Week 18 (1–7 May 2023)
J and C are visiting this week (and the next)! We picked them up on Sunday in Valence and they're sleeping upstairs.
They're on holiday this week, and C is too, she has holidays left to take before the end of her contract. I don't have any: my days were paid out when I relocated to France. So: this week, I wake up every morning at 6 am, and work until about 2 pm. After that, we have the afternoon free to do things together. (I'm the only one who drives, so others can't really go places without me.) If it sounds like an exhausting schedule, that's because it is—still, I'm glad we got to spend this time together!
The afternoons, day by day
Monday: climbing at Charmasson, beignets
Monday was a public holiday (May Day), so technically this wasn't just an afternoon. After lunch we took off to a crag near Vallon Pont d'Arc and met with Z who was waving at us on the roadside in a yellow tshirt (he said so on the phone when he gave us directions). After a hard but short approach, we arrived at the foot of the Grand Charmasson wall. The crag is great: levels spen 4 to 7, it faces West so it doesn't get too hot, and it's high up so the view is amazing. At first, there was another group (a climbing club that had travelled from the Haute-Loire!) so it was pretty crowded on the path at the foot of the wall (especially near the 5s), but we managed to warm up on a couple of nice 5c routes. C and J stuck to toprope this session, they both know how to lead climb but haven't climbed outdoors in something like 8 and 5 years, respectively. I onsighted a relatively easy 6b all the way to the left of the wall, with a really nice crack (much easier than the one at Les Branches). But I was happier about a really nice, technical 6a+ that I hangdogged (almost onsighted but I was surprised to a step to the left at the very top), will try to redpoint next time.
Back in Joux we ate beignets from E who inaugurated her beignet truck in front of her house, someone cycled 30 km for the occasion. She'll start making them regularly starting in June, can't wait.
Tuesday: market, thyme, swimming in Balazuc
Tuesday morning market at Largentières. After a quick tour of the regular sellers (bread veggies cheese), we grabbed pastries at the bakery in town, climbed up the steps to the old courthouse, and had croissants with a view.
In the afternoon we drove to near Balazuc, in the "other" Ardèche: swap chestnut trees for oak, forest for gorges, granite for limestone. We took a right towards Chauzon before getting to the village, and stopped on the roadside to pick thyme (insert Simon and Garfunkel song). This is something that C had learned with F and C last week, but I'd missed it because I was working, so I was super happy that we got to go in the end! Basically: find thyme (not difficult in this spot, it's full of the small purplish bushes), then cut small branches with the nicest looking flowers. Leave some for others. Back home, dry them on a towel for a week or so, then remove as many of the flowers and leaves from the branches and use next time you make infusions or grill meat.
We went to Balazuc next, walked through the village but mostly went to the beach by the bridge and swam in the Ardèche! It was the first of the year, it was cold.
Wednesday: ice cream, swimming in Valousset, bouldering
Drove towards Rocles. A stop by the Épicerie au Fournil with ice cream and fondant and cannelés on the terrace, and another swim at the trou de l'Éléphant in Valousset! This is THE spot that my family used to come for a swim when I was growing up. There were others too, especially when I was even younger and my parents didn't know this one, but I can't remember where they are.
In the evening C and I went bouldering at the gym—couldn't bring J and C because of our club's policy—only licensed members (for insurance reasons). Too bad!
Thursday: home, first salad from the garden, lasagna
We stayed home on Thursday! Some cooking: for lunch I cut and prepared the first batavia salad that I planted a couple of months ago, it doesn't get any fresher than this. Crispy, juicy, a bit nutty, delicious! In the evening we all made Lasagna together, with chards from the garden, had a pet nat as an apéro, and a very good Viognier (from the Frères Royer) with the food.
Friday: climbing and waffles in Jaujac, moon
We went back to the Jaujac crag (Tras les Baumes), and had basically the same afternoon as last week (except with J and C this time): pre-climbing lunch at the Estivin, climbing, and post-climbing waffle (plus galette this time) at the waffle place.
