It was sunday, the second day of my holidays in Clermont-Ferrand. Waking up in the morning, the weather was so grey and gloomy, and it was cold! The streets were empty. I put my polar sweat then went outside to find breakfast. My hotel was located not too far from the center, but guess what, I couldn’t find any boulangerie/bakery shop open that morning. After walking around and around, finally found the bakery just in front of the Jaude mall was open. It appeared (in the next two days) that this was the single bakery that is open during holidays when other bakeries are close. But, they were expensive and the bread was nowhere near good.
Hiking in the Monts du Cantal
On this sunday we planned to do hike around Clermont-Ferrand. As I wrote on the first part, the massif Central is located in this region. Massif Central consists of several (sixteen if I remember correctly from the explanation in Vulcania) volcanoes chains. After hearing some explanations from Anne, a friend who lives there, and Vulcania, I understood that the volcanoes in the region are rather young. Some of the last eruptions date only back to less than 10,000 years.
Some well-known chains are the Chaîne des Puys, the Monts Dore (with Massif du Sancy), and the Monts du Cantal. Before coming here we looked for any possible (real) hike to do around without using car. It was not that easy. Although le Mont Dore was closer to Clermont-Ferrand, there was not direct train to go there. We finally decided to go to Lioran that was in the Monts du Cantal and had a direct train to reach there. It was a regional train in the direction of Toulouse that stopped by several small villages around.
We arrived at le Lioran at 12:18. Although direct, the train took about two hours to go from Clermont-Ferrand to le Lioran. It was cold inside the train but as soon as we got off the sun warmed us up. In fact the sun shone brightly there despite the gloomy weather in Clermont-Ferrand.
To go to the start of the hike we had to walk towards fond d’Alagnon. Looking at the banners and signs, Lioran is apparently a ski destination. On the way we could see Plomb du Cantal, the highest point in Monts du Cantal, and also a well-known ski spot.
Our destination was to see Puy Mary, the most famous summit in Monts du Cantal. As we started walking we crossed some hunters that just get back towards the parking. Unlike the Alps, the mountains in Central were relatively not high. To see Puy Mary, we hiked about 500m of altitude to Rocher du Bec de l’Aigle (1700m). The path was easy with beautiful autumn forest. I sweat immediately with the heat. The view from the rocher was amazing.
In fact the hardest part was over when we arrived at this point. The rest would not have too much up and down. We arrived there after about one hour of hike. We ate lunch and I was grateful to be there.
We walked through the GR400/GR4 to the summit of Téton de Venus (1669m). Altitude wise it was not too much but the distance was quite long. Téton de Venus – literally translated to nipple of Venus -, we didn’t know where the name came from but perhaps it was because of the beautiful shape of this summit. From here we had an amazing view towards Puy Mary and Puy de Peyre Arse. We also had an incredible view towards Puy Girou in the south.
The fact that every summits look very close to each other gave us temptation to explore each one of them. We continued directly to Puy Bataillouse (1683m) that was just beside Téton du Venus, before walked down to the Col de Cabre (1528m).
We wanted to do more so we hiked up to the Puy de Peyre Arse (1806m) with autum view of the Santoire and Impradine. The valley looked perfect for skiing. All of the summits offer 360 degree panoramic view that is more rare in the Alps.
We wanted to do more but we had to catch the train back at 17:11 and it was already 15h. We started to walk down although we wanted to stay more. With the hot weather I drank up my 1,5l of water. Fortunately as we arrived close the refuge of meije costa we found water! I filled up my bottles and gobbled the water down.
The only thing that I hate when I do autumn hike is the leaves that cover the entire path, hiding rocks and twigs, and make the path slippery. I knew I couldn’t walk fast or I would twist my ankle (as I always do).
That day was also the end of daylight saving time. It didn’t feel different in the morning but it did in the evening. It got dark pretty fast. We took the train back to Clermont-Ferrand.
On monday morning it was foggy and cold but I was excited for we were going to Vulcania! To go to Vulcania we took a shuttle bus (required booking) that run from Clermont-Ferrand. Vulcania is a volcanic amusement park located in the chaîne des Puys. We were lucky because it was one day before the shuttle bus stop running. Since it was somehow a holiday period, the shuttle only run once, at 11:47.
Before going to Vulcania I read a lot of bad comments about it, saying that it was not worth to pay 26.5€ to visit the park. Some comments recommended to go to the (paid) Lemptegy volcano that is located only beside Vulcania. However for me, Vulcania was worth it. First it cost half than Disneyland, second it actually had diverse attractions -indoor and outdoor, and third if you wanted to go to see a volcano, why pay? I mean there are a lot of volcanoes in the region that you can visit for free, you just need to walk!
So inside Vulcania has four levels to explore. When you first arrived you may get frustrated with the people around especially kids (duh!). But, they don’t give you the detailed visit map for nothing.
My visit map contained information of every animations in Vulcania, number of person that could go per animation, and the waiting time. I started with the dragon ride which was a new animation there. Although most of the animations had similar special effects and moving seats, the feel was different due to different subjects they contain.
I also tried the Abyss explorer where we explore the deep-sea. My favorite would be the wake of Auvergne giant that was about the volcanoes in the region. Other animations had more informative nature with fun. For example the Planète dévoilée where we travel around the world using satellite images, terre en colère where we had to survived different natural disasters by answering questions, volcans sacrés that was a ride to different sacred volcanoes around the world. Premier envol took us flying with the birds of the region to follow their migration route around the region.
By planning a head, I could actually do everything inside! Some of the rides were not suitable for weak hearts, children, or pregnant women. Moreover, if everything was full you could always watch a movie in Europe largest HD screen of 415m2 that can welcome almost 400 people on each projection!
The site also had food place or as I did, I brought my own picnic and ate outdoor. The day passed very fast for me and it was time to say good-bye and took the shuttle bus back to Clermont-Ferrand.
On the last day we took the shuttle bus to go to the Puy-de-Dôme. Puy-de-Dôme was a well-known lava dome and one of the youngest volcanoes in the Chaîne-des-Puys. It was located rather close from Clermont-Ferrand, only about 30 minutes bus ride. From the foot of the mountain we took the panoramic train that took us to the summit.
It was also possible to hike but due to my knee problem that day, I could not really do the hike and was forced to take the train. The first train run at 10:00. People were already queueing and some were occupied with their large bags containing paragliding equipments.
When we arrived at the peak I understood that everyone does paragliding in Puy-de-Dôme.
Puy-de-Dôme offered amazing view to other smaller peaks in the chaîne des Puys. However I was not fond of the place due to over-exploited site for paragliding, artificial paths and stairs, and the worst, too much people. One of the archeological interest of the site was the temple of Mercury that was found there.
We didn’t spend too much time there nd took the train back down, and the bus back to Clermont-Ferrand.
We finished our stay in Clermont-Ferrand. Since it was holiday there was nothing more to do, so we waited our bus to go home to Grenoble.
+ http://www.ter.sncf.com/auvergne (regional train)