Saturday, 29 December 2012

Two fun days

Thursday 27 December

Yes, you read it well: two fun days.  We indeed had fun, because the sun was shining when we got up and we decided we wanted to make a bit more 'unreasonable use of the car' :-)  I am making fun of the fact, because it's no use crying over it and we are not going to be cooped up inside the house till it's time to go home.  We've still got nearly three weeks to go...

So, what is our idea of 'fun'?  The answer is: Geocaching.  We are going to do some serious searching today!  Why?  Well, we are seeing so much more of our immediate environment and are learning a lot while we're at it. We're also not 'eating' kilometres, since it's all reasonably close to home. Since the few days to Paris have eaten into our budget in a big way we are taking things a bit slowly now and are cutting down on unnecessary costs.  We are now taking a thermos flask with coffee and a cut lunch with us and enjoy it on the way. No more restaurants for lunch, however nice the food is.  We have enjoyed it, but enough is enough.

While I prepare the list of caches that we want to visit Frank makes lunch.  Preparing the list is a bit complicated, because I don't have the map of France on my mobile phone.  I list the caches on my phone and before I discovered how I could enter them in an easy way on our GPS I had to prepare the actual addresses as well.  Now I am done in no time, safe for translating the hints beforehand, because I don't feel like looking it up on the way, even though I am travelling with a dictionary in my backpack. :-)

I don't know if I am tempting fate, but I prepare a list of 8 caches for the day.  The last time I did something similar I hurt my knee after the first one on the list, and that was the end of that!  Let's see how we go today...

After we've caught up with some gossip via skype from friend Leonie we first drive to St Simeon de Bressieux to get fuel and find an ATM to get some money, because we've actually almost run out of the cash that we took with us.  Since our credit card is not always accepted here for some reason or other, we don't want to take risks.

That out of the way we can breathe a bit easier and get on the way to our first cache, The Mikado:

Frank returning the cache to its hiding place in the centre of this innovative roundabout
The way to the next cache leads via a little town, Beaurepaire, where we walk through, because it still was on our list of places to visit:

Tour de Florie Richard - 15e siecle (15th century)

Maison Delphinale - 15e siecle (15th century)
Cache #2: Plan d'eau des sources de la Veux a Manthes.  It's near an old water mill where we feed the ducks.

Cache #3: la Tour d'Anjou near a place called Anjou.  It was here that we not only found the cache, but also a Travel Bug in it, which we took and will take with us to Australia to send it away on further travels downunder.

Frank again returning the cache to its hiding place

Part of the 'table d'orientatieon'
The actual hiding place in the foreground

It's terribly cold and windy and hard to keep your camera steady to take pictures.

Beautiful view of the Vercors

The sun on the hills

Cache #4: La Table d'Orientation de Sonnay.

Cache #5: Chapelle Notre Dame de la Salette.

Frank at the hiding place
Cache #6: La Cache des Primarets.  Difficult to find at first and quite a walk, but we found it:

Frank logging our find
Cache #7: Vue sur la Plaine at Pommier de Beaurepaire.  Although we couldn't find an easy spot to park the car this was a relative easy one if you have been geocaching before, and the view again was great:

The description of the cache says that on a clear day one can see
the Mont Blanc, but today obviously was not such a clear day....
Cache #8: Le Marais des Renailles.  The last cache of the day and the only disappointing one for two reasons.  It was a fair bit of a walk on muddy paths while it had also started to rain, and the path to the cache was closed off because of the ground being unstable in this marshy area.

The path was closed off as were several others

We came within 129m of the cache
As it had started to rain quite heavily and it was late in the afternoon we went straight home, feeling very satisfied with our day of discoveries.  Today we weren't only satisfied with the finds, but also with the places we had been too because of the 'game'.  It would be lovely to come back here in summertime and enjoy the beauty of the Rhône-Alpes area in a different (and slightly warmer) season.

Friday 28 December

As we enjoyed ourselves so much yesterday and it seemed like a beautiful sunny day again we decided to prepare another list and go geochaching again.  This time we want to go southwards and include St Antoine l'Abbaye as we had wanted to return to this village again after we had been there with Gabrielle and Bernard before Christmas.  There is also a cache hidden here, so every reason to go back. :-)

Halfway during the preparation of my list Frank has a look at our GPS and discovers the settings that we need to find the spots easier.  As I said, I was halfway my list, so most of the work had already been done, but next time we can prepare the whole route straight on the GPS, which will make it all so much easier.

All in all we are rather late and leave just before lunch, but not without our cut lunch and coffee.  For today we also have 8 caches on the list, but know that there is no way we can make it to the end.  Never mind.  Let's start.

Cache #1, Notre Dame de Jayere is a mere 15 km from here.

The chapel Notre Dame de Jayere

Cache #2 is at the abbey of St Antoine l'Abbaye, but before we go in search of it we walk around the little village.  It's the prettiest we have seen so far and most likely also one of the oldest.  The abbey dates back to the 11th century.

Water seeping from the wall for centuries has built up this calcified mass

This is another, smaller one

A beautiful old wooden door full of a kind of wooden spikes.
Look how the stone doorstep has worn through the centuries.

Most of the houses are still occupied

Another huge calcified mass over one of the troughs

The former hospital connected to the abbey.
Just look at the roof tiles...

View towards the Mont Blanc, which is just poking its top over the mountain ridge

Walking back to the village square

This is where the market stalls were before Christmas

A garden connected to the abbey.  No idea what the strange half round hilly bits are for.

The abbey's cathedral

Just another gate
No picture of the spot where we found the cache, but it was outside the village anyway. A small disappointment with this one also, because the inventory said that it would contain 2 Geocoins (similar thing to a travel bug to keep the explanation simple), but they weren't in the container.

