Clermont-Ferrand and back to “home”

After Albi, we turned toward home (Bois-le-Roi home, that is), making two stops on the way. The first was near the town of Puy-en-Velay, and the second at Clermont-Ferrand.

Viaduc de Milliau

Both regular readers of this blog will know that we like bridges, so you’ll know that we really liked seeing this spectacular one:

The Viaduc de Milliau.

This bridge is 2,650 meters (1.64 miles) long and rises almost 800 feet above the valley floor. It is an amazing engineering feat and beautiful to boot!


Puy-en-Velay is a nice town with two churches worth visiting, one of which we decided probably wasn’t worth the effort…

A fascinating church, but after giving serious thought to visiting it, we decided to take a pass. Well, not that serious, actually; there are something like five thousand steps to it. Okay, 286 steps, but that was 285 too many for us.


We’ve wanted to visit Clermont-Ferrand for a long time because a.) it’s a place we haven’t been; b.) it’s well-known for its cuisine and cheeses; and c.) it’s where our friend (and most-excellent driver on this trip) was raised. Mary and Gilles had some business to complete here, so we spent a night. It’s a good-sized city (about 140,000 people) and has an unusual style of architecture, due to the stone used to build many of the buildings in the downtown area. The quarries in the area produce a building stone that is almost black. Using this stone resulted in a different look.

This cathedral has some beautiful stained glass windows.

Stained glass in the Clermont-Ferrand cathedral.

Stained glass in the Clermont-Ferrand cathedral.

And a very old church…

A small – and very old – church in Clermont-Ferrand.

Carving in the old romanesque church in Clermont-Ferrand.

A sidelight: here are two pictures from churches in Clermont-Ferrand and Puy-en-Velay. These are “Black Madonnas,” small wooden Madonnas carved from dark wood and aged over centuries to almost pure black. They are actually found all over the world, but seem to be more prevalent on churches that were stops on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. There is some evidence that they all came from one workshop in Eastern Europe, but that evidence is sketchy. No one really knows where they came from nor why so many ended up on the pilgrimage. We’ve seen probably a dozen of them over the years and are, I admit, fascinating.

A Black Madonna in the Cathedral at Puy-en-Velay.

Black madonna in the old Romanesque church in Clermont-Ferrand. Yes, it’s that tiny thing in the middle. This one was in the crypt, below the current altar. Evidently, this was the original altar of the church.

With that, I’ll close up my posts on our first ramble (two weeks after we returned!) We had a great time, saw lots of new, interesting and beautiful things, and ate like monarchy. I have no doubt we will return to this area in southern France again; we barely scratched the surface of things we want to do and see here.

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