Paris, City of Light, is commonly regarded as the most romantic destination on earth. However, although the French capital is undoubtedly beautiful, as Gilbert Carlson here writes, first and foremost it is a big functioning metropolis, and so for the berets and Boeuf Bourguignon and romantic French stereotypes, you need to go somewhere a little smaller.
The town of Clement-Ferrand is a beauty in the midst of France, largely undiscovered by foreigners and so therefore perfect for a peaceful weekend get-a-way for you and a special bon ami.
Situated in the Auvergne region of France, Clement-Ferrand has a population of under 150,000 and makes for a dramatic landscape due to the range of exhauster volcanoes, the so-called Chaîne des Puys, that ring the town. In the centre of which is a sun-drenched (most months of the year) square called Place de Jaude where in the middle stands a grand statue of Vercingetorix, the Gaul tribal leader who united the French to rise up against their Roman oppressors. This square is particularly pretty in the evening sun where, with one arm draped nonchalantly under or around your partner, you can casually inform them that it was Frédéric Bartholdi who created the statue, the same man who designed the Statue of Liberty in New York.
In the summer Clement-Ferrand plays host to France’s second largest film festival and in October the sound comes alive with the melodies and rifts of blues and jazz for the annual Jazz en Tête festival. Here you can dance and swing about, drinking red wine from a glass carafe, and flaunting your summer tan in the seasonal fillies like those found here. However if you head to Au fil du Temps wine bar or the raunchy Garden Palace Cabaret you may be expected to wear something a little more swanky, even if those on stage at the latter aren’t.
If all these little delights of Clement-Ferrand still aren’t enough to entice you away from the pull of Paris, then consider the view from Puy de Dôme, one of the youngest but biggest volcanoes in the Chaîne. Up a little footpath you can clamber past the Nid de la Poule crater, and with a hamper of Bleu d’Auvergne cheese and a bottle of Pinot Noir, you can watch the sun set over Clement-Farrand, and be grateful that you aren’t bustling along the polluted and tourist-saturated Avenue des Champs Elysées.