Monday, 31 August 2015

The birds and the bees...

...and that Monday morning feeling! I was yawning all the way in to work this morning. It's not a brilliant photo of the stork yawning, but it's something I've never seen before.

The bee was collapsed on our back doorstep one day last week. He got rather sticky on the honey from the spoon but lapped it up with great gusto, and after two sessions supping away, the next time I went to check, he had gone. I wouldn't normally be comfortable getting quite so up close and personal, but he seemed so exhausted that I didn't think there was any risk of a sting.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Auvergne (4)

Most evenings we went for a walk around part of the lake - there was a trail through the forest from the back of the campsite, or we could walk along the road. There was a board-walk around the lake where necessary, and we really enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere there. You can see the busier, lake-side part of Chambon across the lake in these first photos. In the second one, you can see the mediaeval chateau de Murol, built in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Campsite weather vane.

View from the campsite 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

The Auvergne (3)

One of our outings was a trip to Lac Pavin, which is a meromictic volcanic crater lake. In other words, there are effectively differnt layers of water in it which rarely mix, maybe not even for decades or centuries, resulting in quite different environments at each water level. In most lakes, the  surface and deeper water levels intermix at least once a year.
 The volcanic crater is approximately 1000 metres in diameter, and is filled by the lake, which is 750 metres in diamter and 93 metres deep.
We nearly didn't go on this trip, as it was very foggy even when we left the campsite, and as we drove higher towards the lake, it got mistier and mistier...but we persevered.  With the brighter summer evenings, I think this was the only time we needed to use the car headlights.

 It was a little under a five-mile walk from the cafe at the car park, up the side of the mountain to the summit of Puy de Montchal, down and up through a small crater and back down the far side of the lake - by which time the sun was really starting to break through.
At the summit, we had a lovely chat with a group of French walkers who, like us, were stopping for a a snack before continuing their trek. The path we were following was very well way-marked, and while we needed to consult signs on a couple of occasions, we never thought we were at risk of getting lost.

Friday, 28 August 2015

The Auvergne (2)

Our first outing was a drive taking the scenic route through the Chaudfour valley and down through Montdore, taking the long route back past a large supermarket for some essential shopping.

This is all high pasture land, used for summer grazing of cattle, sheep and horses, Wide open spaces, and birds of prey to be seen everywhere - buzzards and kites, mostly.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Auvergne (1)

The next stage of our holidays was spent in the Auvergne, in the mountainous Massif Central, an old volcanic region We were staying in Chambon sur Lac, which was at an altitude of about 1000m , over 3000 feet. So the nights were quite cold - in fact, we had to buy an extra light throw because even putting on our hoodies in the middle of the night wasn't enough. But the days were mostly hot and sunny.
Most of the activity in Chambon sur Lac is centred along the lake, and the older village had suffered - there was a post office with minimal opening hours, the inevitable Marie (town hall), a bakery with a small but excellent range, and a rather defunct-looking dead hotel. Even in the more vibrant part down by the lake there were no grocery shops; we had to factor in a visit to one of the larger towns nearby each day to shop for dinner.

The round building in the graveyard was described on the noticeboard in the village as a 10th century baptistery, if I remember correctly. I thought I took a photo of the sign, but haven't yet managed to find it.

The architecture is designed to withstand the rigours of snowy winters; as well as being a popular summer destination, winter sports are popular too, and many of the towns and villages had "extra" winter facilities; Besse-en-Chandesse has SuperBesse, Chambon had Chambon- des- neiges.