Where the rubber met the road

We are in the industrial city of Clermont-Ferrand, whose leading business has done a lot to make our trip possible. Yes, I speak of Michelin, the number-one tire manufacturer in the world. Our life in France is not all about long lunches, you know – though Michelin does contribute to their selection.

It was here that the company began with the concept of rubber tires for wagons and horse-drawn equipment, and then moved on to explore the concept of ‘riding on air,’ with removable pneumatic tires and to invent the radial tire. The achievements came fast and furiously, all promoted by clever events like races, and a brilliant logo that is one of the most recognizable in the world. Now everything from feet to bicycles to the space shuttle either runs on a Michelin tire or owes something to the innovations it produced.  We learned all this at their factory, exploring “The Michelin Adventure.”

Everyone knows Bibendum, commonly referred to as the Michelin Man, who was introduced at the Lyon Exhibition of 1894. He has changed slightly over the years, but Bib, as friends call him, is eternally popular, and continues to ‘drink up all obstacles.’

And – to make early car travel easier, the clever Michelin boys started producing maps and guides to France, as such things were not needed in such detail before. And then ratings were introduced, and the whole world became a subject for their scrutiny.

In short, we could not have managed this trip without the genius behind Michelin. Bravo!!!

And while not much could compete with that, we did also dedicate a few hours to a walking tour of the city.

Clermont-Ferrand is in the Auvergne region in the Massif Central, with a chain of volcanoes surrounding it. We are hoping they all continue to be dormant. It is also famous for its focus on short films, annually hosting one of the world’s leading international festivals for short films, the Festival du Court Metrage de Clermont-Ferrand. Lots of cultural events here.

If the buildings and streets look a bit dark, it’s because they were built with the local volcanic rock. A bit oppressive…

 

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