- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Visit Clermont-Ferrand, France
Clermont-Ferrand enjoys an ideal location between the Limagne plain and the Chaîne des Puys mountain range. The capital of the Auvergne region and the birthplace of the famous French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, it boasts a rich heritage of numerous fine mansions, like the Hôtel de Fontfreyde, Hôtel Savaron and Hôtel de Chazerat, and beautiful religious buildings in the old town, including the Gothic Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption cathedral which is made of black lava stone from Volvic and has preserved superb original stained-glass windows, and the Romanesque Notre-Dame-du-Port basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing a striking choir decorated with carved capitals and a crypt with a Black Virgin that attracts a large number of pilgrims each year.
Strolling around Clermont's old quarter, visitors will also see Rue Pascal street, which is lined with elegant houses, the picturesque Rue des Gras and Rue des Chaussetiers streets, and pretty lava stone fountains like the fantastic Renaissance Fontaine d'Amboise.
A must-see is the immense Place de Jaude square with an equestrian statue of Vercingétorix by sculptor Bartholdi in its centre – it's the liveliest square in Clermont-Ferrand and the heart of the city's shopping district.
The Bargoin archaeology museum located near the pleasant Jardin Lecoq gardens houses prehistoric and Gallo-Roman collections of objects unearthed during excavations in the region, including a striking group of 1st-century wooden votive offerings found in a shrine at the mineral springs known as the Source des Roches (rock spring) in Chamalières.
Events not to be missed: the famous international short film festival, which takes places each year at the beginning of February, and the Montferrand medieval festivals every June.