Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The amazing Parc de Figuerolles at Martigues

We first tried to visit the nearby Parc de Figuerolles on Wednesday not
Bassin d'ornement at Figuerolles 
realising that Armistice Day is a public holiday in France. The car park was absolutely packed solid so we turned right around and went on our lakeside walk at Lavalduc instead. Monday afternoon this week was far quieter so we tried again!

I already knew that Figuerolles covers a lot of ground - it's 130 hectares - but I wasn't prepared for quite how many different areas it has. We began by exploring what I think was once the grounds of a grand house. This tower (below) was constructed in 1899 and recently renovated. It's design is meant to make it appear to be a whimsical pigeon loft although it is actually a water tower and part of the extensive irrigation system for the ornamental gardens. The above pictured Bassin d'Ornement is meant to have 'the charm of a spring in rocky ground' and the 'aspect of a grotto'. Hmmm! Again, its primary purpose is irrigation.

Water tower 
Unknown flowers 
Nearby was a playground for those of 'more than six years old' so guess
who was straight onto the climbing frame? Clue: too high for me! We were impressed by the variety of play equipment at this place, but then later we saw the Go Ape style ropes and zip wires elsewhere. Now that really was a huge playground!

The park has dedicated paths and trails for walking, walking with small children, jogging, and family cycle rides. The walking areas had the same dusty paths and vegetation as I remembered from Alcossebre in Spain. We saw cacti and flowering rosemary. Despite having picked up a map leaflet from the reception we still managed to get turned around and a bit lost in the pine woods. We found and then re-found the VTT (velo tout terrain - all terrain bikes) tracks - pedestrian free areas with Keep Out signs all around and some seriously scary looking ramps and jumps. I thought maybe I could manage the beginners' circuit on my little bike. I probably won't go back to find out for sure though.

Dave sitting in a dinosaur egg 

Our next surprise was the perfect play area for me! I was delighted to
The reading room 
spot this semicircle of reclining wooden seats and its sign declaring an area for reading. Now how incredibly thoughtful is that! Admittedly the seats weren't remotely comfortable and prospective readers are advised to take their own cushions, but even so. Every park should have one!

A tree-shaded area was set aside for pony rides from the equestrian centre, and this was just along from the small farm where ponies, donkeys, goats and sheep, rabbits, geese and peacocks are kept. Their enclosures weren't particularly big for the number of animals in each, but they did all look well cared for. We had noticed a small mixed herd of goats and sheep as we entered the park, together with a couple of chatting shepherds. We commented at the time that this sight was a little odd in France, but thought nothing more of it. Seeing the same animals at the farm, I realised that they must be taken out to graze freely.

Peacock at the farm 

The Parc de Figuerolles is a fantastic resource for the local community and its stop is even included on the main bus route from Massane to Martigues. It's obvious that a lot of thought has gone into what people actually want from this park, and the created areas ha e certainly not been done half-heartedly. Best of all - the whole place, with the exception of the mini train, is free. Even the car park! And, having been pronouncing the name as Fig Rolls all day, reminiscing our childhood memories of them and wondering if they were still made, it seemed only fitting to spot the biscuits at Grand Frais while stopping to shop on the way home!

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