Puy de Dôme
Clearly signposted from place de Jaude, it's about 15km from the city centre by the D941. The last 6.5km is a private road and costs €1.50; when this is closed (July & Aug 10am6pm) there's a shuttle service from the bottom (€5). If you're driving, make sure to pump your brakes on the descent; otherwise you may find yourself waiting for a long time before driving off, while your brakes cool down. Alternatively, you can leave the car at the Col de Ceyssat and climb the Puy on foot in about an hour. The route is reserved for cyclists MaySept Wed & Sun 78.30am.
The result of a volcanic explosion about 10,000 years ago, the Puy is an abrupt 400m from base to summit. Although the weather station buildings and enormous television mast are pretty ugly close up, the staggering views and sense of airy elevation more than compensate. Even if Mont Blanc itself is not always visible way to the east it can be if conditions are favourable you can see huge distances, all down the Massif Central to the Cantal mountains. Above all, you get a bird's-eye view of the other volcanic summits to the north and south, largely forested since the nineteenth century and including the perfect 100-metre-deep grassy crater of the Puy de Pariou.
Immediately below the summit are the scant remains of a substantial Roman temple dedicated to Mercury (free entry), some of the finds from which are displayed in the Musée Bargoin in Clermont-Ferrand. Beside it is a memorial commemorating the exploits of Eugène Renaux, who landed a plane here in 1911 in response to the offer of a 100,000 franc prize by the Michelin brothers. Today the aviators are hang-gliders and paragliding enthusiasts, drifting like gaudy birds around the stern of a ship.
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