Day 6: A Happy Accident

We were coming to the end of our holiday – it was now Friday – but we had had a great time so far (mostly, give or take a few grumps!) Today we were going to see the Cirque du Navacelles. The what?! you may ask.

Well, remember in geography you learned about ox-bow-lakes? (Having discussed this with an English couple we met, we decided that ox-bow-lakes and the water cycle were the two things everybody remembers from their geography lessons! At least, everybody in the UK) The Cirque du Navacelles is like an Ox bow lake on steroids (without the lake.)

We parked the car near the Visitors’ Centre and strode off to the viewpoint. There were a few people there when we arrived, and they appeared to be having a guided tour, as one woman was explaining the geology of the area.

So we started listening, and when the group moved over to the model of the area, and the guide asked more questions, we joined in! We learned about the rock, and identified different varieties: chalk, limestone, granite, “others”. It was really interesting and fun.

Then, as the group set off we asked if we could join in. The guide said Yes, but it was 6.5 km of walking, and our feet might get a bit wet. Did we have other shoes? Oh, it’s OK, I said. And so we joined in! We paused, so the guide (whose name I didn’t get. Let’s call her Mireille) could point out a cave, somewhere on the cliff face to the left

This cave was used by Protestant worshippers, during the Religious Wars in France – they had to lower themselves on a rope, or follow a dangerous, tortuous path, to reach the place where they could worship in secret. It made me fleetingly wonder if I’d be willing to do that, if I had to…

We then all piled into cars to drive to where the walk “proper” began. This was a descent down to a group of mills, which had been in place for over 900 years. They were built at the point where the river burst out from its underground flow, so these mills harnessed the power behind the water.

It was a real clamber down, and I was grateful for the help of Fiona and Charles, a British couple from Yorkshire (Mr FD was behind us as he and a couple of others had been parking the cars) who helped me down the steepest parts. We paused beside the river to have lunch and then we continued. It was a fairly brisk pace, and I did struggle to keep up at times, but Mireille stopped regularly, to instruct us on different trees and leaf forms, so I had time for a breather.

Then we came to the edge of the river and everyone started changing their shoes.

“Do you not have other shoes?” Mireille demanded.

“No…” I then realised that I had probably misunderstood when she said our feet “might” get wet…!! Finally I waded through the river in my trainers, without socks, and Mr FD started off barefoot. As it was very pebbly, he gave in halfway across, and rather wobbly, he put on his trainers. Mireille was concerned we’d get blisters, if we continued the walk in wet trainers, but actually it was fine.

When we arrived back at the cars, Mr FD, Fiona and Charles and I decided to pause for a beer and an ice cream in a delightfully eccentric little bar. It was good to sit and rehydrate – but I felt inordinately proud of myself! I hadn’t fallen/slipped/given up! Huzzah for me!

We dropped Fiona and Charles at their car and then we paused briefly to pick up something for our dinner. We had salad, a ready meal of Parmentier de Canard, and a lemon cheesecake. Again, sitting outside, enjoying the peace and quiet of our little place!

 

Advertisements

Walking Update.

Out for a walk – wearing too many clothes!!

It’s a little less embarrassing than last week, as I have managed to get out a bit! So far this month I’ve done 18 km. Not the 30 I was hoping for, but there’s still a few days to go, and I’m going out this afternoon at least. I’m also not working on Tuesday – cancelled lessons – so I shall try to get another longish walk in then too. So hopefully by the end of February I won’t be disastrously behind target!

Sat 16 5.2
Sun 17 0
Mon 18 0
Tues 19 3.5
Wed 20 1.5
Thur 21 0
Fri 22 4.5

My walk last Saturday was lovely – it was the furthest I’ve walked for a long time, and although I was slow – especially on the uneven ground of the forest track – I still did the distance in about an hour and a half.

 

  

Tuesday’s 3.5 kilometres was around the streets of Clermont as I was learn-lining (as I used to call it back in the days when I did a lot of it!) When I have lines to learn for something I find walking helps…somehow. I used to tramp the streets of Milton Keynes when I did am-dram. Well, I’m “starring” in some short English teaching videos for Bonjour World, so I have lines to learn, so I’m back to walking to help. I’ve got three of the scenes learned. I’ve got two to go before next Saturday. I’ll be out again later this afternoon, I think!

Wednesday was a quick walk along the banks of the Loire again – it’s a really pleasant little walk, which I can usually fit in before my 10.15 lesson.

