Thursday, October 27, 2011

France Day 6

Tuesday, October 4 th
Tuesday the goal was to actually get up earlier. Didn't happen. Still 10 or so. But we did get moving a bit more quickly. Our first stop was the abbey just on the other side of Selestat. We hadn't been this direction before and there were a lot more farm lands than grape lands. Still beautiful. We, okay I, saw a few different crucifixes along the side of the road. I ended up seeing them all day. Maybe it was the influence of the abbey.
The outside of the building was pretty nondescript. And old building with large wood doors, two towers reaching up, not a lot else. But man, when you walked into the building, oh my. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Supposedly this is the the only baroque church in the area. It was definitely ornate. Huge vaulted ceilings with paintings in each of the sections, beautiful chandeliers, gorgeous woodwork, embellishments everywhere. The alters were spectacular. Such amazing craftsmanship. Especially when you realize when it was built - I think the early 1600’s. Okay, rebuilt. It had been destroyed once or twice in it's history. So beautiful. And we were the only ones there so that added ton the peace and majesty of it for me. We just sat in a pew for a few minutes. I think Mom was praying. I guess I was of a sort, marveling at the beauty of it. I think that may have been one of the highlights for me. Very 'trip to europe'.

Okay, castle, check. Church, check. Next, monkeys! Yep, monkeys.

There is a sort of preserve, at least that is what I think it said. And they have been raising groups of Barbary Macaques since 1969. I think they may reintroduce them to the wild but those details weren’t clear to me. My french isn’t that good. When you come to this resereve you can walk through paths in their habitat. They give everyone a handful of popcorn when you go in and tell you how to approach and how to feed them. You don’t really have to approach any of them, or call them over. They know the drill. Manyof them sit right on the walkway railing waiting for the humans to come by and feed them. They were exceedingly gentle. Not necessarily goodlooking, but so interesting. There were many babies and they had a few areas set up where a worker would come and throw out a lot of food so they would all gather around and you could watch them interact. There was a very extensive presentation on monkey culture, who is who and the roles they play. Unfortunately they only did French and German versions. One of the elements I did pick up was that the males take a large role in the raising of the babies. The guide was going over that one again and again so I was able to get that, in both French and German. The area was a beautiful forest so very pleasant to walk through and just sit and observe different groups. I think they liked doing the same thing.

After monkeys, eagles. This was our wildlife day. And they were very smart to be right next to each other. The eagle show was a short, beautiful, walk through the forest. And then you came to another castle ruin, this one much smaller. They had a circular clearing with rows of benches all around. We got there a bit early (can you believe it?) and mom sat down while I looked around. There were dozens of birds of prey all around the castle grounds; eagles, falcons, vultures, owls, you name it and they had it. I have very mixed feelings about that set up. Most of the big birds had basically anklets on both legs with about a 5-8 foot tether. They had perches, water and overhangs. Their wings were not clipped. The signage explained that they would spend hours at a time in the wild just perched on one tree, etc. So this wasn't that different, but I still don't know. Hmmm, conflicted, that's new. Not.

Anyway, the show was pretty cool. There was an emcee and three additional handlers. They would bring out a few different birds that would circle around and then land either on a perch, on one of their arms or even the ground. The birds were spectacular. The handlers moved aournd the audience so some times a bird would literally fly right at you, graze your head and land just behind you. Quite thrilling. They brought out a group of falcons ( again, I think due to their size, this one was also all in French so I didn't learn very much) and then gave different members of the audience a chance to have the bird land on them. Guess who stood up and put out her arm for the glove? My mother! I couldn't believe it. I dont think she could either. But it was very cool. The entire show was exciting to watch. Even the birds eating dead things was okay to watch.

After that we headed toward home with the goal of a pharmacy, which we found, for cough drops, which they didn’t have ( tablets instead) and the supermarket for a cooler. We head to Provence tomorrow and have things from the fridge to bring with us. We did find the supermarket, and it was open, but no luck on the cooler. Oh well, now to pack because we really do have to wake up early on Wednesday to start our drive.

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