Thursday, November 02, 2006

French Days

The beautiful southern French blue sky and brisk nip in the air encouraged my parents, the boys, and I to take a turn at the 'parcours de santé' de St Sauveur. This is an area of garrigue where you can jog, trek, bike ride, walk, or stroll shaded by old and wind-bent pine trees along stony paths of varying widths and rockiness according to whether you are on the jogging track, the mountain bike track or the push-chair path.

Being the garrigue, rosemary and thyme grow in abundance together with other local bushes, teasel and brambles. My youngest took his bike which used to belong to his brother, and has 5 gears. He was busy getting used to dealing with them as well as keeping going along the stony paths; up and down, over rocky outcrops, gravelly sections, and smoother speedy bits.

Every so often we stopped to do the exercises which are posted along the way. The instructions have fairly recently been vandalised and the pictures scraped off so it's basically anyone's guess what you're supposed to be doing unless you happen to be an old regular, like me, in which case I can remember the movements.

Even my father (75) joined in with sit-ups and push-ups, and we also did pull-ups, balancing exercises and walked bracingly. The boys found fallen branches that doubled as machine guns and a Y-shaped branch that my eldest ecstatically told us he could make into a sling, as per 'The Dangerous book for boys'. Much energy was expended in a hearty way, cobwebs were blown away, and everyone felt the better for the outing.

We had spent the morning in town, in Montpellier, following a ride on the tram, where the boys played in the playground on the Esplanade. I sat and observed le tout Montpellier sitting watching their children - lots of dads who seemed to have been instructed to do something, anything, with their little darlings, but just to get them out of the house! One young dad had his mobile phone permanently affixed to his ear, whilst at the same time catching his daughter as she made her escape from the park, or steering her back near his bench and into his line of vision. Such multi-tasking was pretty impressive.

There was a boho type couple dressed in what looked like rags, with their world contained in 2 enormous backpacks, and a little daughter over-dressed for the rather mild air in a woolly hat, her coat under a sheepskin sleeveless jacket . My boys were rushing about in trousers and tee-shirts having discarded their faux leather jackets.

We had a coffee in the sun on the Place de la Comedie and discussed the sartorial elegance of the passers-by. Considering that the French are supposed to have an innate sense of dress, it was hardly an impressive display, with most people looking pretty casual, or like a rag bag, or somewhat inappropriately over-dressed (sparkly skirt, killer heels, push-chair, long scraggy hair). It must have been a bad day, or they were all tourists... Well, an international film festival is in full swing at the moment at the Corum, so maybe they were all attendees from elsewhere.

Having just prodded my pecs, I am happy to assure you that they are feeling delicate, so not only was the exercise extremely pleasant, but it also helped to tone me up. I'd better not play tennis for a couple of days though!


  1. Do you ever venture into garrigue when it's tinder dry, Sarah ? I avoid it if I can, preferring to go after a rainy spell. There was that awful case some two or three years back - a teenage girl and her aunt or grandma,as I recall, who abandoned their car to escape the brushfire, and then got cut off. Gives me bad dreams, just to think about it.

  2. This is a well-contained park rather than wildland scrub, so no I don't worry about going there.

    I would not venture to far into the wild garrigue in a place I didn't know in the middle of the summer however.


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