I take French lessons from a lady in a nearby village. She is a very active woman into many activities, such as singing in a jazz group, attending many cultural events and, especially, physical activities. When she heard that I did a lot of walking she invited me along on a hike with some of her friends and another of her students. So we met, two American women and three French women, early one morning and set off on a hiking path. Our area is packed with all sorts of hiking paths and they are marked here and there but she also brought along a map. Each of the women had huge back packs while I had a small one carrying my lunch and I wondered what I was going to need that I didn’t have.
I was a little worried as we set off. I do walk just about every day but Dominique had asked me if I could do a rather long and a little difficult hike. Hiking and walking are too different things although it seems to me like they shouldn’t be. It seemed easy as we began. We started off on top of the Luberon Mountains, the crest, and then went downhill and walked along a little road and passed some lavender fields, a cherry orchard where we helped ourselves to some cherries, some isolated houses and an abandoned car. I was feeling rather confident as we walked along chatting in a mixture of French and English when one of them pointed at the mountain on our left and said that was where we were going. They showed me on the map the road we were on and then the curvy little line denoting the climb. And what a climb it turned out to be. In the morning I was upset that a mistral wind was blowing but I blessed it as I climbed for the very much needed ventilation. I was doing fine for a while but after about thirty minutes of steady climbing I knew I was not in good enough shape to make it. I had a similar experience the last time I went skiing. I am a definite average level skier. I love green and most blue runs but put me on a black run-those for advanced skiers-and I loose all confidence. On this ski day I was with all advanced skiers. We did a run on the lower hills and they all skied quickly down hill while I made my slower way down to where they waited for me. Before I could even get my breath they were off again and I had to catch up again. Then they decided to ski a bowl which is a huge open area and, from previous experience, usually can be difficult. I wanted to take off on my own and stay on my happy green and blue runs but they assured me that I was capable of skiing in the bowl. I should have listened to my inner voice. I handled everything ok but was exhausted and finally had to sit in a lodge on top of the mountain while they skiied for a few more hours until we all returned to the bottom at the end of the day. What can I say, I’m a wuss.
Anyway, I digress as usual. I finally ended up at the end of the group. I couldn’t go back, I had to make it to the top. I was wondering what in the world I thought I was doing but finally, at last, made it to the top. What a great feeling even though my legs were killing me. I staggered to the area where the other women waited and we sat down to eat our lunches. I was hoping I would be able to get up again and finish the walk. This was when I found out why their back packs were so large. Two of the women brought out tuperware containers filled with pasta salads and one lady brought out a bottle of wine and crackers for us to start our meal with. Another brought a thermos of hot water and the makings for tea or coffee. There were also cookies and chocolate. Only in France.
Getting back was a piece of cake, all either flat or down hill. The American and I were talking about the French custom of the double cheek kiss when meeting friends or relatives with one of the French women. The other American ‘s husband works for an international company in the area and between dinners and meetings with Russians, Germans, Japanese and French, the way to greet someone was getting confusing to her. The French woman helped her saying that the cheek kissing was when you felt you knew someone well. It didn’t have to occur with someone new and her husband wouldn’t be expected to greet his secretary that way. I’ve had a few uncomfortable times myself when I stick out my hand only to find the person I’m greeting is leaning forward to do the double kiss thing. I often offer the wrong cheek too-they are aiming left while I am aiming right.
We had a lot of fun. I don’t know if they will ever invite me back on a hike though. Maybe if it is an easier one.