And Friday was a walk with Marvin the dog – Friend Alison and her family were going out ski-ing for the day, and staying with friends overnight, so they asked us to look in on Marvin. I thought it would be nice to take him out, so at 4.30 when I’d finished my preparation for next week, I bundled him into the car (he thought he was going to the vet, so was a bit reluctant) and drove out to a walk that I like, about 10 minutes from here. There was quite a lot of snow, which surprised me, and I wasn’t very well shod, so we kept to the main forest track.

 

The woodcutters had been out: doesn’t that sound delightfully Hansel-and-Gretel-ish? Not at all, with their diggers and chain saws there were quite some scenes of “desolation” – but then, lumber is a main industry round here, and the woods are working areas. Anyway, there were woodpiles for Marvin to climb on:

  

and smells to explore

So, all in all, we had a splendid time!

 

Walking record: February.

Ahem.

 

Cough.

 

Embarrassed shuffle…

 

After a good start in January, a mixture of cold, snow, disinterest, and sheer laziness means that my record for Februiary is dismal. I need to complete an average of 4.3 km a day to make 60 km by the end of February!! Aint going to happen!

So I’m changing my “challenge” a little: to purposefully walk 600 km before the end of October. Which is the equivalent of 60 km a month, but may not be done in that way!! Thus I’m hoping that as Spring approaches I will feel more inclined again to get out and walk.

BUT, rather than saying “it’s been rubbish so far this month” and giving up, I am going to start getting out again, starting from today. I had a lovely walk on Wednesday – along the banks of the Loire again. It was chilly, but sunny and bright. Today it looks gorgeous outside, so after writing this, I’ll get out there. There’s a nice 4 km or so walk that I haven’t done for ages…

But, in the spirit of being accountable, here’s the walking record so far!

FEBRUARY
Fri 1 0
Sat 2 0
Sun 3 0
Mon 4 0
Tues 5 0
Wed 6 0
Thur 7 0
Fri 8 0
Sat 9 0
Sun 10 0
Mon 11 0
Tues 12 0
Wed 13 2.5
Thur 14 1
Fri 15 0
Sat 16

(and, TBH, I’m being very generous giving myself the 1 km on Thursday, as it was down to Friend Alison’s for several glasses of wine and a lot of nibbles!!)

This month in walking… and a history lesson.

I didn’t quite make my walking goal, but I was close enough – as you can see below. February hasn’t started too well, as I did something to my back yesterday morning, and have been in too much pain to do much moving, never mind purposeful walking! So, with February being a short month, I may not make the monthly 60 km. However, if I keep going, I can still make 600 km by the end of October. When the weather is nicer, and the evenings longer, then I will be more inclined to find time and places to walk.

However I have enjoyed my last two Wednesday walks – sadly not as long as I’d planned, as somehow it took me longer than expected to get out of the house. I’ve been having mild panic attacks, and getting extremely anxious about self-imposed tasks or targets. Stupid, I know, as they’re self imposed, but logic doesn’t come into it! Anyway, the first of the enjoyable Wednesday walk was by the Port in Roanne:

As you can see, it was a snowy day, so it had taken me longer to drive down, and I only had about 15 minutes to walk, before the first lesson I was teaching. Still, I had a brisk walk up one side of the marina. As you can see, there are barges and other boats tied up here, as many people come and over-winter here in their houseboats. We know a few of them through Friend Richard, and I met one on line through a FB group too.

The following week, I had planned to do another walk round the Port, but decided instead to walk along the “levée” at the side of the river Loire.

The river has a large flood plain now, since the hydro-electric barrages were bilt further upstream, and is quite shallow. In the past, it was a deep river, and Roanne  was an important trading post ,exporting local products— wines, including casks of Beaujolais that had been shipped overland, ceramics, textiles—and after 1785, coal from St Etienne (an important mining town) which had formerly been onloaded upstream since river improvements at the beginning of the century. Sturdy goods were rafted downriver on sapinières that were dismantled after use.

This postcard shows a Sapinière on the Allier river – closeish to Roanne, but in the Auvergne. The Allier river plain is the next one along to the Loire valley.

Half the population of seventeenth and eighteenth-century Roanne depended in some way on this transportation economy: merchants and factors, carriers, carpenters and coopers, master-boatmen and their journeymen and oarsmen, and waterfront labourers. The other half were probably involved in the textile trade for which Roanne was famous, and later in the armaments industry. Like London, Roanne has a neighbourhood known as Arsenal.

