Whenever we think we’re beginning to know the areas near home quite well, something comes along to surprise us.
Take Couiza, for instance, a town in the Aude that has been the centre point for quite a few of our walks. It can offer, within easy reach of the town, a typical Audois landscape which is almost Tuscan, with rolling hills vineyards and cypresses. Or craggy, scrubby garrigue, almost Spanish looking. Or there’s le Domaine de l’Eau Salee, which I blogged about previously, where the streams are pink with salt washed from the earth, and have been exploited by man for centuries.
It supports a rich variety of plant life which is just springing into flower: Tiny daffodils, less than 3 inches high, bright yellow potentilla, grape hyacinths. Bluish grasses bind the dry and sometimes sandy earth, and the air is rich with the strong scent of various wild thymes and lavender.
This red earth is all-encompassing. And then suddenly, it stops. And we’re back again among more pallid yellowish soils, enjoying views of the distant Pyrenees, and the mountain which dominates this part of the world, Bugarach.
The walk was on the hottest day of the year so far, with clear, vivid blue sky. We shed jumpers, long trousers, and our pasty winter skin turned the colour of that red earth. There was a wide shallow stream at the village where our walk began and ended, and a few of us enjoyed a paddle. I greatly contributed to the end-of-day bonhomie by falling in…….