We had our first trip out today. Not a practical trip to the supermarket. Not a trip confined to within a ten kilometres radius of home. A proper day out. Freedom.
Our destination was a small village 77 km away called Simorre. We were going there simply because Michael had noticed it on the skyline as he drove back from Olivia last week and thought it looked interesting. This is how we always used to arrange our days out before Covid came along: pick a destination to head for and then allow ourselves to be side-tracked by whatever we found en-route that might look interesting. As you will see from the pictures below France never fails to provide beguiling lanes to turn down, tempting green tracks to wander along and something unexpected on every trip.
I popped into the boulangerie in Simorre to pick up a treat or two, a chocolate muffin and a pistachio/almond concoction, and as I crossed the square with my goodies in my hand I said Bonjour to a woman passing the other way. She replied in the same vein and then stopped and asked where I was from. I told her I was English and she nodded knowingly and then informed me that she could tell from the way I said hello. I gave her a smile, through slightly gritted teeth, and made my way back to the van, where Michael had got the kettle boiling for a cuppa. He looked at my glum face and grimaced.
‘What’s up with you?’
‘One word.’ I said.
‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’
‘That’s all it takes. One word and they know I’m not French. All these years, all those Bonjours and I still can’t say it right.’
Michael handed me my mug. ‘Don’t worry about it. It probably sounds charming, just like the French do when they speak English.’
I hadn’t thought of it like that before. I’d always tried so hard to get my accent as good as I possibly could, usually at the expense of the grammar! But I suddenly realized I had been beating myself up for nothing.
‘This is nice.’ Michael took a huge bite out of the pistachio muffin.
‘We’re sharing it.’ I grabbed it and handed him the chocolate one. ‘And we’re sharing that too so don’t gobble it all.’
Once tea and muffins were despatched, we set off to see what we could find. It was a pretty town, with charming squares and painted houses. As is so often the case, the church was very grand, almost too imposing for such a small place.
The graveyard was on the outskirts, quite independent from any church building. Opposite was a field of barley and above it the natural shapes of swirling clouds contrasted sharply with the hard lines of the contrails. Our skies had been empty of planes for so many months but they were making their presence felt once more.
Arriving back at the car park we noticed a well worn track leading out into the fields. We followed it and found a co-operative allotment site, complete with a pig, and an unusual calender of lady gardeners with striking head gear, one poster for each month of the year.
Having seen Lac de L’Astarac on the map we drove home by a slightly different route to have a look. You can just see the mountains in the distance. The wildflowers were so profuse that it made me wonder why we bother with our manicured, organised gardens and we learnt the name of a new flower: the pyramid orchid – I am hopeless at remembering plant names but I think I shall be able to remember this one.
I know many of you have been enduring horrible weather and are probably gnashing your teeth at all these blue skies, but in my defense we also have had a spell of rain and unremitting greyness and this was our first good day for ages. And now we are back to grey skies again and as I send you this blog it is raining. Feeling better?
So that is it for this week. Best wishes.