Destinations Magazine

Where Do I Belong?

By Pabster @pabloacalvino
Where do I belong?Kindle

October twelfth, anniversary of the discovery of America, Hispanic World day for us Spaniards, much to the displeasure of our American cousins, always ashamed of their great-grandparents.

Breakfast at L’Hirondelle du Lac is barely enough, but of a great quality: homemade sponge cake, blackberries from the backyard, honey from local hives and, of course, a superb croissant, as always in France. The only thing I didn’t like is the breakfast time: served only until 9:30. That’s how it works here, to my inconvenience. Still, I managed to negotiate extra half an hour, which is better than nothing.

Vista desde el comedor del hotel

View from the hotel’s eating room

Once I finish breakfast, I check the weather forecast to plan my day: it says rain in the afternoon for the roads I have to ride, so I decide on staying one more day in this lovely hotel; though I’ll have to ask for a small heater tonight, since the room was a bit cool this morning.

After the past two cold autumnal months I’ve had on northern and central Europe, here it still feels like summer: today we have 27 ºC and the air feels quite humid. I’m on shorts and T-shirt, since despite the forecast, the threatening clouds that cover the horizon and the distant thunder, the sun shines above my head and it seems we’re not going to get any rain, after all. But it’s ok to not hit the road today, because anyway I needed a longer stop somewhere, and what other place can be better than this? I’ll use the rest of the day for updating these notes and ramble around the countryside.

I don’t get tired of repeating that I prefer the hills over the plains, and that people in the highlands and less inhabited regions, like this one, people are usually nicer and friendlier; yet, stupidity is – unfortunately – universal and has no borders, and therefore everywhere you find one or two or twenty bastards who just love to make noise. I’m saying this because for quite a while now I’m hearing a few dirt bikes like a swarm of blowflies that I guess must be doing off-road somewhere behind one of these hills around me, disrupting the otherwise idyllic peace of this place. Why the industry requirements are so strict for the vehicles’ acoustic levels if then nobody enforces the law nor keeps on a leash these ball-touchers so they don’t ride around bikes whose reason for existing is to produce noise?

La isla Vassivière en el lago La Maude

Vassivière islet in La Maude lake

Bastards aside, I’ve just found a downside of Peyrat-le-Château: it can turn into a trap for whomever stays here a Sunday, like today, because everything is closed: the bar, the restaurant, the hoteel and the two small groceries. There’s nowhere to buy a little something to eat; therefore today I’m punished without having lunch. The hotel opens up in the evening, so I’ll have to wait till then.

And so the day passes, and the dark storm clouds that overcast the sky from the horizon, and that threatening darkness and that intimidating thunder I’ve been listening for the whole length of my long stroll, have ended up in nothing. The cumulonimbus have cleared and there shines again a brilliant sun.

The guy who runs the hotel Le Bellerive turns out to be British and, as such, his accent is hardly intelligible; yet we talk in English because my French is rather poor and his isn’t much better. When asking him why has he opened a business here, he tells me that, tired of paying taxes in the UK, he decided to pay them in this froggy land; which is surprising to me, because I thought that the economy was doing better in England than in “the continent”, as they call it; and actually his is the first case I know of someone who emigrates from there to make a living here, instead of the other way around. But he points out to me that, having UK and France similar populations (around sixty five million), the latter has almost three times the area, therefore you could expect a better job situation here. But such a conslusion is a bit deluding, I’m afraid, because the unemployment rate doesn’t have to be connected with the population density.

Besides, he complains – like everyone else in his trade – that the clientele is limited and irregular: some summer days are very productive, they close down at midnight and make a lot of cash, whereas in winter the weeks go by without barely any customers. But such is the hotel trade – he says – and, as long as the earnings pay the bills, they don’t need more. At least they’re living in a beautiful place; which is absolutely true. Another complaint is the taxes: they’re higher in France, he says. Which turns upside down what I had always thought, that the taxing rates in this country were rather low compared to other European countries. Another certitude that dies. I can’t help thinking, though, that his prices are rather high, and perhaps if he lowered them a big, he might get more clients. For instance he charges sixty a single room, while I’m paying forty five for mine in L’Hirondelle around the corner, which is a lovely one. Or the tap beer, which costs 2’40 €, not a cheap price for a four hundred people village. But I’ve never run a bar, and I can’t give advice. He must know what he’s doing.

Las orillas del lago La Maude

Shores of lake La Maude

Now, after having been talking with a man who knows who and where from he is (though he’s now a British immigrant in France), I can’t help asking to myself, as so many times for the past few years, where do I belong? And though the immediate answer, the easiest and most intuitive, the first one coming into my mind, is: “I am from Malcocinado, my home village”, on a better thought I doubt it’s the most correct, because when I then ask: that hamlet I believe I belong to, that little village of my infancy, does it still exist?, is it the same it used to be?, the answer is probably “no”. Sure, the houses and streets are still there, but is it really the same village where I was born and I belonged to more than half a century ago? It happens so that every time I try to return I’m not sure any more it’s the right thing to do, and rather I think: “no, I don’t belong to here any longer; I disown these people and their nowadays habits”. Thus, I feel that the character of the village has changed while mine has remained at a standstill in a nonexistent time, like that man in Return from the stars, the unforgettable novel by Lem. Society evolved here on Earth while I was travelling around other planets, and the train where I begun the journey of life, I’ve lost it forever. I feel as if an orphan without a country nor a land. And precisely there lies the drama of the question echoing inside my chest like in a hollow space: “where do I belong?”. When I want to look at the answer I hear: “you’re from your village!”, I only find an intangible ghost; the ghost of a memory.

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