Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Une Aventure Grande a une Petite Grotte

On Sunday, we had our first outdoor adventure with the Brun family. Our planned destination was a tiny cave (une grotte) up on a hillside – not the tourist sort of cave, at all! Sounds cool, doesn’t it?

Eight Weeks Earlier . . .

Josey discovered this cave by accident one day back in August. We were out exploring fire roads (you know how Dado is – if it looks like we shouldn’t be there, he’ll explore it!) beyond the village of Gigean with Reed. After 30 minutes of bumping around on dirt roads, Dado turned around to make our way back to Gigean. As he was turning around, Josey looked back and said, “Look! Is that a cave?”

Sure enough, it was! It was too late that day to take an unplanned adventure into a cave. After all, we didn’t have flashlights, and we hadn’t told anyone we were going spelunking. Isn’t that the first vital step? To let someone know that you are going into a cave – so they know where to look for you in case you don’t come back home?!

Thus, the spelunking adventure had to wait for another day.

Our primary destination that day was an amazing old abbey on the hills above Gigean. This abbey was the first “ruin” we saw upon our arrival in Bouzigues. As you drive into Bouzigues from Montpellier, the abbey looks down at you from the left side of the auto route. Since it was the first “ruin” we saw, I really wanted to see it up close.

It is the Abbaye St. Felix de Montceau. Look at how gorgeous it is!

Fast Forward to October 19, 2008

The Bruns met us at our house Sunday morning, ready for une grande aventure. It was great! They showed up wearing Gap sweatshirts, looking entirely American.

Off we went to start our adventure with a picnic lunch at the abbaye. This was funny, as well. Sandra packed tuna and ham/cheese sandwiches, along with hot dogs for the kids (still warm from home, I must add!). We packed fresh bread from the boulangerie, French cheeses, chicken, and apples. Although we had reversed roles (they brought the “American” lunch, while we brought the “French” lunch), they did bring wine.

Thus well fortified with delicious “power food”, we set off for la grotte. We only made one wrong turn on the fire roads, so we had 30 minutes of anticipation in the Kangoo while journeying to the cave. Bouncing along the fire roads with 8 people in the car was a great start to the adventure!

When we pulled up, we were all so excited! Our local fitness-buff friend, Jean-Christopher, had told Mike that the cave was safe, and it was about 500 meters long. That was going to feel like a very, very long way in the dark. However, we had about 6 working flashlights between us. We were set!

We hiked the super short distance to the cave, pulled ourselves up to the entrance, and slowly started in. The pathway was very, very narrow, so we were in single-file. The roof is also pretty low, so the adults were hunched over. The kids had sandwiched themselves between the grown-ups, feeling well protected in case bats should fly out over our heads.

About two short turns into the cave, I was worried that the adults were going to have to go on all fours. The roof was getting lower!

Alas . . . that’s all there was! The cave was blocked . . . a mere 100 or so feet from the entrance! Oh man! Could it be true? After all, Jean-Christopher had said it was a 500-meter cave!

Back we trekked. Okay . . . it wasn’t much of a trek, but I have to get some mileage out of this adventure. Back to the light!

Our grande aventure had lasted about 5 minutes, and that included the walk from the Kangoo to the cave mouth.

Well, of course we figured we must have the wrong cave. After all, Jean-Christopher couldn’t be wrong! Right?!

We wandered along trails and paths, hoping to find another cave entrance nearby. The trails and paths petered into bushes and brambles, and we continued to try and forge our way through the prickly French foliage in our earnest attempts. He he he.

The best part about this leg of the race (we’ve been watching the Amazing Race, downloaded of course), was Noah! Sandra told him that we were on an adventure like Indiana Jones. He was the only child who didn’t whine and complain about the prickly plants tearing at their flesh (okay, that’s an embellishment, too – we were all unscathed). Instead, he was leaping and bounding fearlessly everywhere we led, muttering French about Indiana Jones all the while. He was great!

We were ill-prepared for the journey through the brush, so we gave up after 30 minutes or so. We let the kids play around in la petite grotte for a while longer, determined to make the most of the adventure. They loved it! It is small and harmless, so they all got to wander in and out as the wished while we adults wandered around the hillside.

Dado, Max, and I took a trail to the other hillside, just for fun. It was cool!

When we finally drove back to the abbaye, the kids were starving again. We pulled the coolers back out and enjoyed an encore of the picnic. There is a picnic area at the abbaye, and it was quite crowded. This is a popular area for hiking, biking, and horse riding.

Back at the picnic area, there were about 15 horses tied up while the riders wandered through the grounds of the abbaye.

Josey decided that she wanted to ride a horse. Figures, doesn’t it? So she asked Sandra to teach her how to ask in French: May I please ride your horse. I had told her that the answer would probably be no, but Josey said, “Well, that’s the worst she can say. I’m going to at least try.” Good girl! Sandra told her to start with, “Je suis Americaine.” Sandra thought that if Josey started with “I’m an American”, the woman guarding the horses might say yes.

Bien sur, the answer was no. Josey then tried, “Can I sit on your horse?” Stubborn or determined? You be the judge. The answer was still no.

Next, Josey wanted to ask if she could feed the horse a piece of apple. I figured the third time might be the charm. Before Josey could ask, the other horse riders walked into the picnic area. Sandra asked two people in chaps if Josey could feed the horses some apple. Voila! They were the right people to ask, as they were in charge of the horse outing!

The nice man led all 4 kids over to the horses and helped the kids feed them apples. It was so funny – Josey almost chickened out on feeding the horse the apple. After all that build up!

As the riders were riding the horses out of the picnic area, the man wheeled his horse around (literally), and walked over to our picnic table! He let the kids pet the horse while he talked to us. The horse’s name is Texas. Too funny! He was very kind, and the kids were thrilled. He even left the picnic area at a run, which was also thrilling.

A really cool, unexpected end to an interesting day.

Thanks Sandra, Jean-Louis, Victoria, and Noah, for being such great sports! We certainly had fun, even if la grotte est tres petite. Here’s to our next adventure with the BrunsLake Salagou.

Below is the gorgeous view of Bouzigues from the abbaye.

Love to all!

No comments: