Not least because of the luminous wall-to-wall blue skies we have enjoyed here for almost two months. Every season has its charms, even winter, although by the end of February they’re well hidden. But for me, autumn is a special season down here. Why?
- The weather
In 17 years, we have had some rotten autumns. 1998 sticks in my mind as a particularly wet and gloomy one. However, the months of September and October are often the best of the year: they certainly are this year.
The weather is settled, warm during the day but with a welcome nip in the air at night. You can eat outside at lunchtime, and often in the evening before the clocks go back; you can garden at all times of day without having to retreat inside from the heat; and you can dispense with the central heating but still snuggle down by the fire in the evening.
Spring is a lovely season for walking because the countryside is so green and burgeoning. Mais attention: it’s often very wet underfoot. Autumns like this one are dry but warm, and you can walk in shorts but not get too hot. Crunching leaves underfoot and inhaling the scents of bonfire and dry vegetation are among the most intense sensory pleasures for me.
This weekend, which promises to be fine, we plan to do one of our favourite walks along the valley of the River Viaur, which divides the Aveyron from the Tarn. You very rarely meet anyone else but, when you do, you greet each other with that knowledge that you are sharing a special place.
- Autumn colours
The colours are usually spectacular down here. This year, the trees are only just turning, which is late. This may be because we had a lot of rain this year and no summer drought, which has kept the leaves on the trees for longer.
The countryside is just taking on those shades of burnt umber and auburn that spell autumn for me. It won’t last long.
“Season of…mellow fruitfulness.” Summer’s last effort before the winter. This is the time for sweet chestnuts, walnuts and wild mushrooms.
We have gathered in the last of our walnuts – surprisingly many this year, despite the inauspicious summer. The fig tree is still producing fruit, although we leave some for the birds and insects. Since we are too lazy to have a potager (vegetable patch), we benefit from friends’ generosity with pumpkins and butternut squash.
- Life is back to normal
For two months of the year, July and August, the population is swelled by summer visitors, the stalls in the markets double in size and number, and you can’t move for fêtes, concerts, vide greniers (jumble sales), and entertainments of all kinds. On 1st September, someone flicks a switch and it all stops.
In some ways, it’s a shame that this almost frenetic concentration of activity doesn’t last longer than two months. But then, normal life down here just isn’t like that. In the autumn, you settle back into your habitual train de vie, enjoying simple pleasures and savouring real life in la france profonde.
It’s not for everyone; but it is for us.
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