Well, we’re here, and just finishing day two of our holidays. It was a bit of a mad scramble at the start, as our apartment had to be ready for Nicole’s visit before we left, and so our ‘out of the house first thing Saturday morning’ turned into 11 am… and a frantic morning at that!! (Before and After terrace photos will be posted later, to show daddy’s handiwork!!)
First stop on the Ferguson Family Holiday? The Cap3000 shopping mall near Nice Airport, as Starbucks had just had it’s grand opening of the first ever shop in the south of France, and mum was so looking forward to going!! Oh, Tall Vanilla Latte. Deb missed you.
After we filled up on Latte and Carrot Cake, we headed for the highway! We were hoping that Liam would sleep in the car, but no…. that was not to be!
Our destination for our week’s holiday was the Cevennes, a mountain range in south-central France, which is very rural and off the tourist beaten path, about 4 or 5 hours drive from home. Once we hit Cevennes, but were still a good half hour or so from our ‘holiday house’, we stopped an an incredible ‘Tartinerie’ (snack shop & boutique) that sold artisinal goods from the region. We had a light lunch of local meats, cheeses and, and then stocked up on some more locally made sausages, cheese, jam, honey, cookies, wine, beer, and…. did we forget something? I doubt it… we bought a lot! We also stopped at a roadside local market and bought fresh fruits and veggies and eggs… Just love shopping for locally grown produce!
Our Gite (holiday apartment) is one of a few apartments in an old converted farm nestled in the middle of a chestnut forest, up on the mountain top. We are so far in the middle of nowhere that we have no mobile phone service!! (but we WISH we had known about that before booking!)
The house is on 14 hectares of land, with 5 resident donkeys (one only 3 days old!), 4 goats, a huge, dozey looking sheep, and a menagerie of cats, dogs, and an energetic puppy that took a liking to Liam as soon as we got out of the car! During the day you can hear the chirping of the cicadas and the singing of the birds, and at night we’ve been told that if you listen carefully you may hear the sounds of the wild boar coming right up to the house to eat the cherries that have fallen from the trees. No…. we won’t be walking around at nighttime!
We arrived on Saturday evening, and the day was still warm, and although the sun was behind us, the mountains across the valley were still bathed in light. We’d promised Liam a swim in the big pool once we got to the holiday house, and so we did! What a great way to cool off and unwind from the long drive!
Today, Sunday, was wet, wet, wet. Daddy was hoping for rain to clean the car, and he got it in spades! Not a problem though, we had a relaxed morning hanging out in the apartment, and then headed out for the day to the ‘Grotte des Demoiselles’, also known as the ‘Fairies Cave’. The cave is about an hour (plus) drive from our Gite through the mountains.
It was pouring rain when we got to the cave, and Liam had FINALLY fallen asleep in the car, so we decided to turn around and drive a bit further and find a town for a bite of lunch. It gave Liam an extra half hour of naptime, and we were all pretty hungry anyway! The weather was still dreary, but we found a little restaurant right alongside a river, and Liam had his first ever ‘kids menu’. Getting too big to just eat of of mumma and daddy’s plate now!
With full stomachs and a very content little dude, we headed back to the entrance of the cave.
To access the cave there is a Funicular Train to take you up to the main chambers, which Liam LOVED, and the tour of the cave took about an hour. Liam had to be carried up and down most of the stairs as they were quite steep, narrow and wet, but we let him do it on his own where it was possible. He was most definitely ‘that kid’ on the tour… you know, the one who talks, very loudly, about silly nonsense (i.e. farts), and generally had a loud, ruckusy time! Probably annoyed a few of the others in the group, but…. oh well, he had fun! At one point he was trying to climb up on a big rock, shouting ‘It’s a chocolate iced log! It’s a chocolate iced log’, while the tour guide was trying to educate us all on the history of the cave.
I can’t say we learned much as we were constantly trailing Liam and trying to teach him to use his ‘inside voice’, but I can tell you (I think) that they estimate the cave to be about 170 million years old. It takes about 25 years for a stalactite to grow about 1 cm. There were bones of a pre-historic cave bear found in the cave near the original sinkhole entrance. Local legend says that a shepherd entered the cave through the sinkhole looking for his stray sheep and ended up falling through to the bottom of the ‘Cathdral’ room, 60 meters down, and the last thing he remembered before passing out was being surrounded by dancing young women. And when he woke up, he was back on the surface, reunited with his sheep. Thus the name ‘Cave of the Damsels’ or ‘Fairies Cave’.
Back at the house, the weather has just started to break, and tomorrow looks to be a lovely day. Daddy has been watching the European Cup Final game, and mummy drifted off for a bit of a nap while putting Liam to bed. This is what holidays are made of!
Tomorrow’s adventure? We’re thinking that the steam train to the bamboo forest! But we’ll see, as it’s just starting pouring rain again!!
Mumma and her tall vanilla latte, Liam and his carrot cake. Welcome to Nice, Starbucks!!
Funsies in the pool before bed.
Our first night feast on local produce! These sausages were the BEST.
A shattered little boy and the end of a long day!
The ivy-framed view from our salon window.
Liam and mumma listening to the countryside wake up on a cool morning. Hee-Haw! Hee Haw!
Liam trying to stick his feet out into the rain during a great, sudden thunderstorm!
The river where we ate our lunch.
Beer for daddy, and pear juice for the dude!
Waiting for the Funicular!!
And up, up, up we go into the belly of the mountain!
Descending into the cavern... wet and slippery stairs!
Liam loves the tunnels! And looking for the Gruffalo cave...
Peek a boo mumma!
Fun with mumma at the bottom of the cavern.
Grotte des Demoiselles, Cathedral Hall. You can see the rails of the stairs going up and down if you look closely.
Liam plays the 'Tam Tam'.... a natural rock 'drum' in a chamber in the bottom of the cavern where the sound resonates all the way up to the top.
The driver lets Liam start the Funicular for our return trip back to the surface.