We just got back from a quick trip to the South of France.
It was necessary trip which involved 1) lots and lots of clearing out of stuff from my boyfriends father's house; 2) dodging the odd gigantic hornet; and 3) bursting our brains with the stress of liasing with local officials when neither of us spoke the other's language. Fu-u-un.
But in between the hard stuff, we were slowly drawn into the charm of this place. We walked and drove around marvelling at the stunning, raw beauty of the landscape. Fresh drinking water trickles down the sheer rock faces and is collected at a particular spot by locals who haven't yet got plumbing in their homes. The sheer mountainsides are covered with dark green pines and lighter green trees, so neatly arranged they could have been planted in perfect rows. The forests and streams hum and splash with life.
And the villages are breathtakingly lovely: built of a light-coloured stone, so that everything has a cool, clean, fresh look; timeless as an afternoon game of boule. The towns are characterised by plane trees lining the streets and dappling the squares, and the countryside is dotted with cyprus trees like upward brush strokes, pointing to the blue sky.
One afternoon we stumbled on the market in the local square where we were staying, and it was such a pretty spectacle, it seemed unreal. Well-dressed people wandered unhurriedly, tasting artisan cheeses and mushrooms and honey, smelling the wares of the lavendar distiller and enjoying their weekly ritual of purchasing their groceries from local producers.
We also saw some Roman ruins, an amphitheatre at Nîmes and one of the best remaining Roman aqueducts in the world, at Pont du Gard. All the time I was marvelling at the fact that the Romans did actually invade and occupy France, just like in the comic books. I am ashamed to say that 90% of the history and geography I know has come from Asterix and Obelix comics. Though I must say, they have served me well in this part of the world.
I couldn't help smirking at my memories of those "indomitable Gauls"; and thinking that some of that proud, patriotic spirit was evident in the people who live there now, who are defiantly preserving their traditional way of life. An example? You don't pay for parking between 12 midday and 2pm. Because everybody has gone home for lunch, including the parking officers. Now that is the way it should be everywhere.