Where's Frankie?

On Les Pistes

Wednesday 5th November

Last night I put the heating on because it was getting a bit chilly and had to leave it on all night. I checked the gas last night with the intention of switching the off bottle on and the on bottle off but both of the gauges were showing nearly empty. I always try and keep one bottle in reserve so that I know how much gas I’ve got but it looked like something had gone wrong somewhere along the line.

When we woke the next morning the outside temperature was 3ºC and I thought I’d better check the gas again. Two days ago one bottle was showing full and the other was just starting to show signs of use which isn’t bad after 19 days of use but now we had no idea of how much gas we had left.

If it had just been me I would have braved another night in the hills but I had to think of Lucy (as I always do), and we changed our plans and headed for Clermont Ferrand where we knew there were filling stations. The back of the Aires book has a list of all of them, just in case you were wondering. It was 60 odd miles and I had hoped to start cutting back on the driving but needs must.

Obviously Stella took us along the most interesting routes, i.e. single track roads, up and down and around and around but we were not in a rush and started to notice steep sided hills which we later find out are extinct volcanoes, they were all over the place. 

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We also got to our first hairpin bends and lots of very steep descents. After a while I noticed a scenic vantage point and pulled over to let the brakes and clutch cool down for a while. This was our first look at Clerment Ferrand, nestled in between volcanoes with a very obvious black cathedral standing on top of a small volcanic hill. We did get to fill up with LPG and diesel, again on Lucy’s card and then went looking for our aire. (Number 60, Limousin and Auvergne). It is €5 for entry but did have a service point and was right next door to the park and ride into town.

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This is the view out of our side window, you have to guess what they are. There are actually three of them in the photo, the middle one is mostly hidden behind the front one and they all have matching “other ends”.

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We took a tram into the city (€3.90 for up to four people) which was jam packed with kids just coming out of school, they’ve finished for the day and it’s just after 12 noon, and we walk up to the cathedral. This is the view behind us, every street you look down you see the volcanoes in the background, we think the one to the left hidden in cloud is Puy du Dome which is 1464m high and is 15km away from the city..

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The view in front of the 12th Century cathedral. The front aspect was completed in the late 19th century but the rear, which was in remarkably good condition for it’s age was over 800 years old. The Cathedral is made from the local volcanic rock which is incredibly hard and most obviously black. Unfortunately it has the appearance of being dirty and not having been cleaned recently.

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Obviously since it is one of the major tourist attractions, it was closed for lunch, 12-2.00pm

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As was the Basilica Notre Dame le Port an even older building than the Cathedral. It was from this spot that Pope Urban II called for the first Holy Crusade to take place. We ended up in a McDonalds for lunch, Lucy was regaining some of her appetite and it was far too cold to sit outside. We’re at 1000m above sea level at the moment which means it is considerably cooler than it could be.

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We eventually get to see inside the Cathedral which was surprising lofty and impressive. The stained glass windows date back to the 14th century but all the information boards are in French and not too easy to understand. 

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Another view of volcanoes in the distance. Apparently on a good day you can see over 100 volcanoes from the top of Puy du Dome and on a very good day Mont Blanc.

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During our Skype session last night, which we thoroughly enjoyed we were told that Emma, David and Darcy wouldn’t be visiting us at Christmas but will come out at Easter. The reasons were sound but I don’t think Emma has made the right decision. I don’t think our 3kg tub of Nutella is going to last until Easter, I think we might be seeing them all very soon!!

OK, the answer to the question. Our tram stop is called Les Pistes in recognition of these buildings. We are parked next door to the Michelin factory, Frankies new front tyres wanted to see where they had been born. These structures are where some of the tyres are tested. They are put on trolleys that run on rails inside and get sent hurtling off into the distance to test “stuff”. That was as far as our translation got.

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