The garrigue is a magical place. We try to picnic there at least every summer, which really shouldn’t be a big deal, because it’s a 20-minute walk outta town. Yet, it’s another world.
The garrigue is a wilderness. It has trees, but isn’t really a forest like in the north. In some places, there’s just low bush that reminds me of the African savannah. Apparently, there was a vast Mediterranean forest that from time to time was degraded, often by fire, and the garrigue is what grew up afterward. The ground is so rocky that it escaped farming or development and stayed wild.
The garrigue has the most divine perfume. A mix of dry pine needles, hot dusty rock, thyme, rosemary and wildflowers. I would love to bottle it and spritz it around my house.
The garrigue also has an enchanting song. The wind whistles and hums through the pines. The birds sing. But they’re all just backup for the lead singers, the cigales, that scratch out their steady beat. (Here’s a link with recordings of cigales.)
Cigales are cicadas, but their song here isn’t at all like the one that lulled me to sleep in the Midwest of the U.S. It’s as if they speak different languages.
We decided to go to a spot accessed by the far end of the village. Since we had a cooler of food and other stuff, we took the car and parked at the entrance to the garrigue. It’s almost formal. The road goes up past vineyards, then forks, one side continuing to more vineyards and the other turning rocky and forbidding. We advanced to a shady spot and parked.
We aren’t experts on the garrigue, and it’s huge, so we are careful to stick to the main path. We continued on foot, looking for just the right picnic spot with lots of cushiony pine needles and not too many rocks or sprouting bushes.
Our picnic consisted of a classy “empty the fridge” assortment of sandwiches, followed by cheese (duh!) and nectarines for dessert. Nothing tastes as good as a picnic, especially one in the garrigue, where the scent of herbs is so strong you can taste them.
A post-prandial siesta followed. Not so much sleeping as being still and absorbing. Pure heaven.
A visit to the garrigue is a special moment in this part of the south of France. For a happy trip:
–no fires! They’re strictly forbidden because the place is a tinderbox. The region gets a lot of wildfires, often started by something as small as a cigarette tossed out a car window. It’s usually very windy, which makes fire all the more dangerous, and in summer the few streams are bone dry.