Revisiting Where I Grew Up: The French Alps

October 13, 2013

I was born in the French Alps and this year I went back to visit family friends after a good seven years away. After making my way to Lyon airport, then catching a bus, followed by a train, I finally ended up in Vif- a small village that surrounds the village in which I grew up.
When I hopped off the train I was hit by the French summer heat, the silence of the small village, and the view of a chicken pen several metres from the train track. Only in France, where Health and Safety officers seem to have been negligent or overlooked rather a lot, I thought. Next it was time to head to the cafe/bar that was to be my home for a week. I felt like a complete outsider as I headed down the street with my suitcase in tow and all of the other bags and items of clothing that didn't quite make it into the suitcase. I probably looked quite a picture and it all felt a little surreal much like it might have felt for Lucy Snowe in Villette or, for a more contemporary reference, Zoe from Hart of Dixie. The little village is so far removed from where I live in England and as I walked practically the length of the village, two young girls were playing in their garden and offered me a friendly 'bonjour madam' as I walked past. It was such a small gesture, but it felt so alien when compared to the familiar hostility of any walkers by in England. I arrived in the courtyard that is home to the pharmacy, the restaurant, and my friend's cafe/bar, to find it closed. With no signal and no way of getting hold of anyone, I got comfortable on the bench by the fountain. It wasn't long though before I was greeted by my old friends. After a pretty interesting first day, I settled in very quickly and enjoyed a wonderful week.

The week mainly consisted of early morning reading, eating my croissant, that was still warm from having been freshly baked and then delivered by the baker himself, (thank god I don't live in France for the sake of my waistline), and watching the regulars come and go all with their established order of an espresso or two whilst reading the paper, smoking, or chatting with friends. I spent the week in the style of a true flaneur and it was wonderful.

I read my first french novel since being a little girl: Albert Camus' La Peste. It wasn't quite along the same lines as the stories of talking ghosts that I had previously been familiar with in french, and nor was it half as enjoyable, despite being ever so slightly more critically acclaimed.
This was my alternative reading spot for the week: sat in the shade of the trees by the river. It really was the perfect tranquil reading spot, (apart from when a dog decided to paddle in the water which made me rise from a little slumber before being awakened fully with him shaking the water from his fur and, naturally, all over me.)

One of the days we picnicked by the river and Marc helped me with my photography. I have a lot to thank him for because from this week onwards I have been exclusively using the manual mode and feeling a lot more confident with my camera in general.

Whilst I was putting my newly acquired skills to practice, Marc had found himself a subject for his photos too- so everyone was happy! (Particularly since I didn't know that I was in his photos until afterwards)

After a wonderful lunch we had a game of petanque at my request. At one point, whilst I was losing in a devastating fashion, I thought I might have made a mistake asking to play it- especially against a french family. But it all turned out ok in the end because I clawed back to finish second, (of three) I think we can all agree that that is an achievement and a half!..

The evenings were spent sipping wine or in fact any drink from the large selection at the bar, and eating- lots and lots of eating. We reminisced, and I learnt some amusing stories about what I was like as a child. Tomorrow's nostalgic post will show one of our days out in a location that I was excited to revisit based on some very fond memories involving a lake and my brother's accidental entry into it.

All of the photos are mine save for those with me in, which are taken by Marc.

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