Monday, March 23, 2009

Hike around Tarare

In the morning, breakfast is buffet. The croissants are so greasy as to be inedible, but the bread is ok and there are little packets of Nutella. The coffee is (just) drinkable and unlimited, and the milk hot.
I would rather have found a tea-room (a bakery with chairs and tables), but it’s rather a hike back to town. I want my coffee before being called on to walk even a mile. And who knows if there is a nice tea room in Tarare. Bakeries there are - I saw them on my speed-tour of town last night - but I could end up having nasty coffee in a bar. Better not to chance it.
Strolling into Tarare at just after nine, I hit the tourism office to see what’s on for hiking. There are notices of organized hikes most every Sunday, but I’ll be home by then. Ah, here’s a little brochure describing three loop trails, 10 to 16 km, with a map. That’s just the ticket.
The weekly market is just starting to set up in the pedestrian district. The usual things, mostly plastic-based clothing and stuff. Past nine is kind of late to be just setting up, I think, but the stands don’t intice me to linger and shop.
Farther down, the old covered marketplace, where the food vendors are, is in full swing. Looks good. Almost makes me wish I needed some food. I have two oranges already, and that will do.
Up the hillside to the south, I take a look around the town’s second big church (the first I already passed - not worth a stop). This one is odd. Part of it is made of white stone in a complex gothic style, part is plastered over in a much simpler style and colored a warm orange-ochre, like you would see in the South. The detail that brings these disparate architectural schools together is the choice of periwinkle blue for all the doors and windowsills. Yep. Pale blue-purple doors. All the way around.
And that’s pretty much it for the town, aside from the residential streets.
My little map has a loop trail starting from right here at the church parking lot. 13 or 14.5 km, depending on which return you pick. (yes, it’s a one-way loop because the directions are written that way; I wouldn’t do one of these backwards unless I’d seen it before.) Hmm. I might get peckish for more than oranges. There’s a convenient bakery, so I take a pair of cookies along. It was that or a huge loaf of bread.
Now that I’m writing this up, I regret cleaning out my pockets and discarding the folded and crumpled map. I can’t remember a single one of the obscure names on it!
Up the road, past the cemetery, and you’re out in the countryside. At an impressive farmhouse with photogenic cows, I lose the faded trail marks and take a wrong turn, ending up in someone’s yard. You never know what’s a through way and what’s somebody’s dead end. I am pleased that the right trail is the dirt track skirting the cows’ field, and I’m off the pavement at last.
It’s wonderful to be out and about. The sun is out like summer, but in the least shade I’m glad I’m wearing both the sweater I packed and yesterday’s t-shirt under my jacket. Puddles and mud in the road are still frozen, even in the sun.
The countryside is still between seasons. The snow is gone and the fields are green with grass or brown from plowing; the trees have neither leaves nor flowers. It makes for a dull vista, even beneath the bright sky.
The hamlet where the trail makes a hairpin turn to lead back to Tarare has - what? - an open hotel. With restaurant.
Less than a tenth the size of Tarare, and they’ve got lodging right in plain sight. Yes, and there’s also a regionally famous catholic site here, Our Lady of the Rock, ex-monastery and current pilgrimage destination and retreat. Of course there’s a hotel.
The trail naturally takes a tour through the site, with its monument and outdoor stations of the cross, chapels, and various other buildings.
The monument makes it clear what you get for your prayers. Seven years and seven times forty days for the faithful who follow the annual procession to the statue. Three hundred days for reciting in front of the statue the following prayers: Holy Virgin Mary pray for us, adding three Ave Marias. By order of Pope Pius the 9th, February 15, 1870. Among the notices on the chapel door is one that states that having a mass said has gone up from 15 to 16 euros. Praying is business. Yet another notice, this on the side of the chapel:
A petanque (lawn bowling) field has been set up next to the conference room.
It is thus forbidden to play petanque on the esplanade and in the alley.
Thank you for respecting this rule.

Nearing town again, I realize I’ve worn bad shoes. These look like walking shoes, but they have very little arch support, and I know I shouldn’t wear them to walk around all day. I just wasn’t thinking of that when I dressed for work Friday morning.
So my feet are telling me that an after-lunch hike round one of the other loops is out.
For a late lunch I go back to the taco place, just because it sounded so intriguing. Burritos, actually. You can have meat and/or vegetables. That’s ground beef, chicken or merguez sausage, while the veg is a mix sautéed peppers, tomatos and onions. They have cheese sauce, which I taste. It’s real cheese with a cream base, melted and lumpy and not really food. And then a vast variety of sauces to personalize your ‘taco’. Mustard, ketchup, mayo, barbeque, curry, thai chili, harissa, tunisian, moroccan, fish (??), and half a dozen others. Nothing terribly mexican in the whole list. And of course, that standard of North African sandwiches, the french fries are inside the burrito.
Ummm. I’ll take beef with Thai chili sauce, and a diet coke. No cheese sauce please!
It isn’t so bad, though I never will get used to sauce-soaked fries inside my burrito. What’s really great about the place is the free internet access, and I’m able to check my email and write the first blog post.
The owner is very chatty in this afternoon lull between lunch and snack time. He had a guy from San Francisco in a couple of weeks ago, who would really like to export this idea to California.
Perhaps they could make a go of it. There’s always room for more fast food, though I think the idea of web access is rather less original than he believes.
One more turn around town before settling down for a beer and writing session, and it’s time to hang out at the station waiting for the train. There’s one at 3:48, instead of the 5pm I’d originally targeted. What they don’t make obvious is that the early train only goes to Roanne; then there’s an hour and 12 minutes to wait for the connection to Clermont. Which is the very train that passes through here at 5 - you just shift some of the wait to another station.
That's it for this time. Next trip: The Return to Marrakech!

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