img_0347The wind has been howling for what seems like weeks. The temperature has tumbled into the low single digits Celsius (mid-30s Fahrenheit). The gray sky is so low it seems to lie like an uncomfortable blanket on the rooftops.

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The Pyrénées.

Even though I have cabin fever I don’t venture out. I put on a coat, with the hood on, to open and close the shutters. The wind often tears them out of my hand and they clack hard against the house. Good thing it’s solid.img_0287I am fighting another kind of fever–the kind that accompanies achy joints and a throat made sore from sleeping with one’s mouth open because of congested sinuses. I’m not sick but I feel like I’ve been on the verge of it since forever. Low energy. The village exercise classes start up again this week after the holiday break, but I can’t go because we have a dinner invitation. I’m almost grateful for the excuse. Usually I would choose exercise over eating. This feeling, like a heavy blanket similar to those heavy gray clouds, weighs down. It stifles my brain.

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Again the Pyrénées on the horizon.

I look over the rolling hills of this “plain” where we live, and they are at once similar to the plains where I grew up, and yet so different. No snow, though we might get a few flakes (but tomatoes are still growing in the garden and one of the roses bush has a beautiful red blossom). The sky this morning looked like snow. The early light was wan orange, the color of the vitamin C tablets I’ve been sucking on. It wasn’t like a blazing sunrise; it was uniform, the same pale orange all over. Rather beautiful, actually. Almost like the woozy grayish yellow the sky turns before a tornado. This isn’t tornado territory nor season, though.

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Do you see the ribbon of white, mostly on the left and all the way at the edge of the right? Fog along the Aude river.

img_0345The plains here are green in winter and brown in summer. The winter wheat is pushing up. The weeds between the rows of grapevines are living it up. I see solitary winegrowers bent over the vines, pruning them. The line is stark between where they’ve pruned and the wild tangles yet to do. I don’t envy them. I don’t think it’s possible to wear enough layers to stay warm out there, unprotected from the wind. In some places, such grueling work is done by machines, but not here. Doing it by hand gives better quality. I am grateful for these people for whom quality still counts.p1050813One day between the holidays, when it was quite a bit warmer (over 10 C, or in the low 50s F), I took a walk. Checked on our sometimes unruly river. Checked on the village. There are always folks out walking. Some walk in groups, probably the same friends since they were toddlers. Little old ladies trek to the village cemetery, sometimes a couple of times a day. Over the years, I watch their hair go white as they stop trying to keep up with dye jobs, their little dogs slow down then disappear, canes appear. They sometimes stop me to tell me they’ve seen my kid out in the village and my, what a grownup now and I remember when….img_0466img_0472img_0471On a couple of weekends, I made detours on back roads to avoid the gilet jaune protests. I saw some pretty things, like the boat on the canal in the top photo. And these locks.img_0351I also walked around a few cute villages, but I have to gather some stories or history or something to go with the photos of them. Another day, when it was gray but not cold, I walked over to la Cité. It looks like a movie set in the winter–few people, the stones very medieval moody.

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Verdant for January, no? This is the moat of the castle inside la Cité. No water–it’s on a hilltop.

img_0328img_0330From Pont Vieux at the bottom of la Cité, you get another view of the Pyrénées. Can you spy the people strolling along the river? There’s parkland on both sides, with the prettiest paths that go really far.

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I was amused by the ducks and then…
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A bunch of pigeons flew over. 

I want to cook up another bunch of comforting chili, but I think we will have eggs tonight. The Carnivore bought a truffle at the market in Mousselens, and when you have a truffle, you eat it with every meal until it’s gone. It goes best with mild foods that don’t compete for your attention. It deserves the starring role. Eggs, risotto and potatoes all work well. More on that next time.

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There are bright days in between!

Are you avoiding cabin fever and fever fever? Are you a winter person or just hunkering down and enduring it?p1060504

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51 thoughts on “Winter in France Profonde

  1. Love this… Can’t be there now but yearn to be back…thank you for the reminder of how wonderful the Aude is at any time of year! — Debby at French at Heart

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  2. As we are thinking of moving from La Charente to Carcassonne or Beziers your report of wind worries me – we don’t have the mistral or other winds like it here. But there are so many advantages, for me, in being near the Canal du Midi or the Med that I’m not sure you can deter me! 😊 Lovely photographs. I’m looking forward to reading about those little villages you encountered. Feel better soon.

