Well, the weather cheered up and so did I. It is the fourteenth of July and a diminished parade has taken place in Paris although the patrouille de France did its colourful flypast comme d’hab. We have been out for a picnic every week for the past five weeks and it is fast becoming an institution. Mr McGregor has taken to asking ‘and where are you taking us next week?’ I have purchased four new maps and discovered in the process that ign have started condensing two previous issues into one so I seem to have duplicates of some areas nearby. Tant pis, the cycling son always wants a map to take on his rides when here. So a run down on the visits so far..
Monteils (not to be confused with another bigger place further on)
I scanned the map of part of the Cele river, a valley we haven’t explored despite it being relatively close to home, and studied the fields etc bordering the river. I found a symbol I didn’t know and the legend stated it was an ‘aire de repos’.
A squint at Google earth showed there was a track down to the river next to a bridge over it to monteils. Fingers crossed there was enough room to park. Picnic bag packed and telling myself if it proved a disaster we weren’t far from home, off we went. I had picked a Tuesday as it seems a quiet day usually and the weather forecast was good. A pretty drive across the causse with poppies glowing on the verges. The ‘i’m only the chauffeur’ groans every time I shout ‘poppies!’. When we used to drive down to our holiday home here, the autoroute was being built, slowly, so we would drive past banks of newly turned earth where the poppies in May and June were stunning…and I would shout…!
As we left the main road to drop down to the Cele valley the grandeur of the scenery became apparent. High cliffs of limestone on either side of the river with trees clutching any earth in the cracks and clefts. This was looking promising.
We drove around Marcilhac sur Cele, a village whose name I knew but one we hadn’t been through before. It looked promising too. At last the turning for the bridge. Down the track on the right, I insisted. Cautiously, himself drove down. And there it was. The aire de repos complete with an information board and picnic tables. We parked up and I set up the table to make coffee. Lou explored and came back to say the odd tepee thing was a BBQ. I had thought it was kids’ play apparatus. Further exploring revealed an embarkation point for canoes with a slipway provided. (checking the map later I saw the symbol for that too!)
There were trees along the riverbank which I hadn’t expected but I found a gap and moved the table and chairs to give our lunch a waterside view. Lou asked for beer…oops! Something to add to the list for future outings. Someone wandered down the opposite bank and called ‘bonjour’. ‘Checking us out’, I muttered. After that it was just us, the birds, the butterflies, jumping fish and croaking frogs.
There was very light traffic on the main road and almost nothing over the bridge. We snoozed in the sunshine until himself got bored and wanted to move on. So we did. Driving back to Marcilhac I asked if we could stop so I could do a quick recce of the ruined 9th century abbey, a possible next visit? We turned into the tiny centre and there was a lovely ‘place’ under huge plane trees and a grassy bank down to the plan d’eau.
‘We could have picnicked here’, said Lou. Next time? I replied