Summer 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.
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.We 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).
There are different courses for different ages/heights, mostly based on how high you have to reach to clip on your safety rope. Now 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.
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.
There’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!
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. Even 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.