France – We Arrive!Posted: August 29, 2011
Its as if Dorothy had clicked her heels and her tornado picked us up, swirled us around, and dropped us somewhere completely different. The French countryside. Continental Europe. We are both reminded of the contrast to the UK, feeling there, a while to adjust, coming back, it feels natural.
Pristine, small villages, open spaces, well kept fields and crops, a climate that grows incredible luscious fruits and vegetables (and every back yard has a veggie patch). A climate where you can keep some rabbits in a hutch for food. People here eat well without relying on shops – self sufficiency as natural walking! Not just a romantic notion but practise adopted over thousands of years. We both relax a little more here, it suits us!
I have to confess, I am crazy for the French accent. I cannot get enough of it and could not wait for the first opportunity to enter a small cafe to greet with a “Bonjour” and hear it in reply. I was not disappointed. I feel its almost surreal that everyone around us speaks French! In fact, very little English, if any, is found in these little northern towns. I say to Tony, I cannot believe the French ever talk about mundane things – the language is so beautiful it sounds like it could only be expressing poetry, philosophy or art! Then again even the mundane can sound like art in French. Try wrapping your palette around “Je pense qu’ll va pleuvoir” Translation in English, “I think its going to rain!!` Tony thinks I’m batty and of course his continental rivalries kick in!!! We agree to agree that Italian is a language of passion, French a language of love!
Our objective, amongst eating, enjoying and relaxing in France, is to walk. We need to get into condition for our 20 km per day Portuguese/Spanish pilgrimage to Santiago. We have 40 days to train! We accidentally land in a small village beside a church and head down the road. We then accidentally find a walking track – the 28 km trail of the Sentier du Haut Pichot. We are in our element, tromping along the soft, rain moistened track, freshly fallen acorns crunching under our feet, sheltered by leafy Hazelnut trees. Even the strongly aromatic manured fields do not spoil our joy……. let me tell you, it must be good manure! Sure smells like it!
Our first big town camp is in Arras! The Flemish Baroque Grand Square is noted in the Lonely Planet as one of Europe’s finest. Certainly the Saturday morning market is! Incredible produce just reminds us why we are going to love France so much. Unusual mushrooms, clusters of hanging garlic, frilly lettuce, live roosters and rabbits. We grab ourselves some delicacies and later that day, have a picnic during our bike ride: Cold shoulder of rabbit that Antonio has cooked in a FrancoItaliano style, french beans, blue cheese and fresh figs! Its good to be in France.