Saturday, May 25, 2013

Chateau de Montferrand and Pic St Loup à Pied

We've been on an adventurous kick. Hiking and biking and randonée-ing all over the place. The kids humor us. The Littlest sings, 'It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and ro-oh-ohl.'

I make picnic lunches that sometimes include wine.

We have Stephanie to thank for lighting the spark, reminding us how much free fun is out there. She was our guide to the top of a garrigue covered colline and the medieval ruins of Chateau de Montferrand.

{Chateau de Montferrand}

{lunch with Stephanie}
After that success,we decided there was no stopping us. Not even a pair of 4-year old legs. They are actually quite sturdy.

We took off. Armed with a picnic and hearts full of vim and vigor, to the top of Pic St Loup. It's a craggy clump of mountain covered in wild thyme, scrub oak and pistachio trees. There was even black lichen. Have you ever seen black lichen?

{Pic St Loup peeking through}
Pic St Loup is a constant presence in the Hérault. Sitting firmly to the left of Montpellier, its ridged back ending in a finger point surrounded by vineyards.It was named after Thieri Loup, the oldest of three brothers, all in love with  the same girl, Bertrand. She died while they were off battling in the Crusades, having never chosen her favorite of the Loup brothers. Each Loup, heartbroken and bereft, took up residence on three different peaks in the region.

Pic St Loup wines have become quite popular in recent years thanks to vineyards like Puech Haut and neighboring l'Hortus, he of the dancing man on my favorite rosé

The best place to start your hike is at the edge of the small village, Cazevieille. There's a parking area there with picnic tables. When we went there were groups of families set up for the day, playing pétanque and swinging in staked hammocks. To the top and back is 6 kilometers. It took us, with the Littlest's sturdy legs and a bit of scrabbling near the top, around two and a half hours, give or take.

Getting to the top is the fun part. (Repeat this mantra to your pre-ado daughter all the way up.)

The terrain is mostly small rocks and an easy incline under shade until the middle when you break out and can see the vineyards below and out to the Med. Then, you're back under oaks and pistachios, ready for the hairpin climb to the top.There's a ruined chapel turned makeshift memorial where people leave trinkets and messages to loved ones as well as a guest book to prove you hiked to the top.

{leaving proof}

On the ridge, the views are breath-taking, the sheer drops nauseating. There is no guardrail or barrier of any kind.

{nauseating. he's delighted}

I was holding onto my people for dear life and kept thinking of that scene in Auntie Mame when Beau yodeled off the side of the Alps. There was a woman much braver than me lotus-posed on a rock, looking off to the horizon.

It made me want to hurl. 

{look how I'm holding on}

For some reason the kids started speaking French on the way down and I noticed something interesting. They don't whine in French. The Middlest tells jokes and makes French puns. Something about boobies playing off the word 'St' in Pic St Loup. Ma Fille actually laughs at his jokes and calls him names, 'minus' for example, which don't seem to be as insulting outside of English. 'Hey, Minus!' See. No biggie.

Like my Midi-Libre randonnée edition says, 'Le Pic Saint-Loup, mille fois vu et sans cessse redécouvert.' 
{Littlest looks wrecked, I look crazed, Big Kids look great}

Friday, May 10, 2013

Hooray, Hooray, the Month of May!

My friend Rachel, aka Ms Butt Bumper, taught me a saying. She learned it from her septuagenarian mother-in-law. It goes like this: 'Hooray, hooray, the month of May! Outdoor f***ing starts today!'

She's from Vermont. I think they go a bit loola up there when the snow stops falling.

I do love it though, I do. Don't you?

May in France is especially perfect for this saying thanks to all the extra outdoor time they give you in the form of school and national holidays. There are so many bridges (see this post) in France this May that we go, no lie, the entire month without a regular work or school week. That's a lot of kids and P-Daddy.

{happy birthday Clementine}
Other wonderful May things to consider: birthdays, lilacs, strawberries, asparagus, temperate weather (a-hem), naked gardening (here's to you Jacquie), pink wine, hiking, cycling, anniversaries, first swims of the season, painted toenails, and sunshine.

I love May. We begin to relax, warm up, slow 'er down. Yep, it's pretty much perfect.
And as the saying goes....