Saturday, 4 January 2014

Bank error in your favour

In general I am a bit suspicious when banks are giving away something free.

Flamingo colony
Banks are, in my view, a necessary evil, sometimes handy, but when a bank starts giving things away you better beware. But this attitude could well have its roots in a leftish past, and when we received a discount voucher from Crédit Agricole for a tourist attraction in Ain (01) it was not filed in the recycling bin like other unwanted printed matter, but put aside for possible future use.
The department Ain is part of the Rhône-Alpes region, and is located (relative to where we live) at the other side of the Saône, south of Mâcon and of "our" Bresse. The Bresse Bourgignonne is mainly known for its chickens, which, as many of the prestigious Burgundy wines, have an AOC. The Bresse savoyarde, a bit further south, has also something with birds, but of the inedible variety. In the middle of that area in Ain (01), amidst hundreds of small and bigger lakes (La Dombes) lies the small village of Villars-les-Dombes.

The money-off voucher of the bank promised a 50% discount on a ticket for the bird park in Villars for a second visitor; the first one had to pay full price. The park is roughly one and a half hour driving away from our house, so on a lovely early autumn day we got into the car and drove direction Ain. We had been there once before, when we went to see a place of pilgrimage in Ain (Ars-sur-Formans). However, that was on a national holiday (Assumption of Mary), and when we arrived in Villars the queues for the ticket office almost reached the banks of the Saône...we decided to leave the park for what it was, and headed direction Mâcon for a visit to the beautiful church of Saint-André-la-Bâgé.
When we arrived on a Monday morning the parking area was less than half full and we could walk straight up to the till. We handed in our voucher (no hidden clauses!), received the discount and headed, armed with our map of the place off into the park.

Griffon vulture - ready to attack!
The park is laid out along an elongated lake which is surrounded by lush woods and meadows. At strategic places aviaries were scattered, some accessible through two doors separated by a bird lock, some just to be admired from the outside, and on a number of places around the lake there were open sanctuaries, only sporadically surrounded by low fences. The first "free" birds we encountered were a group of flamingos and a group of pelicans. Also waders and other birds one finds in meadows were walking around freely. The parakeets, parrots and cockatoos were living in an accessible aviary as well as a collection of vultures, among which some griffon vultures. The access door had a warning saying "please do not shout or run", but I was not sure what that remark was in aid of. Until I was admiring a griffon vulture, standing on a rock high up and spreading its wings (approx 2.5 m wingspan). An animal like that weighs about 8 kg, and is roughly 1 m tall, and when it all of a sudden dived off its rock in my direction, narrowly missing my head and landing about 1 m behind me, I had to suppress shouting and making a dash for the exit....

fast-dyed colours....
Apart from the beautiful collection of birds and the ambiance they live in, the pièce de résistance turned out to be the bird show which takes place a few times a day. The animals are very cleverly manipulated, in such a way that they approached at exactly the right time from across the lake or from the vomitorium and landed on the stage or in the lake, and flew off in time to make place for the next group of artists. To name a few: a number of pelicans landing on the lake in front of the spectators and then landing on the podium; a marabou flying time after time from the podium to different spots on the top edge of the amphitheatre and back, again narrowly missing the spectators; a similar performance of a collection of brightly coloured birds (red and black ibises, colourful macaws and other parrot like birds).

Crowned crane on the wing
The most stunning view offered the crowned cranes, because they fly and land in a very peculiar but elegant way. Even though in general shows with animals do not turn me on, this half hour show was very gripping, and I did not get bored for one second.
Anyway, in view of the money-off voucher from the bank I will refrain from using the expression "financial vultures" for bankers (at least for a couple of weeks)!

Egyptian vulture
The Parc des Oiseaux in Villars-les-Dombes is only a day trip away from La Tuilerie de Chazelle!

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