The next stage, from Saugues, took us through forest, fringe of the still-wild Margeride region.
Emerging onto clearer heath-like country, we were exposed to wind as well as rain. My rainwear proved useless. Next we had to ford several shallow streams. Being used to wet feet in the bush, I charged right through. The Canadians went to some lengths to keep their feet dry, but soon decided that keeping one’s balance in a freezing stream was more important than dry socks.
What a relief when this outlying farmhouse came in sight.
We gratefully settled in to the modern gîte attached to the rear of the main farmhouse, called Le Sauvage. There had been only serious expressions on the faces of our hosts and their friends at the hearth of the old house. The people of the Aubrac had been through a dreary winter – worse than the norm, which is hard. Much later, when France froze in late spring, I hoped the Aubrac wasn’t copping the brunt of it. The word Aubrac, as I discovered, is synonymous with hard weather. Only for a few months does it become douce France…but then, they tell me, it is sweet indeed.
That evening was enlivened by the presence of three girls from Brittany, who did not stop chattering and laughing the whole time. We later titled them The Birds. At collective dinner we were all commanded to guess their age…and all got it wrong. They were thirty, not twenty, as supposed. Apparently, if one chatters and laughs enough, the body will slow its clock. (Cecil encountered The Birds the next day, as they were waiting for a taxi after their brief excursion. He heard them before he saw them. Chattering and laughing.)
One of the three ladies was a biologist, multilingual, working on improving potato strains. I couldn’t learn much about the other two: you see, they were occupied…
…chattering and laughing!