26 June 2010

France is a place to be enjoyed slowly

It doesn't take long to unwind in France
I woke up this morning, walked out into the garden and picked fresh cherries from the tree. I decided to take the day off from the bike and explore the area by car and by foot. I took the time to walk around the local towns, to go into the market, to picnic near the river on the road to the Tourmalet. I hiked to the Pic du Midi (almost). 
I highly recommend staying in a small town in France. One of the benefits of traveling on your own, is to stay in lodges and B&Bs located in towns that are quiet in the morning and peaceful at night. In the mornings in Saint Savin, I awake to the sound of the church bell ringing, to birds singing, to the smell of burning leaves. I hear neighbors chatting in French. I happen upon morning markets in the nearby town squares. After my bike rides, I return to the lodge and the sound of men playing soccer in the field across the lane. I hear children running and playing, and from my balcony, I watch the old man next door pick raspberries from his garden.
This evening after dinner at the cycling lodge, I wondered around the town of Saint Savin taking a few pictures. I took the time to sit and enjoy the view. I returned to sit on my balcony and listened to the music of the festival building in the town square below. Olive and Paddy said there would be a festival in town tonight to celebrate La Fete de Saint Jean. I had no idea what to expect. Just before dark (10:00pm), I scurried back down to town not knowing what to expect.
The locals had gathered outside the local bar, drinking and eating. I looked up to see them handing out candles to young and old alike. Suddenly a procession formed and the crowd meandered to the chapel up the hill on the outskirts of town. I walked along with them. We entered the field next to the chapel. I watched as the children gathered, with a few adults, and set their candles to the ground to start a large bonfire.
Everyone stood back and watched. The flames reached skyward lighting the night. Afterwards, the locals gathered around a table in the field for cake and coffee. As I sit here now I can hear the music and singing in the streets below as the towns people return to town to continue the party.
None of this was planned, and that is the beauty of staying in a small town in France. When I slow my pace, I notice so much more and suddenly feel apart of my surroundings. Today I saw a couple sitting out on the Tourmalet, I thought, "this is so French, to simply park your car, and sit out and enjoy a view together". 
There is a new guest at the lodge tonight, he is from Scotland. He said he is here for a week, and he most looked forward to riding and stopping for a drink, and then riding some more, and not worrying about riding with 30 guys, and who is in the break, and pressing the pace. A different sense of time, is the true beauty of France. 
Pictures from my day in France:

(There are two chapels in town, this is the other one)