around the little village Orcet, where the center is on a hill like many villages here. In the valley east of the Monts Dômes is the town of Clermont-Ferrand (mainly known from the Michelin tires). We head south and west of the city towards Puy de Dôme, a beautiful route. At first we get lost, but we can always turn on our navigation, we are quite happy with that!
Puy the DômeYesterday we had seen the pimple from afar, now he dominates almost all the roads we drive past, the Puy de Dôme, probably the most famous mountain in the Auvergne. The Monts Dômes is a small area (30 kilometers long) with more than 100 volcanoes that are geologically very young (less than 100,000 years old), the last eruption is only from a few thousand years ago. The volcanoes are extinguished, but it seems that there are still occasional weak earthquakes.
But first we drive past the Puy de Dôme because we first want to go to Vulcania to learn about volcanoes. It is an educational theme park with lots of films and demonstrations about volcanoes and especially of course about the volcanoes in this area. From here to far south, several volcanic areas are united in a large national park, the largest in France.
Vulcania Elisabeth above the craterIt is pretty much deserted in the park and we are being received in a rather shabby manner, even a bunch of French people agree with us with whom we go inside together. The surface is rather large, but we clearly see the main building that is built like a volcano crater. The entrance fee is also quite high, € 19.50 per person (you can buy a combination ticket for several things then you are a few euros cheaper). But with all the great films and information it's worth it, we walk around for a few hours and have not even seen everything.
Elisabeth above the crater Jungle in VulcaniaThe groups of children we meet are in any case very enthusiastic, although we do get tired of so much the information. So after a while we just relax in the volcanic garden where a volcanic area has been imitated as it would be in the tropics with a lot of vegetation.
What we are most impressed with is something we already knew for a long time: volcanoes are perilous, but people like to live around them because the lava ultimately creates a very fertile area. The Netherlands is partly under sea level, which will become worse all the earth warms up and the sea level rises, but we still live there. Apparently, as a whole, we still think that we can outwit nature or we simply risk our chance.
Observatory on the Puy the DômeAfter this hour-long visit we drive back to the Puy de Dôme, with 1465 meters the highest volcano summit in this area. The road up is a toll road (€ 4.50 for a car) and goes up by 12% for 4 kilometers. Probably we drive (by car) not much harder than the cyclists who occasionally come here in the Tour de France. There is also a walking path from the bottom but then you must take a few hours for the climb with slopes up to 40%.
Vulcanoes from the Puy the Dôme Vulcanoes from the Puy the DômeSo we do the ascent lazyly by car but the last few hundred meters to the top we still have to walk. We are rewarded with a fantastic view when we arrive above, sweating. With really clear weather you seem to be able to see the Mont Blanc 300 kilometers further, but we think the view of the dozens of volcanoes around us already a lot.
View on Clermont-FerrandIt is warm in the sun, but still 7 degrees cooler than in the valley below, it seems that the temperature drops by one degree per hundred meters difference in height. But in the winter it is on the top often warmer than in the valley. We are lucky because it is fairly clear today and that is not always the case. The weather station at the top of the mountain is of international importance and the air pressure value Pascal (equal to 1 milibar) that is still used, was once developed by Blaise Pascal (17th century) who used this mountain in his theories.
Gliding GlidingThat there are nice airflows around the mountain is certainly clear from the number of gliders that we see. Clermont-Ferrand seems both far away and very close when we see the city in the background of the gliders. What a wonderful feeling that should be, gliding on your own in the air.
Gliding GlidingOn the mountain a few people are selling a glider flight (paragliding) and we are also asked. It costs only € 90 or something in that neighborhood to fly around for an hour. But how do those people do that? How do they know that they do not fly to the Puy de Dôme, because some of them come awfully close to the walls. We are getting to old for such things...
Gliding View on Clermont-FerrandBut it does produce very beautiful pictures and just by looking at it we also imagine ourselves in the air, free as a bird and depending on where the wind drives you. It is different for this child. Her grandfather pushes her to the edge and even wants to take her down a bit to take a spectacular picture, but the girl does not like it. And rightly so, the poor child is completely upset. What kind of grandfather are you when your only concern is a photograph and the fear of a child is apparently not important. Fortunately, she has a strong will and does not do what grandpa says.
Temple of Mercur on the Puy the DômeIt was not until the 18th century that scientists found out that the mountain tops were actually be extinct volcanoes, but the Romans already knew it was a special place and built a temple for Mercury here. That means that the slaves had to carry stones upwards all the way... In the Middle Ages people mistrusted the mountain that was thought to attract witches.
We have a drink on the top in the sun in the sun, while we ignore the obtrusive waiters, they probably have too little patronage today, then we drive back quietly amidst the many round hilltops that were once volcanoes, to the campsite where we can sit in the sun for a moment. It has been again a wonderful day.


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