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    1. Hmm. That’s a tough choice. Béziers is pretty, yet feels tough in a way that Carcassonne does not. It’s closer to the beach, which is a plus or minus, depending (I would not want to try to get stuff done during summer afternoon beach traffic). It’s between Montpellier and Narbonne, both of which are lovely. Lots to enjoy. If anything, the Mediterranean coast is windier than here. Carcassonne is smaller, quieter, more of an old lady town, which is either a plus or a minus, depending on your point of view.

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    2. I lived near-ish Beziers (Roquebrun) for several years, and am now near Carpentras. The Aude department has always seemed to me windier than the Herault. As i was near the border of Herault/Aude I often crossed into the Aude, and it was always windy there when it wasn’t in Roquebrun. I would definitely suggest you spend some time in the areas that attract you before making an actual move. The wind can be quite different even very nearby. For example, I live in Mazan, about 4 kms from Carpentras, and the mistral if far stronger and more frequent there. And worse 15 kms away in Avignon. As an aside, Beziers is not a particularly charming town……
      bonnie

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      1. Are you talking about the winds on the coastline or the whole departement? Because Narbonne is certainly windier than Carcassonne. Whether Narbonne (Aude) or Béziers (Herault) has more wind, I don’t know. Béziers has been doing work to spiffy itself up, but I agree that it is too edgy for my tastes. I have been to the worst of the worst neighborhoods of Carcassonne, on the worst of the worst days, to boot, and it was fine. And I was alone, on foot, nosing around.

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        1. I don’t know about the winds in Carcassonne, as I have only been there a few times. But Narbonne and the areas to the east of it always seemed much windier than the part of the Herault where I was living in the village of Roquebrun, a very protected spot northwest of Beziers. Bez has some good housing stock in the old part of town, a gorgeous park (Place des Poetes), a good market venue in the center of town under the platanes, and a recently restored magnificent townhouse, but there are so many things not to like. It was my “big town” when I lived in Roquebrun, a 45 minute drive, so I went there often when I needed “real” shopping. Carcassonne is definitely a safer feeling place, and in my opinion more attractive. I think its colder, as I researched some of that when I was moving to France, but that could be wrong. Carcassonne is definitely more desirable than Beziers!
          bonnie

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  3. What a lovely visit to wintery Carcassonne! I love imagining you wrestling those solid shutters in the wind, and shaving some fresh truffles. Stay warm and stay well!

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  4. Beautiful pictures, as always! Nature at her best. Happy ducks in freezing cold water, perfectly adapted for that. And the old stone buildings that I can’t get enough, apparently. There is so much beauty in this world!

    Yeah, I’m one of those people who doesn’t like winter. The cold makes me tired. The wind you are talking about is the Mistral? I’ve heard that it can be really unpleasant. Soups and stews with crusty bread is my way to cope. And cashmere sweaters.

    In Northern California there is a similar type of winter, with fog and heavy clouds. We see frost on the roofs few days a winter, but the fields and hills are lush green and gorgeous on sunny days. They turn golden brown in summer months. Vineyards have popped everywhere as a consequence of several years of drought. Towards the coast the temperatures are milder but the winds are stronger. It’s time for some frost kissed artichokes.

    Thank you and please feel better soon!

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    1. The mistral is the wind in Provence, coming from the north. Over here, there’s the tramontane, which is pretty much the same thing but farther west. Currently, we are having Cers, which is the wind out of the west. The areas closer to the Mediterranean are much more windy.

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  5. Hope you feel better soon. Winter can be difficult, especially with a strong wind and not feeling well. Of course, being Irish, I love the quiet, cold days of winter. We bundle up for walks or sit near the fire. Would love to have your nice sturdy shutters; what lovely insulation they must be!
    Thank you for the lovely post and feel better soon.

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  6. Hope you get well soon.
    Loved the pictures and the poetic way of writing. The pictures of the boat and locks bring back memories of my parents trips on péniches along the Canal du Midi & other waterways in France.

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  7. I appreciate your meandering thoughts. The gushing river shots make me homesick for the mountains of N.C. where my kids grew up. Haven’t visited for a few years now. It’s time.
    I walk the dog twice a day regardless of the weather but look forward to the few mild days to gather sticks and branches that have come down in the recent heavy winds. A huge bonfire from those collected would be a nice winter reprieve. Otherwise, I’feel like I’m vegetating.

