This afternoon, being a Wednesday with no school commitments, we had arranged with two of our new resident Quillan friends and keen randonneurs to take a walk up into the hills beyond Ginoles.
I’ve always found walking groups a great way to meet the locals, as well as to get to know the area – and it’s an excuse to speak French over something less transactional than the groceries.
When I lived in Dunkirk for a year teaching English in the mid 1990s, I joined the local walking club, and was surprised when a man said he ‘knew who I was and what I was doing there’. When I recognised him on second glance as the official charged with processing my Carte de Sejour, I made sure to greet him warmly and all went very smoothly from that point. A love of hiking can have unexpected benefits!
In Quillan I have not yet managed to hook in to any of the organised walks, but I have, in conversation at the Fleuve, been introduced to several people who walk regularly, or who organise walking tours, and that’s a good start. Even better, at least one of them is actually French, so I will have a chance to improve my language skills.
It was with my new French acquaintance and a British resident that we were heading off today. There was a small hitch when Tomos emerged from morning class having twisted his ankle playing soccer. Undaunted, we opted to head off anyway and see how it went, there being plenty of points on the intended route at which we could opt to turn back.
It was a perfect day for walking, with blue sky and a light breeze.
We packed home made baguette sandwiches, apples and a water bottle as well as rain coats, and made our rendez-vous with our friends at the Fleuve, as agreed, at midday.
With two enthusiastic dogs in tow, we set off on the familiar path to Ginoles, heading towards the Roc de Capio on way-marked paths. It was a perfect day for walking, with blue sky and a warm sun but a cool breeze to ease the way.
At this point, an hour into the walk, Tom had done valiantly but it was clear his ankle needed a rest. So, leaving the others to push on to the pass and a further three hours of walking for the return trip, we stopped for our lunch in the shade of a handy grove of olive trees, with plenty to look at.
Heading back to Quillan the way we came, we noticed the early afternoon autumn sun striking the hills in their golden glory.
As the sun moved round and the clouds shifted, the church at Ginoles was illuminated as if by God’s spotlight.
We will take this walk again on and up to the Roc de Capio when we have more time and our ankles are up to it. That will be for another post. Meanwhile, we are enjoying our well-earned rest after another good stretch of the legs, and a fresh breeze to blow the cobwebs away.