It’s a good thing I’m a mite more practical than you all, and packed rain gear, a hat, long pants, a scarf…Because you know what it did in the south of
I started out in
Feeling not too impressed and a little disgruntled, I took a train to
Exhausted and in a warm, dry, nonmoving bed that night, I wondered why I ever travel, and why I travel so much alone. Rain can make you feel lonely. I felt better after a good night’s sleep and a lazy morning (when it actually didn’t rain), and took a bus to see the Pont du Gard, a huge piece remaining of a 22 mile Roman aqueduct. They were so good, the bricks don’t even have mortar between them: they are that finely formed. Impressive as it is, it doesn’t merit six hours of attention, but due to the unfortunate bus schedule (the bus arriving at 12:50 didn’t have a correspondence back until 6:45), that’s about what I spent there. I scampered around, took pictures from all angles, laid next to the river (it only threatened rain), climbed the nearby trails…and was still left with two hours of thumb-twiddling. But there are worse places to twiddle your thumbs.
My final morning in
On the train ride to Nice, one of the most beautiful train routes, taking me along the coast past places I’d only heard of in movies, I looked out pensively at the falling rain. The scene could have been in a film. The first bright spot of the whole trip came when I got into Nice (whose train workers started on strike when I arrived) and found my friend and host Julien waiting to pick me up. There’s nothing quite so nice as being singled out by a familiar face from the masses on public transit. I know Julien from tango class, but a guy of many talents, he is actually studying hydrological engineering and is working an internship this summer in the small mountain town of
A Change in the Wind
It still rained at Venanson. But it was nice to have company to complain about it to! Julien is a fantastic hike leader, and when the biologist in him came out it was like having my own personal nature guide. I think I know the names of more flowers in French than in English now. One day we climbed up a streambed to picnic on top of the mountain, the next we descended down to the river that cuts the valley to fish next to a waterfall. On the way we passed grazing goats, honeybee hutches, and plenty of overturned rocks where Julien had earlier searched for lizards, scorpions, snakes, mushrooms…It was simply magical, and the town itself only added to it. Perched on the edge of the grand valley view, Venanson counts 160 permanent residents, and doubles if you count the summer vacationers. The earliest mention of the town dates it to the thirteenth century, and it’s a place where the old days are still recounted in outrageous Provençale accents by tottering old men playing cards on the main square. I soaked it up. Julien, having spent a month pent up by the rain that kept him from doing his job working on the town’s drinking water supply, had found the small town feel wearing thin, but it reminded me of my last summer’s work in the Garden in North Manchester, which was fulfilling work in a good setting.
I could’ve stayed there another week, exploring the nooks and crannies of the surrounding hills and getting to know the locals, but two straight days of Julien’s non-stop company (he talks all the time and he knows it) gave me a good yearning for some quiet time by myself again. So, with good wishes, a belated birthday gift, and thankfulness for my visit, my host sent me on my way from Nice to
I was never so happy to see the