Travel notebook

The school of life

Everyone we meet says that the opportunity of such a journey comes only once in our very ephemeral passage on earth and that such an adventure is the best school there is, that of life!

We are only playing truant from school in appearance. In reality, the teaching is solid and valuable! The class is done in fields, woods and forests and our teachers are farmers, breeders, craftsmen and landowners. They who are rich in centuries-old experience have no need for a school platform! They have their feet in the right direction, on the clods and humus. Every day we learn more about nature, wild plants and flowers, stars, horses, seasons, breeding and so much more. Our three favourite subjects are rural France, ecology and alternative lifestyles.

In this school, we have swapped our school coats of town mice for those of country mice. It is four months already since we left the greyness of the cities for the sparkle of the villages. If we both grew up in small isolated villages, because of the mystery of existence, we had never immersed ourselves in this universe as much as today. Since we are in total immersion, we deploy our fins and open wide our eyes. The regions we cross are often called “depressed areas”. Some even speak of the “diagonal of the void”, the road we follow from Brittany to the South-East. So yes, it is a fact: this area is experiencing rural exodus, negative demographics, a medical desert, a higher unemployment rate than in the city, etc. However, this reality is fortunately Janusian. His other face is that of mutual aid : every village where we stop has its smile.

When we stopped for Christmas time in Cheyenne’s community, a descendant of a travelling merchant interned at The Jargeau camp in 1943, hosted us. We didn’t know him from Adam and yet this family treated us like their own children. We had the privilege of being invited to their table and feeling at home, sitting between grandfathers and grandmothers, aunts and uncles. Lunches and dinners were organized with no formality: tables stacked with mountains of seafood between which flowed rivers of beer lined with forests of Christmas logs and where galleys of cakes and frigates of chicken sailed. This family was part of several communities: first of all, its own. Everyone came to give a hand to each other. A close-knit family. And then that of the bikers: the FAMC, of which Cheyenne’s grandfather is still a part, a born biker, a modern-day knight who dazzled us with all his adventures.

Today, we are living in a new community . Unfortunately, a fungus found a home on Amoer’s back, giving birth to a charming little dermatophilosis. But don’t worry, everything is fine! The hair has grown back well, we are just waiting for the weather to be a little more clement to move on.

Located between Sologne and Berry in Vierzon called “the red” city, a city once prosperous because of its strategic position on the border between free and occupied areas of France, this country house inhabited by a couple of retired naturalists has opened its doors to us. We are doing some woofing. We continue to blacken the pages of our notebooks because Marie-Jo and Jean-Claude teach us the art of botany: at the bottom of the garden grow absinthe, rue (a plant once used for abortion purposes), lamb’s lettuce, mint, palissons, etc. Beyond the community of woofers, our belote-loving guests  (belote = French card game) – a subject in which the students have far exceeded the masters – are involved in several associations it would take too long to count here. Every day people come to have dinner or lunch with them: the postman, the blacksmith, their old friend Raoul (who can perfectly imitate the local twang), etc.

In fact, we have discovered, far from the roads, in this shady part of France protected from the din, a well-organized, well-structured life, a life that has nothing to envy that of cities. On the contrary! Unlike the latter where we see more of a “living next door” philosophy, here the true “fraternal life” is preached. The meetings take place every day. Everyone seeks to come together because they are united by a common desire: to improve everyone’s daily life. All give themselves body and soul to achieve this goal. This is how bars and alternative shops, places to meet others, music halls, etc. are born. Marie-Jo introduced us to the small café in Vierzon, the participatory grocery store “the ants of the city” of which she is one of the founders. The principle is simple: each member gives a little of his/her time to make this grocery store which sells exclusively local and organic products live.

Also, this state of mind allowed us to participate in the restoration of a vineyard composed of various types of grape, more than half a century old in Vignoux-sur-Barangeon. 1,400 meters of vines cleaned and pruned by a group of merry fellows under the leadership of Maroussia. This young thirty-year-old who sells her wine to one of Moscow’s biggest brands taught us the art of vine pruning. We were able to discover a variety of hybrid vines: the Noah. Taking its name from Noah, the mythical father of the vine, it was banned for health reasons between 1935 and 2003 because it had the reputation of making people crazy or blind. It has great resistance to diseases, a surprising development and abundant fruit. Brigitte, the owner of the place, and Marie-Jo, faithful heiresses of Gargamel, thanked us graciously with a hearty meal.

The end of our woofing is approaching , we plan to set off for Sancerre and then to Morvan parc. In the meantime, we continue to enjoy the Berry region, browsing the treasures of this sweet France, the country of our childhood: the great black coats of Berry (donkeys), the potato patty, the goat cheese, the Quincy, the observatory of the cosmos in the forest of Sologne inaugurated by De Gaulle, the Church of Saint-Aignan of Brinay and its frescoes of the 11th century showing the seasons, Bourges Cathedral…

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