9:30 a.m. (9h30 as the French would write it), and the cigales already are singing. After a brief rush of cars between 8:30 and 9, only a tractor rumbles through the village. Even the birds, who had been very vocal at 5 a.m., have quieted down, taking shelter in the shade. The only sound is the thrumming of the cigales, like a heartbeat.P1100260There’s a special kind of quiet that descends on villages in the south of France as the temperatures rise. It isn’t all that hot–low 30s Celsius, which is the upper 80s, flirting with 90. It’s summer hot, but not disagreeable. No humidity. Day after day of cerulean skies have dried the ground hard, the grass has gone dormant brown, the hydrangeas (hortensias in French) are wilting. The lavender, however, is happy, exploding like fireworks. Its enormous clouds of flowers are home to some irridescent beetles and many bees. Lavender honey is prized. However numerous, the bees are no match for the racket raised by the cicadas.

IMG_6186
I failed to get a good shot of the bees–they moved faster than I could focus–but I did get a beetle.

P1040826I run around the village before it gets hot, darting from shade to shade, feeling the coolness coming off the stone walls, feeling the heat, like a blanket dropped on me, when I step into the sun. Not a breath of wind. From afar, I spy a mother returning to her car, having deposited her child at the before-school daycare. The school year doesn’t end until Friday. There is no air conditioning in classrooms. Or anywhere. You get used to the heat better that way. The kids undoubtedly will be taken to the now-trickle of a stream to occupy the afternoon. Sometimes the wind carries their munchkin voices all the way to my house. They give their vocal cords a good workout. When our kid was little, I would accompany the class on these outings. Although I love children and spent only a couple of hours at a time with the class, I would need to rest afterward and would always be reminded that elementary teachers are not paid nearly enough for the work they do.

P1100253A dip in the water does a person good, especially after dinner, to cool down before going to bed. In the evenings, the birds come out again. We have a blackbird, whom I call Merle (merle is French for blackbird), who trills away, either in the tree above the table where we dine al fresco or from the peak of the roof, his beak pointed to the sky. He is an accomplished singer and I enjoy his concerts immensely, even at the crack of dawn. I have illusions/delusions about making friends with him, coaxing him closer. He seems unafraid and lets us get to within about a meter before he flies off. He has been a resident for a couple of years; at least I think it’s him. He hops along under the laurel bushes by the clothesline, making a racket on the dry leaves, but seeming to think I don’t notice. It reminds me of when our kid was little and would open the corner cupboards in the kitchen and hide behind them, feathery toddler hair sticking out above. If you can’t see me, I can’t see you, right?P1100252We’ve been promised thunderstorms this afternoon, but the sky is cloudless. Promises of rain at this time of year are rarely kept. A few days ago, the sky darkened in the distance and we heard thunder rumble, and we took in cushions and such just in case. Not a drop fell. It’s the season of kleig-light sunshine, so raw it looks artificial. With it comes sharply cut shadows that are like a world apart, so dark after your pupils have squeezed to pinpricks from the overdose of sunshine that you suddenly are blinded by the comparative blackness. No nuance, especially in the hard-scaped heart of the village, where the streets are too narrow for cars. The ancient houses’ thick stone walls and closed shutters create cool caves of comfort, perfect for la sieste after lunch. Back in the day, winegrowers built refuges, called capitelles, out of stacks of stones. They still dot the vineyards, though I hesitate to enter, because spiders and snakes.IMG_6171IMG_6176Our summer diet of tomatoes has begun, with real, French-grown variétés anciennes finally appearing at the market. Tonight, pasta à la caprese (with mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, maybe a little green onion, slathered with olive oil, served tepid). The stove and oven are on vacation. And you?121.Fruits market

 

 

Advertisements

39 thoughts on “South of France Summer

  1. Winter here in Australia, love it don’t like our humid summers at all. Loved the summer in France as it has a totally different feel. Life slows down for much of the day, you don’t have the zillions of flies that we do so eating outside is easy. I love the sound of the cicadas when they start singing I know it has reached 23 deg C! Life here is far too hectic no matter how hot it gets, in France people have a different rhythm with the climate, we need to learn that here to cope with increasing temperatures. Stay cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t realize summers were humid in Australia. I grew up in the Midwest U.S., where summers are steam baths. You leave the icy air conditioning, and your glasses fog up when you hit the heat outside. And the mosquitoes!! But here, we don’t have mosquitoes, and flies are few. Last night, the cigales were still singing at 10 p.m.! And I was thinking it was nice and cool.

      Like

      1. Oh we have mosquitoes as well but they don’t like me but love my husband. Australia is only humid on the east coast in the summer, it is very dry in the middle and on the west coast. We try to leave the air conditioning off until it gets into the high 30’s, low 40’s but then I need it to function. Our cicadas are well trained they go to bed when the sun goes down!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You don’t have mosquitos?!! You have found paradise. I grew up in Kentucky but now live in Florida where the mosquitos are the state bird. Currently weather here is 90s with 75% humidity. The winters here are worth the summer misery as it feels like fall for 5-6 months from Nov-Apr.

