Ragtag Tuesday: Rugged rocks

We both had an affair on holiday. It was a delight while it lasted, and when it ended, as it had to, there were no hard feelings. We’d like to do it again.

We both fell in love with the Corrèze in the Limousin. As far as the eye could see there were majestic rolling hills: forested, green, largely uninhabited other than by the occasional herd of Limousin cattle. Settlements were well-ordered and charming towns and villages, often demonstrating a history dating back to the Middle Ages and beyond. Of course we were smitten.

Then we continued on to our old stamping ground in the Ariège. Not all of this département is actually in the Pyrenees, but the mountains are always visible. And as soon as we saw them again, we knew our affair was over.

The foothills of the Pyrenees – the Plantaurel – from our friends’ house in Laroque.

The Pyrenees tug at our hearts like no other landscape. The gentle foothills are given added character by the backdrop of the mountains. We used to watch for the first flurries of snow on the peaks, maybe in September, while we were still in t-shirts.

When we lived in Laroque, this was our view from our roof terrace, and my daily joy as I hung out the washing there.

Anyone living in the Ariège could name the peaks, count them as their friends – Le pic de Saint-Barthélemy, le Pic des Trois Seigneurs, Montségur. Locals would tell you, every spring, exactly how little snow should remain on the high slopes before you could plant your spuds and beans. They would be the ones to relish the mountains in every way. They’d grab their snowshoes as the snow deepened to enjoy a silent walk in the crisp, cold empty landscape.

No snowshoes here. Just a rugged, snowy walk near Montaillou.

They’d know where to look for alpine strawberries in summer, and have secret places that they wouldn’t tell their closest friends about where they’d gather mushrooms in autumn.

They loved the rugged beauty of the mountains as we did, from the majesty of the snow-covered peaks, to the riot of wild daffodils, then gentians in spring, to the muted soft green palette of the hillsides at dusk on a summer’s evening, to the rich russets and golds of the autumn woodland.

I can’t visit the mountains though without being aware they demand our respect. They’re mighty, rugged and visually stunning. As we gaze at lines of rock, crumpled in geological eras long past, as we look at tumbled boulders lining the valley floor, or delicate but dangerous sheets of scree, they remind us that, compared with them, we are here on earth for a very short space of time. They have witnessed civilisations and religions rise and fall, harboured refugees from war and conflict, provided impenetrable barriers to would-be conquerors and generally put us in our place. It’s this combination of love and respect for them that draws me and moors me to them. Mere hills and plains simply can’t compete.

Today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt is ‘Rugged’.

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Ragtag Tuesday: Driving. England; France; Spain. What a contrast!

We’ve just landed home from our epic car journey through France and Spain.  2,715 miles on the clock.  The worst of those miles were those completed here in the UK.

This morning near the Blackwall Tunnel, London.

I’m not being entirely fair.  We had more than a few traffic-jam moments in Barcelona and Toulouse, but we’ve also enjoyed miles and miles of empty motorways and other roads, particularly in France, where driving was nothing but relaxing.

RN 20 near Pamiers, France.

What really makes a difference though, are the motorway service areas.  I’ve written before about France’s quiet uncommercial aires, which complement the ones with restaurants, shops and all the trimmings.  Even these can be havens of peace though.  Look at the Aire de la Porte de Corrèze.  Yes, it’s got all the usual facilities.  But it’s got space and peace too: a country path, a woodland walk, and a quiet pond.

Now look at the ‘Extra’ service area on the A1 M near Peterborough.  Outside space is strictly for parking in.  Land is scarce and ruinously expensive in the UK of course.  But if only we could have stretched our legs and breathed a little fresh air as we took a break in our journey north.  It would have made so much difference.

Today’s Ragtag challenge is ‘Contrast’.

PS.  I arrived home to some good news from the Police in Barcelona.  They have recovered certain items following last week’s thefts.  I still don’t know what.  Watch this space!

The road north……

We left Barcelona.

Past Monserrat….

We drove north through the Pyrenees, both in Spain and in France…..

Used the mirrors to glance back and back till we could no longer see the mountains……

Through the edge of the Lauragais, south of Toulouse…..

….reaching Cahors by the evening.

Much of the next day was spent in the flatlands of central France, in the Touraine…..

And now we’re with friends in Normandy, on the border of both Mayenne and Manche.

Which landscape would you choose?

Ragtag Tuesday: Migration difficulties

We’ve been on the move since my last post: firstly to friends near Laroque, then to Emily and Miquel in Barcelona.  England – France – Spain – France and back to England again: passports required to get out of and back into England.

The trouble is, returning to England may prove tricky.  No passports.

The first thing we did in Barcelona was to go and meet Emily and Miquel from their flight from Seville.  I left Malcolm while I went to link up with them.  A man wheeling a luggage trolley veered into the car, and so Malcolm jumped out to have words with him.

We were duped.  As he did that, Luggage Trolley Man’s accomplice whipped my handbag out of the car.  So …. no handbag, no purse, no credit cards, no camera with some 140 shots on it, some of which I wanted to share with you,  no keys and NO PASSPORTS.

Thanks to Emily and Miquel, we’ve reported the whole thing to the Police, and since then we’ve applied online to the British Consulate for emergency travel documents. We’ve done every single piece of work towards getting these, and for a single-use piece of paper, we’ve been charged £100 each.  New passports will be £75 each.  Temporary migration for us was incredibly easy.  Immigration – less so.

All the same, we’re having a high old time.  We are neither political nor economic migrants.  We need to keep things in perspective, and put it down to experience.

This week’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘migration’.

Ragtag Tuesday: Crepuscule in Corrèze

As we say goodbye to Corrèze for now, it seems fitting that the Ragtag word for today is ‘crepuscule.  It means twilight, and I always thought of it as an evening word.  But it can mean dawn as well.  So was this photo, taken from Sharon and Andrew’s house, and home to us for a week, taken in the morning or the evening?  What’s your guess?

 

A scrapbook from the Corrèze

I was going to write a final post from the town, the region where we have been so happy this week, just taking life s-l-o-w-l-y.  I’ve decided though to let a few pictures do the talking.  Landcapes, townscapes, doors…. whatever took my eye, in no particular order.  Best come and visit for yourselves, I think.

 

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The cat that has eight lives

We were just getting back from our evening walk with Mortimer.  We’d already had a run in with Jacques the donkey.  Well, Mortimer had – he doesn’t seem to like him.  And now Jacques doesn’t like Mortimer.  As you can see.

On the home stretch, I glanced up.  Look at this cat.  Yes, the horizontal band running between the ground and first floors of this building is as narrow as you think it is.

The cat picked its way delicately forward until it came to the corner.  Now what?  It peered cautiously forward – the next building along was too far away.  It peered even more cautiously backwards, and nearly tumbled.  It thought hard.

Finally, and with infinite care, it walked, step by anxious step, backwards to the balcony where it had started its unwise adventure.  Another cat was hovering there.  Cheering?  Admonishing?  Getting a stiff whisky ready?  Who knows.

I don’t think this feline road show will be repeated tomorrow.

And Mortimer?  He hadn’t a clue why his evening walk had ground to an abrupt halt for ten minutes or so.  Just further evidence that his dog sitters, though amiable enough he supposes, are barking mad.