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DAY 35: from Brioude to Issoire and Clermont-Ferrand, 80 km

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Even though I try to sleep longer, I usually have the bad habit of being awake around 5 or 5:30 am. With Bruno, the reason was to be ahead of the heat. Personally, I also prefer to cycle in the morning to arrive in the early afternoon around 2 or 3 pm. You then freshen up, do some laundry that has enough time to dry, and then you can go visit something. In addition, I have to set aside two hours every day to write my blog. Plus send the photos to Magda and around 7 or 8 pm under or between the sheets. Magda is the author and strict editor and she also posts the blog online in Dutch and English. she checks whether everything I write is correct. When in doubt, she calls me. It's super nice to have such a logistic quality support. So I leave on time today at 7:15 after having thrown the garbage into the various bins and cycle out of the street. This B&B had the hallmark of eco B&B and it deserved the label. The curious old woman, my neighbor across the street, is already standing in her door. At the slightest movement she came out yesterday. I wish her a nice day and she does the same. Someone advises me to take the 'voie verte' but after two kilometers I have to ride back because it just brings me to the edge of Brioude.

The market hall and the church of Lempdes

I then decide to take the D road past Lempdes in order not to get on the very busy N 102. However, there are works en route and a diversion and I am losing a lot of time. In Lempdes I find a man who explains to me in great detail how I have to ride: via St Germain-Embron and then to Issoire. I thank him and take pictures of the beautiful little church and especially of the beautiful XIXth -century market hall in the shape of a wedge like a piece of cake. The French love markets and especially covered market halls. You will find all local products here. I love all the varieties of tomatoes, from red ones like the coeur de boeuf, super delicious or blue tomatoes.

The bike ride is also really beautiful today as you can see in the photos: extinct volcanoes and beautiful landscapes everywhere. It is gray and sometimes it rains a little, but that also has its charm. People are busy harvesting the maize, sometimes the sunflowers are still there, but the wheat has already been harvested everywhere. The farmers are satisfied: it was a good harvest.

The changing landscapes

This is one of the great advantages of cycling. You can stop at any time and take time to view nature. Floris even rode his bicycle through the wheat fields and through the sunflower fields. Bruno takes care of nature. When he saw a beetle crossing the road, he would stop, pick up the beetle and put it nicely on the other side of the road. Every animal in nature has a function, including this beetle. His heart hurt from the many animals that are killed by a car; martens, squirrels, hedgehogs and even a badger we saw lying dead along the road. Cycling teaches you to have more of an eye for nature. He saw an injured bird lying on the side of the road. He couldn't help it and spent hours thinking it would die... His partner Annette is also a PHD student at Oxford University and researches the impact of global warming on finches. She is personally allowed to officially ring finches in the UK.

Issoire: abbbey church of Saint-Austremoine

I reach Issoire after two and a half hours and drive straight to the abbey church of St. Austremoine. It is a former Benedictine abbey built in the first part of the 12th century. It is one of the most important Romanesque churches in Auvergne. The name comes from Austremoine de Clermont or Stremonius, the first bishop of Clermont and evangelizer of Auvergne at the end of the 3rd century. In the turbulent 16th century, a captain Mathieu Merle tried to set fire to the Saint-Austremoine abbey without success. To allay his frustrations, he had some monks flayed alive.

Issoire: abbey church of Saint-Austremoine with beautiful capitals

The church has the appearance of most Romanesque churches in Auvergne. At the back a choir with many side chapels, and a sturdy western facade. You can also see the symbols of the zodiac beautifully depicted on the side chapels. The windows ate all relatively small and yet it is not dark inside. The windows are very nicely decorated with many geometric figures and many colors thanks to the use of different colors of stone from the region. Here in Issoire, the church is still richly painted. It is mainly the capitals in the choir that are completely painted. Magda will publish a few pictures and then you can see if you like them.

There is, of course, a crypt to house or perhaps more accurately hide the relics of the saint. One of Austromoine's relics sits in a beautiful 13th century shrine decorated with emaux de Limoges. Such a crypt is scary but still has a certain beauty. It is also usually the oldest part of a church.

Issoire: abbey church of Saint-Austremoine: the crypt

After an hour of visiting the church I ride to Clermont Ferrand on a departmental and I get there thanks to the help of a grandfather (a papie) and his granddaughter who is helping to sand the blinds of the house in order to paint them again. In the end it is the information of the granddaughter (in her thirties) who knows how to explain to me exactly how to find and use a country road, le chemin de Coudes, because it is completely paved. She is right. After the chemin de Cudes I have to take one more steep slope of about 5 kilometers and that will be the "dos d'ânes" which is like a toboggan with hills that rise and fall. The village of Coudes has a beautiful old round donjon, which is shown in the photo.

Coudes: donjon

Then it's up and down to Clermont-Ferrand over 25 kilometers; but Google maps brings me flawlessly into the big city, where the headquarters of the tire company Michelin and of the maps and travel guides etc. are located. A little after two o'clock I'm in my room in the Artyster hotel near the old center, which Magda managed to book for 53 euros, VAT and taxe de séjour included. My bike is already parked and charging.

It is raining and I wait a while to go into the old center . I first go to the place de Jaude, the center of the city, to the FNAC, because my charger is broken and my phone is practically empty.

Clermont-Ferrand: Place de Jaude, Notre dame de l’Assomption cathedral

In the Notre dame de l'Assomption cathedral I find a socket next to a beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary and a chair. So I can charge my phone in the church while I complain to Mary that she didn't take enough care of Rientje two years ago. The cathedral is completely black, because of the black Volvic stone that has been used as it allowed to work very quickly. It is not my favorite cathedral, but it has beautiful stained glass windows and beautiful frescoes and statues as you can see in the photos.

Clermont-Ferrand, Notre dame de l’Assomption cathedral: statue of the virgin Mary , stained glass window and fresco

Then I go to the Notre Dame du Port church, another real Romanesque Auvergne church that stood near the port or the depots of Clermont-Ferrand. Those warehouses have now disappeared due to the growing importance of the train. The current church is from 1120-1130 and also from the end of the 12th century or somewhat later. The stone used is all from the region. The church was badly damaged by the strong earthquakes of 1478 and 1490. The top of the transept tower also collapsed and was replaced by a spherical bell tower. The exterior has the same characteristics as the other churches in Brioude, Issoire etc. and that gives a real warm impression.

Clermont-Ferrand: Notre Dame du Port

The inside is a bit more plain: everything is painted light yellow but there are beautiful Romanesque capitals and columns to admire. The south portal is also particularly beautiful.

Clermont-Ferrand: Notre Dame du Port , interior

Nearby in a Carrefour city I buy my dinner: a plastic jar of coleslaw, a French bread and a bottle of rosé (for 2 days!) I have a little cheese and a jar of terrine, plus some comté cheese and roque fort cheese and it will be a real feast. Tomorrow morning the rest of the bread and some jam and then I can hit the road again towards Burgundy, but I shall need two days to get there.

Issoire: abbey church of Saint-Austremoine

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