Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Return + Rando à Landry

Returning from Compostelle is like an ice bath. Everything stops. Every day feels a bit stalled at first. I spend time inside during the mornings & afternoons as I did not for so long. I try and reintegrate myself into the worlds of people, work, city that I knew. I find the pile of mail to sift through and the tasks left behind before I left are in fact all still there. I sleep alone as many of us often joked about missing, and wake alone without the noise of those heading off into the dark at 5am and it seems suddenly a bit less fun, this tranquil solitariness I had missed on the way of St Jacques. Though I do sleep better! And at first a lot!

But then, as the days and weeks pass (almost a month now!) you start to relocate yourself in the place you knew, and to carry into it things from the places you were. In my case, I also wanted to keep walking a lot, and to find ways to be closer to nature still while remaining in Paris. So I joined a hiking group (Randos-Ecolos), and probably will find some others or go for some weekend hikes on my own (running around Paris is or can be hike enough, and I am sure I will post some things up from some Paris walks this fall as well). The first hike I went on was Sunday.

Journée de Patrimoine in France, and so off the group headed from Gare d'Austerlitz at 8 am to Landry. It is out in zone 6 on the RER C, in case anyone decides to go in search of some nice strolling areas. From Landry,

where we found the lovely boulangerie (pictured above left with Jamiella--a friend visiting me from LA) we walked to the village of BOURAY SUR JUINE the Chateau de Mesnil Voysin, a private chateau which was open to the public specially for JdPatrimoine. (More info & map on Chateau/gardens click here.)

We got a tour by a guy in his o-so-French red, white & blue wig (photo at right) who was chipper and informative at the early hour, showing us the grounds, the chateau and the pigonnier (outside of it pictured left above, inside in photos at right with Agnès and I listening attentively to our guide gives a nice sense of the angles, and another inside pictured at right shows the central oak suppoert which in fact turns on a pivot, so easily the guide pushed it with the use of a single finger! And this after 300 years!). This pigeonnier is one of the rare ones to have survived in great condition because many were attacked by farmers who had gotten fed up with the mess of them (this fascinating pigeonnier housed thousands of pigeons in the 1600 & 1700s for eating).

After climbing back down the ladder inside the tower or turret-like pigeonnier structure, we then we had some fresh-pressed apple juice at a stand (photo of me looking down at left is in front of a part of the juice pressing machinery: this one pulps the apples into a thick, crumble-use-size mash then it gets squeezed and pressed through physical exertion of the man explaining the process who turns a series of wooden press parts to squish out the juice which then must be drunk veryvery quickly before it ferments).

We then visited a few other stands by artisans there to show, for example, how ironwork, such as was used on grates and gates for Chateau renovations (see the gates in background of phopto at the right), was done, or molders who demonstrated how they created cement molds from remaining old sculptures which line gardens or fences of the chateau in order to replace the ruined old ones (such as you see behind Agnès and Florence in the picture at the right--the molding decor with the sort of faux flame on its top is reproduced over and over for a series of similar posts encircling this greeny patch in front of the chateau).

Our civic duty complete, patrimoine visited, support of the local schools completed with our juice and apple cake purchases, we then meandered out over fields. I was reminded of my St Jacques beginnings, only now many of what would have been wheat fields had been turned over, plowed, readied for the winter and new plantings next spring (if I am right in assuming planting is spring and not fall--I really don't know much about plants, and am a terrible gardener. I think I take after my mom that way, but she has gotten better at it, so perhaps I will, too, later!)

Though it had been chilly as we started, the day was sunny and warmed up nicely. Our leaders took us in a large large loop, along fields, through patches and paths in the woods. We saw a viper on a trail, and took some pictures from our lookout rock (called "La Roche Champignon") at our lunch hour, photo at right with agnès in blue, Lucy in green with baseball cap and in orange from the back we see Violaine. You can also see Florence in photo at the left above offering everyone tastes of her pomme-coing cream bought at the bio boulangerie we'd seen in the first village (the boulangerie pictured at top of blog, on left, with Jamiella in front of it).

After a siesta on the rock, we walked for a bit until we reached the village of Gillevoisin with its chateau-privé de l'institut médico-éducatif opened for the journée de patrimoine, with its series of surrounding buildings housing local art, bee/ beekeeping/ honeymaking displays, grounds with horses and donkeys in the tall grasses near the river, and music concerts put on with "Operation Aventure Musique". I was particularly struck by the artwork in its St Nicolas Chapel. The entire structure has a sort of fluidity, and a bizarre combination of joyful boyant colors yet quite dark expressions and figures contrasting the color scheme. Having seena gazillion churches this summer, the little chapel was particularly striking, its old fashioned outsides and this contemporary art within. We stayed to visit it, then on the grounds to listen to a few of the music groups: a honky tonk sort of contry mixed with a touch of bluegrass by an American trio, a big band (fanfare) by a French group from one village, & finally a soft French jazz group before we took off for the gare, trying to return to Landry, our point de départ.

A bit turned around in the woods--as the "two paths" photo here at left by Jamiella shows (we stand and wait to try and figure out which we want, or rather, we play the doubting Tom while Fred examines the map and picks the route). Our fearless leader, Fred, did scout us out the right path to the gare, and we headed back into Paris pleasantly drowsy around 8pm. Not a bad way to remember my Camino summer, and to also enjoy the benefits of being back home, with its constant fairs and cultural celebrations: one of the things I adore about Paris and France.

To go on next month's hike with the group or join up, click here: Randos-Ecolos.