I knew that climb up the Puy de Dome would do for me for clearly I have died and, by some incredible bureaucratic foul up, the sins of my former life have gone unreported and I have somehow sneeked into heaven.
For those who have not been there recently the Puy de Dome is no longer easily accessible by car. It is a 1000 ft + struggle up a steep former mule track from the current car park to the top while a new train line is installed (a cable car would seem to me a better solution,) due to open next year. If you have a heart condition you are advised not to attempt this. However the views on the way up and from the top are quite spectacular so it was worth the effort with a wealth of wild life to view as you go. There is also a smattering of insane people who lug large haversacks up to the top, unload some bits of string and fabric to which they attach themselves and then throw themselves off the top. They call it paragliding but I am sure there must be another name for it is some psychiatric textbook.
But back to heaven masquerading as an art deco hotel on the northwest outskirts of Clermont Ferrand (see photo). It claims to have a car park but we found a convenient spot just outside the door. Reception is an art deco triumph (see photo)and the theme based on a radio of that period is worked thoughout the building. You expect to see Hercule Poirot at any moment.
The welcome was very pleasant and, as only happens in heaven, we seemed to have been upgraded. The lift up was a tad snug for the three of us plus our suitcase but we managed, as did the old lift (which is more than I can say for many modern ones.)
Our room (18) was charming with art deco triangular mirrors above the headboard, a huge bed, good sized wardrobe with safe and drawers. seats and french doors that gave a great view over the city (see photo). The en suite had a bath with shower over, loo, wash basin and toiletries of a high standard (no sachets here). Two very comfortable towelling bathrobes. Only minor quibble was the lack of a razor-socket. Wifi was excellent and fast. TV was a large wall mounted flat screen.
We were invited to attend for dinner any time that suited between 7.15 and 9.30 pm. No fuss. No checking that it was convenient for chef. They were at our disposal. You would have sworn we might have been the only guests but that was far from the truth.
On presenting ourselves for the repast the Maitre D greeted us and showed us to our table. The decor continued the art deco theme with even the lighting scheme enhancing the effect with the patterns that it produced on the wall. Such a thoroughly well thought out chorography!
There are two set menu's: we had the menu of the month at 50 Euro but there was also a taster (degustation) menu at 85 Euro or a la carte. Kirs were accompanied by equisite canapes of tapenade on brioche, sardine on lemon toast and a garlic mousse.
The menu of the month is a fixed menu so the selecting is already done. A pre-starter amuse bouche was a tomato coulis with squid, a delectable tomato sorbet with a squid ink fan. The starter was a veloute of strawberry with thinly sliced ham, a salad of mussels and a marmelade of tomato; fabulous! The fish course was monkfisk with carrot puree, courgette with fennel and celery; brilliant. Main was pigeon leg and breast with a reduction sauce, pistachio mousse in a mould made of a thinly cut strip of cooked aubergine, with a topping of redcurrents, blackcurrents, blackberries, and raspberry; I am convinced I have died and gone to heaven. This is just fantastic!
But it got even better (if such were possible) despite the protests of my trouser belt. A unannounced pre-dessert was produced of strawberry on a pistachio sponge with caramel fan. This chef is a genius! Cheese board was then brought on with many local delicacies and we enjoyed some St Nectaire, Chevre and a Montagne. Dessert was a smooth poached apricot on a biscuit base with ice cream flavoured with honey and vanilla seeds and a sprinkling of gold leaf just for the bling effect (told you we had gone to heaven...want any more proof?). We declined the coffee but we were still presented with Petit Fours and it would have been cherlish to refuse (waist line has admitted defeat and visit to tailor scheduled for near future.) The little jellies, macaroons, chocolate and coffee minicake, and fresh cherry were delightful. The meal was washed down by a silky smooth and beatiful Chateau Mersault Beaune Premier Cru 2000 that at 50 Euro was superb value for a wine of this quality.
A digestive of cognac was then enjoyed in the salon (see photo) another of their stylish rooms with a double height ceiling. I'm sure Poirot is around somewhere. At 11 euro these are smooth and warming.
The meal has been delivered by staff of the highest calibre with style and good humour. It has been a evening that will long in our hearts and possibly even longer on our hips but that would be such a worthwhile sacrifice.
But the experience continued to impress. After a good night's sleep in a comfortable bed I awoke to the most spectacular sunrise (see photo) and this captured the essence of a magical experience.
Breakfast did not dissappoint either. Served in the diningroom by one of the waiters from the night before, on the table were little bowls of breakfast cereal flakes. The waiter then delivered on a tray more delights. The croissants were fresh, still warm from cooking, flaky and beautiful. The coffee was freshly made in pots with jugs of warm and cold milk. The orange juice was freshly squeezed and delicious. There were stoned prunes with fresh yoghurt, pain au chocolate, and little Madeliene cakes. All wonderful, fresh and tasty.
Nothing, just nothing, detracted from this fantastic stay. The menu changes on a monthly basis. Now I just have to work out how I get back there on a monthly basis.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.