South France (again) & Bye to Vi

We spent a few hours on the net in Tossa coordinating the remainder of ours and Grandma Vi’s individual European stays. With a flight booked from the South of France to London, we somehow convinced her to leave us a couple of days early and experience London & Paris on her own. We certainly suffered some flak for this (Auntie Florence & Cousin Bev!) but in the end we all (even Grandma Vi if asked independently) felt it was pretty worthwhile. Check out her post from the link below.

We leisurely toured around a bit waiting to meet up with some of Claudette’s family in a couple of days. We stayed one night in Montpellier, and the toilette in our room was the highest one up I’d ever sat on. It reminded me of the outhouse at Watch Lake where my short little Dad had to place some 2×6’s at the base on the floor for his feet to rest on. His brothers and friends all teased him about his poor wittle legs, but I was secretly appreciative of having something for the legs of my mere 5’10” frame to rest on. It just helps in allowing one to clench the “other” muscles just the right way… Nonetheless I was lamenting the lack of any handy 2×6’s here in the hotel washroom.

Having all missed lunch but waiting for another few hours for restaurants to open I was feeling rather peckish and went for a walk. I stopped and asked the desk clerk about ordering some bread or cheese or something. Looking down his long nose not a little disdainfully, I was casually informed that the dining room would not be serving (anything!) until 8:00 PM. We were in the center of a collection of big box stores and I expected to find some sort of little snack bar nearby. When I finally found someone who spoke a bit of English and asked, I was politely informed that the only place within 15 minutes walking distance was a Rotten Ronnie’s. Bummer… I trudged back to our hotel, but stopped in to another more basic and decidedly shabbier motel next to ours. They didn’t even have a restaurant here, but they had vending machine! Even better, they had mini, microwavable meals inside one machine and I found myself the proud new owner of a bag of Uncle Ben’s rice. After cooking it there I walked back to our hotel and the sophisticated sneer of the desk clerk as he knew exactly where I had gone for that cooked bag of rice. The funny thing about this generally scrumptious bag of rice was that it had beef looking kind of bits in it. When I finally gathered enough courage to tryu a few I was taken back over 25 years to a time of camping BEFORE dried meats were acceptable in the budget at St. John’s. Yes, for those “older” SJSA friends reading, it was beef Prognets! (I’m sure of it!) The other funny thing about SJSA training is that I have no qualms about taking packaged or wrapped cheese and keeping it for a few hours (or hell! even a day or two) to eat later when it’s warm and all mushy. Actually, I almost prefer it that way! (certainly cheddar at least).

I should also mention here that upon arrival at a new hotel the kids (mostly Luke of course) get a bunch of brochures from the reception area for all the local attractions. They’ve slowly learned no not to bother with some types, especially ones similar to something we had done previously in another country. The best example of this that I can think of is Aquariums. We had made sure to go to the Sydney Aquarium back in September when we passed through Australia. No there’s many an aquarium in all sizes of cities that we’ve seen since then, but surely none could possibly compare to Sydney’s and so we don’t even consider it. Zoo’s are another one that Luke still brings up sometimes. While we all like the animals, we’re hardly going to pay to see a couple of lazy zebras or giraffes in a tiny pen after gliding beside them across the vast Serengetti!

Luke did find a semi-exception though near Tulon. It was a climbing / zipline / ropework place. The price was right and since Claudette and Luke had missed out previously in Costa Rica, we decided to try it out. The appeal to assuage any fears Claudette’s fears was that they readily advertised a variety of courses for all skill levels. The fee was remarkably reasonable as well; only 23 euro’s for three hours of “play”. We were all gung-ho and excited; and promptly booked a reservation for tomorrow late morning. Even though it was a Saturday, it was still early enough in the season that they could fit us in. After equipping us all with harnesses & helmets off we went to the intro lecture and brief training course. Fortunately they had English instruction books with big, well labeled pictures for the kids and I while Claudette listened to the demonstration En Francais.

The training course consisted of a quick sideways shuffle walk around an outcropping about one meter off the ground with three seperate lateral safety long bars that we had to attach and detach our two safety caribiners to and from. Then, (while staying connected to the safety cables) we hooked up to our first zip line and let ‘er go! I chose to take the camera with me which was cool… UNTIL I hit the end of the zipline and forgot to grab on to the end ropes quick enough. Instead of climbing up the receiving netting a little ways and unhooking myself, I gently rolled backwards to the middle of the cable. Stranded like an imbecile, I had to ride out the waves of laughter from my family (mostly the kids!) and wait for the guide to grab my feet and push me back up to the netting for a second try. SCORE! Luckily, (since I was paying VERY attention at this point) I managed to snake my hand around the grab line this time.

We continued on after that to the beginner course (one step above novice where the others in our training session went) for another three quarters of an hour. Luke was right into it this time and was severely kicking himself for skipping out on the ziplines way back in Costa Rica. This was still a little more exciting since it combined ziplines with climbing and obstacle rope bridges. After that we were ready to tackle the next stage. An upper intermediate (violet color signs) typically takes about two hours and so we embarked on that. This was certainly a little more challenging and gave our fingers and arms much more of a workout while still tied in to all the appropriate safety lines. I slowed us down taking a bunch of video and numerous still pictures all through the route as well. Those precarious pics are posted in the 2008 gallery now. Once done that one our official three hours of time was 20 minutes overdue, and no one wanted to destroy their hands (and arm and leg muscles) any more so we had an ice cream and called it a day. The location was up in some foothills about forty minutes from most of the larger cities in a few different directions. I absolutely recommend that anyone coming to France anywhere South of Paris make an effort to try one of these places out. It is fantastic fun, nicely challenging and great exercise in the outdoors for a few hours. The one we went to was called Eden Adventure. Check out their website at:

Lastly before leaving the coastal area we popped across the bay to visit the Chateau De If. This old fort and later a prison gained international fame only because it was the location used in the fictional story, The Count Of Monte Christo. It was well restored and the visit gave a good realistic peak into the former French penal system. While it was an incredible tour, we all felt that the Museum seemed to emphasize their tie-in with Alexandre Dumas’ book. There was one cool feature where they spliced together 5 different versions of the movie (there are over 100 movies inspired by the book) to run continuously as a full movie. The cells were also dark & dingy, or with a fireplace and windows; depending upon how much money your family had, and your “station” in life. Once we climbed to the top it was easy to recognize the huge strategic advantage of this little island fort for protecting Marseilles, (apparently Frances second largest city). Viv suggested we check the place out, and it was well worth the visit. (But I certainly wouldn’t want to live there!)

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