Here’s an old picture of the Port (which is now where the houseboats moor) showing how busy it was.

My walk took me upstream, along the ancient levée, built as a wharf for loading and unloading. I’ve taken this picture from the upper part of the old wharf, looking down at what would have been at river level.

I can’t imagine that the Loire was tidal here – much too far inland! – but you can see the two flights of steps. One from what is now the flood plain, but would have been (I assume) under the river, up to the lower wharf. Then a further flight to the upper part

And here’s the river now.

.

My walk took me on a path between the river, and allotments, mostly beautifully kept, with some very smart sheds, with verandahs, patio heaters and barbecues. There were some less reputable ones too, cobbled together with various materials, but all well kept. I look forward to doing this walk again, in the springtime, but going further than I had time to on this day. I only had time to do 10 minutes one way and 10 minutes back.

I have, however, found that when I walk my knees are quite painful, and my hips also don’t feel “quite right”. I’ve generally felt more out of alignment since I’ve been doing more moving, and having seen the podiatrist, he explained that (because I haven’t changed my insoles since 2016) my walking position is all wrong. My feet are not positioned correctly, thus forcing my knees to point in different directions which twists my hips and my back. I’ve also had neck & shoulder pain, which may be connected to this. I am collecting my new orthopaedic in-soles on Monday, and I’m hoping they will help. I look forward to a miraculous improvement!!

Here’s my walking record to the end of the month:

DAY                                                                    DATE                                  DISTANCE

Sun 20 3
Mon 21 2
Tues 22 3
Wed 23 0.6
Thur 24 0
Fri 25 1.6
Sat 26 3.8
Sun 27 0
Mon 28 2.4
Tues 29 3.2
Wed 30 1.5
Thur 31 0
TOTAL: 58.6

A total of 58.6 km isn’t bad. Some of the distances have been guesstimated a bit – a couple of the Lesley videos stop halfway through and go into something else, so I’m not sure quite how far I’ve walked, but still…I think 58.6 is about right.

Walking Catch Up

At the beginning of January, I started my efforts to walk 60 km each month until I reached 60 – and hopefully beyond! – which equates basically to 2 km a day. This post took you up to 08/01/19 and this is to get up-to-date. Generally, I’ve found it quite easy to fit in a walk, even when the weather has been unpleasant. I remember that the Thursday before last was cold, blustery and rainy, and I was on an industrial estate just outside Clermont. I did not want to walk, but I knew that I wouldn’t do it in the evening;  lunchtime was the only option – and so I did it!! I did a 20 minute walk just up and down the main road. Head down, into the wind and walk for 10 minutes in one direction, turn round and head back to the car. And do you know, there was a perverse pleasure in it!

I was NOT skipping along with my umbrella & a smile. My hood up and a grimace on my face more like!

Tuesdays are the most difficult: I teach from 9.00 – 12.00, then from 13.00 – (about) 17.00, but sometimes 17.30. Not much time at lunch time to get from one office one side of the city to the other side, and eat my lunch, and do a walk. Last week, however, I finished earlier than 17.00, so I took advantage of that and did an enjoyable 2.5km round some fields and a village near to the location of my last lesson. The sun was setting, and the weather was reasonably mild – I put on some music and strode out. It was very enjoyable!

However, if it’s not possible to get out (either due to weather, or no time)  I “do a Lesley”. That is I do a 15 minute mile, walking on the spot, with Lesley Sansome on YouTube. I have been known to do 3 miles with her (although my pedometer disagreed with her, and reckoned I’d only done 2.5 miles!) Still, it counts!

It is nicer walking in the country though!

And at my last doctor’s appointment – at which one is always weighed – I appear to have lost 4 kg!! Which is a great bonus.

I do need to get new inner soles fairly quickly though, as I can feel that my old ones aren’t supporting me as well as they should – leading to painful knees and hips. I did have a prescription in November 2017, but other events took over, in which getting new inner soles didn’t feature high on the medical priorities!

I didn’t do anything on Friday or Thursday – basically on Thursday I forgot! I wasn’t working, because I had an appointment with my oncologist, but I was running round cleaning and shopping, before the appointment. However, I’ve said this has to be “intentional” walking,so the steps I did then didn’t count. On Friday I was busy, and meant to do a Lesley, but forgot about it until it was too late before my one lesson of the day. And when I got home, I couldn’t be bothered!! So on Saturday I did a Lesley mile, and  a 3 km walk in the afternoon. My total so far is 37.5 km, which is on target.

