In the grand scheme of cheesy, touristy things to do on holiday we had yet to achieve the heady heights last year’s trip to Italy. On that trip we ate bolognese in Bologna, we climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa, we toured central Turin paying homage to The Italian Job, we got fleeced in Venice, we got hot and sweaty in Florence and we went to Lake Como to find the villa used in the shooting of Attack of the Clones. That’s some cheesy stuff…..
The best we’d managed this year was Kas’s epic run over the Col du Tourmalet a week previously, so we needed to address that situation quite urgently.
The best-looking option from where we were staying looked like a trip down to Avignon so we could go sing the song and dance on the bridge.
We started the day, as ever, with Kas going for a run while the rest of us had breakfast. From there, we drove entirely cross-country to get down to Avignon, taking the car’s recommended route south-east through Bagnols-sur-Cèze. It was pleasant if a little slow. It took us an hour or so to get to Avignon and when we parked up it was more or less midday.
Elizabeth the Satnav had taken us to a very large car park by the side of the river. There were plenty of spaces and we seemed to be only a few hundred metres from the first target of the day, which was the old medieval bridge that’s the subject of the song and dance.
Sur le Pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le Pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond.
The Pont Saint Bénézet was originally planned to be a massive walkway crossing the entire Rhône, which has a couple of major branches here at Avignon. It’s really a very big river and it occupies a very large valley. One can imagine that back in the day, when river management wasn’t so great, that the entire valley floor would flood fairly regularly, thereby necessitating a bridge which spanned the whole valley. There are similar items throughout Europe, including one famous (locally where I grew up) at Swarkestone on the River Trent. The bridge at Avignon is somewhat bigger. Correction, it was somewhat bigger. It isn’t now. As a strategic crossing point on the Rhône one of its primary purposes was obviously to allow the good denizens of the town to extract a few pennies each for use of the bridge. The history seems to say, however, that as a business enterprise it was a bit of a failure. This was mainly because every time there was a flood, one or more of the bridge piers got washed away, meaning the thing was probably never completed all the way across, and was in a constant state of rebuilding.
Just to completely destroy the romantic image, the song and dance were originally performed beneath the bridge (“sous le pont”) rather than on top of it.
What remains of the bridge now is four arches on the town-side of the river, which is all very convenient because it means you can walk onto the old bridge without having to take a massive hike around to cross the river at any point. There’s a charge to get on the bridge, but it was a relatively modest one by French standards and it was possible to get a multi-buy discount that included the Palace of the Popes too. That was us all booked up for the day, then.
From the car park we walked along the side of the river, stopping for a geocache or two (new department – Vaucluse) and found our way to the bridge. We wandered around a bit before finding the way in to the bridge – it involved going through the city walls and around the houses a bit. The approach from the city was quite easy, but from the riverside it took a couple of seconds of thought. The bridge itself was heavily populated but not the worst place we’d been. It was at least possible to find breaks in the people-traffic to take a few photos. You can see from the photos that we were also having a cloudy day. Still warm and humid, but cloudy.
After the bridge, we took the short walk through the town centre to the Palace of the Popes, where I wasted an uncomfortable amount of time searching for a geocache in a particularly dirty area before giving up and moving on to use the entrance tickets we’d bought at the bridge. The palace was not quite what we were looking for in terms of entertainment. It’s a very grand building but inside it is basically airless. There’s not a huge amount of enclosed courtyard space that you can get to – the “paid for” zone consists mainly of two walking tours around different floors of the building. The first was quite short but we were getting a bit drained by the heat and lack of ventilation, so decided to see if we could just walk out. You can’t. You have to walk around the whole of the second circuit to get to the exit. We proceeded to do that as fast as our legs would carry us, no doubt drawing disapproving looks from the museum-loving other visitors as we went. Bum to that ! We were hot and bothered, and the Palace, impressive though it was, wasn’t helping with the hot-and-botheredness. The girls couldn’t even raise the energy for a half-hearted look around the gift shop.
Once back out in the open air it was evidently ice cream o’clock, and we stumbled across a very fine vendor of ice creams in a square just down from the Palace. These kept us company as we walked fairly slowly through the town and back to the car. The car was where I’d left it, which is always a bonus.
