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Stopover in Puy-de-Dôme area: driving from Loire Valley to Provence?

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Hello!

My husband and I driving from the Loire Valley (Amboise) to Avignon this September. We'd like to break up the 7-8 hour trip halfway and stay overnight. Michelin recommends the quickest route down to Clermont-Ferrand then east along A89 / E70 through to St Etienne.

Any recommendations for pretty towns to stay in? It looks like Thiers is about the halfway point. I've looked at the beautiful villages map (http://www.les-plus-beaux-villages-de-france.org/) but no towns seem perfect in terms of scheduling...

It's our first time in France, so be gentle ;-) We don't really know what's around but I'm trying to research like crazy. This forum is great. Thanks for any advice!

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