DAY – DATE – DISTANCE

Tues 8 1.8
Wed 9 2.3
Thur 10 1.75
Fri 11 2
Sat 12 4
Sun 13 4.5
Mon 14 2.5
Tues 15 2.5
Wed 16 1.7
Thur 17 0
Fri 18 0
Sat 19 4

Walking progress.

Just popping in – I haven’t anything very interesting to say, but as I haven’t got any work this morning, I thought I’d let you know that I’m still alive!

My Beginner’s walking plan is going fine – since 1st January I have walked for 15 minutes every day. Today it was upped to 20 minutes. That’s fine, but in 15 minutes I haven’t been able to do the 2 km a day necessary to complete my 60-km-a-month target. Never mind – I will try to do a bit more at the weekend. I have resorted to  Lesley Sansome’s “Walking at Home” videos a couple of times, because the weather has been unappealing. Today it’s raining and I really don’t feel inclined to go out, so I did 20 minutes with Lesley – a mile (1.6 km) in 15 minutes and then a 5 minute cool-down. I estimated that as 1.8 km. A table showing my progress so far is at the end of the post. It’s not here, because I can’t work out how to eacape from the table to type underneath it! Lo, the Techno-idiot!! So I’ve done 11.88 km so far. The Thursday where I did nothing was a “rest day” on the programme, but I think I’ll have to stop having the prescribed 2 rest days, as otherwise I’ll never keep up with the 2 km a day target! Sunday was the other rest day, but I did a Lesley-mile that day.

JANUARY DISTANCE
Tues 1 1.2
Wed 2 1.25
Thur 3 0
Fri 4 1.5
Sat 5 3.13
Sun 6 1.6
Mon 7 1.4
Tues 8 1.8

Would you like to join me?

As regular readers will know, I have a little 1 km circuit around the village, that I have endeavoured to do every day – fatigue after chemo permitting. Although I had my last chemo on 7th June it took me until Saturday 16th before I could even face trying the walk. I shuffled round, stopping every 100 metres or so to catch my breath. Every day it has become a little easier, although I have still ended up breathless. Yesterday I paused at the bank to pay in a cheque, and the assistant was obviously very concerned that I was going to collapse all over his nice clean floor. I reassured him that I just needed a moment or two, but he still eyed me with suspicion.

Today I didn’t have a stop for a sit-down – which is a first – and, although I was breathing heavily, it wasn’t quite the “give me oxygen, I’m going to die!” way of breathing that had so concerned the bank employee. But maybe the reason I didn’t need to stop was because I was pausing to take photographs to share with you. So, would you like to join me on my walk?

Say “goodbye” to Millie, who is sitting on yesterday’s junk mail and eying us up balefully…

… leave the house, turn right and right again, and follow the snicket down the back of the church…

… cross the road, and go past the old Hotel Moderne. Sadly, not looking so “moderne” now! I imagine it would be wonderful if it could be renovated! In its heyday, St Just had over 20 hotels, as people would come from Roanne, and further afield, for the fresh mountain air. There was a sanitorium as well for those needing recovery from lung illnesses. Roanne is the nearest big town, and, of course, was heavily industrialised.

We continue down the road, and come to this cottage, which I have always liked the look of

There’s often a friendly retriever pup in the front garden, who barks enthusiastically when people go past, but not today. I assume he’s only put outside when his owners are out.

Not all the houses are old fashioned, however. Although St Just was at its busiest during the 20s and 30s, building work has continued to occur around the village. Opposite the cottage there used to be an orchard, with sheep grazing, chickens scurrying around and a large aviary of various fancy birds. However, about two years ago work started on a new Parish centre and, I think, a priest’s house. I don’t quite know the state of play priest-wise, in St Just, but I imagine that if there is a permanent priest based here, he will be in charge of several parishes. At least he has a nice modern house to live in, instead of a draughty old Presbytry!

We continue along this road, saying “bonjour” to a grandfather playing in goal to his grandson (I’m not sure why grandson wasn’t in school. They haven’t broken up for summer yet)  I would have taken a photo of their amazingly neat vegetable patch, but maybe that would have been a bit intrusive as they were playing football right next to it.

