From the end of last week we had about four days of thick wintry cloud, low temperatures with intermittent and half-hearted rain. Although such periods are not totally unknown in this area it was unusual enough to be commented on and seemed to have the same effect on the locals as those four-week long rainy spells in Swansea. People complained, looked grumpy, shouted at each other and kicked their Yorkshire Terriers. (That’s possibly a little exaggerated but the locals were not happy.) We didn’t manage to do much but we did get a nice panorama from above Draguignan.
Then, sometime around midnight on the evening of Wednesday 15th, winter suddenly fled and spring began. We awoke Thursday morning to find not a cloud in the sky and the temperatures heading up into the high teens. On cue the almond and cherry blossom has started to come out, crocuses are springing up and there are anemones in the fields.
Given that we have a two-week break from French lessons on Thursday afternoon – it’s half term – we were able to make the Taradeau walking group afternoon ramble. (It was a small group because many of the others had gone on a full day trip to the ski resort at Greolieres.) And very pleasant it was too. Delightfully dry and warm enough that some people seem quite happy wearing T-shirts.
We went south of the motorway to the rather curious distinctive flat terrain of the Plaine des Maures which is dominated by umbrella pines on the thinnest possible sandy soil and then walked up into the end of the hard metamorphic rocks of the Massif des Maures which tends to be oak covered. As usual with the local walking group a good speed was maintained. The views however were spectacular and it was fun to see the remains of snow high on the distant peaks to the north.
Our department – Var – has two claims to fame. The first is that it is one of the most if not the most forested department in France: something easy to believe on the walk. The second is paradoxically that it is the most militarised department in France with, amongst other things, the massive naval base at Toulon and the enormous Isle of Wight-sized firing range up on the plateau of Canjuers. On the walk the frequent buzz of helicopters from the training base just to the west was a reminder that they prefer clear weather as much as we do.
Anyway, a pleasant 10 kilometre walk and after the grey clouds it was delightful at last to be out under the sun. Mind you if the temperature is 20 degrees in mid-February what will it be in late July?