Flashback to France

Ariège, Aude, Blogging challenges, Pyrénées, Walking

From time to time, some of you ask me how it was that we came to live in France for about seven years. This post, written on this day eleven years ago, tells the tale.

A WALK IN THE AUDE

February 26th 2010

Last Sunday, we went off as usual with our walking group, Rando de l’Aubo.  We went a mere 20 km eastwards into the neighbouring Aude.  What a difference a few miles makes.  The rugged forests, with hillside pasture for cattle and sheep, fields of maize and feed crops in our own department are exchanged for an almost Tuscan landscape, with little hillside towns overlooking ranks and ranks of vineyards delineating the contours.  Both departments are lovely, but we hicks from the Ariège tend to prefer our less manicured and somewhat wilder countryside.

Still, Sunday’s walk was quite a sentimental journey for Malcolm and for me, because we walked through the village, Ferran, that was our first introduction to this part of the world. A few years ago, an old friend of Malcolm’s sent him an email.  In his letter, he said that it was February, and he’d been sitting outside in his shirtsleeves, gazing out at his perennial view of the distant Pyrenees, at that time covered with bluish-white snow.  Did we fancy a visit to him in Ferran?  We did.  We were of course seduced by those hillside towns, those vineyards, and especially by those views of the Pyrenees.  Not too long after, we came over again, to house hunt, and of course didn’t find that elusive, perfect spot.  Only after we’d returned home did our friend’s wife, who’s an estate agent, spot the possibility that we just might like the butcher’s house in Laroque where we now live.

It was crazy really. We bought it without really knowing the first thing about the area.  But we’ve never regretted it.  We’ll never finish exploring the hillside pathways, always deeply mulched with fallen oak and beech leaves, or the craggier routes up mountainsides, or the gently undulating lower paths through meadowlands, bright with orchids and other flowers, as well as butterflies, throughout the spring and summer.

But that’s the Ariège.  Ferran and the other villages we skirted last Sunday are typical of the Aude.  Colour washed houses and farms in shades of barley, corn and almond perch high on the hillside, looking down over their vineyards, and beyond – one way to the Montagne Noire, the other to the Pyrenees.  The hills roll away into the distance, not so blanketed by forest as our hills are, but at this time of year, green and lush. Though we only walked about 13 km, by the end we were exhausted, because throughout the day we’d been buffeted by the winds for which the Aude is known. But how lucky we are to have two such very different kinds of countryside within such easy reach of our homes.

Sunset over the Pyrenees

.Flashback Friday

61 thoughts on “Flashback to France

  1. How lovely. So did you actually sell up in the UK when you moved, or keep a pied a terre? You certainly found a lovely region to explore. I wish I had done something similar, but life doesn’t always work out the way you want.

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    1. We didn’t actually sell, because we failed to manage it! Instead we rented out our house, which turned out to be for the best, as we had good tenants, and ended up selling when we returned to the uk. Our part of France was wonderful. I miss the mountains – and our friends – a lot.

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      1. There is something about mountains. I loved living in Cape Town where we had not only mountains, but also two oceans. I suppose here parts of Scotland would come close.

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    1. I’ve a feeling that my blog, which I started very much as a record of those times, may have to serve. There are so many books out there about ‘My perfect life in France’ by Englishwomen of a certain age 😉

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    1. No, copied and pasted ,and upped the size of the photos. For some reason, I used to post tiny photos! As to the memoir, see my reply to Rebecca. You could do a Portuguese version though?

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      1. Fair enough! Alison Sheldrake has me well beaten to it. I’m contributing a chapter to her second book, due out in April, and she has a third in the pipeline. I’m much too dilatory, and rubbish at technology. 🙂

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      2. There’ll be none of that! Alison’s got the Beta readers in to sort us all out 😟💕 I expect I’ll review it but to be honest I haven’t enjoyed the process, handing control over to someone else.

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