Back In The Hood
It seems a lifetime ago that I left my Camino adventure and yet it’s only been a few weeks.
I’m not gonna lie. Settling back into real life has been strange. Many people talk of this, the transition and the “downer” that naturally comes after a big adventure, and although I didn’t really expect to feel it I have to admit I did. And perhaps that’s just natural?. I think there’s an intensity that comes with doing something like the Camino not just in the physical aspect of the thing, but also the relationships that you develop and the multitude of impactful impressions and emotions you go through each day. It’s an all-encompassing thing and when you stop after 6 weeks or so, regular life can seem….well….kinda bland.
So it’s taken me a few weeks, not just to get back into my groove here, but also to process and re-asses what I’ve been through.
It almost felt like screwing my head back on again, but with a new threads carved by my time on the trail. I know that sounds a bit bizarre, but it’s really been a process! The Camino shifted me in a deep way (it really did) and I guess I’m just learning how to move forward with that in my day-to-day It’s also meant a break in the blog again (sorry folks!), but now I’m feeling more settled and ready to get back into a regular post schedule again.
So what has happened over the past few weeks?
It’s been a lot actually! From a family visit to a flower festival, a trip up an iconic mountain-top to beer brewing (Paul was busy while I was gone) and scorching heat so heavy it felt like my chest was going to explode. I’ve also still got lots more Camino stuff to share. I promised you a post about the things that worked (and those that didn’t), my overall impressions and a few other key tips and items. I won’t get to those today, but they are on the list and definitely will be coming sooner rather than later.
Let’s dig in, eh?
Family And Flowers
Right after I got back from the Camino, my sister and brother came over for my dad’s belated 80th birthday celebration, and a whole slew of activities followed.
First up was the annual celebration of Saint Antoine in our local village, the Saint that “nourishes the flowers”. It’s a gorgeous event where a 1km long flower carpet is meticulously laid out by over 300 volunteers in the early morning followed by a procession that walks through it a few hours later.
It’s also a very old tradition that dates back to the 16th century (or so the archives say), although it went out of mode in the early 1900’s and was only revived recently around the year 2000 by the local village Association. Of course COVID killed it the last two years, so it was a splendid surprise to see it “on” again.
Dad and I went early morning to take in the flowers, but skipped the procession for the forecasted afternoon heat (which I fear will be an on-going topic this summer). As usual the whole thing was beautiful, and served as quite the lovely re-introduction to my local life here.
An Iconic Mountain Top
Our family adventure and the real birthday celebration came a few days later in the form of a mini-expedition to a rather iconic mountaintop.
Pic Du Midi is the oldest high mountain astronomy observatory in the world, and has quite a long and interesting history. Located at an altitude of 2877m, the first meteorological observations were made here in the mid 1700’s by a select few folk who made the tough 12-hour hike up the mountainside in wooly clothing with barometric instruments in tow.
François de Plantade was one of these gentlemen and became quite renowned for his hardiness, continuing his work through his last ascent at the ripe of old age of 71 where (unfortunately) he succumbed and died on a col nearby. However his wonder of the Pic remained steadfast and in his final breath he was said to have exclaimed “Ah ! que tout ceci est beau !” (Oh, all this is so beautiful). Having been there, I can understand that sentiment…
The observatory itself broke ground in 1870 and went through many iterations to the form it has today. It’s done some serious work too from mapping the moon for the Apollo missions in 1969 to modern research on stellar magnetism. Of course nowadays scientists and tourists just take a cable car from La Mongie to get there. 1,000m and 15 mins later you arrive to a splendid viewing terrace complete with restaurant, cafe, planetarium and discovery museum. You can even spend the night in the comfort of the revamped research facility (which is apparently quite the experience), but you need to book over a year ahead to snag those beds.