The drive back home along the same route was pretty uneventful and we got back to the apartment in the late afternoon. The girls fancied a quick dip in the pool, so we let them do that while I figured out the leaving procedure and Kas went over the road to check that the nice-looking restaurant was open in the evening. It was, and she booked us a table.
The restaurant proved to be one of the best of the holiday, and it was very pleasant to sit outside in a garden restaurant surrounded by trees whilst not being bitten to death by insects. We took our time and enjoyed the evening. We were in no rush to get back because the check-out time was quite late, so no particular need to rush home and pack bags. That could all wait until the morning.
Today turned out to be a bit of a “couldn’t be bothered” day. It’s not that we did nothing, it’s just that the things we did didn’t add up to much.
I started (again) with a solo trip to the only boulangerie in the village while everyone else was asleep, or at least in bed. We had a bit of an in-and-out breakfast, with various members of the family coming and going at seemingly random intervals, but eventually we’d all done with it and had progressed into the “getting ready” phase.
The girls wanted a bit of beach action, especially after we’d totally failed to dip our toes in the Mediterranean on Saturday, and whilst kayaking on the previous day we’d passed a man-made beach right underneath the Pont d’Arc. It was the best we were going to get.
The beach in question was serviced by a car park that was, how can I put it, designed for parking rather than driving. Since I swapped the motor I’ve been somewhat more cautious when parking. I’ve been used to sitting high up, having high ground clearance, and having tyres that would quite literally make the Michelin Man look like he needed to go on a crash diet of bacon sandwiches. All of this meant I was quite relaxed about where I was prepared to try to drive that car. It would go over the top of most things. Not so with the new one. Having driven it several thousand miles over the course of the summer I am now thoroughly convinced it’s worth every penny when it comes to cruising, but when it comes to parking in non-urban locations it’s not really at home. It’s lower down, the ground clearance isn’t great, the tyres are like strips of liquorice and the front of the bonnet is in a different time zone to the driver’s seat. All in all, I have rediscovered my liking for long and wide parking spaces on tarmac. The place down by the Pont d’Arc wasn’t like that. From the driver’s seat it looked bumpy and the drop off the tarmac of the road onto the gravel of the car park looked like I’d be hearing the horrible sound of metal on stone. In the event, we got in and out without incident, but this was one of several occasions on the holiday where I wished we’d flown somewhere and rented a car.
Once we’d parked up, Kas took the girls down to the beach while I wandered off for the daily geocache. Well, two, to be honest. It might have been four, but one was evidently not there and for another I went to the lengths of scaling a dodgy path halfway up a cliff into a cave, only to find that I couldn’t find the cache. D’oh!
Down on the beach the girls were chillin’, so I decided to join them for a while. They went swimming, which is something I do my best to avoid, so I played the old “look after the bags” card as a way of craftily avoiding the need to get wet. Anyway, I wasn’t wearing my cozzy.
Back at the car I asked if we could walk around to do a few more geocaches on the condition that we stopped at the cafe we’d have to pass and grab an ice cream. There was a look of displeasure on the kids’ faces until we mentioned the ice cream. I correct myself. There was a look of displeasure on the kids’ faces until we’d actually bought the ice creams. It had been a while since they’d eaten or drunk anything, I guess. The cafe in question was a roadside one close to the arch and next to the entrance to the “other” car park. The other car park wasn’t surfaced any better than the one we were in, and it also included the opportunity to part with some money. Anyway, the caches on this phase were all present and correct apart from the last one, which was another job that involved clambering up a cliff towards a cave. It wasn’t obvious from the hint where the cache should be, so after 5 minutes or so I wrote it off and moved on.
For the evening we went out again into Vallon Pont d’Arc. It was busy. It was market day, and Sunday’s moderate collection of souvenir stalls had been replaced by a full-on tat-fest. Some of the normal shops put stalls outside during the evening, and those ones were generally OK, but they were interspersed with vendors of utter cack. Apparently there’s a market (ha ha) for that kind of thing, so it was busy.
We tried one of the restaurants we’d looked at on Sunday night, but after getting say down we eventually got bored of waiting to receive menus and for someone to clear and clean the table we’d been given. It got so bad that we got up and left without ordering anything. We weren’t impatient. I think the 15 minutes we waited was a reasonable amount of time in which to deliver menus. Anyway, bum to that.
