Thursday, March 20, 2014

Around Town ~ Rambouillet

The Sunday dawned bright and, um, what's all this stuff hanging in the air?

Paris was pollution filled to the point we thought we'd awoken in coal-fueled air-clogged hard-choked industrial China.  We'd been under an inversion layer that unseasonably warmed three quarters of France and held industrial and automobile pollutants close to the ground.  We needed to get out of the city to see if the air was better somewhere "out there."

Where to go?

Consulting our An Hour From Paris by Annabel Simms we settled on Ramouillet.  Having never visited the western edge of l'isle de France, we thought we'd pack a lunch, take a nice train ride out of town, and wander the reportedly beautiful jardins of the chateau.

Rambouillet is the summer residence of the President and, with a little luck, perhaps we could spy the two-wheeled conveyance of l'amour?  Would there be any markings on it to announce it's importance as recorded in the annals of popular pulp tongue-waggering check-out stand news?  Would it be shined, polished, and otherwise Presidentially presentable?

Much has been made in the Anglo-Saxon news about the President's liason with a certain actress that was introduced to F. Holland by his first long term partner and former candidate for President of the Republic, Mme S. Royal.  The fact he was taken by motorbike to amorous rendezvous has many who care about such things chuckling.  Thinking for a moment, perhaps we too could have some fun.   Our adventure destination was set.

When China-sized pollution hits France, the authorities do something.  They encourage people to leave les voitures at home by allowing only even or odd numbered license plated cars into the capital on alternating days.  And... the metro, the bus system, and it turns out the RER/Translien trains within l'isle de France are completely free.

Our trip to Ramouillet was entirely gratuit.  We didn't realize this until we went to buy tickets of the Translien and saw people casually walk through the turnstiles without paying un sou.

Mme Simms warns that it's important to check the trains to the President's summer residence as there are fast trains and there are slow trains.  In our excitement that our transportation would be free, we failed to realize we just boarded an omnibus.

A debarkation somewhere beyond Versaille, an announcement to please reboard, and an Hour And A Half!!! later, we arrived in a rather frazzled state at the gare de Rambouillet.  Mme Simms tried to warn us.  Really.  She did.

The beautiful walk through town took us to our intended destination.  Finding a chateau park bench to sit on we hauled out our lunch and noted that the skies were comparatively clean and clear.  The sun shown brightly.  As she stripped to a T-top and pointed here face into the sun Jude said that it felt good to be out in nature again.

M. Holland's summer residence overlooks a large wooded island canal system.  Water birds of all kinds abounded.  We spotted several species we'd never seen before and some we knew well from our nature adventures back in the States.  Are Canadian Geese still referred to as Canadian here?

After lunch we took a long slow stroll around the canal system.  We visited Princess Lambaille's "laterie" and watched as a tall powerful looking war-horse was expertly ridden by an equally powerful looking Frenchmen.  We wandered the wide lanes of the canal and watched as crows expertly floated above the water long enough to delicately snatch bread floating on the surface.

When we spied a nesting pair of grebes I knew instantly that I needed to bring my Big Bird lens back with me from the States.  Perhaps I could make a few more bird images?  Rambouillet seems like a nice place to practice the craft of wildlife photography as birds expertly play out their unique roles of their lives.

Perhaps the President's own Summer Nesting Season has yet to begin?  The only wildlife we didn't spot was his Two-Wheeled Conveyance d'Amour.  Maybe we'll spy it on the next visit.

[more photos from Ramouillet here]

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