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  8. Here, about 1 ½ hours north (and a bit east) of you, we have both the mistral and tramontane. Keeps the skies wonderfully blue, even if it makes it feel pretty cold.
    And living here, after winters in the north east US, I keep reminding myself how lucky we are. My bougainvillea is still blooming!

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    1. Do you usually get the winds, or are you high enough in the foothills that you’re protected? The other day I saw swaths of mountain lit up in sun breaking through the clouds, as if there were stage spotlights. It was gorgeous.

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  9. I sadly couldn’t live down ‘there’, a) for the winds (mistral, tramontane or any other name) who give me a real bad headache and b) for the intense heat in summer…. But for the beauty of the land & habitation, it’s hard to beat and ANY PLACE with water is attracting me like honey does the bees…. A beautiful photo-romanza, makes me yearning for warmer times to come. I’m not a winter person really, although to be fair, HH and I took ONE day off when in Switzerland for 3 days on Christmas and we hit the jackpot. The best day of the week and us travelling with a train-day-pass we visited the Albula-Bernina-Diavolezza region in the Grisons (Graubünden), had a perfect lunch on a terrasse in the mild winter sun (attached to the station of Alp Grüm with a spectacular near perfect circle where the train is sneaking slowly along its way), chatted with untold other tourists here and there and went back thanking the Gods for our beautiful country. I spent (too much) time to look up Rhaethian Railways on YT but there is simply too much choice to propose one link or another… anyway, I’ve got to stop now or I start crying…. Better to concentrate on Carcassonne which I dearly loved too at every visit. Thank you for this marvellous panorama.
    And my comiseration on your winter cold – I’m suffering from the same and not from Switzerland but standing at draughty, windy places here in France, Paris and surroundings… Can’t help it with all those people around sneezing, coughing…. can you!

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    1. They say the wind, especially the marin, or easterly wind from the Mediterranean, can drive you crazy. Your vacation sounds lovely and I’m going to check out the Rhaethian Railways.

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      1. It is! I’m however still waiting for the day I can afford AND get a reserved place on the Glacier Express…. these trains have near all round glass windows and sides – they’re very expensive as it’s mostly the tourists from abroad taking them, and I’ve heard a few times that they can get their tickets far cheaper when they book from abroad than we poor Swiss who only stand there and lick our lips in frustration. I looked up the prices for the next days to come when we decided to ‘do’ our day and apart from the fact that there wasn’t any space free on any of them, prices were skyrocketing. BUT booking from your home it might be possible – keep it in mind, not only your kids but you too will def be blown away!!!!!!

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    1. !!! (think of Snoopy with his ears going straight up)
      Air conditioning in January! I guess that is par for the course in Australia, but hard for a northern hemispherian to wrap her head around, even though I did live in Africa for a couple of years. No A/C there–no electricity.

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  10. Your posts are always so well written and I love the colors of the skies and the leaves. When I was a kid I had severe asthma and lived where the winters were cold and snowy. I was always sick. I’ve been in Texas since I was 12, much better for my asthma. Somewhere along the line I’ve missed how you came to live in France. Would love an update blog if it’s appropriate. Thanks, Brenda

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    1. It started as a vacation and turned into 15 years (don’t worry–I didn’t overstay a visa; I’m a legal resident). We bought a vacation house but it was not technically a house and needed renovation. Meanwhile, I was transferred back to NY. Had our kid. Husband hated NY and wanted to move back, but to the vacation house in the sunny south of France, not to bleak Belgium. I figured it would be for a year or two. Wrong.

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  11. Finally have our internet back. Eighteen days without, also no phone. We had an almost tornado and a type of huricane. Quite the disaster here. Huge trees uprooted. We had no damage to the house or car. However we have a major clean up ahead. Lots of folks not as fortunate though. Almost forgot, no power for eight days either.
    When you speak of wind, I almost panic. I will send a few photos….
    Ali

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG. I haven’t read about that. No idea. I am glad you’re OK. I hope you didn’t lose trees–they are so precious and take so long to grow. I hate to think of your beautiful garden destroyed.

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  12. I definitely prefer summer over winter – somehow I cannot get warm in France in the winter, even with the heating on, and the grey skies bother me a lot more than they did when I lived in Britain. Strange that…

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    1. I know. With temperatures like today back home in January, I would have been washing my car (icy roads get salted and that’s terrible for cars). Instead, when I go out I look like I’m heading to the North Pole. We get soft around here with the mild winters.

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