Friday, April 29, 2011

Puy de Dôme

Joyeux Pâques! Our celebration here in Clermont-Ferrand was not the normal Latvian Easter. It started quite sedately, with brunch in our little apartment. Roberts and Matīss brought back fresh baguettes and almond croissants in addition to beautiful tulips, and we drank our coffee leisurely before commencing with the Latvian tradition of “olu sišanās.” Each person selected an egg, then started tapping eggs with the others, until only one unbroken egg was left. I believe it is because of the lengths I went trying to color eggs by the traditional Latvian onion skin method (described in the Lieldienas post), that this year I emerged victorious!

Then we all piled into the car, this time headed northeast. My French teacher had passed around a flyer for the 17th annual marché de potiers in Gouttieres. Only an hour away, we decided to stop by and see what the fuss is about before continuing on to the big event of the day, another hike. The trip was beautiful, the road led us through fields covered in dandelions with the view of the volcanoes always on the horizon.

The pottery festival was very well-attended; there were cars parked on the roadside leading into and well out of the little village. According to wikipedia, the pottery makers and ceramists come from all over France to present their work and the event brings over 10,000 visitors to the village over the weekend. The artisans had set up in the main town square next to the church and a nearby tent had coffee and refreshments for sale. Although I found a ceramic dish that had a scarab beetle for a handle to be the most interesting piece, I finally purchased a beautiful blue square plate. After Matīss posed with several very interested cows in the pasture next to our parked car, we headed south to Puy de Dôme.

The inactive Puy de Dôme stands 1,465 meters tall and is only 10 kilometers outside Clermont-Ferrand. Although there will be a tram to the top starting in 2012, the road currently is closed and the only way to the top is by foot along the Chemin des Muletiers. A sign posted at the beginning of the climb states that the climb takes 45 minutes, and from beginning to top, the trail vertically climbs 350 meters. More information on Puy de Dôme and the weight of air/Pascal, its spiritual importance, or the TDF antenna at the top which makes the silhouette unmistakeable in the Chaîne des Puys, click here. Along with its 500,000 annual visitors, the volcano may be best known for the occasional stage finish in the Tour de France.

Once at the top it started to drizzle, and although this signaled our descent we were also treated to a beautiful double rainbow. At the bottom we warmed ourselves in the little brasserie while Laurīts finished his nap, then packed up for the drive back into town. There is a fantastic viewpoint overlooking Clermont-Ferrand just before city limits that months ago gave me my first impression of the town, and we stopped again with our visitors for theirs. It is amazing how visible Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption is, even at such a great distance.

The day was not complete without a small tour of downtown. We started at the Cathédrale and stopped at le 1513, a crêperie, for dinner. We have found the great atmosphere and traditional Auvergne food to always satisfy, and this time was no different. The meal was topped off by a coffee and chocolate ice cream wrapped in a crêpe before smothered in chocolate and topped with almonds and whipped cream, and the evening was topped off with a night time stroll through Place de Jaude.


  1. I would like to add that only in 1751 was it recognized that Puy de dôme and the others in the Dôme mountain range had volcanic origins; until then it was widely believed that they were part of gigantic fortifications built by the Romans!

  2. Absolutely beautiful photographs...!! And you know how much time I would have spent at the pottery festival! (As if I need more ceramics...) But I like to think that maybe next year we could time a visit to coincide with the festival?

  3. Paldies! And I can honestly say I liked the marché de potiers more because I imagined how much you and Anna would like it.


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