So we walked about 40 yards down the road and went into another place we’d looked at on Sunday. They didn’t have seats outside, which meant going inside to what was a pretty basic looking cafe, however the menu had some things that weren’t pizza and they provided us with menus pretty much as soon as we sat down. By this time it was getting quite late, so we weren’t in the mood for another long wait.
The food proved to be pretty good – I had some grilled prawns and Kas had a salad while the girls had pasta, or pizza, or burgers. I can’t really remember, but if I risk those three I’ve got a 95% chance of being right.
While we were in the restaurant we bounced a few ideas about what to do tomorrow, and the consensus was to go for a look at Avignon because, well, why not.
Kas drove home and by the time we got there, it was well past snooze o’clock.
After a relaxing day the day before, we decided it would be a good day to go and do something a bit more active. Before we got around to doing that, we had a team breakfast. Kas was too tired for a run so didn’t bother going, so we sat around the outside table with a selection of fresh breads and pastries from the only shop in the village, and generally contemplated our state of being before heading off for the main event.
One of the reasons we’d come to this area was that the previous year, whilst watching the Tour de France, we’d seen some overhead shots of the race passing through the Ardèche Gorge and there’d been one shot of kayakers passing beneath the Pont d’Arc. We fancied having a go at that. I mean, why not…
Kas had, on a previous run, noticed the cluster of kayak places just in the village of Vallon Pont d’Arc so we decided just to head over there and see what was what. We didn’t expect to be able to get going straight away – you normally have to book stuff in the busy summer season, but the first place we went to offered reasonable rates and could accommodate us basically straight away. Fair enough. For some reason, we were asked to pick up our life jackets and “stuff buckets” before moving the car down into the customer parking area, which seemed weird, but I digress.
The weather was warm, so we weren’t quite sure what to take with us but guessed it would stay warm enough to not need jumpers or much else in the way of other clothes. We stuffed towels and a few drinks into the stuff buckets and made our way around to the area where they keep the actual kayaks. We’d bought a package involving 2 kayaks seating 2 people each. We’d notionally got 2 hours to progress our 8km down the river, which would allow us an hour and a half to chill in the river before getting their bus back home again. All of the places just here basically do packages where you paddle downstream only underneath the Pont d’Arc. Once we got onto the water, we understood why. There are two main reasons – firstly it’s really busy, and secondly, there are rapids that you’d never be able to paddle up.
To avoid repeating the mistake I made in the Lake District in June, I made sure the kayaks we got had backrests for the seats – in June I’d got one without a backrest (they didn’t offer me one) and because I’m a bit on the portly side and don’t do enough sit-ups, I found it virtually impossible to use the kayak because it’s like sitting upright on the floor with your feet in front of you. This requires stomach muscles, and mine aren’t very strong. Anyway, back at the plot, backrests were included and we buddied up with me and Ami sharing one kayak and Kas and Izzy sharing another. This fixed a further problem that we encountered in Catalonia a couple of years back (see Kayaking). On that day we’d tried to even out the total muscle power in each boat by having Ami and Kas in one and me and Izzy in the other. The problem with that line up was that the weight difference between me an Izzy meant that our kayak was sloping a bit, to the extent that Izzy could barely get her paddle down into the water. So this time we went for the most even distribution of weight in each kayak, so the two heaviest in one kayak and the two lightest in the other. That should at least mean that the kayaks were sitting flat in the water. As we are right now that means Ami and I were sharing.
I think we got the hang of the paddling quite quickly. I was at the back so to some extent I was able to counteract Ami’s unbalanced use of the paddle by just going the opposite way to her. Neither of us is great at the game and both of us are strongly right-handed, so it took a while to figure out how to go straight. It seemed to take Kas and Izzy a bit longer to figure it out though. Ami and I were also going faster most of the time.
The river level was really low, and in most places you could easily have jumped out and walked no more than knee-deep. There’s more water in the spring and late autumn, apparently. Anyway, there’s also quite a lot of rocks in the way, which make for rapids. Some of those were a bit narrow and shallow, others had a proper “log flume” moment. Before we’d got into the boats they’d advised us of just two things about the rapids. Firstly, pick a straight line and go at it with confidence and speed. Secondly, if you fall out, it’s best to let the water float you down to a calmer bit and then pick up all your stuff, rather than trying to stand up in the fast-flowing water. That’s what they told us, anyway.
