Undeterred by our recent discovery and repeat experiences confirming that Zaza no longer has a good time in the car, we set a plan to take a scenic route. Because it is set to rain heavily all day on the whole route, we will be visiting two separate caves on our way out of Languedoc-Roussillon and into Provence, where we’ll be for the next 10 days or so. A whole day in and out the car, well, you can imagine how this story goes…
It begins with a Zaza who’s suddenly no longer interested in food, refusing little more than a brief suckle before we leave the hotel. We’re aiming for the 11am cave tour at nearby Grotte de Clamouse. This means we arrive with a Zaza who has had her morning nap snatched from her, falling asleep on the 15 minute car journey only to wake up on arrival and who of course becomes hungry 30 minutes into the 1.5 hour cave tour. This means the beautiful cave visit, which I’ll go on to describe, is somewhat impacted by breast feeding on the go, almost constant movement required for tired grizzles and then a period of extensive swaying (the Carol special) whilst facing a dark wall for minimal stimulation to get her off to sleep when the grizzling becomes too much- all whilst following a guided group tour.
As for the cave, well, it is incredible. I don’t know if our photos will do it justice. The oldest part of the cave was formed around 3500,000 years ago. It’s so tall and grand with stalagmites and stalactites all over.
There are stalagtites hanging down like draped fabric or forming gothic cathedral organs and other cool shapes. This cave is also known for a few strange formations- in one area the stalagtites have formed in strange shapes, with curls coming off them in all directions. Elsewhere there’s another formation which look much more like sea urchins. In fact the whole place looks like it could be a massive and fantastical dive site.
Some rocks look wet and gloopy, like a monster with a slobbery mouth, others hard and glittery like the decoration in a fancy club.
With an asleep Zaza in the back, we head on to Grotte de Trabuc, following a beautiful riverside route, with mountains either side of us covered in evergreens. We pass sheep and horses, small villages and not an open boulangerie in sight- seriously, how do the French feed themselves at lunch time? Three or four large villages are thoroughly scoured before we find one tiny tiny establishment with about 4 things on offer and no drinks. The small cafe at the Grotte saves the day though with cups of tea, several nappy changes and a small snack before we head into the cave.
This one is less impressive in terms of grandeur than the last but nonetheless beautiful and has lots of pools of water inside of perfect turquoise and a waterfall. We’re also treated to a musical soundtrack of Harry Potter, Titanic and Pirates of the Caribbean as we enter the final large hall of the cave with separate sections you can light up to view the different formations resembling things like jellyfish, a butterfly and even Father Christmas! It’s quite fun and interactive and it’s nice to be going through at our own pace rather than on a guided tour.
Of course, this set up also lends itself to be more adaptive if Zaza is difficult, but this time she decides it’s all very interesting and calmly comes along for the trip (Marie does have to waltz in the “Hall of the Midnight Lake” final spectacular room though).
The calm before the storm, it turns out. After this she is unsettled in the car, the first time we relent and pull over, she looks at me smiling so we leave her be and pop Mr Bee within reach so she contentedly plays for a while (Mr Bee is a colourful, noisy dangly toy, not an actual live stinging animal); the next time we relent for a feed, it has been three hours since the last one after all and she has a very happy, cuddly, gurgly time on my lap while Marie ‘pops to get a few bits’ from a supermarket (laden with a heavy bag in each hand when she returns!) ….this lovely experience is soon transformed into a crying, screaming monster in the back for a solid hour as we approach our accommodation. Nothing we do makes any difference whatsover and we feel increasingly frazzled by the experience. To make matters worse, sat nav has selected to go through two cities in rush hour, rather than the nice country route we’d initially set out on. Imagining the motorway bypasses the cities we decide to follow it to get there quicker, this fails miserably and we’re stuck in rush hour city traffic with a screaming baby in the back, under continuous rain.
We arrive exhausted to a pretty village with tiny streets, get lost, have to call for instructions and then finally make it into our home for the next 5 days which is beautiful so entirely makes up for the little streets- we have a living room, kitchen, two bedrooms and an en-suite. It’s all white walls and beams with quirky features like a ceiling of pale wooden planks, an arched doorway and a fancy fire. Somehow all this for £25 per night and we even get a washing machine, dishwasher and wifi to boot. I try, unsuccessfully, to put Eliza to bed while Marie makes dinner and it’s lovely to have exactly what we want to eat after several days relying on eating out…if only we’d picked up some wine…