Thursdays, I walk. I do these days anyway. A few weeks ago I was invited to join a small informal group from round these parts, went once, and had a great time. Then The Great Snows came, and that was that for a while.
Yesterday, though, we went to Cépie, near Limoux. Cépie is a village that Malcolm and I happened to be driving through several years ago in high summer, and where we spotted a fruit producer, selling peaches and nectarines. Those peaches we saw that day have become the standard against which all others are measured. Dripping with perfumed sweet juices, the tray we bought scented the car with its decadent fragrance, and all but intoxicated us as we drove home. So I was keen to go again, lack of peaches notwithstanding.
Instead of peaches, there were views. The Pyrenees are more distant here, but that means we got horizon-filling views of the gleaming snowy mountains as they rise and sink in a line of angular peaks, marching right across the skyline from east to west. Because of the haziness of the day, the photos give no idea of the panoramas which we quite simply had to stop and gaze at, time after time.
This area is Tuscan style Aude – rolling hills with distant domains and lines of cypresses, covered for acre after acre with mathematically precise lines of vines. I used to find these vineyards rather dull in winter.
Now, as the workers get busy in the fields, pruning away all the growth from the previous year to leave little more than a two or three foot high trunk, I enjoy the way these organised lines echo and follow the contours of the landscape.
Our walk took us in a figure of eight through sandy, stony wooded paths, passing near domaines and hamlets whose reason for being is those vineyards. Towards the end, we paused in the tiny village of Saint Martin de Villereglan and enjoyed looking at the school-cum-town hall, the views down to the church, and generally pausing for breath before the final yomp up, then down the hill that divided us from Cépie.
A nice touch with these walks is that every week, one member of the group makes a special cake to share at the end of the day. A lovely moment of sharing (in this case with a couple of passing villagers who got chatting), it gives a much needed calorie rush. We’d only done about 16 km, but the local temperatures rose to more than 23 degrees, and we felt we deserved our gâteau aux noix.