Friday, April 24, 2009

Grenoble and St Hilaire Sunday monaday 19th April 2009

Grenoble: Sunday 19th April 2009

We drove 12km south of Grenoble to catch an old mountain train “Chemin de fer de La Mure” which travels 30 km from Saint Georges de Commiers, to La Mure at 880m which was a climb of 570 meters. The train was full with a tour group of Swiss arriving off a bus to do the journey.

The line was established in 1886 with 18 tunnels (the longest is 1km). Until 1988 it was simply a coal line but when the mines closed it became a tourist train.

It was the first railway to in France with a high voltage (2400V) direct current circuit in 1903. The engineering of the line is impressive. The carriages were made of hard wooden seats about the early 1900’s.

On the journey we crossed the 45th parallel and thought of it’s north Otago counter part.

The views were rural, passing 2 hydro dams, however the destination town, La Mure, was rather non descript. We had 2.5 hours in La Mure before the return trip. We walked around the key areas of the town and then given the coolness of the day sought out a restaurant for lunch (it was too cold to sit outside with our baguette). Sunday is a popular day for rural French to lunch out. We were fortunate to get a seat; we ate well and returned to the station for an uneventful return trip.

Grenoble to St Hilaire d’Ozilhan: Monday 20th April 2009

We drove the 1st half of the 200km down to Languedoc on non-motorway roads and it was interesting seeing the nut trees of the region. At one place we saw a barn with trellising that we could only assume was either an oversized birdcage or an air drying space for nuts.

The second half of the journey was on the autoroute soleil – a three lane motorway that was crammed with cars and trucks heading to the sun in the south. It was not particularly relaxing

We headed off into the countryside about half an hour from our village St-Hilaire-d’Ozilhan, home for the next 3 weeks. Needing a baguette for lunch we stopped at a busy bakery. The rate that baguettes were leaving the shop was amazing. Some people had bags of 10 or 12. They were still warm from the oven. We had a picnic in the little village of Laudon – a producer of Cotes-du-Rhone.

The town was deserted as all the locals had disappeared indoors for lunch-hour (or in reality 90 min or 2 hours as is the custom). We had the memorial gardens to ourselves and it was delightful eating fresh bread, ham and cheese and a glass of wine.

Our apartment is great, all the conveniences we could want. In celebration of being able to cook for ourselves again Andrew procured a leg of lamb for dinner and it was superb.

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