Granted, it’s not March 20th yet, but spring is sweeping in to southern France with gusto, as if to apologize for the slightly freakish snowstorm last week. The sun shines brighter, the days get longer, the wind isn’t bitingly cold, and flowers! Flowers bloom. Oh, and bullfrogs croak. More on that later.
It’s so great to slow down, stop and smell the roses. Well, not the roses per se. But usually, I’m too busy to notice when flowers start budding and blooming. Or I’m in an urban setting where the only flowers are in fenced-in parks. Or both. But now? Just look:
So, in honor of spring — well, really more just to stretch my legs and rid myself of the cabin fever I had been developing — I went for a walk today. My plan was to walk about 20 minutes into the countryside (away from town), turn around at the bridge, and come back. When I reached the bridge, I didn’t want to turn around, so I kept going. I saw more things than I could have imagined. I’ve driven that road numerous times — or been driven, which is the problem. I’m always in the backseat, or it’s dark, or we’re going too fast, and I don’t notice anything outside my window except the trees and an occasional stone wall. So now, today, I started seeing houses tucked away and little bushes with strange buds and gardens and dilapidated sheds and a hospital I didn’t know existed and little creeks and horses, and that’s all before I decided to turn off the main road. I had never noticed that there was a chemin (path-like road, sometimes unpaved, usually just over one lane wide) just beyond the hospital’s chemin that pointed up towards Chassiers, 2.3km. I had always wondered where the other entrance to that town was, so I followed it. I climbed up to the top of the mountain and saw the top of the mine tower beneath me, the Vignobles d’Ardèche (vineyards), little quartiers (neighborhoods) stretching out forever, and a fish pond. Huge orange goldfish swam around with little slivers of fish, until I heard a *plop* on the other side. What I had thought was moss turned out to be about ten bullfrogs, just sitting splotched on the side of the pond. I turned myself to get a better look, and *plipploplipplopplop*, all of them except two jumped into the water. Apparently, I scared them.
I finally found Chassiers again, just by following the only paved road, and entered it about 20 minutes after I saw its steeple. Right at the back entrance, I found the boulangerie — the one I didn’t think actually existed, but apparently does — the homebase of my traveling breadman who brings me bread in his truck every day.
Then, kinda tired, I made my way home. On the way out of Chassiers, there’s a map of the town, both the centreville (downtown, as much as an 800-person town can have a “downtown”) and the entire commune with all its neighborhoods. And my jaw dropped. My two-hour loop had only encircled about an eighth of the entire commune.
This is exactly why my year here would be much easier if I had a car.