The road descends, and one of my favourite views opens up

I’m not sure if you can see it (click on the photo to biggify) but nestling in the trees in the mid ground is the Chateau de Contenson, one of four chateaux in the immediate surrounds. Here is a view of Contenson

The owners are the Rochetaillé family, after whom the square in front of our house is named. This chateau was built in the 1880s, but there has been a chateau of some form on this spot since the 1300s. During WW1 it was a hospital, and in WW2 sheltered resistance fighters. The current owners breed horses, and are very into their horse racing – there are two race courses not too far from here, at Vichy and Feurs.

You can’t see it, but another of the chateaux in the area is in my photo. In the hills facing us are the ruins of the Chateau d’Urfé, which is a lovely place to take visitors, as you can see for miles from the top of the tower. But, anyway, on with our walk…

Another pleasant view of mountains, trees, green!! Well, we have had quite a lot of rain recently.

Turn right again at the junction, and start heading into the centre of the village again. From this road you can look over the “industrial” part of St Just

Here you can see a scierie or wood yard, plus the cheese factory and the velour (velvet) factory.

If you like pepper and garlic, it’s worth seeing if you can find Gaperon cheese; this is one of our local cheeses, as is La Comtesse de Vichy, a triple-crème cheese o rival Brillat-Saverin.

The velour factory is, I believe,  the only remaining factory in France producing this material. It was constructed at the end of the 19th century, and still uses traditional techniques to create the fabric. In fact the velvet used in the Coronation robes of Elizabeth II was made here!

Turning around from this view, we can see the house of our good friends, Louis and Odette

Quite often, their dog Tim-Tim (a hunting spaniel, of some description) will bark at me as I walk past, but not today. They will often look after YoYo, their daughter’s golden retrieber, as well, so there’s quite a cachophony. But all was quiet today.

Continuing back along this road, there’s another view of the church

and we go past the bench where I often have to sit to catch my breath to where there’s one of the many crosses scattered around the area. I know France is/ was a Catholic country, but I’m often amazed at how many little crosses like this there are. I wonder why there are so many – are they relics of a time before the village expanded, and were placed at crossroads as wayside shrines, or waymarkers? This one seems too modern for that…

You can see my bench in the background of this picture, and as I sit there, I often get a whiff of a beautiful scent. I have no idea what it is, but today I tracked it down to this bush, which was humming with the noise of bees, busily collecting nectar.

 

Is it orange blossom? I am no botanist, but it smelt divine.

We turn right again, and the road rises a little. It is this part of the walk that often tires me out so much that I need another sit down at the top, but not today! At the top of the rise, heading into the centre of the village we come across the Mairie:

To help you get your bearings, the church is situated diagonally opposite the Mairie. The bench I usually collapse onto is just outside the door, beneath the flags.

On the wall of the Mairie is proudly displayed this stone plaque:

Between 1940 and 1944 numerous Jewish families found refuge in St Just en Chevalet and its environs.

Tracked and searched for by the occupying forces and the Vichy government they were saved, thanks to the goodness and courage of certain inhabitants.

The descendants of these families honour these citizens who, in full knowledge of the risk they were undertaking, welcomed and hid them, therefopre saving them from certain death.

One of the old neighbours of our friends was a member of one of these families, and told stories of how, when there were rumours of a rafle – a round-up – due to be carried out by the Nazis, the Jewish children who were being hoidden, would be spirited away into the surrounding woods and countryside.

Finally we reach the boulangerie, where I pause to buy a Petrisane, which is a type of baguette. The bakers makes two types, nature and graine (white, or granary) Both are very nice and at 1€ each, they won’t break the bank. I’m not eating them at the moment, as my mouth is still a little sensitive, but I’ll be back chewing on them soon!

In the picture you can see also pizza, sold by the slice, and petits quiches (two types: ham-and-cheese, or tuna-and-tomato) The lurid pink bun-like thing at the top of the counter is a brioche pralinée, another speciality of the area. Brioche is a sweet dough, and the praline is tooth-numbingly sweet as well. To the left of the till, there are mini-brioches pralinées, plus croissants, pains-au-chocolat and other sweet treats. I didn’t photograph the cakes on offer, but there is always a good selection, using seasonal produce – so there are a lot of fraisiers, strawberry tarts, and fruit based gateaux during the summer months. I will sometimes buy one between us for a Sunday treat.

Then it’s back home, to have a refreshing apple-and-elderflower juice drink. And have a sit-down!

I hope you enoyed joining me on my walk.