The ants go marching…

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November 4, 2010 by jessperriam

France, late July. A glorious, warm and ever-so delightful weekend away in Bourgogne with my adopted French family.

Everyone needs an adopted French family. Mine hail from Alsace. That means we can eat dinner at home, go for ice-cream in Germany and go shopping the next day in Switzerland. Happy days. I’m Australian, the tri-border scenario never fails to amuse me when it takes me two days to drive to my state border.

It was Saturday morning and we were all downstairs having petit-déjeuner (watch out for gratuitous French-isms…) outside in the sunshine. Bowls of coffee, bowls of cereal, chunks of bageuttes and pots of jams. You cannot get a scene more French than that.

Have I ever told you that bees like jam?

Because bees love jam. At least French bees do.

As soon as any jam was outside, the bees were onto it like moth is attracted to a light. They were crawling on the baguette, rolling around in pure ecstasy in the little jam pots and buzzing around the face of anyone who was eating jam on a baguette.

And because we were in France where bread is the breakfast, lunch and dinner of champions – they were having a hit rate of somewhere between 50-75% of the table. Yes, five or seven people at a table, eating breakfast and swatting bees is truly a sight to behold.

And apart from the Advent of the Killer Bees (coming soon to cinemas), there was another hot topic of mid-morning conversation.

“Nous marcherons douze kilometres aujourd’hui…”

At this point in time, I knew we were going for a bushwalk… but I wasn’t sure whether I had heard correctly – two kilometres or twelve kilometres. I’d never consciously walked 12 kilometres before. I’m pretty sure people would laugh at me if I suggest such a thing.

But it didn’t matter, I was feeling fit and awesome with calves of steel.

I made a rule for the weekend. Anglais est interdit. Speaking English was not allowed. I was either going to get back into talking French very well, very quickly or I’d be talking French like a nine year old. Either way my adopted French parents speak about as much English as my real parents speak French.

So we made our way by convoy to the lake we were to walk around. There were eight of us up for the hike. I was one of them, and to be honest I was just happy to go with whatever was going on.

When we all got out of the car, so did everyone’s special pairs of hiking boots.

Me? I was wearing my trusty, crusty Volleys. It was hardly as if I had any other footwear option – my other pair of shoes were just black flats.

Once they had finished tying their hiking boots on, they looked at my sorry attempt for sporting footwear and asked me if I would be ok walking in that.

I’m sure my response was something along the lines of “If it’s good enough for Egypt, it’s good enough for the lake.” All in my perfect French of course…

And so we set out. The sign at the start of the walk said it would take us 2 hours to walk it. If we taking it at a good run, we’d be back at base before the hour was out. Unlikely.

It was an odd mix of people: My adopted French mum, dad and sister. Their son-in-law for want of a better term. My third grandmother’s best friend, and two friends of the family. And then me, the ill-prepared Australian girl.

As the map shows, the lake is long and narrow. It doesn’t show you that it’s surrounded by lush green forest.

I love walking. And I love thinking. And I love doing both in nature. I don’t do it nearly enough either.

The lead would change. People would walk next each other to have a conversation. It was genuinely lovely, relaxed and healthy.

“Ça va?” someone would yell out every ten or fifteen minutes to another in the group, just checking they were going ok.

“Oui, ça va,” would always be the response, followed by a laugh.

We would stop every few kilometres for a gulp of water, or an apricot and some chocolate. We kept an eye on the time and we definitely were stretching out the two hour guesstimate on the walking time.

And even though we walked a long way, the terrain wasn’t very hilly. In fact it was flat as. So I never once really felt tired or sore or bored.

So we reached the end of the walk much like we started: like ants marching in single file. It was one of the simplest things I did in France but the most enjoyable. I love cheese, I love wine, I love Paris.

But I love France’s fresh air more.

This belongs to Travels Tales Thursday, where I tell a story of hikes and hi-jinks from a delightful range of locations. Get excited.

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