We were all doing just fine and dandy until Ami and I had wha I’ll generously describe as a loss of communication when entering one of the sets of rapids. We failed to decide which gap we were going to paddle straight and fast through, and as a result of us deciding to go for a different line, we ended up side-on with a rock against the side of the kayak. There was fast flowing water around both sides of the rock, but where we ended up we were pretty much beached and couldn’t get off it again. In the process of rocking and bouncing the kayak to get it moving, we managed to unweight it an over we went. Hmmm! Riding the rapids out proved to be difficult because the water wasn’t actually deep enough to ride. My knees were immediately on the bottom, as were Ami’s, and for a brief moment, we were also underneath the kayak. We got out quickly enough but were pretty much stuck. The kayak wouldn’t move, and we could get a solid enough footing to push it or turn it back over again. Thankfully we weren’t too proud to accept extra hands from a nice woman who was wading in the river just below us. She walked up and gave the layak a good tug, which at least dislodged it enough that it moved down a bit into some actual water. This allowed us to turn it over and collect all the paddles before getting back on top again. And off we went, over the next run of rapids and into a calmer bit, where we accelerated along to catch up with Kas and Izzy, who’d shot across that set of rapids without a hitch.
So Ami and I got totally soaked, and our stuff bucket leaked a bit, so two towels and one phone got a bit of a splashing, but otherwise we were none the worse. Funnily enough, we mastered the art of running the rapids after that and we managed to put in two or three real sterling efforts that probably looked really good from a distance.
Not too long after the dunking we reached the Pont d’Arc, and they’ve supplemented the natural slip-off slopes thereby adding some beach-worthy sand on one side. On the other side is a big pebbly beach which is pretty easy to get a kayak up to, so that’s where we went. We’d been going a while, so we were probably owed a break and a drink. It allowed me to dry out my phone, and re-pack the stuff buckets so that all the wet stuff was in one, and all the dry stuff in the other.
After 15 minutes or so parked up, during which the girls both decided to swim in the river under the arch, we jumped back onto the kayaks to finish our stint. The river below the arch is much easier to paddle than above it – mainly flat, smooth flowing, and lacking in rapids, so Ami and me shot off into the distance and periodically stopped for a breather while Kas and Izzy caught up.
We landed at our destination at about 1:50, having taken 2 hours and 20 minutes to make our way down the 8km of paddling. When we got to the end there wasn’t really a beach for chilling at, and nor were there any useful facilities like toilets or a cafe, so as we were all wet and the girls fancied finishing the afternoon in the pool rather than the river, we decided just to jump on the 2pm bus home.
As we were in the period of the year where Groundspeak offers incentives to new cachers in the form of pictorial souvenirs, I was kind of obliged to go out and find a geocache to keep the required one-week run going. After doing most of the caches in the village the previous day I’d left one traditional on the river bridge just down from our village, and there was also an earthcache there. The traditional was in place and the earthcache was both easy and interesting – it was all about the flooding of the river and the geological and climatic conditions that cause it. Earthcache was placed alongside a bridge over the river, and one of the tasks was to go find the height markers on the bridge pillars that are used to measure floods. While we were there the river was maybe 1m deep under the bridge and the bridge deck was a good 16m clear of the water. In the late 1800’s there was the biggest ever recorded flood at the site. At that time there was a different bridge, and it was higher up than the current one, but the water level came all the way up to the underside of the deck, so the river has risen from 1m depth to about 20m, and because the surrounding land is a flat flood plain, the river had widened from 30m to 900m, which essentially meant that the village we were staying in would have been flooded. Madder than a sack of monkeys. The photos here illustrate just how much of a flood it was.
When I got back to the apartment it was most definitely beer o’clock, so Kas and I retired to the bar and sank a couple of cold ones whilst wondering if it was time to drag the kids out of the pool yet. We called them out at one point for a cool drink and a few crisps.