We gave a little lead climbing refresher to J and C and both climbed a very nice 5c on the left-hand-side edge of the cave thing. (The one with a little sunflower drawn on the rock next to its name, a great route with very varied moves: an undercling, a step to the left, high feet, a crimpy part...) I toproped a 6a+, on the same points as the 5b+ I did last time but without some of the good holds on the left.
In the evening at around 9pm, as we were coming back from the garden after helping F plant eggplants and bell peppers, someone spotted the moon and it was HUGE: full, yellow-orangeish, just coming out next to the Mont Ventoux in the distance. I ran down to tell F to take a look, and she WhatsApp-called P to tell him to look too. Then we sat and watched for some time, amazed.
Saturday: Les Vans, Dire Straits, ice cream
We left early on Saturday to get to Les Vans before 9 am for the market (any time after that means it'll be crowded and the parking close to the market will be full). Regular tour of the olive cheese veggie stalls, endive seedlings for F, then we sat for coffee and pastries on a terrace.
A couple extra things this week:
- we took the time to look around the non-food part of the market up on the town square, looking at secondhand books and vinyls. I found the double-album of the Dire Straits Alchemy live concert that I've listened to on repeat on YouTube! That instrumental after Sultans of Swing is incredible. I also got their second studio album, Communiqué, but haven't had listened to it yet (at time of writing).
- as we were leaving, we stopped for ice cream at a little ice cream truck at the entrance of the market (we normally don't see it—it probably doesn't get there very early). The ice cream maker has been doing this for 15 years, almost exclusively with produce from his garden (a lot of herbs and flowers) (a notable exception is the sugar), and he makes homemade cones right in the truck. The acacia sorbet was amazing, with a sweet taste like honey anthough it's just flowers water sugar (acacia honey?). The owner told us about how he brings the mixture to a boil and then progressively reduces the temperature for 8 hours (there was a technical French word for this, something like réduction but that wasn't it). I took his number for special orders this summer.
We had galettes at Le 13H, like we did back in 2021 when J and C were in Ardèche, and got some caillettes from the boucherie Broche across the street (out of all the caillettes we tried while J and C were here—the others were from the boucherie Moulin and from C in Chazeaux—these were our favorite!)
Back home we planted the endives and F came upstairs for an apéro. A nice 100% Grenache from Lablachère that C and I got at the wine shop in Les Vans a couple of weeks ago. Then we waited for the moon to come out. It rose much later than the day before, also because it rose behind the Montcoquiol, the hill facing Joux. But the wait was worth it: the moon was just as big and yellow and breathtakingly beautiful as the day before. We sat on the edge of the stone wall overlooking the valley in the night and watched in silence.
I completely forgot what we did on Sunday.
As bullet points because I really want to wrap this one up, publish it and get to the weeknote for this week.
- elderberry flowers are out!
- acacia flowers too
- planting tomatoes, aubergine and bell pepper. For all: big holes (30–50cm), a bit of manure, soil, seedling goes in, pack the earth around it, water heavily and again the next day, then water less to get roots to dig.
- eating the first salads I planted a few months ago (batavia and rougette)!
- P's first strawberries (we planted only a couple of plants later and with less sun exposition, so they're not ripe yet. But we got a lot at the market)
- added hay on zucchini to keep humidity in and keep slugs out. Should have done this immediately after planting
- Ad Astra (2019) by James Gray. I... fell asleep during this one, something that never happens to me when I watch films. In fairness, it wasn't just about the film, I was pretty tired when we screened this after a full week of waking up for work at 6am.
I'm still reading Les autonautes de la cosmoroute and I love it, but I'm not anywhere close to finishing it. More about it when I do. But overall, with my 6-to-2 work schedule and busy afternoons, I haven't been reading much. We also returned all of our books to the library ahead of our trip starting next week.