First we got on the bus going the wrong way - because André said he needed to do something... Turns out it was to show me a terrific early birthday suprise - about 4 stops away from our house is the local equestrian school - he has gotten me an introductory course (12 lessons) as a gift. I haven't ridden regularly since I was a teenager but I LOVE horses and all things riding (I hope, one day, when my ship comes in, to own part of a horse) and this will be great! I am a bit worried about the language barrier - hope I can adequately understand the instructions the teacher will give out!
So we leave and head over to the train station - there is a TER train (those are the ones we can use gratuit) leaving in about 15 minutes. We can go as far as Mamirolle for free. Well, we've never heard of Mamirolle (or Saune, or Morre - the other two free stations) but hey, there must be something there, right??? We could go to Dole... but that trian won't leave for another hour. So we sieze the moment. The kids are just thrilled to be on a train at all - it is only one car long and we get seats right near the conductors in the front.
So, which of the three stops should we hit? The wonders of technology never cease to amaze me - we get on the train and, as the kids are completely immersed in traininess (that word's for you Mel--is it spelled right?), use the time to start surfing the web via the laptop and see what's to do in the 3 possible stops. It seems that the ONLY one that even mentions things to visit is the first stop, Morre. (It has a church, some sort of famous persons house and a waterfall called the hellmouth - appealing, right?). Great - except we would get there in 5 minutes. That would cause major dissappointment to the kids, who are basically just all about the train ride. They are so happy - just looking out the window - you can see Zander and Griffin here - with beautiful Besancon in the background - we can't just drag them off in 5 minutes!
So, Mamirolle it is - about 20 minutes on the train. We get dropped off at 10:30am and the train is not to return until 1:30pm (abbreviated Saturday schedule). Well, I have to say, I can't imagine why it is free to go to Mamirolle. Within a one minute walk from the station we arrived at this lovely playground which included a seesaw! We then walked through the town, passing an early pioneer of one of the most important modern institutions of our time - the retirement home. We also passed a fountain and World War I and II war memorials. Callie found this lovely natural treasure.... near the place where we had to change Griffin since he, of course, decided to pee in his pants. There was a sign for a cheese museum, which got us really excited, but after walking to the edge of town and seeing nothing but miles of fields ahead, we figured it had to be in the next town over. We did find a lovely old church - which was locked. I can't believe it - God is supposed to keep the doors open, right? Have I mentioned yet it is January and about 35 degrees outside? All right, I admit it, there is a reason that it is free to go to Mamirolle. There is nothing in Mamirolle. (sorry Mamirolleans....) The kids were pretty good sports, considering we were all freezing! Griffin said, "C'est froid" and "My entire body is freezing!" We stopped at a bench near an unmarked cross and ate our sandwiches and sipped hot cocoa. We then went back towards the train station and saw a cat on a hot tin roof. They could put that in tourist brochures... It is the whitish dot in the corner where the gutter is. We spent the last 45 minutes in the (unheated) train shelter writing notes to friends who have recently been kind enough to send us packages. Zander wrote the entire note in cursive - and it is even legible! Daddy, of course, did not wear his winter coat, and was really suffering....but eventually the train came and we made it back home again - and we all slept well.