Today we went up to the Puy de Dôme, one of the youngest volcanoes in this region which is thick with dormant volcanoes, and one of the most visited sites in the Auvergne region. (I determined this from the long lines waiting to get in as we were leaving.) It is a well-known center for paragliding, and the winds were good today. (I determined this from the air traffic, not personal experience.) We took the lovely new Panoramique des Dômes train, which makes a 5.2km trip up and the down the mountain. You can also walk or bike. (I determined this from the signs at the base, and by observing those poor people from our air-conditioned train. You can get heat stroke in this weather, you know.)
The views from the top were spectacular, even though it was a bit hazy. The paragliders made it magical. The summit comes complete with TV antenna, weather station, and ruins of a Roman temple to Mercury, on top of a pre-Christian ceremonial site.
We lunched in the small town of Orcival, whose center looks like a stage set, as is true with so many of France’s villages. Lovely setting, with a 12th century church once very important to pilgrims – the Basilica of Notre Dame d’Orcival.
Then it was a quick ride to the Château de Cordès, a 13th-century castle whose gardens were originally designed by the workshop of Le Nôtre (of Versailles fame). The gardens have been somewhat restored, and we strolled through them before returning to Clermont-Ferrand, our home for one more night. But first, a side note about the shot of vinca at the end. We in the United States have Thomas Jefferson to thank for importing it from France. Great moments in gardening….