Destinations Magazine

Lights and Shadows of France

By Pabster @pabloacalvino
Lights and shadows of FranceKindle

Today, October tenth, two of my siblings will be celebrating their birthdays two thousand kilometres southwest of here. To that course, the weather forecast this part of France is not too good; it’s raining now, in fact; therefore I’m altering my planned itinerary in order to dodge another soak like yesterday’s. The sleep, however, has been fantastic; one of those rare ones that grant me a real rest; warm the room, quiet the hotel.

For a change, I’m taking a speedway stretch (the first one in fifteen thousand kilometres of journey) for leaving Dijon behind as soon as possible. When I’m near the city, four customs policemen on bikes swarm on me signalling me to pull over. Then, not bothering to salute, they blurt out their authority and stare at me as if to check my response. Do they have a reputation for being tough guys and I should freak out? I don’t know. I just say, ‘very good; what do you want?’ ‘To search your luggage’, replies one; ‘do you mind to open your cases?’ As I’m doing it, I ask him ‘do I have a choice, anyway?’, but he doesn’t answer. While they’re checking, I’m asked the typical questions: where do you come from, where are you going, what do you carry. They only check my bags, but not the few places where you can hide compromising stuff in a motorcycle. What the hell are they after? Whatever. As nothing is found, they mount their bikes and ride away… obviously taking a French leave. As nice as the my country’s Guardia Civil; c’est à dire, churls.

Parque natural blabla

Around Saulieu

After Dijon, I retake my usual secondary roads, and shortly after, in Saulieu, I stop for a coffee and a croissant, my must-do breakfast while in France, that I’m not going to skip today even though it’s past noon. Quite a nice city, by the way (alike so many others in this country), but I’d rather not ramble it, lest the rain – that I’m hardly escaping so far – gets worse any minute.

Otoño en el parque natural Morvan

Fall in Morvan national park

Salieu lies within the boundaries of the strikingly beauty Morvan national park, that encloses similar settings to those I’ve been passing through these days back, only more astonishing: colours are denser and more contrasting, closer, almost tangible; chiaroscuros are intense, flora is more varied, a fallen leaves make a thick bed, moss ornates the trunks, the ground is covered with primitive fern… This is, without a doubt, the prettiest stretch I’ve gone through in the whole journey, except -of course- for Norway. Pity I’m forced – because of the weather – to focus so much on the asphalt, lest I come across a wet patch after any of the many bends of this narrow road; by the way the last curves I’m going to find in many kilometres from now on, because these foothills are the last spur on my route until I reach the Pyrenees. Everything in between will be ratther flat.

La brújula del musgo

The moss compass, pointing north

A couple of hours later I declare finished today’s stage – one of the longest so far, with 260 km – at a place called Le veurdre, a tiny and unwelcoming village 10 km after Saint Pierre le Moûtier with no other appeal than having a hotel; and quite expensive, at that: € 70 (instead 40-45 as I’m paying lately) for a very average room. This is because of no competition, I suppose. I’m in Peys de Lévis, ugly region without any charm, not only aesthetically, but in other senses too: the tender at the grocery, dry as a plum, doesn’t even tell me hello back; at the bar opposite, cold and soulless, they only serve wine and bottled beer; and another bar I find by sheer chance (not even having a sign) is even less appealing, as it’s full of smoke. Wasn’t France was a smoke-free country?

De blabla a Le Veurdre

From Pesmes to Le Veurdre

And by association of ideas, I wonder: is there any relation between the environment and people’s character? Does an ugly land turn dourer its inhabitants? An inspiring milieu, does it turn people kinder? Or inversely: do more sensitive people tend to populate the nicer places? This is not the first time I feel I’m finding such connections; but then, of course, there being so many variables at play, it may well be just a misperception of mine, influenced by my own mood, which in turn may be – now yes – conditioned by the environment; so, after all, such link between the land and the character is perhaps but my subjective impression. But if you’re a curious reader, I set it out as an exercise for you.

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