A Sunday Drive in the Uzège
Having finally rented a little Renault Clio, we decided to go for a Sunday drive in the countryside, thinking that we’d stop at a village café for a coffee somewhere. Guess what? On a Sunday afternoon in our area there’s not one single thing open. And I mean nothing. Rien du tout.
Here in the tiny hilltop town of Saint Victor des Oules we saw how the relatively new lives amidst the very, very old. Buildings, that is. No people. And for the first time, from this town, we saw where we are. It’s amazing how a car gives you perspective, let’s you elevate above the dust and babble of the street life of the pedestrian. Until we made a Clio-assisted trip uphill, we didn’t know we were in such a flat place. We knew already that it was dry, very dry, and that there’s a drought this year. But we hadn’t imagined a large, flat valley that was dust-dry as far as the eye can see.
Coming back downhill we saw almond trees, olive trees, lots and lots of lushly fruited vineyards, and an anise field. And no people. Really, none.
But coming into the nearby town of Saint Quentin la Poterie, famous for its gorgeous pottery, we did see someone. We saw him a little too closely, in fact, as he and we tried to occupy the same bit of road for a moment. He was clearly outraged, and made an amazing gesture at us. How shall I describe this? Put your index and middle finger on either side of your nose, fingertips pointed up, then shove your fingers up until they’re resting under your eyebrows. Do this two or three times, and scowl menacingly as you do so. We took this to mean that he wasn’t all that happy to see us, but if anyone knows more precisely what this gesture means, please do post it here. I might want to use it myself sometime.
A much more peaceful moment awaited us just around the bend.
Here in the cemetery of Saint Quentin we were stilled by the march of history, the large families clustered together in a single tomb. Most of the tombs were tended, swept clean on a Sunday afternoon, plants freshly watered. A few tombs were clearly abandoned, and were marked as condemned by the town. What happens to a grave in France when there’s no one left to tend it? What happens to a dusty town when all the young people have moved away and there’s no one left to teach foreigners the rules of the road on a Sunday afternoon?