Friday, August 5, 2011


Good idea: take a day off, & take a train somewhere new.
Bad idea: 7 am train. I don't get up that early for work!
Good idea: 9 am trains. Hey, France, trains at nine are early enough for relaxing vacationers, and still early enough to get you somewhere with time to explore before lunch. So schedule some, please.

Today's random destination (within, of course, the limited selection of "trains leaving early and getting there not too late, with a train home again in time for bridge in the evening, going someplace I haven't been before") is Bellenaves. The season is late for sunflowers. In most fields they're starting to weigh down their stalks and look down at their feet, not the sun, but my train rounds a few bends where bright yellow fields are still blooming not very far away. Will have to find a trail that goes to one!
Bellenaves: the road into town from the station.
 The station is a bit out of town; in fact, it's in the next village over. Which way to go first...

You are now leaving Bellenaves.
Sunflowers must be this way, somewhere.

 There is a lot of nice countryside in this direction, but the gorgeous sunflower fields remain stubbornly on the other side of a gorge with no easy way across, and the road keeps turning the wrong way and not taking me around a bend to golden yellow glory.
So I turn around to look for a better road.

Apples are ready early this year. I swear this one made me think this was a plastic-apple tree!
No retouching has been done!

 On the way back I pass a neat little dovecote in an empty field.
Treasures in Bellenaves: a 12th century Roman church. Roman, they say. You can tell it's French by the chicken on top.
There's a panel out front detailing the sights of this church, from the façade featuring Jesus washing the feet of the apostles to the special stained glass portrait of Mary inside. I gather that the interior is still mostly decorated head to toe, but it's closed so I don't get to see it. Stained glass from the outside is just boring.

The second treasure in Bellenaves I saw from the train on my trip to Montluçon this spring. A nice castle in town, turrets and all. The village website promises it's open for visits in July and August (except Mondays). Today is Tuesday, but no luck: closed for repairs. Alas, there's no good view of it from outside the tall gates and walls.
So fine. A tour of the countryside is in order. The clock on the church says it's 10:35, so I've got two and a half hours.
There's a nice map posted in town, with all the roads, streams, sites, and hiking/biking/riding trails in the area. I take a quick sketch of the route I've decided will take me past the bright flower fields, with a couple of landmarks, and take off.
After 10 minutes or so, consulting my little sketch I wish I had added a few more roads. And then it hits me - I have an all-new camera with a screen that works! Just take a picture of the map.
Too late now.
 I did find some sunflowers. And I had some really great long shots of the fields, and one with a silly scarecrow in the middle and all, and then I played with the rapid-fire function shooting a pair of hawks in the air, but 87 of those photos have mysteriously disappeared in an accidental deletion.

Though I did get a shot of the sketch of the map!

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