Our first year in France was a huge effort to accomplish. I agonized over schooling, choosing a region, a house. I researched for untold hours about all things visa, health care (particularly complicated for our son who was getting post-leukemia checkups), car buying in France, bringing a cat, etc. And from this end renting, repairing, painting the house and deck, packing, purging, selling the car….
Throw in how hard school was for the kids to adjust to, and yet we still feel it was worthwhile and are doing it over again??? YES!!! And hurry: these kids are going to have strong opinions about moving around as they get older.
A 200 year old stone farmhouse with a pool nestled into peach fields. The mountain Canigou visible over your shoulder. Bicycle into town, and buy your unwrapped baguette and some fresh kiwis to put in your basket for the ride home. Jog along dusty paths with tiny med climate plants and flowers clinging to the garrigue (scrubland), up the foothills under Canigou’s nose, and breathe deep, looking out across the plain to the far Mediterranean sea.
Set off on a sparkling day on your new favorite hike on the planet; throw baguette, cheese, and water in your shoulder bag. From your door through the peach fields, up the dirt road onto the foothills by a tiny rocky village dwarfed by its church. Climb a promontory steeply up to the sky to a hermitage and ancient chapel boldly capping the rocky knob, and gaze in all directions, mountain, valley, far Med sea, village. Continue on, descending into the valley among the olive trees, past the ancient lookout tower, up to Castelnou, one of the prettiest villages in France. Sit on the rocky terrace of d’Ici et d’Ailleurs for a drink, or for lunch, a delicious 3 course affair, to finish with a tiny coffee, and then head homeward sated with the pleasure of it all.
Or any of a dozen other amazing days. Visit a secluded Med beach, snorkeling or shell hunting. Or eat oysters with wine at the busier beaches. Head towards the nearby spa town of St Thomas to visit the hot bath outdoor pools, all year long. Visit the walled town of VilleFranche de Conflent and hike hundreds of steps above to the fortification under the mountains. Go slightly farther afield to the famous Carcassonne. Or maybe hike, like in the above picture, to the Tour de Goa watch tower, dramatic in the ring of mountains. Climb Canigou itself, a mystical experience with comfy refuges to stay in. Have a day in Ceret or Collioure, beloved by many artists, for art museums, forts, climbing, sea bathing, fabulous lunches….
I could add many more. We couldn’t believe the choice, the sense of wonder and adventure and discovery, of being in a land without time. Throughout this year back at home my days are peppered by memories popping into mind, from picking a bay leaf for the sauce from the tree in our garden, to the sharp scent of wild herbs on my fingers on Canigou, to feeling drenched with colour and tastes.
Worth it. All worth it.
Sometimes the answer is ‘Because it is there’. This time, the answer is: Because It Is Fabulous!