We’d sort of decided to go to the nice-looking restaurant over the road, so we weren’t hurrying. When we got there though, we discovered Monday was their night off. Having already had a beer or two that meant our options were now rather limited. We tried walking along the main road, where we’d noticed a couple of bars, but they all seemed to be attached to one or other of the camping venues – not really “restaurants” as such. We made it all the way over the river bridge before deciding that we were going to walk all the way into town, but also that we weren’t likely to find a nice restaurant any time soon – Monday seemed generally to be their day off. So we walked all the way back again and camped at pretty much the first place we’d passed. They did pizzas. It turned out that they did quite good pizzas, and they also did beer. So that’s what we had, although I had mine later than everyone else because they forgot to put it in the oven. We weren’t in a rush and it’s not like there was anywhere else we could go, especially given that it was nearly 9pm by the time we arrived there. It was a pleasant enough place to sit for an hour watching the world go by.
The day started off (for me) rather slowly, as a result of having had too many beers too quickly the night before.
Kas went out to Intermarche in Vallon Pont d’Arc to get some provisions and came back wishing she’d taken someone with her. Not because of the shopping, but because the car park has a barrier to stop people parking in there without buying anything from the shop. The barrier was designed for someone with a left-hand drive car, and our cars aren’t.
By the time she came back she needed a break. I would say we had breakfast as a family, but we didn’t. Various members of the collective drifted in and out without there ever being four of us. It was a pleasant environment though – the apartment was on the first floor and had an outdoor terrace with a table big enough for us to sit and eat, and it had a big sunshade. The apartment block was rigged up so that all the apartments looked out to the back, and hence looked out over their gardens and the pool area. The weather was warm again.
After breakfast there was a general lack of enthusiasm followed by a wave of apathy, so eventually we decided that the girls were going to laze around by the pool, which meant I could go and do the handful of geocaches in the village. There were supposedly five, spread over the whole village, which meant I’d probably need an hour or more to do them.
The first one involved a walk right around the edge of the village heading East – a short walk along a country lane. At the end of the village I turned back in and found the first cache before walking into the oldest part of the village. I’m not sure whether the village is traditional, you would assume that it is, but the overall effect was really rather lovely. It’s composed of narrow streets with buildings made from limestone blocks which come right up to the edge of the street. Some have been “done up” to look quite clean but most were what you might describe as shabby chic.
The second cache was an easy find at the church and then the third proved a little more tricky. Salavas hosts an open-air market on a Sunday morning, and the next cache was right in the middle of it, next to a cheese stall. It took me a little while to interpret the hint, and once I had, I then had to haver around and wait a while until the stallholder went off to talk to someone. I was then able to make a quick smash-and-grab raid for the cache.
The next one was up next to some Roman ruins on the other side of town from our apartment. Another easy find. This was followed by a pleasant stroll along a narrow lane halfway up the side of the hill, which had some nice views back over the valley and the village. The final cache was supposedly next to a well. This one took me ages as I didn’t explore the meaning of the hint in enough depth. Two French lads walked by and asked me if I knew how to get back into the village, so I showed them my map (on the GPS) in exchange for them confirming my interpretation of the hint. I was about to give in but had one more look, whereupon I spotted the cache hanging in a place I’d been into at least four times already. D’oh!
When I got back to the apartment there was still a general lack of enthusiasm. I suggested we go for a little walk over to the market to see if we could buy anything interesting for lunch, but by the time we got there the market was just finishing packing up, so we went back home again. There was still a general lack of enthusiasm, so I took the bull by the horns and made the required drive down to Barjac, about 10 km away, to complete a cache in the Department of Gard. We’d driven straight through here on the previous evening when we were a bit tight for time. Barjac is bigger than Salavas by some way, and seems very typically middle-French. I parked in a grassy field reserved for tourists (on busy days), and walked up through the village to a terrace next to the town hall. There was a very easy find there. Once I’d completed Gard the caching map of France was starting to look nearly like a complete loop.
On the way home from Barjac I tried to stop for a couple more caches. One was successful, but the other, in Vagnas, was not so. It was supposedly a micro somewhere in an ivy-covered stone wall. I think it was probably a fake snail. I probably spend 30 minutes before giving in.
Back at the apartment, there was still a general lack of enthusiasm.
We planned to go out into Vallon Pont d’Arc for the evening, parking in the same place that we had done the previous night. When we got into town and noticed it was full of market stalls the kids’ enthusiasm increased a little bit. We wandered around for a while looking for a restaurant that everyone was happy with, and we settled for a nice table inside one which did some very nice burgers.
On the way back to the car the girls indulged in a bit of souvenir hunting, and that was about it for the day.
