Let me entertain you?

by Julie Gibbons on August 2, 2008

Here we are on leg 2 of the house exchange and we’re living almost every day in a very similar way to how we would at home. You see – one of our primary goals for this trip was to live OUR life somewhere else. We particularly didn’t wish to be tourists – because we’re rubbish at it!

However, we are in a part of France we have never visited before, and our hosts were kind enough to prepare a vast collection of tourist information on our behalf – it seems rude to ignore.

Last weekend we felt sufficiently recuperated from all the travel and reasonably caught up with work, so we decided to venture out. We couldn’t decide what to do, so I decided upon the medieval village of Sainte Suzanne – where there was supposedly some medieval type activities to be had in a park that was particularly appealing to children. WeeR has been such a star on the trip and I thought it might offer him some more entertainment than we had managed in the last few days.

St Suzanne Ramparts

St Suzanne Ramparts

We set off in the car with the map and 45 minutes later we arrived at the beautiful medieval village. I might upset a lot of people by saying this, but unless you’re a historian, when you’ve seen one medieval village, you’ve pretty much seen them all…

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not dissing medieval towns here – I enjoy visiting them. It’s usually quite a zen experience – and there’s always something to marvel at – whether it is the view, the church or other building.
St Suzanne was great – an interesting village, with a chateau to explore – but where was the medieval park we were promised? Turns out the park was a few minutes away by car and so we set off with our packed lunches to find it.

And then all became clear – there was no actual ‘park’, but a show with re-enactments in a converted farm-steading. We didn’t enter. We were looking for a park with some activities – not a show – so we went looking for somewhere to eat our packed lunch then took a drive home via a different route to get a sense of the area.

WeeR ping pongs

WeeR ping pongs

And so, we have not given the touristic activities (of which there are a plethora) in the area much chance. But we have spent a great time here in La Mayenne region, and pottered about in the vegetable garden, played lots of ping pong and managed to continue working almost normally – despite the infuriatingly intermittent internet connection.

But by far the best part of this trip has been the cycling. We are lucky to be based alongside a disused railway track which has been converted to a flat, broad path ideal for walking, running and cycling.

We’ve taken full advantage – and managed to amuse ourselves far beyond that which a paid for entertainment might have…

We nearly made it!

We nearly made it!

The first time we set off to complete the Chemaze to Chateau Gontier ride – 7km each way – we left under threatening grey clouds. MG was convinced they’d come to little more than some of those big fat spots of rain that never quite manifest into much more.

Oh, how wrong he was! We cycled straight into a quite dramatic thunder storm. Fork lightening almost directly above us! The weather in Scotland is not usually so dramatic, and I’ve had no call to cycle in a storm – so I was completely unsure of what to do – should we stop and take shelter under the trees?

We decided not and turned round and pedalled like maniacs – me praying that the lightening wouldn’t strike us every second. What a work-out! We managed to make it back to a tunnel and took shelter. Much nervous laughter! The thunder died down a bit and we made our very wet way back home – to try another day!

The next time we ventured out – on a sunny day :o ) – the great excitement to ensue was the appearance of a very large golden green snake (possibly a grass snake?) winding its way across the road in front of weeR. I must lead a very sanitary, urban life – it was hugely unsettling to see such a large snake in the wild.

My backside

My backside

And then the time came to try the Chemaze – Chateau Gontier route once more. Trepid adventurers, we set off under a reasonably cloudy sky – and zoomed quite confidently for about 5km. We enjoyed the wind in our hair, and MG sighted a red squirrel. It was pretty much perfect – and then the path ran out.

What to do? We kept going, off course – on a very narrow nettle-ridden path. Ouch! The boys scooted on ahead, as I wobbled about, trying to keep my open sandal-clad feet clear of the nettles – and my hair free from the brambles – and then it happened … head first into a dank, muddy stream. My backside was getting very wet but I was apparently uninjured and pulled myself up and out the stream. No sign of the boys. And then I noticed the stings. Even in my time as a child playing in the great outdoors, I have never seen as many nettle stings in one place. And where was the camera? At home – of course.

Anyways – the boys eventually noticed I was missing and returned for the “rescue”. We were so close to our destination now that we decided to continue – no matter that I was filthy from head to foot – and eventually we made it into town. What was promised as a 45 minute bike ride had actually taken us two hours!

We made it home in the end!

We made it home in the end!

A quick snack and refreshment was taken under skies that poured with rain. And we still had that hideous path to contend with on the way home…

Team decision to take the main road back – it was almost a straight route, and although there’d be some hills, the traffic was very light. And that’s when we discovered the actual route! Yes – on the outbound journey, if we’d turned about half a kilometre before the path ran out, we’d have reached the town in only 5 or 10 minutes on a perfectly civilised country road. And I’d have been all clean and shiny on arrival in the town.

But we made it – my nettle stings settled down in less than an hour and apart from a few cuts and bruises I’m unscathed- and we’ve even been back out on our bikes since!

Wish you were here…

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

David August 5, 2008 at 5:19 pm

Don’t think it was a grass snake, Julie: they’re more brown than green!
You should be OK on a bike in lightning: the rubber tyres act as an insulator. Cars are very safe for the same reason. Not sure I’d like to test the bike tyre theory but it’s still much safer than hiding under trees – almost the worst place you could be!
Keep safe!


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