This summer’s weekly walks at Espinas got off to a good start last Wednesday with René leading. I have written about Espinas on these pages before (click here). The picture above shows one of the local sights. The man wearing the hat is the late, lamented mayor, M. Remesy, who started the walks and died, sadly, several years ago (I hasten to add that this photo was taken a number of years ago; he didn’t come back to join us ‘from the other side’).
We were 30 or so walkers, a good turnout. Since there are participants of various nationalities, René calls us ‘L’Europe qui marche’ (a pun: the Europe that walks, but also the Europe that works). Among them, I was very pleased to meet a reader of my blog, Linda, holidaying with husband Vic in a small house in the village. Having read my previous posts about the rotten June weather, poor Linda must have been a bit worried about how it would turn out during their holiday. Fortunately, the weather has changed completely and everyone is now complaining about it being too hot.
Starting in the village itself, we followed a small road between fields and potagers to a tiny hamlet called La Grésie, the traditional first stop on the first walk. Here, we were welcomed by Roger, an elderly farmer, in his flower-filled courtyard. Formerly, he lived there with his brother, who died a few years ago. Between them, they provided the flowers for the municipal displays in the village.
Every year, Roger brings out and displays the collection of fossils that he has found in the surrounding fields over the years. They include a couple of ichthyosaurus vertebrae, many shells and the bullet-shaped remains of the hard inner parts of squid. All this testifies to the fact that the waves once rolled where we stood. Roger reminisced about the old times in the hamlet, when farmers who were born and bred there populated it. Now, few of the houses are permanently occupied, like so many similar hamlets in rural France.
We continued downhill (bad news that – a steep climb back to Espinas awaited us), enjoying the views of rolling green countryside under a cloudless sky. From time to time, Eric, a Dutch naturalist, pointed out and explained examples of the local flora and fauna. Everyone nervously started examining their bare legs as he told us about the unpleasant parasites and diseases carried by the sheep ticks that abound in the region.
Fortified by the idea of the lunch awaiting us back at Espinas, we climbed up to Selgues, another sparsely populated hamlet. It contains a tiny chapel, renovated in recent years to its former glory, where concerts are held from time to time to raise money for further work.
‘Après l’effort, c’est le reconfort’ (literally, after effort, there’s comfort). This was admirably illustrated by the lunch that Nadette and her helpers had prepared. We started with gaspacho, cold Spanish soup humming with garlic, followed by grilled sausages and a delicious mélange of vegetables and finished with local cream cheese served with plum or elderberry jam made by local people. The cream cheese is an acquired taste: it’s a bit bland on its own, hence the jam. We drank locally produced wine – no great vintage, this, but it went well with the simple peasant fare. Afterwards, someone produced a bottle of vieille prune, the fiery local plum eau de vie. I have to pass on that – it’s too strong for me.
The walks continue every Wednesday in July and August. Every other Wednesday, there is a meal for the very reasonable price of 8€. For this year’s programme, click here. There are plenty of other events going on there over the summer, too.