Header photo, above: At the top of the mountain, a one mile, steep climb that we do each day at least once, sometimes twice. It’s about a fifty-minute round trip, up and down, depending on how long I take to catch my breath halfway up. It’s a challenging climb, each day, but scenic and pleasant, with the scent of pine and moss in the air, and, since it is usually chill enough for us to have a fire going in the fireplace most of the day, nice to be out in the bracing fresh air.
Halfway up there is a tan-and-white Cocker Spaniel who stands guard on a hill overlooking the path, in front of one of the rare new houses under construction, and over time he and Chloe have established something of a guarded friendship, to the point where the Cocker Spaniel is sometimes willing to come racing down, put on the brakes right before Chloe so that they can do the circular sniff routine.
We usually keep Max on the leash at this point, away from the convocation, which he observes with a kind of affronted curiosity.
In addition, Alice has joined a fitness center in downtown Draguignan which is about 13 Km to the southwest, that consists of a down-at-the-heels facility coupled with a state-of-the-art instructor who knows how to drive the class to the point of a very fine– and exhausting– no-nonsense workout. The Gym itself is rudimentary, none of the amenities we look for in the States, really just a room with some mirrors and little else. But the classes are excellent, some of the most rigorous Alice has ever experienced, and the women (and occasionally one man) who attend regularly are serious and committed– and all seem to be in great shape: Maybe it’s that this area is hilly, even mountainous, so everyone gets a fair helping of exercise as a matter of leading their daily lives. In any event, Alice goes three mornings a week and finds it to be as strenuous an exercise class as she has ever attended, but well run, disciplined and ultimately invigorating.
There is a TV here, and a satellite, but the channels consist of a couple of French news stations, some cartoons, a channel or two of French game shows, a channel or two of German game shows, a channel or two of Italian game shows, and approximately 60 channels of pay-for-pornography.
So I either download podcasts of my favorite news shows from America, or go to iTunes for the TV shows I like. Comcast has done a deal with xFinity TV so that, as a Comcast subscriber in Florida, I can log on and watch most of the shows in America, as well as HBO, movies and the rest of it. We have a DSL internet connection here that can sometimes be finicky, but, for the most part, I can do all this seamlessly.
When we first arrived, all these services, iTunes, Comcast, even Amazon.com (I have a Kindle with me) were detecting through my IP Address that I was coming in from Europe, and they were blocking me. To circumvent that problem I had to learn how to “hide” my location via a “proxy server service” that allows you to route through an America-situated computer, and that resolved the issue.
Our property, which sits on the side of the Mountain looking south, has an electric fencing system surrounding its outer perimeter. This is to keep out the Sangliers, the wild boars that populate the area, rooting their way through the forests, capable destroying an entire garden in a night if they aren’t kept out by the fences.
They are the reason all the locals carry shotguns and rifles wherever they go. Spot a sanglier, any time of the day or night (although, usually at night since the pigs are nocturnal), and they will immediately and recklessly pull to the side of the road, hop out with their spotlights and their guns and start blasting away.This is a source of not only sport in this area, but food. Indeed, many of the menus will offer sanglier, cooked various ways, as an option.I have explained to Max that he needs to avoid the sangliers, because, if it comes down to a confrontation, Max would lose and he would lose fast and he would lose completely and it would be more than just a humiliation for him, it would be death sentence. I don’t think he’s listening, so the electric fence is now serving a dual purpose, keeping the sangliers out, while simultaneously keeping Max in.
At first, when I was in the house, it sounded like a door slamming or perhaps loose shutter banging frequently against the side of the house. I investigated, search every nook and cranny on the inside. When I checked the outside, I realized quickly that the thudding sound was not the result of a structural flaw in the house but was, well, explosions from just across the valley.
They were joined, not infrequently, by fighter jets careering around, disappearing over the horizon, and then suddently zooming back, adding piercing jet sounds to the underlying bass of the bombs.
This became disconcerting and eventually annoying, but then, it would all stop frequently enough and for a long enough time to provide respite, so, in sum, it was livable, if disappointing.
If we are not making one of the day trips I’ve described herein, to places like Cannes and Toulon, Fayence or Bargemon, we settle in for our long walks with the dogs, puttering around the house, reading and enjoying the fresh air.
We’ve been here in Callas for about a month and a half; our stay has been enjoyable but isolated. On occasion, we get a chance to visit with some of Alice’s friends. For example, on November 24th, we made the short journey back to the coast, to Ste. Maxime to visit with Dany and Nanu whom Alice knows from Brussels and who have a beautiful 2nd home in Saint-Mixime, overlooking a golf course.
The golf course adjacent to the house of Dany and Nanu looks like a nice course, but very hilly and difficult to walk. I haven’t picked up a golf club since we left Florida in October.
A gateway to nearby excursions….
# # #
N E X T : Draguignan / American Cemetery