IMG_4406Summer is here. It seemed like it arrived a long time ago, but it’s clear that was just late spring–warm sunny days alternated with rain showers and everything was emerald. Now we have day after day of cloudless azure skies. The cigales sang for the first time yesterday. The lawn is starting to go dormant and turn brown. My summer habits have started–closing the east shutters before bed, opening all the windows early in the morning to let in the cool air, then closing them all around 10, when temperatures start to rise. Opening the east shutters and closing the west ones in the afternoon….I like that it’s manual. It makes a rhythm for the day. It’s ancient, effective technology that relies only on my own energy.

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Beware of fire.

In summer, we often find ourselves at a little lake on the edge of Carcassonne, Lac de la Cavayère. It’s a manmade lake, created after a huge forest fire in 1985 ripped through the pine forests that cover the rugged hills. Today, you would never know–the trees are big, and create a cool, sweet-smelling oasis. And, of course, there’s a castle in the distance. Because France.IMG_4389IMG_4407IMG_4417We used to go to the lake’s beach when our kid was little. There is nothing as amusing as sand and water for a toddler, plus it’s minutes away. Eventually the draw became “accrobranche,” which is a portmanteau of accrocher–to hold on– and branche–branch. I don’t think there’s a direct translation to English. You climb up in the trees, which are connected by ropes and various obstacles, and you navigate the course. You can’t fall because you wear a harness that’s attached to a safety rope. There even are zip lines, like Dora the Explorer (Dora, l’exploratrice)IMG_4557IMG_4554

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Even over the water.

There are different courses for different ages/heights, mostly based on how high you have to reach to clip on your safety rope. IMG_4558Now that my kid is a teen and I serve only as chauffeur, I no longer have to wait amid the whistling pines (and provide moral support) but can go for a walk or run around the lake. It’s lovely.

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Army training…it’s true some of the hills are steep.

The lake has added more beaches, so they aren’t too crowded. And there are more water activities, like a slide and a bunch of floating islands that are designed for losing balance and pushing each other into the water. A couple of friends come late on moonlit nights to swim the length of the lake.

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Climbing stuff and falling in water. What could be more fun?

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Teleski…you’re pulled by a rope. No motorized things (boats, jetskis) are allowed on the lake.

IMG_4413There’s a sports center that local schools use. My kid’s class did cross-country running and kayaking at the lake this year. I am astounded. We did not have kayaking when I was in school. Plus, they did it in winter!

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Plus paddle boards and paddle boats.

It’s not too late. In July and August, the city sponsors free courses in kayaking, as well as other sports like beach soccer, nordic hiking, mountain biking and Krav-Maga. Under threat of a phone ban, my kid reluctantly agreed to “do something,” and tried archery….and loved it. Went back every day. They supply everything. It’s free. Open to all ages. IMG_4388Even though it’s close to town–there’s city bus service–it feels like the middle of wilderness. The beaches are beaches, with lots of people shouting and laughing and splashing, but as you walk the lake’s perimeter, you pass through a fragrant forest and hear only the songs of birds. It’s quite a different definition of summer in the city.

 

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26 thoughts on “Go Jump in a Lake

  1. Because France ….. not just castles in the distance but more especially lakes with beaches abound all over the country. My eldest daughter’s first request on coming to visit for the first time in Grenoble was to go to Lac de Paladru because her absolute memories of childhood were boiling hot days at the lake in the Lot. And then again in Cantal we found lakes a plenty and the dammed bit of the Haute Dordogne that dictates the hydro network for the Northern reaches of the département is another haven. The French do so many things really well – these watery fun palaces are amongst the best in summer (even when the children you are taking for the laking are aged 23-31 respectively 😉). Your account of your local is wonderfully evocative and the pictures make me want to dive right in!!

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      1. I think it’s attitude more than landscape. The French are just so good at understanding the need for leisure and relaxation. Sure, the mountainous regions have lakes but so do the flatter areas. Whereas in England where I grew up it was much more about motorized jet skis and small yachts which made it difficult to imagine how les gonflables and jungle ropes and wires could work for the young. So the young tended to be taken to the lido and only those wealthy enough for the boats got to enjoy the lakes ….

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  2. Going to the lake sounds so lovely…to bad there are lakes like that here. I do love your daily routine of closing the east shutters before bed, opening all windows in the early morning, and closing the west shutters in the afternoon. When I was growing up, my parents did the same thing (we had no air conditioning), and I continue to the practice. It makes for a quiet morning routine, allows the cool morning air inside, as well as all the birds singing and the wildlife going about their “business”. Our cats love the open windows/doors as they can “interact” with the wildlife often chattering away to squirrels, chipmunks and birds. Such a lovely way to start a day.

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  3. It looks like something for everyone. What fun…have you tried the zip line over the lake? I’m a coward regarding zip lines. But, I would applaud loudly everyone at the end.
    Ali

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  4. My favorite part of your post is that something beautiful came from the terrible fire! The lake and the surroundings are gorgeous… and only in France would there be a neighboring castle! So many fun things to do. xoxox, Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This looks wonderful…and I especially like that you can get to it by bus. Guide books tend to be a bit thin on finding nearby outdoor activities, so thanks for this!! I’ll definitely keep it in mind as I plan my trip.

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    1. There’s also a bike lane, but you pass through a suburb called Montlegun–the “mont” part is a clue, because the road goes straight up. Not recommended in the heat. Super quadriceps required.

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  6. What a wonderful resources so close by — and taken advantage of year ’round, great! And I love your description of the shutter management heat-control, such an energy-efficient system. I wish we used shutters here, appreciate them so much when we visit Europe.

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    1. The same sea isn’t very far–about half an hour, except that at the height of summer it can take over an hour because EVERYBODY goes there. That’s why we don’t live right on the coast–it gets crazy. We go a few times a year for the sea and otherwise do our swimming in the pool.
      How’s the wedding?

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  7. I like how you describe your manual routine, I find myself doing the same at my house. Making sure before bed that the blinds/plantation shutters on the back of the house are closed because the sun comes up on that side. After the sun passes over the house I can open those blinds to see out and check on my birds. In the afternoon the same at the front of the house.

    AS for the lake, what a beautiful place. I grew up next to Lake Michigan and spent many summers climbing the cliffs, and playing in the sand. For all of my adult life I have lived by the ocean. I love the sound of the waves, the sand between my toes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to hear you have shutters–so often in the U.S. they are only for decoration. But they make a big difference in keeping a house cool by avoiding the greenhouse effect.

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