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Updated: Sep 12, 2023

I can't resist getting up early. At 7 o'clock out the door of the neat hotel in the center of Clermont Ferrand. The young man says that for Riom I just have to drive down the street from the Hotel Rue Sainte Rose, a rose-scented Saint, and always follow the main road. And he's right. It is always a bit of a search when Google maps brings me to quiet roads that have been overgrown or have been changed into a garbage dump. But in the end I always find my way.

The town of Riom and the landscape on my way

After an hour of cycling I am already in Riom and I first go to the Basilica of Saint Amable, in the center of Riom. Saint Amable was a 5th century holy priest and apparently a very sweet man as evidenced by his name. The city looks rather black, but that is due to the fact that volvic stone is often used, such as for the cathedral of Clermont-Ferrand. So far on the road everything has been relatively flat today. It was the first time after weeks where we always had a lot of ups and downs and highs and lows to deal with. At one point I saw the extinct volcanoes on the road on the left and just the flat fields on my right. Later in the day it was a bit higher at times but nothing compared to the Pyrenees with Floky and the Gers and the Massif Central with Bruno; that was impressively beautiful but also impressively difficult. Both Floky and Bruno can claim the red polka dot jersey of our Rinus-Pini Tour de France.

Riom: Saint Amable basilica

Now back to Riom and the Basilica of Saint Amable. You can see that it is a basilica by the fact that in the choir to the left and right of the statue and the relics of the saint is a bell and a parasol in red and yellow. All basilicas have a special connection with the basilica of St Peter in Rome. The Pope moved between the many basilicas in Rome under a red and yellow umbrella and with an altar boy in front of him who rang a bell to say that the Pope was coming. He still does that now and then today. In the photos you can see the outside of the basilica, not so attractive, and the beautiful stained glass windows inside.

Riom: Saint Amable basilica with the bell and parasol and his relics; the statue of Saint Margaret trampling the dragon; the nave of the church

Then I cycle to the église Notre dame du Mathuret, which is known for the statue of Mary in the facade with Jesus and a bird in her hand, which is why they call her la Vierge à l'oiseau. I also provide some images of the grand street with old trading houses and homes.

Riom; Notre Dame de l'oiseau and the street in the neighbourhood

From Riom I try to reach Garrant and especially avoid the D 2009; that is a 4-lane road there and very dangerous. I cycled along it for a few kilometers and quickly looked for an alternative: cars and trucks honking and shouting that you are driving in their way, even if you are allowed on it. I find a small road after talking to Christian who nicely explains how to drive to Garrant. At first I thought he was a pilgrim because he pulled a cart with him. Not at all : he is a retired electrical engineer and computer scientist from Michelin who has retired near here. Every day he takes his terrier for a brisk walk through the fields and then he brings water for the dog and himself, some food, a chair to rest on when his terrier is doing some digging, etc. I briefly explain to him why I cycle and he likes it very much. I don't see the terrier because he is chasing a hare, says Christian. A short and grateful goodbye and I'm pedaling again.

Christian and the church of Thuret

Along the way I see a sign for a Romanesque church in the village of Thuret and I can't resist cycling towards it. A typical church for the Auvergne as we saw them in Brioude, Issoire and in Clermont-Ferrand but smaller. A beautiful south entrance with a tympanum of Christ in a mandorla with two angels. Rientje is always super happy when he sees angels. He has wings with an extra color because he flew with the angels Bert and Wim to Santiago de Compostela last year. He also hopes to get a special color this year…Angel Bert who flew to the USA this summer will probably get some stripes and some stars like on the USA flag. The photos of the church of Thuret also speak for themselves.

Along the way I also take some pictures of crops: especially the maize is still in the fields, sometimes the sunflowers are dry and ready to be pecked. That way they look less beautiful. Sometimes they lie on the ground like snakes with a fat head.

Gannat: Holy Cross church

Around 11:30 am I (finally!) reach the town of Gannat which has an old castle and an interesting church Sainte Croix or church of the Holy Cross where the shrine of the patron saint of the city, Sainte Procule, is located. The church was built from the 11th century in Romanesque and later also in Gothic and Late Gothic style. In the choir St. Procule stands with her head in her hands, decapitated. I first thought it was Saint Denis of St Denis Cathedral, the burial place of many French kings and which heralded the beginning of the Gothic era with Abbot Suger, counselor to the king. No, it was the same kind of story. She refuses to marry a man her father has forced her to marry and hides nearby. Her lover finds her and beheads her. She takes her head in her hands and walks to Gannat because she wants to be buried there.. Beautiful but cruel story or better legend.

Gannat, church of the Holy Cross with the statue of Sainte Procule, a stained glass window and a capital

In the Sainte Croix church, I especially notice its many beautiful capitals and stained glass windows that you must see inside, but also one capital that can be seen on the outside of the choir, high against the edge of the roof of one of the absidioles of the choir. That capital shows the birth of Jesus with Mary in Byzantine style: a summary of the life of Christ on one capital: simply fantastic. We see the birth, the baby wrapped in cloths lying above Mary (Byzantine!), the star of the 3 kings, the angel who tells Joseph to flee to Egypt and a kind of Pieta that refers to the cruel death of Jesus after too short a life…

Gannat, church of the Holy Cross: capital outside the church and a gaegoyle

Then I ride 30 km further to Saint Porcain-sur-Sioule, along this beautiful river. I now have to follow the D 2009 because I have no other choice. It is now a two-lane road again and the traffic is busy, especially too many trucks. I'll be there at 2 pm. I have a quick lunch: a piece of bread with the rest of a jar of duck terrine, a piece of bread with the rest of a jar of coleslaw, a piece of bread with a leftover Roquefort and a piece of bread with the rest of my blueberry jam: all very tasty and with water with zero mint syrup.

The H-Cross Church of St Porcain, has an impressive tower and structure. Inside there is a beautiful wooden vault. All places between the buttresses are filled with houses as they did in the Middle Ages. There is also a unique Christ on the cold stone (Le Christ aux outrages in FR) from the 14th century, many beautiful statues and choir stalls and colorful old stained glass windows. etc. The pictures tell more than my explanation.

St. Porcain: Holy Cross church with wooden vault and Christ on a cold stone

It's already 3:45 PM and I still have some shopping to do. When entering the town I passed a Colruyt and I want to try it: they have nothing of what I want. I ask a young man who works there how he pronounces the name of his store and he says in perfect Dutch the name Colruyt with “ruyt” which is difficult for a Frenchman. He adds that he had to practice for several weeks to get it right . I tell him it's perfect and he beams.

St. Porcain: Holy Cross church with stained glass window, houses between the buttresses and a Pièta

So I do my shopping in the Carrefour market, where they do have what I want, namely a ready dish, a bottle of rosé (cold) and breakfast for tomorrow morning and ice cubes to keep everything fresh. They have Lotus products there and not at Colruyt and I actually wanted to check that at Colruyt. Many products of the Casino brand; apparently Colruyt works together with Casino in FR. With my purchases on the back, I ride another 6 km to arrive in Contigny where I will stay: a house that is normally rented to families of around 20 people. Tonight they have no one else but me and so I have a whole house to myself: I feel like a real landlord. The landlord, Alain, who lives next door with his Swiss wife comes to welcome me and says I can use everything. My bike can be parked inside. I thank him and say I'm enjoying it already. Now dinner and then around 8 pm “bedtime” because tomorrow I will cycle to Nevers, 100 km further…closer to home in Leuven and to my wife, Magda, my (in-law) children and…grandchildren.. How I have missed them…

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