We just went for a day trip, booking a few nights at a farmhouse Airbnb ~30 mins away and then going up in two groups (so that Polly wouldn’t be left alone). We got ridiculously lucky with the weather too. It was raining and cloudy several days before we went, fogged up completely the morning after we left, but the day we we rode the cable car it was crystal clear and sunny with visibility up to 300 km out. Frikkin’ incredible!
The whole thing was a superb experience too, and way more fun than I originally thought it would be. The ride up was thrilling, the views spectacular and the displays and information at the top very engaging. Our 2 hours flew by in the blink of an eye and we could easily have stayed longer, but needed to get back to Polly and let the next group to come up.
Well worth it…if you’re ever in the area don’t miss this!
It’s Been Sweltering Hot
We’ve all been melting these past 4 days in one of the earliest and longest canicules (heat waves) ever recorded in France.
It’s been blazing since the middle of this week, breaking temp records both on the high side (43) and the low side, and throwing 11 départements into “vigilence rouge” (red alert) including ours. It’s not the hottest temps France has ever seen (that comes later in the year), but it’s ridiculously hot for this time of year and that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the summer.
Yours truly has been suffering (I just can’t seem to handle the heat anymore, even more so after the hospital episode I had last month on the Camino), but it’s even worse for farmers and crops across the country. On top of it all swathes of France are already under varying levels of drought alert thanks to two years of sub-par rainfall that have failed to fill the water tables. 44 départements are under water restrictions so far, with more to come as the summer wears on.
We’re managing in our little enclave. We have air-conditioning in several rooms and only a very small portion of our garden requires water (we’ve “rewilded” almost all of our acreage over the past several years). Plus I snagged a raging deal on a small above-ground pool last winter (only EUR 150 for the whole thing!) which is now installed and serving as our daily cooling-down-spot. It’ll get us through the summer, but what about the many summers to come? And what of all those folks who don’t have the luxuries we do?
I do worry about it all, I really do.
We Have Beer Though, And Veggies (And Fruit)
On a more positive note, Paul was a busy bee during the 6 weeks I snuck away to the Camino.
When I got back a whole slew of changes had been made in the house, not least of which was a full brew-system and our very first batch of 20 liters of IPA (which he just kegged yesterday). He’s using Brew Monk gear and getting all his ingredients from a great little outfit called Get Er Brewed in Ireland. It’s quite the snazzy set-up and has allowed him to get the whole thing down to a science (which of course, is the essence of it all). We taste-tested the stuff right out of the fermenter yesterday and it was pretty darn good. Now we just need to wait for cooler weather so I can get him to brew a strong stout!
We’ve also got a thriving potager (vegetable garden) thanks to his diligence. We’ve got a total of 12 tomato plants, the first of which are already starting to ripen, chilies, green peppers, onions, eggplant, and a bunch of herbs are well on their way (yesterday evening we even whipped up our first batch of fresh pesto…..delish!). There’s a few advantages to a long, hot, sunny summer.
Oh, and that’s not even all. Paul and dad, together with our wonderfully handy (and helpful) neighbor whipped up a small summer terrace in the shade area at the back of the house. It’ll be a lovely little place to hang out during the months when the front (South side) of the house is too hot to relax in. We’ve got more elaborate plans for that though, so I’ll share those pics another time.
Clearly there’s only one conclusion from all this. I need to go on solo adventures more often….
We’re Here For the Summer
That about wraps up the few weeks that have passed since I got back here.
I know some of you may be wondering what our summer travel plans are, but for various reasons it’s all staying put right here this year. I’ve got a few more small solo trips planned later in the summer, and we’ve got some stuff going on this fall and winter, but while it’s hot we’re holding steady at home. There’ll be plenty of other stuff going on though, outings (summer season is always busy in France with village activities, music festivals and such) and lots of home-cooked food. Plus we’ve got all that beer to drink and those tomato’s to pick. We won’t be bored.
Most importantly this summer will give me some time to finally wrap up all those Camino thoughts that are whipping around in my head, or at least that’s the plan. We’ll see how that works out in the next few blogs.