Thursday, November 13, 2008

le malrochers et les salins des bains

So, now we are at Sunday. Are we tired? No way! (A lie) We have places to see and we have to take advantage of the car!!! This bench recalls the legend of the forest - can I read it? no - perhaps someone else out there?

Today we are headed for the Malroches (bad rocks) and the great Salt Museum of the town of Salins-les-Bains. We bring along some CD's to help the kids not strangle each other in the car. It doesn't really work, since they simply move from fighting over lint to fighting over which CD's are to be played and in what order. Finally we get there - greeted by yet another sign warning of us the danger of imminent death "Warning! Because of unmarked sinkholes -don't leave the trail" (I feel more confident that the sinkholes are smarter than the falling tree branches but still...) We are excited for this trip and have come armed with not only a picnic lunch but flashlights - the guide books warn of the danger and also say the hike will take 1.5 to 2.5 hours (depending on our curiosity) well - we are plenty curious (and slow) so we are thinking it will take 4....

Notice the cute little caveman on the sign. This is a fun thing about French hiking - you follow little signs to find your way - the grand forest from yesterday had little lutins (i.e. trolls) to follow -today it was the cavemen!!! These trails were very rough - but really fascinating - this shot was taken by Zander - we are trying to mirror the bizarre rocks inbetween us. The entire area was covered by a glacier and these amazing rocks and sinkholes and caves were left behind.

But the best part was finding the home of the fairies! Notice the proof in this picture. This structure was a huge inspiration for the kids - we spent at least an hour making the creation below.

It comes complete with windows, roof, mossy front lawn and (made by Daddy) the accompanying dance tower for fairy parties. I'm sure the local fae can hardly wait to come in. We met a great older gentleman who has been working in this forest for the past 40 years - he showed us lots of 'animals' hidden in the rocks and told us how people planted non native trees (firs) and they are taking over and killing some of the native plants - sad. This rock formation is called Romeo and Juliet - it is two spans of rock over a sinkhole - much of the rock formations here are reminiscent of the sandstone arches out west in Utah - but slimy and covered in moss and in France and in a deep wood, and it's cold and... oh, nevermind.

The hikes in this book are rated for kids and parents and grandparents- I guess French hikers are in better shape than those in the US - look left to get an idea of how the trail was for us. Lumpy, bumpy, full of holes and just plain fun - but grandparents - I don't think so! We were really looking forward to the caves and got to see 2 great ones - the

first was really hard to get down into as it was VERY steep and slippery
I don't remember the name but it seems that it has been around since
prehistoric times (hence the caveman insignia, I guess) and used to be
a home for ancients - it wasn't that large but the kids had fun with their
flashlights anyway - here is André at the
bottom of the cave. We walked on to find
another cave - here we are deep within (OK
it was only like 25 feet long) but still fun
The hike was supposed to be a figure 8 - the

second part had more caves and stuff like that - but as we had already hit the 4 hour mark (about halfway through) we decided we'd better head for the next stop in our trip - les Salin-Les-Bains.

We did get to enter the salt mine - it was pretty cool but frustrating b/c there were like 85 (not exaggerating) people on the tour with us and they had run all out of English language guides - also the lion's share of the tour consisted of a question and answer session held entirely in French (how annoying is that?)- the kids were bored out of their minds but behaved admirably as usual. (except for when stuck in the car) They apparantly have subterranean salt water that they pumped up, boiled and then broke up and sold the salt - at one point they needed 6000 horses to haul all the wood they needed to keep the furnaces running. The company only went out of business in the 1960's. We then headed for a store to buy some famous salins-les-bains pottery - it was beautiful but very costly and we didn't find anything we truly loved enough to justify the cost.

Then we headed up the mountain to see Fort St. André. This view is very typical for France - a little city buried in a valley surrounded by green fields - there is André in front of Fort St. André (the kids loved that it had the same name as daddy!)- you can't go in but you can rent the entire thing as your own personal hotel for a week or two if you wish - how cool is that? We headed for home, again having to drive through the trackless dark - but making it back for some leftover pumpkin soup...
Whew! Glad this blog is finally over - I am looking foward to a return to whining about my normal life without a car!

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