Saturday, June 14, 2014

Travel funnies 2014 – Le Mont-Dore, Massif Central, Auvergne, France

Torrey Orton
June 13, 2014

The cuckoo and the cow bell called to us…

Travel funnies* – where everything is of interest that can be a bit strange, unusual, as is Le Mont-Dore in the Massif Central of the Auvergne, where rises the Dordogne River in the Puy de Sancy. We were here for the first time in 1993, so the return is long awaited, though not consciously so over the intervening years before our deciding this revisit.

The cuckoo and the cowbell called to us as we were climbing through the forest which clothes the steep slope of the Capuchin at the end of the funicular ride from Mont-Dore to its foot around 1200 metres up…a slightest semblance of the cuckoo which I thought at first was my wishing it to be there as it had been 20 years ago when I heard the first cuckoo in my life in this place. As is often so, I did not then recognise that what it was, was it: a cuckoo. By the time we had emerged from the forested rise at the tree line, the cuckoo was undeniably itself, not my aural phantasm.

The cow bell on the other hand was a decidedly unproven reality and remained agreed so between us until we started our return an hour later. At which point some 100 metres back down the path, I heard the plangent ping of the Reine de la Troupeau, at first a solo note and then the burst of them which means the Reine is moving and munching at the same time. She can sound like a herd when in high move and munch mode. Apart from the joy of a tone recovered, there was the reassurance that not all location has been subsumed by GPS plugins to every being with a bloodstream**.

And the violas and strawberries flowered at us

Being early summer, many of the trees were still just coming into leaf and the earliest ground flowers were about in abandon. I had forgotten strawberries, the wild ones which give the cultivated types we’re accustomed to their deserved repute mostly experienced in its absence in the Coles or Casino pretenders. Jane pointed them out in the midst of other small-flowered upland delicates. Way too early for consumption…and I’m wondering that I forgot them as an opportunity of this trip, which of course they cannot be because the season is too late or dry or something.

I noticed today on another hillside that I have much too good an eye for the small virtues of nature – the obscure bloom or unexpected one in a certain microclimate – to have never cared for bucolic poetry or music, though as I thought it I remembered that there’s a particular poem about the humble bumblebee whose provenance I cannot recall yet it is with me in some vaguely accessible memory recess…strange ways, the mind. A 19th century English poet? But then, I didn’t know what poetry was verbal music) until I read Gerard Manley Hopkins aged around 20 as an undergraduate. No teacher bothered to mention it. Since when was iambic pentameter music??? Any more than the number one was a convenient fiction of mathematics?

 And a field of daffodils…

…filled the plain of the grassed slopes the cows were yet to munch…striking little natural daffs more delicate than the garden prepared varieties I’m used to at home, yet still briefly, leading me to wonder aloud where the peasants went who had set them out so numerously and successfully as city workers had been doing in soaring numbers in the grounds of Versailles a week ago…leaving trails of little forcing boxes around the place. Nature beats a worker most times in the beauty game.

But the hotel room engineering has a weird hanging space…

At last a traditional funny! The Hotel du Parc in Mont Dore has been recently renovated to good effect, leading the space to bed ratio and bath room swinging a wet towel ratio to desirable levels, but as seen elsewhere in French renovations there’s a glitch. There’s a built-in robe with a foot’s worth of long hanging space – enough for three shirts, a jacket or so and a couple of trousers.

 Now someone created a short-drop hanging space good for hanging pressed shirts and similar, but not trousers or long skirts; neck to belly hanging space. However, whoever did the measures on this had early adolescent sizing in mind, if anything, and so a serious shortage of adult hanging space. I suspect it wasn’t even measured other than to divide the space equally into four levels for some reason of construction simplicity rather than customer need fulfilment. Well, it obviously met the needs of the hotel chain purchasing division’s need for the renovation at best price or whatever, but the end-user?

And the shower starts in reverse…

Discovering new ways to mix cold and warm water in taps is probably one of the most useless endeavours of the plumbing engineer fraternity and here we had another variant which stumped us for 15 minutes. Intuitive it wasn’t. We couldn’t get anything from it for a while, not merely just cold or hot. Once in hand, it was obvious as the newly disclosed often is, but also purposeless. What’s the added value, as the econometricians like to wonder?

 Expectations and experience revisited…

As in Paris, Mont-Dore started out a slight disappointment for me, it never having a hope of measuring up to Alps or Pyrenees, its top most reach being the mere 1889 metres of the Puy de Sancy. But as the days have rolled by and we’ve patrolled the region with persistence the pleasures of very long views over totally green landscapes, rolling up and down many hundreds of metres never failed the danger of repetition …rather gained from it as the same sights were viewed from many perspectives and in many lights, occasionally seasoned by the soft shadows of emerging thunderheads (which threatened but never performed up to their promise, fortunately.)

And we drank about four different local wines we’d never heard of (wines of Auvergne, huh?). Between our traditional port-a-bottle approach to walking lunches for years in Europe and numerous dinners, we never had a bad one and always had viable ones for about 15 Euro or less across the selections, backed by true local delicacies in the sausage and cheese domains supported by bread of reliable consistency.

 The black shower and wash basin material

Not at all funny – amazing! It wasn’t until my third shower that I realised the slightly soft, ambient temperature-neutral material under me was also totally slip proof … as good as slip proof boat shoes of which I have a couple pair. At my age a slip is as good as a broken something which may take months to recover from. Thanks water proof room engineers. I may refloor a bathroom for safety’s sake.

*I am realising that the purpose of Funnies is to describe various arising realities in my life in concrete ways that render them truly for me and maybe so for others. Enjoy, as our culture challenges us to do.


**It just occurs to me that probably I can be tracked by my pacemaker if I’m in the right company. I know I can feel its speed up response to an electromagnetic source too near to its hiding place in my shoulder.

No comments:

Post a Comment