Wednesday, 7 September 2016

L'Adventure Michelin: I Never Tire of Novelty Museums

Clermont-Ferrand, France (Clermont-Ferrand, France)
December 2015
So, Clermont-Ferrand is a city with historical buildings and landmarks and pretty parks and what have you, but we were short on time and we wanted to see the Michelin museum aka L'Adventure Michelin!
Now, I don't have any particular interest in cars and even less so for tyres, but Lonely Planet told us it was interesting and I was in the mood for something different. The ground floor covered the history of the Michelin company, which started by making tyres for bicycles. Though pneumatic tyres (tyres inflated with air) already existed, the rubber had to be glued to the rim, and the Michelin brothers invented a removable version which was wildly successful. They carried on to produce car tyres, motorbike tyres, and many more. The museum had informative plaques in both French and English that conveyed some fascinating facts, such as at one point in history "it was thought that the human body would be unable to support speeds in excess of 70 km/h!"

On the second floor, there was a large range of paraphernalia related to the brand's mascot, the Michelin Man (real name: Bibendum). He had gone through many different evolutions over the years, which is understandable as he was first created in 1898. 

There was a tactile section (probably for kids) where you could feel small metal Bibendums. The centrepiece of this floor was a round semi-enclosed room that played a fourteen-minute video on loop. The video showed an animated Bibendum chatting with a teenage girl about how great Michelin are at advertising. It was dead boring so we explored the rest of the floor, which had sections about the travel guides and maps that Michelin produced as well as the history of awarding Michelin stars to restaurants.

The last section showed some sciencey stuff that Michelin had undertaken, including an airless tire that could be used on planets with shitty atmospheres (and by that I only mean "different to Earth's atmosphere"). A video played nearby showing how the tire could roll right over big rocks by doing a crumpling thing where different bits of the tire folded inwards.
In the gift shop we tried to play a racing video game that didn't function properly and then tried to play another racing game with tiny remote-controlled model cars that only half functioned, so one person could play...against themselves I guess. 

On the way out I noticed a world map. Clearly nobody who works at L'Adventure Michelin has any clue what New Zealand looks like. For one thing, we have two main islands and you got the shape of the North Island way wrong. Why does New Zealand always get the short end of the stick? (Or should I say short end of the map?)
After leaving the museum we parked at a hypermarket to clean out our trusty car Denis. We had to return him to Paris the next day and needed to finish as much food as we could. Knowing we had to make good use of the small potion bottle of olive oil from the Croatian island of Korčula, we bought a baguette and dipped it into the oil mixed with herbs. As you can imagine, it tasted super duper. Filled with Korčulan goodness, we crammed several months' worth of rubbish that had been in crevices of the car into the small carpark bins and drove to a petrol station to vacuum and wash Denis. Mission accomplished, and Yannick was rewarded by getting to drive 250 kilometres that evening. 

Today's post was almost called: A Brief Bibendum Addendum to Le Roadtrip (Extraterrestrial Wheels and Half a New Zealand)