Week 9 (27 February–5 March 2023)
After a few days of cold and rain (which seems to never lasts long over here), sun is back, and when the wind isn't too strong we can comfortably have our morning coffee out on the terrace. Feels like a dream.
This week was intense in activities—who said living in the country is boring? (Probably someone who didn't live around here.)
Bouldering friends and thinning finger skin
As usual we went bouldering on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings at Roc n' Potes, the club we joined a few weeks ago in Joyeuses. Although the club was founded decades ago, this specific gym is very new (from October 2022 I think), so my finger skin is practically gone. People have been super welcoming from the very start (benefits of having to join a club to climb: members are committed to the place, know they'll see you around a lot, and are very friendly) and on Friday we were invited to go climbing at a local crag, with a small group of people.
First crag climb
We met them on Saturday at the Ramoneur sector of the Chaulet crag, in the gorges of the Chassezac river. And that's how I climbed my first real crag route! (a 5A in top-rope, not ready for lead yet). The crag is just by the river, which on the one hand must be great in the summer to take a quick swim between routes, but on the other (1) there's a campground nearby so it gets much busier and (2) the crag is south-facing and quickly gets scorching hot. So very much a winter spot. The experience was great and I can't wait to go again, learn proper technique for lead climbing outdoors (at the gym, the rope is just clipped at the top, but at the crag a climber needs to "se vacher" in French before going down), get a rope and quickdraws and things, discover new crags and routes... Exciting!
That evening, we also met some of the group in Aubenas for a pizza and concert at a local bar (Le Grand Café Français, a misleading name). The audience was as mixed and mismatched as the music. In the former, families with children, young tattooed people with Mohawks, old ladies. The latter: guy with an acoustic guitar singing, guy with a huge beard and an electric guitar yelling hard rock, guy mixing tracks on his Macbook.
Markets: turnips and radish season
The agricultural season is really starting, we find lots of fresh spinach salads and the first turnips and radish on markets. At the bimonthly Chazeaux market, honey from the honey guy who's also helping F find manure for her garden (turns out this isn't easy to get), caillettes paté saucisson sausages chorizo from Charlotte's pigs (roaming right there on the hill, they're pretty hairy, I wonder what breed), lots of dogs and kind and people having coffee in the sun.
Literary nap at the library
Drove to an event at the Aubenas public library with F on Friday: a sieste littéraire ("literary nap"), we get there late but catch a part of a beautiful Camus short story while lying on deckchairs. Reading interwoven with great music from the soundtrack of the film; the short story itself was made into a graphic novel by an author who'll be coming to Aubenas for another event later this month... everything connects and makes me want to discover more. Public libraries!!
A night off the grid
We spent the night from Thursday to Friday completely off the grid. We helped dog-sit for E who lives up the hill, 10min walk through the forest away from the village. There's a generator for electricity (that we turn off at night), a wood stove for heating (we're used to that by now) and I'm not sure how water gets here, but it's cold.
I slept very well, sunrise on Friday was beautiful, and we spent the first hour of the day feeding the dog, two donkeys, four llamas and birds on the deck.
Hiking from Lussas to Mirabel
On Sunday, we took a short (2.5h) hike, a loop starting from the village of Lussas on the Coiron plateau (think limestone and volcanic rock, garrigue (scrublands), oak trees. Very different from the chestnut trees, rivers and lush forests of the Monts d'Ardèche).
The hike brought us up to the "village de caractère" of Mirabel, built around a 12th century castle that was one of the final holds of Protestantism in the region during the French religion wars (before being eventually taken by cCatholicsand demolished, except for a tall, black and white tower made out of basalt and limestone). The most impressive is that the castle was itself built on massive basalt columns. Very windy up there, we spotted the first swallows of the season, nesting in the rock below the castle.
C and I also talked while walking and took some big decisions that will probably have a large impact on our lives over the next few years. These aren't weeknote material, though.
After the hike, we caught the final movie showing as part of the Lussas Plan Large festival, with a focus on Japanese cinema this year. Before the film, we had a drink at the festival bar (located in the village festival hall, complete with a small stage), decorated in kitsch Japanese-inspired decoration and manned by an older mustachioed white French man in a kimono (so off and heartfelt that it couldn't possibly be seen as offensive). Local natural red from Les Deux Terres.
- Broker (2022) by Hirokazu Kore-eda. Caught at the Lussas Plan Large festival. The festival focus was Japan and the director is Japanese, but pretty much everything else (actors, places, plot etc) is Korean. Overall a very enjoyable road movie/comedy/drama about adoption and belonging. Bit long near the end (2h runtime, and not the most comfortable cinema seats), at some point I thought it would end on a very kitch happy ending, but fortunately (like a lot of Korean cinema) it didn't (I won't spoil it further).
- Three Colors: Blue (1993) by Krzysztof Kieślowski. First feature of a classic trilogy, showing on MUBI. The director based the trilogy (named after the French flag colors) on French Revolution ideals: liberty, equality, fraternity. He said that Blue is about liberty, and the price we pay for it. I didn't really see it that way, probably have to read up on the film and trilogy before watching the rest of it. To me it was about loss, grief and recovering from it. Binoche is fantastic and photography is beautiful.
This week, our projection screen was also delivered! We'll finally be able to comfortably screen movies at home—flat white walls are hard to come by here. It's bigger than expected: the screen itself is 200x200cm so the length of the casing is well over 2m. Fortunately there'll be enough space for screenings, and the projection screen is easily stored in a corner between films. Looking forward to trying it next week.
Graphic novels from the library (still very excited that we're able to borrow these). Noteworthy: La maison de la plage by Séverine Vidal and Víctor L. Pinel, Le goût du chlore by Bastien Vivès, Et si l'amour c'était d'aimer by Fabcaro (unintentional reread, short and completely worth it), and Portugal by Pedrosa (completely intentional reread, Pedrosa is certainly one of my favorite graphic novel authors out there).