        I liked how you made an average day in France very appealing. I find myself reading your updates as soon as I see them. Thank you

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It gets dry as a bone here in summer. See my posts about the river–it flooded in February 2017, after having completely dried up in August 2016. Right now, it’s a few inches deep and about a foot wide.
        Extended fall is nice. It’s like that here, except with “winter” from mid-December to mid-February, which means it could freeze at night, there’s lots of rain and it’s kind of gray, though it’s sprinkled with nicer days. Not like the piles of snow I grew up with.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve described it so well and strangely enough, your description fits perfectly well our situation here, 4 hours’ drive north. Except for the flies. There are some cows down the road, so we do, unfortunately, have flies. Another reason to move to Carcassonne, I guess!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a lovely description of the days of summer!! It isn’t really summer until the cicadas start to sing, and this year they’ve been a little late, but good things come to those who wait!! 🙂 I’m going to start a break from writing at the end of the week – will you?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You make me wish I was there (okay, that’s not difficult). I love the little vineyard refuges, although, you’re right…the “wildlife” that might be lurking inside would make me hesitant to enter. Are there poisonous snakes in the south of France? Lovely post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I may have said this to you before but do encourage all the men in your sphere to eat plenty of tomatoes year round …. the risk both testicular and prostate cancer are significantly lowered by including tomatoes in the diet daily for men. Your post hits me straight in the heart as I think of summer at home. For now though, I have high heat and rising humidity and no intention of sitting in a 60 mile noir en route to the Cape for the holiday. Hey ho … pass the ice-tea (home made, NO sugar) would you 😔

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, either. Tomatoes have anti carcinogenic properties which seem to be particularly effective in warding off ‘male’ cancers but I think I may have read an Australian study that pointed to their efficacy in fighting skin cancer.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. A teacher myself, I accompanied my own children’s school excursions on the odd occasion, but was very often happy to let other parents have that pleasure. As you say, the profession is under-valued and with ever-increasing demands. Just yesterday, there was a news report here in Sydney of a Principal sending an open letter to parents reminding them that teachers were not servants…or words to that effect. Back to France…a beautiful description of the heat of summer. Most enjoyable.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A lovely piece of writing, so very evocative. I don’t “do” heat very well at all, but if I were allowed a langorous pace, I’d love to be there. . . Although I’m finding something of a vacation, right now, in being back home after travelling, if that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Bonjour! I loved your story. It took me straight back to the summers of my childhood in the beautiful southwest (L’Isle Jourdain, 30 minutes south of Toulouse,) and Mèze, outside Montpellier, where my grand-parents lived. Of all the things I miss about France, here in the Pacific Northwest, the sound of “les cigales” on a hot summer day stands out. I only heard them in this area when I used to sail with my family around the San Juan Islands. There, hot, dry summer days and the local flora, in particular pine trees, reminded me of “le sud.” “Souvenirs, souvenirs,” the great Johnny Hallyday used to sing in the 1960s… I will be sharing your story with the French Girl in Seattle community later today. A bientôt, Véronique

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I hope you swing by to say hi on your next trip back home. There’s nothing like the smell of a pinède in summer and the music of cigales singing in the branches.

      Like

      1. Indeed. 🙂 I just shared your story this morning on the French Girl in Seattle FB page to start off the weekend on the right (French) foot. So far, everyone seems to really enjoy it. Thank you again.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Relieved to hear that it’s not just my hydrangeas that are fading and drying. I am not a summer person and am already longing for cooler days. But I do like the cigales (we call them cicadas) and the crickets chirp throughout the night.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For some reason (millennials and avocado toast?), avocados have gotten hard to find here, and if you do they are very expensive and not very nice. The climate isn’t quite mild enough for them to grow here, so they’re imported.

      Like

      1. Ha! Ha! Ha! That avocado toast craze keeps me entertained to no end. I used to spot this delicacy on American menus in hipsters joints, but I also saw it in Paris this spring. Ah, globalization. “Le” Hipster seems to be well connected internationally. 😉 I still enjoy mine the old-fashioned way: Two avocado halves filled with some homemade vinaigrette as a first course. Just had one yesterday, in fact. Délicieux! — French Girl in Seattle

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Your article resonates today as we hole up from the heat in our apartment on the Côte d’Azure. A trip to the manicurist and market early in the day and now inside with a bowl of cherries until evening. Our cigales started chirping last week, acting like a thermometer. If you are missing mosquitoes I would be happy to send you some. They are horrible this year and if I have not applied the repellent by evening I am covered in bites!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This blog was so evocative. It contained aspects of every summer I have experienced, all over the world. From Massachusetts to France to California.
    Thank you for awakening those memories.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s