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7th Plant Biomechanics International Conference 2012
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Touristic Information

Suggestions to organize possible side-trips and vacations

The weather in Clermont at the end of August is usually pleasant , but there may be some very hot days and some afternoon storms and showers.
Here are the climatic means.

Average high °C (°F)   August 25.8 (78.4) September 22.2 (72.0)

Average low °C (°F)  August  13.2 (55.8) September  10.3 (50.5)

Precipitation mm (inches) August  67.2 (2.646)   September 64.3 (2.531)

Avg. precipitation days  August  8  September  7

Temperature are usualy higher inside Clermont-Ferrand  due to the location of the town in a basin surounded by mountains

Geology, Landscapes and Sceneries : land of peaceful volcanoes
Auvergne is located in the southern central part of France, about midway between Paris and the Mediterranean coast. It is bordered to the east by the Rhône-Alpes region, to the south by the Languedoc-Roussillon region, to the north-east by the Burgundy region.

Auvergne is like an open-air geological exhibition with its six volcanic massifs – the Chaîne des Puys, the Monts Dore, the Cezallier, the Cantal , the Aubrac and the Volcanic Velay (Devès, Velay-Mézenc and Vivarais). Actually almost all the types of volcanoes on Earth can be seen in Auvergne. Although the area displays thermal activities, the last eruption last approx 6000 years, so that there is no undergoing volcanic activity and the area is very peaceful.

This volcanism has appeared on top of  an hercynian old moutains, that has been raised and faulted during the uprise of the Alps, so that granitic as well as sedimentary substrates can be found, increasing the geological diversity even more.
As these volcanic massifs make a barrier to dominant winds from the West, they create a strong foehn effect. Combined with altitudinal effect, this creates an amazing diversity of landscapes and ecological niches, ranging from Scandinavian-like highlands to mediterranean-flora sites in the southern slopes of the valleys. 

Auvergne accounts for about 50 freshwater ponds and lakes. The most famous are the mountainous and altitude lakes with volcanic origins : Guéry Lake , Pavin Lake , La Godivelle lake and Servières Lake. Auvergne also benefits of bountiful water sources rich in mineral salts, some of them being commercialised like the famous Vichy or Volvic.

All this has been protected through Europe's largest web of regional nature parks.  It is thus a very popular destination for those who love hicking or just nature-seeing.

Due to its diversity in soils and microclimates, Auvergne is offering a high botanical biodiversity.

This is why the first expedition of the "Canopy Raft" in a temperate forest has been conducted in Auvergne.

The area is also known for the amazing form of some pine trees called the Pins de Boulange. These pines have been “cultivated” for firewood for the bakers of the city of Le Puy en Velay (bois de boulange = wood for bakeries); to do so the branches have been cut year after year. The developmental reactions of the trees  to this sustained intensive pruning creates strange shapes and torn trunks that seems to challenge gravity.

  • To see more about Auvergne flora, you may visit the photograph exposition by Catherine Lenne (click here), as well as her blog (click here).

Architecture and Culture
In the Antiquity, Auvergne was the land of the Arverni, a Gallic tribe who once occupied the area, well known for its fierce resistance, led by Vercingetorix, to conquest by the Roman Empire. Archeological studies have revealed a surprizing concentration of three major oppida (gallic strongholds) just around Clermont-Ferrand , Gergovie, Gondole and Corent.  After the conquest by the Romans, Clermont-Ferrand (Augustomementum) became an important city, and a temple to Mercury was built on top of the Puy de Dôme.

Auvergne is also famous for its old medieval and Renaissance towns like Clermont-Ferrand , le Puy en Velay and St Flour , for its castles and small villages.

It is world-famous for people enjoying Romanesque architecture and art (churches and castles from the Medieval times).

It also offers luxurious 19th century atmospheres (especially Art Deco) in the numerous Spa towns, like Vichy, le Mont-Dore or Royat, the spa town jouxting Clermont-Ferrand, and that you may reach directly from the conference center  taking the bus line B (see transportation map).

The city of Clermont-Ferrand is actually the junction of four majour districts (quartiers): 
-la butte de Clermont (the mount of the clergymen) , was once the city of the Bishops and diplays the gothic cathedral , a romanesque jewel, Notre Dame du Port, and old medieval streets with "hotels particuliers" (most of these buildings are built out of bastaltic lava stone called Pierre de Volvic)
- la butte de Montferrand (the mount of the Iron) was the city of the Earl, the Count of Auvergne, with its castle (now disctroyed). It developed into an active marchant city in the 15th and 16Itn centtury with beautiful buildings . The conference center  for Plant BioMech 2012 is actually jouxting Montferrand.
-le quartier Jaude -Jardin Lecoq  developped mostly in the 19th century, with its typical "jardin public" , and is now the down-town center of the active 21rst century town.
- Royat - Chamalières, on the slopes up to the Puy de Dôme , is a typical 19th spa town area,  with famous Thermal baths , parcs, arboretum,  art deco hotels as well as modern spa. They developped from a small medieval village and antique Roman thermals baths. The atmosphere is more pristine due to mountain streams and to the altitude.

click here for a virtual visit of some places in Clermont-Ferrand

Clermont-Ferrand was the home of mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal. Pascal tested Torricelli's hypothesis concerning the influence of gas pressure on liquid equilibrium. This is the experiment where a vacuum is created in a mercury tube: Pascal's experiment had his brother-in-law carry a barometer to the top of the Puy-de-Dôme. The unit of pressure and mechanical stresses Pa , and the Université Blaise-Pascal of Clermont-Ferrand are named after him.  


A profoundly rural and mountainous region, the Auvergne is one of the leading French regions (some indeed claim that it is The leading region) when it comes to charcuterie or to cheese. A cheeseboard made up exclusively of Auvergne cheeses can hold its own against a board of cheeses from any other French region, both in terms of variety and of quality : pressed cheeses like Cantal and Salers, blue cheeses like Bleu d'Auvergne (AOC) and Fourme d'Ambert (AOC), and soft cheeses like the Saint-Nectaire (AOC), one of the most famous French cheeses.

Auvergne's vineyards are among the oldest in France, and in the Middle Ages they supplied a lot of wine to Paris and the north of France. They now produce brightly colored, light-bodied wines with light, fruity flavors and refreshing acidity, such as Côtes d'Auvergne (AOC) and Saint-Pourçain (AOC). And at two-hour drive (or train), you may head the world-famous wineyards of Beaujolais and then of Burgundy.

Writing: B Moulia
Creation date: 26 November 2011
Update: 05 February 2012