Wednesday, 22 October 2008

19 October 2008 Sunday - The autumn walk

I slept well last night. I look out of the window and in the direction that we are going, a low mist is covering the hills.
Breakfast tool of choice is a bowl. You can have cornflakes or yoghurt, then put tea, coffee or hot chocolate into your bowl and drink that. There is also bread and home made preserves. I try the peach and the prune.
Eventually we set off in convoy. I and another chap stop in Vicdessou (can’t remember the spelling) and get a lift in his lady friend’s car.
Then it is up the hairpin bendy road to Goulier where there is just room for us to park at the end. There are already lots of cars there. The road is wet and it is misty in the hills. I have put on my new walking boots. New as in not used before.
Compared with my new companions I am sadly underequipped. Quiet at the back there!!
The majority have at least one walking pole, many have two. I have none.

We set off walking up the road and most are well wrapped up against the damp, with bobbly hats in place. As we commence our walk upwards towards the ski station (where we will have our barbeque) we break through into sunshine. The autumn scenery is stunning with the trees in a variety of golds, reds, browns, greens etc. There are also the views of the mountains and the small villages nestling in them.
The “easy” climb is tough going, and there is not much talking going on as we pant and wheeze on our way.
After about 2 hours we reach our destination. We are not on top of the world, but we are quite high up.
The ski lift lies silent, its tow bars stored in piles on the ski refuge floor. Someone tells me that these slopes usually have snow in winter, but that because it doesn’t get the sun at that time of year due to its location, it is a very cold ski resort. I say resort, but in this case it means a refuge with a small snack bar (closed at the moment), and a single line ski tow.
Other members of the choir are there already, having driven up to the ski station.
Trestle tables and chairs appear from the refuge. A fire is lit and the aperitif food appears. Olives, dried sausages, nuts, nibbles, breads, etc etc. Do you want to try my home made black wine? Yes. It tastes a bit like sherry.
Once the fire is ready, huge coils of Toulouse sausage, ribs and other meats are cooked. Big pots of salad appear. The two hamburgers that I brought along lie cooked but untouched on the table.
Where is your plate? They ask. Now no-one mentioned the need to bring along a plate or cutlery. Someone lends me a spare plate, and I have a small folding knife/fork/spoon set with me.
I sample other wines and top up with a lot of orange juice. I should not be drinking orange juice, they say.
Then the sweets come out.
Now it is time to sing. I chat to Y who is a retired French lady who taught English.
There is no escape from the singing though, and I have to sing a Scottish song.
The singing goes on for ages, but it is all French songs that I do not know.
It is starting to get chilly by the time we head back down the mountain. It is tough on the old legs and my right boot starts to rub the front of my leg.
Back down at the car park I drink from the prehistoric spring, which still has two large stones standing upright to mark its place. Out come the trays of figs again.
Eventually we get back into our car. “Are you coming to the lac?” I know nothing of the lac. There is a café there and a lake. We are going to the lake because it is too early to go to the house of R in Sigeur. After the lake we go to R’s house to eat the remains of the food but they need time to get it ready.
So I get into JP’s car and off we go even higher this time perhaps. We certainly seem to be high. More hairpin bends and eventually we reach the café, which is closed of course. There is the lake. We wander around a bit. I find two huge mushrooms but my mushroom expert is nowhere to be found, so I leave them.
Next stop the small village of Sigeur. It turns out that the house is the holiday home of the gentlemen I spoke to at Goulier Neige. He lives in the next road to me, speaks English and was stationed at Dalcross and Lossiemouth during the war.
I am given some foiegras to try. I have a glass of orange juice in my hand and am told that it should be accompanied with white wine, not orange juice. But I will be driving, I say.
The night draws in and more food appears on the long table under the loggia. An open fire burns in the outside grate. Given the opportunity, I think that most French people could eat and drink all day. I can see it now.
Jean-Paul, the house is on fire. Quick grab the bread, the sausage and that nice Bordeaux that bought yesterday!

At around 10pm I make my excuses and leave. As we arrived a mobile police patrol stopped one of our number for a chat. He was carrying a box with bottles of wine in it, so I was half expecting them to be waiting further down the windy road to catch the revellers. Fortunately the road was quiet and not even a police patrol was in site.
Reached home with no problems. Well done satnav.
It has been an enjoyable weekend. It is always more difficult when you are not sure what exactly is happening next, but everyone has been very welcoming and friendly. I suspect that there are still a few who I haven’t spoken to, but that is probably because they think that I will not understand what they are saying and vice versa.

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