Friday, March 19, 2010


Ah. If you're here for the Friday Shootout post, it's farther down. In the meantime, this is my latest random destination, which I saw on Sunday and am only now getting around to posting.
I'm off to the little town of Neussargues, about an hour and a half south of Clermont, to explore for a day. Thankfully, this was not my train. I had a nice, new, comfy one. It's hard to believe what's still on the rails, though!
Walking out of the station and onto one of the main streets, I saw things did not bode well for lunch. Happily, I've been to small-town France before, and on Sunday, and thus had fair warning that nothing to eat would be available. Arriving just at noon, it was a near thing to get to the bakery before it closed, but I had a nice ham&cheese baguette with me.
Neussargues is more a collection of three or four loosely connected villages serving the surrounding farmland. There is an umbrella place. It seemed to be just a largish house out of which they sold umbrellas. No idea if they made them there - all was shut up tight for the Lord's day.
This is the "Chateau". Really a very large house. There's another one down the street a ways.
Some of the other buildings weren't so nicely kept up.
Off for a hike around the countryside! I had planned to come with my friend Mev, the new post-doc at the lab, but she had to cancel. I suspect she's much more of a city-girl, and won't miss ten miles among the pastures and woods. Especially since the ground is quite muddy.
Moss and lichen seem to grow all the way around the tree trunks and fenceposts - utterly useless for finding 'north'!
Still working on that ultimate tree-on-the-horizon shot.If I ever quit the day job for photography, I'd be a portraitist for trees. OK, that's not a horizon, but I liked the layout of the old wall of rocks with the hazels in the middle. Mm, no, those aren't hazel. I don't know. I'm no botanist. Trees. Yes, some small bushy-type trees.
Many of the pastures seemed to be seriously infested with moles, or something. The cows weren't out yet. They were all close in around the farmhouses.
I failed to write down the name of the village two miles west of Neussargues. It's on the St Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage route (man, that route goes everywhere!), and this chapel is looks over the tomb of a particular pilgrim. I would have loved to go in, but it was locked tight. The tiny graveyard was chock full of classical french graves (a full-sized slab of stone covering the whole grave, plus headstone or ironwork cross), some of which had sunk into such ruin they were just a shadowy outline.
To get to the chapel, you have to walk along the wall of a farm that has several loud and jumpy dogs. I bet when the St Jacques season is in full swing, and there are dozens of passersby every day, the inhabitants, including everybody just across the street, get pretty tired of it.
In the far distance, the ruined castle of Mardogne overlooks the confluence of three valleys. Not much is left of this massive 13th century structure, but a trail does go there, and maybe this summer I'll come back for a longer hike.
Back in town, the other castle sits privately behind its walls. They have plastic chairs and laundry drying in the yard just like everyone else.
The little church was quite pleasing. I usually take a peek, just to see. Some of these tiny old churches are quite dank and horrible inside, and others are dry and nice. They all echo, and they're all cold, but whether that means chilly or cool is a matter of context.
This one had wonderful windows.
By this time I was really thirsty for a beer (somehow beer is better than water after a full day of walking on winter-soft feet), but absolutely nothing was open. One step too far and you're out of town.
Another farm in town. Really, the house is in the village (it's a one-street place), and once you get past the outbuildings the backyard just goes forever. This one cow was all on its own, eschewing the company of its many sisters all bunched together by the feed trough.
The chickens all came running. They seemed to expect something of me, but finally got bored and went back to pecking the ground.
Every town has a park, and Neussargues is so spread out it has at least three. This one was empty except for the lone pink rabbit on a bench under a tree. The popular one down the hill was full of families playing soccer and hanging around in the first warm weekend of the year.

And back to the station. It's both small and old-fashioned, so trains are indicated on panels they change when necessary. Shows you how often the schedule changes! It might have been fun to mess with the signs, but, well, there is a station-guy around somewhere, and the fine must be pretty stiff, so....
maybe next time. And next time I'll go someplace that at least has a vending machine at the station to get a Coke or a bottle of water. Never mind. I had enough time left to walk back to one of the larger streams and take a drink there. No telling if I've poisoned myself. Didn't seem to do any harm.


steven said...

nanu thanks for this generously proportioned post and all acquired with a minimum of food and drink apparently! poor you! i would love to see inside the old train you didn't get to take. i've got romantic memories - romanticized memories that is - of old trains from my childhood. the tree shots are lovely - i have searched fro that tree on a hillside shot for years and i've no doubt you'll get there first. steven

Niamh B said...

regarding the mole infestation, it might just be a terrior - my dog has our garden looking close enough to that at the moment!

Tabor said...

Lovely country to walk in and interesting to see there is still snow to melt. I would not have gotten that pink rabbit had you not mentioned it. Is he a lost Easter Bunny, perhaps?

NanU said...

hi steven; i've got a whole album of tree shots, but the perfect one is always the next one.

If that's terrior-work, Niamh, there must be a huge pack of dogs around - there are acres like this, one pasture after the next!

Tabor, it's !Maurice! My travelling companion and fellow blogger.

Rebecca said...

Oh those buildings are all so cool! Thanks for the tour.

Argent said...

I enjoyed this hike with you. The stained-glass window shots were real winners for me. I'm always taking pictures of trees too. trees or cats - both highly snapable.

Rachel Fox said...

Trees are the lords of our world!

Great walk.