When we set off, we’d been thinking we might toy with the idea of going to do a parkrun at Toulouse, but once we arrived in Luz Saint Sauveur it became apparent we could forget that idea. The apartment block wanted to do a formal check on the morning of our departure prior to returning our deposit, and the reception didn’t open until 8am.
We still had a long way to travel, though, so we aimed to get to the door on the stroke of 8am and get the first slot in the departure game. We got up at 6:30 and got on with loading up the car, finishing the cleaning, and dumping rubbish and laundry in the relevant place.
We’d apparently done enough to get our deposit back and the checkout was fairly efficient, so we were off at about 8:05. So far so good, then.
We took the road down the valley and through Lourdes and Tarbes and then headed east on the motorway towards Toulouse. Before we got there we stopped for some breakfast at the Aire de Comminges. We tried to do a geocache there too, to keep the “colouring in” streak going. We couldn’t find it at first, which was annoying. We retired for some breakfast, and whilst sitting there I delved more deeply into the geocache description and found some spoiler photos. D’oh ! How did we miss that ?
Kas took over the driving here, and managed to negotiate us successfully around Toulouse and on the way toward Narbonne before the day started to go a bit pear-shaped. We found roadworks. And then we found a crash, and a big queue, and then more roadworks. The drive from Toulouse to Narbonne took maybe 90 minutes more than it should. This kind of set us behind schedule for the rest of the day. We stopped for a geocache and changed drivers near Carcassonne, but didn’t stay long.
We’d promised the girls the possibility of having a quick plodge in the Mediterranean, so we fought our way through the minging traffic all the way to Montpellier before jumping off the motorway to head for the beach at Palavas-les-Flots. The plan was to park up, plodge on the beach for half and hour, grab an ice-cream and a geocache, and then more on. Unfortunately, plans rarely happen. We couldn’t find anywhere to park, and after half an hour we had to give up, because we’d got an appointment in the evening that was time dependent. So we didn’t stop. We stopped for a cache on the way out of town but I couldn’t find that either, so we just left. We swapped drivers again while we were musing, so Kas was in the hot seat again.
We needed to stop at the Aire d’Ambrussum to get more fuel and take a comfort break, and there was a geocache in the car park, so we stopped for a bit to sort ourselves our. It had been busy all day and we were starting to get a bit sick of it. While we were there, we grabbed some McDonalds to eat too.
From here to our end point the sat nav thought it was going to take half an hour more than the amount of time we’d actually got. That wasn’t good. So we took a second opinion by checking with Captain Google, who said we were OK, just, but only if we went the way he said. As we were short of time, we also decided not to stop for any more geocaches, and that left us with a bit of a gap in the “colouring-in” chart.
The way he said involved driving to Nîmes and then cross-country up to Alès. We followed google to the letter, all the while watching how the changes of route were making the car’s satnav come more into line. We eventually reached our destination town of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc at just the right time (6:30pm). We found a car park and pushed our way through some crowded streets up to a small square with a covered seating area, which was the location for the geocaching event I’d noticed some weeks earlier and promised to try to get to. The event was only open for half an hour, so timing was important. We made it to the event but it was pretty obvious the girls didn’t want to be there, so I did a quick traditional cache around the corner and we said our goodbyes to head to our chosen accomodation.
We’d originally booked in an expensive hotel along the road out towards the Ardeche Gorge, but a few days before leaving home we’d thought that spending five days in a single room (and having to go out to eat all the time) wasn’t our favoured mode of operation. We therefore changed it, and moved to a small apartment complex over in Salavas, just south of the river. It proved to be a small family-run affair that had a totally different approach to the commercial skiing place in Luz. We didn’t need to pay until we left, and they were willing to trust. We didn’t have to clean up the flat before leaving and the swimming pool stayed open until “Meh! When we switch the lights off.” They also had a bar that was open more or less all day, so as we were too tired to do anything strenuous, the girls jumped in the pool while Kas and I sat in the bar with a beer and some crisps. When the girls had done in the pool (i.e. when we told them to come out) they had an ice cream from the fridge in the bar.
The apartment was quite small but the bathroom was nice and whilst there wasn’t much room, it was pretty comfortable. Comfort was good, because we hit the beds like four proverbial sacks of potatoes.