I found myself in the south of France last February, wanting nothing more than to not be in New York. People ask me what I was doing there... Good question, I say.
I had found a friend in the mother of my friend, a French-born conductor based out of Baltimore, whose mother is a French actress, playwright, cabaret performer, and scholar of Occitane culture and language, with a long and impressive career. She and her lovely husband, (and of course, their magnificent cat, Jaufré,) offered to help me get a visa, and were my hosts for the first part of the year at their excruciatingly beautiful home in Languedoc. In addition to being lovely people, they are almost 100% responsible for the improvement of my French during that time, for teaching me about the history and culture of both France in general, and the rich, local Occitane culture - also for my meeting my lovely Hungarian boyfriend! More on that in another post. ;)
But suffice to say, they offered me an escape and an adventure into the virtually unknown, and I took it, gladly.
The South of France, particularly the Cévennes Mountain region, is one of the most beautiful parts of the world I've ever seen. Rugged mountains with narrow, treacherous roads, valleys filled with mist, crystal green mountain streams... With flora and fauna that was entirely different from my native Upstate New York.
At night, I stood on my little balcony and tracked the constellations with my Sky Guide app and watched the moon. I listened to the hiboux, the frogs croaking, the sheep's bells quietly jostling, and most of all, the silence.
I met some truly incredible people. Young people who may actually be druids, who tended the most beautiful gardens with the utmost care. Bluesmen, Welsh folk singers. A man who quoted 5 minutes of Thus Spake Zarathustra, from memory, to me on the bank of a mountain stream. A remarkable Scandinavian abstract expressionist. I spent time with the warm, typical southern French people whose families go back generations in the area.
I accidentally saw a legendary illustrator play the mandolin in a small bistro. I spent hours on end by a crystal-green stream, (below,) with my friends, playing my autoharp, eating cheese, and imagining myself as a shepherd girl.
Catch you on the flip side - stay tuned for the next chapter.
This blog is Part 1 of 9 about my year in France. Check out the other chapters here!