fat and fungus pizza

Hiking Around

Hiking Around

August 16, 2009

Clermont Ferrand and Vicinity

Flea Markets are the garage sales of France, Wendy explained to me. We walked through a sunny, Sunday morning one in Marche Aux Pucex in Clermont. Aisles of cheap packaged household wares were interspersed with old clothing, toys and other used items. Wendy purchased a miniature wash basin- shaped pot, and a silver “pin” dating from the 1880’s. It was used to attach (as in close without buttons) a cloak or shawl, the used jewelery dealer explained. I, with a much more mundane eye, purchased a brooch and two cloth place-mats decorated with blueberries.

Eric and Daniel cycled down to market at Aubiere. There local produce and artesenal products lined the streets. Wendy bought crates of fruit- some to can, lots to eat, some bread and a fish (maybe the fish came from a store), all of which showed up on the “menu” for the next few days with the exception of the apricots- which Nora had to halve and bottle, a task that sounds fare more romantic than it looks.

Onto Puy de Lemtegy after a lunch that didn’t agree with me. I had to check out the bathroom at the visitor’s center which deserves mention due to its unusualness (by American standards anyway). This bathroom was labeled neither Hommes nor Femmes, the toilets are housed behind full floor to ceiling doors in little closets, and behind a row of three such closets lurks a room with urinals. I know this since I was a bit disoriented when I emerged and turned into the men’s area. However the man who was next on line seemed not the least concerned as he passed me.

The Central Masif region fo France is made up of a series of extinct volcanos. Last time we visited we climbed Puy du Dome the largest and most famous. Today the attraction of Puy de Lemtegy is an explanation of the ring of volcanoes, complete with a movie, a circuit of the volcano crater and view of the (now also extinct) mining operation and a Disney style 3D movie station, where according to Eric, rats jump out at you and air blows past your ankles to give the impression of the rats rushing past. I had somewhat of a difficult time attending to the tour guide, who explained the rumblings of the ancient rocks, since lunch continued to rumble in my stomach and she only spoke French. But even a French speaker, turned her back to the guide and opened and shut her fingers giving the universal sign for blah,blah, blah. I guess the sun was pretty hot for geology education.

Dinner of white salmon as the sun set between Puy du Dome.

August 17

Around Romanagnat- the suburb where Wendy and Daniel live.

I started training for a vacation with early. You need stamina to keep up with Daniel’s plans.

The day started with a hike up a little mountain, the town of D’Usson is nestled about midway up. There we parked the car and followed the yellow butterfly trail up to the summit We stopped in the churchyard while the bells rang out midday, before following a rocky path pretty much up to the summit. There a white marble statue of Mary hovered over us as we gazed out at the valleys and various volcano mountains the guide had explained the day before.

We didn’t have lunch because the restaurant we drove to was not serving the pizza they advertised, instead we had some fruit and bread in a dog poop-covered churchyard and walked a little more to the ruins of a castle. Daniel explained to us that the various local rulers ((for lack of a better word, feudal lords comes to mind also) located their fortresses on top of hillsides for defense purpose, but in the end the King of France destroyed them as to undermine their power and create a unified France.

But those in the King’s favor were still able to acquire property and built themselves a pretty nice house. So in the afternoon we went to visit Chateau Parentignat, an attraction advertised as a Petit Versailles. There we got another French speaking tour, this time of eleven out of ninety rooms of a chateau so well tucked away in a rural valley of France that it survived in tack, the French Revolution. We were guided through rooms filled with ugly art, and period decorations while in the English Gardens (French Gardens are too expensive to maintain) the children of the current residents tooled around in their electric toy jeeps.

Dinner on the balcony as the sunset set the sky ablaze behind Puy Du Dome and I tried futilely to capture it.

August 18

Lescaux II

Okay- remember the part in history class where they told you about the Ancient Cave Drawings? That’s Lescaux, a two hour drive west of Wendy’s house. So two attempts, and we were able to rent a car, follow Daniel to the main highway and clock down the road at about 85 miles an hour- a privilege that only costs about 15 Euros in each direction ($22).

A stop at the highway reststop (better than the US, Nadia, Wendy’s young friend from Boston pointed out- French pastry replaced CinnaBon) and we were there.

So here’s the story, for those not paying attention in History class. In 1940 three boys followed their dog down a hole in a field. There they found a cave covered with hundreds of drawings of large animals. They promised each other to keep it secret forever since it was such an amazing find. Forever turned out to be three days since luckily they told a teacher who realized what an important find it was and the world got a glimpse of 17,000 year old drawings. Nadia and I tried to fathom just how far in . the past that really is, but it is difficult to think that is almost three time as long ago as the Bible claims the Earth to be old. Okay so truth time, we didn’t really go in the same cave the teenagers discovered. LasCaux was opened for about 20 years but carbon dioxide that visitors insisted on breathing out was causing stalactites to grow on the paintings so the cave was sealed and a replica was painstakingly constructed with more than 90% of the drawings copied using authentic techniques. It was still amazing. They were Homo Sapiens, the English speaking guide assured us, and they were able to convey, depth and volume and movement using mineral pigments in a dark cave 17,000 years ago.

Back in Montianac for lunch. A tourist town too far from Paris or any major city to be on the typical tourist itinerary, the cafe menu was interestingly translated.

We were offered pizza with mozzarela, fat and fungus.

I had a tuna fish sandwich.

Oh, and a fat man got stuck in a narrow passage in front of me in the phony cave. I resisted the urge to push.

August 19

Back to “Daniel touring” and wishing I was in better shape. It took us a few hours to work out the next leg of the trip so we didn’t get off until about noon. We drove through rolling hills and fields where sheep and cows grazed and we ended up at a crossroads near the town of St. Nectaire. There we hiked up a forested path to the Summit where we could see a tiny village across the village. And Wendy had gotten our eating habits figured out by now so we ate tuna sandwiches on the plateau as we listened to thunder of gathering storm clouds. And then we hiked down and landed in an equally tiny village called Grentrolle.

I found out my camera could no more capture the flowered outlined houses blocked against the green hillsides than it could capture the evening sunsets. But I kept trying anyway.

We drove down the valley to a huge Cathedral in St. Nectaire. Now this is a valley where the cows outnumber the people and here is this huge Romanesque Cathedral built 900 years ago. There were actually more tourists here, than at most of the local sites but still, it is hard for me to imagine the building of this cathedral. Here in central France, how easy could life had been for the peasants who scratched there existence out without machinery or modern technology and here block after block of stone were gathered and shaped and place one on top of each other until a multi-faced thirty foot structure arose. Daniel says people think differently on each side of the Pyrenees. It hard for me to imagine how they thought.

We drove on to Lac Chambollen as the sky alternated between deep blue and storm cloud gray. With the sky deep blue we hiked around the lake and stuck our feet in the water while vacationers pedaled boats around. With the sky deep gray and the rain pouring down we hiked back to the car and the vacationers pedaled furiously towards shore.

Kisses and hugs and lots of thank yous at the train station and off to Lyon.Sunset over Puy Du Dome

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One Response to “fat and fungus pizza”

  1. Julia Says:

    Mom, I am totally jealous. Sounds awesome. Did you eat St. Nectaire cheese. I see that one in whole foods a lot. Well maybe that’s what made your stomach rumble, it’s a soft cheese.

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