Kind of cranky. It happens, even in Provence and I have to say that Remi, Frederique and I were all in some sort of funk as we found the trail leading up to the ruins of the vieux village at Ongles. The day hadn't been going as planned. We had an excellent restaurant recommendation for Forcalquier, only to find it closed. The only other option was decidedly mediocre and the service moyen. At the end of the overly long meal, thunder clouds rolled in and we were caught in a down pour before we could blink. Not exactly the best conditions for Remi's photography. But don't give up. Keep moving. At the very least. This we know from our travels where you have to bring back the story no matter what the weather conditions. "Il ne pleut pas au paradis!"-- how many times have we declared that, fist shaking towards the heavens. "It doesn't rain in paradise," at least not for the magazines who publish nothing but blue skies.
No one spoke as we picked our way up the path, indicated only by a yellow slash mark on the trees, stepping gingerly over the fallen stones that had once been homes. An oppidum, or fortified site, had topped the hill since Roman times. A village was formed in 1074 then abandoned after the Royal Army beat the Huguenots in 1586. As in Oppede-le-Vieux, its occupants moved further down the valley, no longer needing the high vantage point to protect them from invaders.
The view was rewardingly stunning as we arrived at the summit. The Luberon opening up before us with a bow. Each of us still in our own world, lost in thoughts. Remi furious when he realized that he had forgotten his battery charger, so the day, despite the two hour drive to get here, would be cut short. At some point amidst the grumbles, I laid down in the grass, giving up. Eventually both Remi and Frederique did too. Each one in their corner. And we slept.
The light had changed when we woke up but that wasn't all. Something had shifted within us. A link had been cut. By letting go of our expectations, we found that they weren't that important after all. It was a relief, a weight lifted and it seemed as if it was the ghosts of the ruins that were behind it. Or if that is too romantic, the trumping of time over an obnoxious and overly insistent in-between, neither now nor the past.
I didn't want to move. A grillon, or cricket was clinging to my ankle. It seemed like a good omen. When I finally did shake him off and we moved down the hill, the clouds had cleared and the town took on a rosy glow. Silly me, silly thoughts. Bells clanked as a flock of sheep grazed. One lifted its lips to me in a mocking smile.
Finding ourselves liberated, we all wisely chose to be in a fine mood and the light followed us willingly. The Prieuré de Salagon, which had seemed so sad only a few hours earlier, now presented us her best side front and forward as we retraced our route. Remi's batteries even held out for the tiny but unique Chapelle Saint-Paul de Saint-Michel-L'Observatoire, the last goal of our day.
As we piled into the Range Rover, ready to make the long drive back, we received a call, inviting us all to a fancy dinner party. We accepted but insisted on going as we were, grass stains and all, sweaty from the country walk that somehow had cleansed us inside but not out. Not perfect, but present, we arrived smiling and just in time to raise a glass of Champagne. Santé, Health, to us all.