The Bogtrotter

Tag: Experience

La Bambouseraie – a bamboo jungle in the heart of France

by on Jun.06, 2009, under France, French Experiences

Bamboo always makes you think of the far east – of China and Panda Bears. But tucked away in the foothills of the Cevennes in Southern France is a 15 hectare bamboo forest that provides an oriental oasis from the Mediterranean heat.

Bamboo Forest

Bamboo Forest

The Bambousarie park is a horticultural delight. As you would expect, much of the park is covered with waves of bamboo. But it is not a continuous monoculture, there are numerous varieties of bamboo from the blue-tinted Giant Bamboos rising over 20 metres into the sky to carpets of knee-high bushes, with a range of colours, shapes and sizes in-between.

There is even a small Laosian village set up to demonstrate how people use bamboo to create houses and other buildings, with small traditional garden plots dotted between.

Looking Up

Looking Up

As well as bamboo there is an impressive tree collection. Notably a column of Gread Redwoods (Sequoia) planted in 1861 that now climb 40 metres into the air, towering above the tallest bamboos. There are some of the largest Magnolias in Europe, great Oaks, and a 140 year old Ginko tree that stands over the Dragon Valley.

The Dragon Valley is a relatively new addition to the park – a Feng Shui inspired garden created by Eric Borja in 2000 (the year of the Dragon). With its colourful Acer trees, rolling landscape and Red Phoenix pagoda you really do feel you have been transported to the other side of the world.

Dragon Valley

Dragon Valley

Tucked away and easy to overlook are the smaller garden spaces that are equally inspiring. The water garden with it’s lotus flowers, the bonsai collection set over a pond, and the Victorian greenhouses which now house temporary exhibitions all bring another dimension to the park.

The Bambouseraie is easily accessible by car, but you can combine it with a trip on a steam train by taking the Train a Vapeur des Cevennes from Anduze or St Jean Du Gard and stopping at the Bambouseraie’s own station. Get more details on the park by visiting the Bambousaraie web site.

And if you get inspired by what you have seen you can buy your own plants at the nursery, and start creating your own oasis back at home.

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Joining the Pudding Club

by on Feb.01, 2009, under Britain, British Experiences

Do you ever wonder what happened to traditional British puddings? You know – like the ones you used to have when you were younger. When everyone else started moving to fancy new deserts in the 1980s it was necessary for someone to step in to protect the good old British deserts.  Up stepped the Three Ways House Hotel in Mickleton with the now legendary Pudding Club, where members come along every week for an evening of unadulterated eating pleasure.

The evening starts with an introduction from the host – who explains the background to the club and the house rules. Then, just to get your juices flowing, he talks everyone through the seven puddings that are going to be consumed.

Display of Puddings ready to be eaten

Display of Puddings ready to be eaten

After a (very) small main course it’s on to the serious business of the night. The puddings are paraded into the room to rapturous applause. Amongst the familiar favourites such as Syrup Sponge, Spotted Dick and Eton Mess were unusual surprises such as Lord Randall’s pudding.  The object of the evening (aside from enjoying eating some fantastic puddings) is to try all seven dishes, and then there is a vote for the favourite pudding of the night.

This means you have to pace yourself.  When you start off, the idea of eating seven deserts seems easy.  But after three or four you realise that it’s not as easy as it sounds.  They were all fantastic, and made me realise how rarely I get to eat proper puddings these days.

House rules dictate you must empty you bowl before you can move on to your next pudding, so portion size control is key.  I managed to try all seven, and after much deliberation Eton Mess got my vote.  However the room was fairly evenly split, and the eventual pudding of the night was the good old Syrup Sponge.

For those who want to take the experience further, you can also stay in one of the hotels themed desert rooms.  Personally, having eaten seven deserts the last thing I wanted was to try to go to sleep in a room that reminds me of more puddings.

I joined the pudding club as part of the Activity Superstore package that included the Pudding Club meeting and overnight accommodation for two people – a perfect romantic treat for pudding lovers everywhere.

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Bull Running in the Camargue

by on Jan.18, 2009, under France, French Experiences

Running the bulls through Le Grau Du Roi

Running the bulls through Le Grau Du Roi

If you have ever wanted to chase a bull down the road then this is your chance!

The Camargue region of Southern France is one of the last remaining wild areas of Europe. Across the salt marshlands you will see jet black horses mingling with the famous white Camargue horses. The area is full of ranches (manades or mas) where bulls are bred for their meat, but also to play with.

All the local villages have an arena, whils Nimes and Arles maintain their impressive Roman arenas. But unlike in Spain, the French prefer not to kill the bulls. Throughout the summer “Course Camarguaise” are held, where the competitors win prizes by grabbing ribbons from between the horns of the bulls.

Before and after these events some of the bulls are run through the streets, guides by the local “guardians” on horseback. The locals have one aim – distract the horses and guardians, and allow the bull to roam loose through the town.

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