The heart of the Esterel

Pretty pictures are recommencing, but in light of ongoing events, we thought we might include some little news snippets from across the channel…

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Despite the furore about Brexit, everyone here is getting very excited about the Euro 2016 football (soccer to you North Americans). So we have dug out our French flag to fly over the house this weekend.

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A number of French commentators have noted that the damning Chilcot report on the Iraq war completely vindicates the French position at the time, where the reluctance to support Blair and Bush was widely ridiculed as being driven by cowardice. It’s a pity it’s a bit late for apologies.

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As anyone who has ever driven south from the ferry ports of Calais or Dunkerque will wearily tell you, an awful lot of France is actually remarkably tedious. Up in that northern corner of France there seems to be endless expanses of flat grain fields broken only by the odd farmhouse and cluster of trees. Not so our region. Here in Var the landscape changes rapidly and markedly: without warning a landscape of gently rolling fields clothed with vineyards will end at the top of some broken line of jagged limestone cliffs, or a stretch of open patchy grassland will suddenly terminate against some complex of rugged hills draped with thick forests.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis sense of the region being made up of a patchwork quilt of vastly different landscapes is nowhere more clearly seen than in the Esterel, something we found out last month when we decided to go for an exploratory walk. We drove out of the somewhat depressing coastal town of Saint Raphael with its blocks of look-alike flats, endlessly anonymous villas and three golf courses and turned into the rugged landscape that makes up the Esterel range. Within a few kilometres we were in a different world: remote, deserted and although despite green vegetation after the wet spring, somewhere that still seemed inhospitable and barren.

 

The large and colourful Two-tailed pasha

The large and colourful Two-tailed pasha

The peaks are mostly sheer bare rock and the stony river beds were almost totally dry. In places the soil was either absent or so thin that you felt the vegetation was close to giving up entirely. Keeping an eye on the towering thunderclouds building up rapidly to the north we went for something of a stroll along tracks in a landscape that could easily have been the set of a Western.

Cork oak

Cork oak

Yet under the cork oaks and in the thorn bushes life persisted. Although there seemed astonishingly few birds there were some glorious and enormous butterflies. Along one dusty track we found a spring in whose shade sat a gigantic toad with nothing to do but eat flies.

Chris taking photos of the toad

Chris taking photos of the toad

Common toad

Common toad

At this point however we heard the rumble of thunder and turned back swiftly, with sheets of cloud already descending around the hill peaks. The heart of the Esterel is somewhere to be treated with respect and definitely not the sort of place to be caught out in a downpour.

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3 Responses to The heart of the Esterel

  1. Pam Hodson says:

    Beautiful! Appreciated your comments last week re Brexit. We were depressed by it too. Hope you get all your documents sorted out!

  2. Hilary Newman says:

    Commiserations to France on their defeat, but coming 2nd isn’t too bad! Better than England or even Wales.

  3. Júlio Reis says:

    Chilcot report: So sad that truth of this magnitude would have so little consequence now, when the lie was so destructive. Everyone in Portugal knew that WMD had not been found. I’m glad France knew the same. Blair and Bush should be in jail. They played their part in destroying a 1,700 year-old Christian community. My children will feel the consequences of their actions in their daily lives. But I believe justice will come.

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