In cache #3 we'd also hoped to find a Geocoin, but again we didn't see it in the container and, like the other ones, it hadn't been logged as 'taken'.  The climb to this cache, la Chapelle Sainte Philomène, proved to be one of the most challenging of the last few days.  The climb was steep, long and along muddy paths covered in slippery leaves, which were my undoing back in Hamburg where I hurt my knee so badly.  To top it all off the cache was hidden in amongst trees on a slippery slope and the whole area was covered in dead leaves.  It took us quite a while, even though I had seen the 'spoiler' (a picture of the hiding place) and knew (I thought) what I was looking for.  Eventually I saw some black plastic shining through the leaves et voila!  Found it.  And as I said, no coin, but at least we remembered to take the number down that was written in the lid, because we might need that for one of our next caches, if ever we get to a few more before we leave...

la Chapelle Sainte Philomène
(one wonders why ever they built these chapels on top of steep hills...)

The winding road in the middle which joins up with the main
road going across was the starting point of our walk (climb)
Okay, next on the list is cache #4, le Chateau de Chatte, a funny one, because we expected a real castle only to find a small castle and a train on a roundabout.

Frank in search of a cache
Must have found it.... ;-)
The castle as seen from the back
The next two caches are in St. Marcellin.  On of them is Le Kiosque a Musique. That's the last one of the day, though, because by the time we would get to the next one it would be too dark for the drive home.

Caches are containers that need to be retrieved without other people (generally called Muggles) noticing you.  In general it's easy, because if you behave normally, without very obviously 'searching' for something, you fade away in the background and people wouldn't even blink an eye.  With this one it had to be done quickly and not too obviously, because it was right in the middle of a busy street with people coming out of, or going into shops, standing talking on the corner of the street or walking past.  Frank managed to to this the right way.  Nobody even looked up or his way.  And no, it wasn't at the kiosk, but some distance away from it.

The kiosk in St Marcellin
Since we've decided to call it a day we have just enough time to walk through the city centre and for me to buy a new pair of jeans, since with all this delicious food I am quickly growing out of all my clothes. However, I refuse to worry about that before I get back home.  Time enough then, because taking it all off again is going to take a loooooot more time....

The drive back is simply a beautiful one.  A real scenic drive, and we are climbing and climbing till we reach over 700m.  And you know, the higher you get, the more beautiful the view.  We make it home just before dark and get one of the quick and easy meals out so we can sit down for dinner in time for the news on TV.

We've only 3 caches left on the list, which is not a bad result.  Apparently tempting fate wasn't so bad.  We had another excellent fun-filled day.  After dinner we settle down for the night.  I prepare part of my blog till Frank is ready to watch his movie on the laptop, but just when he has started my brother tries to skype us.  A chat is always welcome, so we postpone the movie and have fun talking and looking at their new living room and kitchen through the eyes of the skype-camera!

Well folks, that's more than enough for the moment. As for the stats, we now have 5 caches in Queensland to our name, 16 in the state of New York and also 16 in France.  Time to go home and log a few more there.... :-)

See you around!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas in Montfalcon

Tuesday 25 December

I don't know how Christmas is generally celebrated in France, but I trust it is done mostly with close family members.  I've also been told that Christmas Eve is more important to the French than Christmas Day, and certainly Boxing Day is a lot quieter.  Not a Big Bargain Sales day like it is in the UK and in Australia.

So, we start the day with a Christmassy type of breakfast and there are even a few people (like the day before) who contact us via Skype.  Great, it is always good to hear from family and friends, although it's friends in our case...  That's not to say we haven't heard from family, because Kevin manages to skype us later, when it is night time in Australia.  The whole family (the two boys with their respective families) have gone camping, but unfortunately it's raining cats and dogs in the middle of the night.  We could hear the rain and thought at first we heard a waterfall.  No fun in a tent, so let's keep the fingers crossed the weather will improve.

As the day wears on I play a few games of wordfeud with those people that aren't too tied up yet and later Frank and I get the games out and a cheese platter and settle down to play games for the rest of the afternoon.

Dinner isn't a big affair after the cheese and what goes with it.  Just a special soup and dessert and that'll do use nicely.  For the first time we find something half decent to watch on TV, so we watch till it's bed time and that was Christmas Day in Montfalcon.

Wednesday 26 December

As I haven't slept very well during the night I get up a bit later then usual and get dressed quickly, because the baker is expected as usual today.  The rest of the day goes by quietly, with an afternoon walk to the village Montfalcon and back.  We are not taking the car for two reasons: we are a bit low on fuel (forgot to top up before Christmas) and the local automated thingie at the garage doesn't accept our credit card.

Secondly we are not sure about the brakes.  We're still having a problem with the warning lights coming on and the beep sounding, so we want to be careful.  Unfortunately we received a very stroppy e-mail back from Rene, telling us that we had made 'unreasonable' use of his car. He had made a note of the mileage and our reading was a lot higher than he had apparently expected.  Well, that didn't go down well with us either, I can tell you.  We have reluctantly accepted his wish to not go beyond 350 km from his house, which made our trip to Paris unnecessarily expensive, but if he expects us to stay home and only go out for the weekly shopping then he shouldn't exchange houses ánd cars, in particular since he lives on a farm in a country, far removed from most conveniences.  We've accepted all of that, but..... 'unreasonable' use of his car? I don't think so.  And, the furthest we have been away was a mere 100 kms!

Strange enough I had an uneasy feeling when we said 'yes' to this house exchange request, and it seems not without reason after all.  Anyway, that e-mail didn't do much for our good humour for an hour or so, but we managed to shake it off and we'll just see what happens next.