Friday, July 28, 2017

Our Own Personal Volcano

Puy-de-Dôme! The geographical highlight and namesake of our prefecture, which is like a county or state, is just a fifteen minute drive from our apartment in Chamalières, and its sight is a beautiful constant as we walk around Clermont-Ferrand. The mountain hosts a climate research laboratory with a giant spire that is visible for miles - and in good weather, tourists and locals hang glide alone or in tandem for hours, looking like tiny, rainbow-colored butterflies circling the mountaintop.

This past weekend Lincoln had a tummy bug, and no one slept great, so our plans for exploring were dashed on Saturday. It was a little frustrating, finally having gotten car insurance and registration sorted and not being able to use it! But look at this little guy. Poor thing.
Fortunately, by Sunday morning he was feeling much better and anxious to leave the house. So we took a long, scenic walk to Place de Salins, which has one of the only Sunday markets in town. The homes in Clermont are so beautiful - this one looks like it was picked up out of Ireland or Scotland and dropped here. 

Well, it does to someone who's never been to Ireland or Scotland, anyway. The market has typical French farmer's market stands - fruits and vegetables, local cheese, sausages - and also a large and vibrant flea market. We were on the hunt for antiques and came up empty, but the booths were fascinating and fun. It reminded me of being a little girl in Pennsylvania, scouring the flea markets at gas engine shows with my dad and grandparents. 

After the market we had a little lunch at home and then headed to the mountains. The drive was easy, if a little queasy for me. Damn motion sickness ruins everything! But the cool air helped a lot, and the views were incredible. We bought our tickets and boarded the new tram, installed just a couple years ago, to the summit.

Daddy and Lincoln love!

Mommy and Sylvie snuggles too - and repping for Maine!

If I ever have sheep, I'm going to keep them in a bowl-shaped pasture on a volcano too.

We reached the top and it was breathtaking. They call it "Panoramique des Dômes," and for good reason - each view of the mountains is more beautiful than the one before it! 

We quickly learned, though, that two under-rested kids who've never seen heights like this before are not very pleasant traveling companions. Getting a nice photo was impossible because one kid or the other was afraid of the heights, or hungry, or tired, or all of the above at each attempt. Lincoln cheered up enough to take a shot of Josh and me (and the oh-so-helpful fence behind us, at ankle level - safety!) near the top. 

Once again, my delicate constitution left me a little queasy, due to the altitude this time. But we walked up to the weather lab and the recently reconstructed Temple of Mercury. We've only scratched the surface of the incredible history of this place, and I can't wait to learn more.

Indoors is a little museum of sorts, with lots of interactive exhibits about the mountain and its history. The kids got to touch thousands of years old artifacts, and feel the difference between volcanic rock, marble, and other ancient building materials. Of course they gravitated to the screens, but everything being in French means they lose interest pretty quickly!

Then it was back outside to finish the last bit of gorgeous sightseeing. Despite my altitude sickness and the kids' general fussiness, it was magnificent.

All those farms, providing fresh food year-round. 
The flowers reminded me of home!
At last we climbed down some stairs and headed into the little cafe for coffee and crêpes - both of which were, alas, not very good. But the snack revived the kids a bit, and the coffee had the same effect on the adults, so all attitudes improved after that. We stopped in the crowded gift shop without finding much of interest, until Lincoln spotted these vending machines in the hall! We miss our Nana so much, and her beautiful crystals and stones.

Then after a few hours, 15,000 steps apiece, and more than 15 flights of stairs-worth of climbing, we headed back to the tram station to begin the journey home. And look, we finally got a smiley picture! Everyone except Josh, haha.

Puy-de-Dôme is a national treasure of France, and it's basically in our back yard. This first trip was a mixed bag, but I foresee a lot of great hikes - and maybe even a little hang gliding! - in our future.

1 comment:

Gram said...

Bless you, Emily. I am so grateful that you have decided to share your life in France in this way....thank you, thank you. Love you all. Grammy