Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
148Trip End Oct 25, 2010
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There's no accounting for the weather, is there? For the past 5 years we have avoided France in the hottest months, July and August, as I can't stand the heat. This year it just worked out differently so I took a chance and indeed the last weeks of June, the first week of July it was hot, but bearable, and the great bonus being the endless, balmy, light summer nights.
Shortly after Mieke arrived it started to rain and the whole country sighed with relief. However, three weeks on, it is still raining and everyone is moaning. Too much rain is not good for the crops and what's worse, it is now the peak of the tourist season. The economic situation has made camping more popular, and the campers are not happy.
After studying the weather forecast for days we decided, as the whole of France, Europe actually, was covered by a black blanket of clouds, we might as well make the long trip down to our brother Gait and his wife Marisha
We found a camping site about 20 km from them, even though we were offered a beautiful mill to stay in, we wanted a bit of an adventure. Anyway, we all love camping.
Le Pinada the place was called, not far from Narbonne, a pretty straight forward, neat, 'don't do this and that' kind of site, especially not when there's grande vente. That's great winds, this region is known for it, it literally drives people insane, going on and on for months on end. Apparently we landed in the middle of it, and yes, I had seen the warning on Meteo France, code orange, but had optimistically chosen to ignore it and keep it under my hat or no-one would have undertaken the trip.
Setting up the tent was great fun, three of us constantly entangled in the light-blue and yellow nylon flaps, strings blowing all over the place, the earth rock hard, unable to hammer in a tent pin. But eventually we managed and sat down to celebrate with some lukewarm cider. We had chosen a secluded spot but to our dismay a nifty little red car drives up and stops next to us
A pretty, but rather pissed-off looking woman gets out, looks around disapprovingly, then opens the back door and drags out a timid little boy. And a big golden package, obviously their tent.
Peter is sitting with his back towards the scene but Mieke and I are fascinated. Resolutely the woman zips open the parcel and rolls out the promise of a tent. Here the struggle begins. It is immediately caught by the gusty wind, ballooning up, flying off - it is totally unmanageable.
Mieke is shaking her head: 'Shame,' she says, 'I know exactly how she feels. A woman alone, husband run off with a younger version and she's left to fend for herself. Bastard.' she concludes. Hmm, by the look on our new neighbour's face I could almost sympathize with the bastard, but whatever the story, we couldn't leave her to her own devices, no way was she going to be able to do it by herself and that little lad was useless, he looked scared stiff.
'Peter, go and help that lady.' 'Huh? What lady, I've only just sat down myself. Wait a sec and a husband will materialize.' She didn't look like she was expecting a husband any time soon, and god help him if he showed up, I thought wryly. But anyway, I was irritated with Peter being so discourteous - I'd show him, and I walked over myself, smiling, can I lend you a hand maybe?
Well, could I? With out so much as a smile or a bonjour I was set to work, do this, hold that, non, non, laissez, as if I was the skivvy
We were not coping.
Fuck. Where's Peter when you need him? Oh, here he is, calmly wandering up to us, hands in his pockets, friendliest look on his face. Slightly amused, and a little superior he surveys the scene.
The woman/girl/lady, immediately loses the chagrined look and transforms into a charming, flirtatious little vamp. Dancing around him, bending her head this way and that, all fluttery, flattery smiles. If I hadn't been too scared to let go of the tent pole if would have told her where she could shove it.
Finally, secure in the knowledge that at least the tent was erected, Mieke and I slunk off. Not even a glance in our direction, let alone a thank you, as the poor little soul was otherwise engaged, roping in Peter, who later professed he was too busy trying to work out her French to notice. Ha! us girls thought the body language was loud and clear
Fortunately we just spent the one night there. One night of lying spread-eagle on our mattresses as they, we, the whole tent was in danger of being taken off by the incredible strong winds, first lifting, then flattening our shelter to then billow it up like a hot air balloon.
An unusual experience, to say the least, an adventure in more than one way.
We went to visit our brother, that was a pleasure, of course, we don't see each other often enough. I took some pictures of their land, with the pigs and goat. Their own slice of paradise.
Thanks Marisha for a wonderful lunch, don't know how you do it.
The weather was picking up and we went on to Olargue, not that far north. Peter had seen a documentary about the place and it was indeed enchanting. A medieval village with the most beautiful 12th century bridge I have ever seen. And luckily, it was about the only spot in the whole of France that was sunny.
The camping site was perfect, a little unruly and hippy-ish, on the border of a stony river, great boulders and deep pools of clear water where you could swim with and over the fish. Nothing in the world can calm you down like that. Though we were on our way back to Cledat, Mieke had a plane to catch, we couldn't bring ourselves to leave, it was just too good.
On our last day we went to the gorges d'Heric
Poor Sheppie, who is really getting too old and fat for these expeditions seemed happy enough to trundle along. He swam, something he has just recently taken to, up until now he always had to feel the bedding of the river under his feet but somehow or other he has gained confidence, or maybe he gained weight and wants it off his feet. So all of us had a wonderful time, but he trailed behind on our way back to the car and needed to be helped in, he couldn't make the jump. Once we got back to the camping site he refused to leave the back seat, not even to eat, drink or pee. He lay there, panting and drooling and he even started gnarling when we tried to pull or lift him out.
The night ended in tears, I sat with him, sang and read to him, reasoned and pleaded, he wouldn't budge and in the end I was convinced he was going to die, then and there.
Well, he is with me right now, right as rain. He is old and ailing, I know, I even know he is going to die soon. But not now. Not yet.
I have some pictures of him. Nobody will care to see them but I am going to put them up anyway. Well, the children will of course. (Hi Rose, Twan, Dick en Ezra, maak je maar geen zorgen, hij is nu helemaal de oude, voor wat dat waard is :))
Sheppie is the best horrible dog I ever had
I once had a French boyfriend who called me that and for the longest time I thought it was a compliment. It sounded so nice. Of course he said it lovingly and he was only 18, though I am not sure that is an excuse.
But I understand the word better now and you know who was really insupportable?
That woman next door, with the batting eyelashes and the pouting lips. Actually, I could come up with quite a few newly acquired french words for her and her stupid tent.
And on second thoughts, she can't have 'insupportable' - I quite like it, fond memories, I'll just keep it for myself.
Nice word, insupportable.