[personal profile] luis_mw
It is, perhaps, a common thing that places close by have less appeal than those far away.  Certainly, for example, it rarely occurs to me to enjoy London, except when showing off for visitors. So, it seems only right that France, the closest foreign country to home, is the one I have visited the least, even though it is the only country whose language I can speak.  There was the time my grandmother took my sister and I, when I was ten years old, on a day trip to Béthune. It seemed, at the time, a dreary and rain-sodden town in northern France whose sole reason for being a destination was that it was twinned with Gran’s home town of Hastings. I remember little of it aside from exercising my schoolboy French in pursuit of a box of matches for my Grandmother and one of those concertina booklets of postcards that she used to collect.  I remember being very proud of remembering the words for matches and traffic lights, but that was it.

Years later, after university, there was a week in Paris with my then fiancée, and years later still, a couple of short trips there via the Eurostar with my wife.  Aside from that I had seen nothing of the country.

Today I can say that I have seen a lot more, most of it relatively rural and covered in grapevines or sunflowers, most of it somewhat less than horizontal, and a lot of it medieval in nature.  From Toulouse to Carcassonne to Cucagnan and back via abbeys, châteaux and the legacy of a mindset that looks for the tallest lump of rock and builds a castle, or indeed, a city on it. I have learned about Cathars, eaten cassoulet, climbed on ramparts, slithered on pathways that might make a goat blink and dredged grammar and vocabulary from the deepest depths of my brain’s archives, occasionally succeeding in making myself understood.  It was a  journey of some 500km, with many bends along the way.  It was a journey that started in Toulouse...

(Actually it started even earlier than that, with a cunning plan on the part of my wife, [livejournal.com profile] silme, who decided to do something different for my 50th birthday)

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luis_mw

June 2012

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