Fra(i)ncia XVIII – Pays de Dieu II

On one of the hikes we could see all the way to the Alps, the Mont Blanc and in the other direction the Puy de Dôme. An inactive vulcano, one of many in the region of Auvergne. Big impressive mountains leading up to the heavens, once active but long ago went silent. Gigantic forces of nature really do give the landscape its character and if you focused on nothing you could feel that something is stirring beneath the quiet, idyllic countryside.

Most people that moved here are either from around here but traveled or they moved here outright because of people they met. Point is that the whole area is filled up with people who made a choice to be here and build a life here. This creates a very coherent atmosphere, where everyone is ready to help each other with stuff. Buy wood here and there, people starting businesses able to provide services for people in the area. Theres a big market where all the locals sell all their produce and products and Ambert originally is famous for its cheese (Fourme d’Ambert). Its one of the oldest cheeses of France and apparently has its origins in Roman times where druids and Gauls made this extraordinary cheese. Naturally it came with or after any meal and the only time that I didnt see it appear, was when I made Mexican food and I put a Dragon portion on their plate.

About the food in general, French people just do things differently, its like looking at soccer in Spain and soccer in the Netherlands. The food in France is just on a higher level. This is also reflected in the different stores, they have a bucherie but also a charcuterie or a boulangerie but also a pattiserie. Where boucherie is a butcher, then charcuterie is a delicacy version of a butcher. Same with the boulangerie en and the pattiserie, we only have a fucking bakery in the Netherlands where they sell both but in France the pattiserie is specialized in cakes and pretty pie’s etc. So instead of just having a collection shop, there was (at least in the past) economical space for diversification.

So the attic was just in terrible shape, the farm itself was (estimated) around a 100 years old and not that very well maintained by the owner. The attic was full of isolation on the floor and there were a couple of small holes in the roof that birds used as a doorway. Apparently there were mice and spider webs the size of that one scene from Lord of the Rings, where Frodo is almost in Mordor. They had a pretty good vacuum cleaner and Kevin and me formed a pretty good team as time went along. We had a good method and even though I didnt think it was going to take longer than 1 week, it was still one hell of a job. Maybe the first time in 25 years that its actually cleaned in this way.

We found some treasures along the way, a few photos from a long, long time ago, some old beds. Old closets and cupboards and to me the first day was the most interesting I think. Just because of the potential of finding treasure and to get a start on the thing.

The first day didnt went as fast as expected and we mostly sorted out stuff that we wanted to keep or that they could use for something else. Found some glass doors that theyre going to use to build a greenhouse and some other knickknacks. Kevin and me didnt wear any masks and this proved to be a little bit of a mistake. The place was dusty as shit. At the end of the first day some others from the house came to help and we noticed that some beams were sort of dislodged in the roof. Also some holes in the floor making it able to peek into the rooms below, Yea this room wasnt going to get used as a recreation room anytime soon, still fucking cool though and now that we started it, we might as well finish. All the junk that we had no use for we set on fire on the 2ndnight since they had a nice fire barrel outside, and God knows I luv me a fire <3.

Some other things that happened in the first week here was that we went to several markets. Apparently theres an ever bigger hippie town nearby called Cunlhat, where the people from the house knew a lot of people. Every year theres a festival that they are co-hosting thats being held in that village, focused on all kinds of artisan things and performances.

Lucy her jacket was all busted up and it was more of a summer rain jacket than a proper winter jacket. I went to the petstore and I found one exactly in her colors, weird thing was that I already had it in my minds eye before I actually saw/bought it and it looked great on her.

When I asked Quentin on how to hitchhike to Ambert, I asked him if I should stay the night in Thiers or in Vichy, he told me that Thiers is this old alchemist/forging town, that now was slowly emptying out, needless to say he recommended Vichy to me (good advice since I got to stay with the Couchsurfer Mathilde) and that we could go to Thiers together. So that also happened in the first week, we went there taking his old camper van that we also used to get around when we met 2-3 years ago and it felt like old times. Thiers itself is a pretty cool place, build on a hillside, beautiful cathedral/church but indeed the town emptied out over time. Still it was cool to go and to do a little exploring. Didnt get what I hoped for but I dont really know what I hoped for when visiting an alchemist town.

There was a Christmas mass in the evening that I would like to attend and it was horrible. First I lost one of my freshly bought gloves on the walk there, then the service itself was just off tune and only attended by about 20-30 people and to top it all off, afterwards I walked with the priest to the office and he put the stamp wrong in my credential..OH AND I had to wait for so long until he was finished so now all the stores were closed so I couldnt buy any bullshit that I didnt need. Nuff said right there.

Around this time, the guy that I borrowed the room from was coming home but Quentin and Julie were also leaving for Christmas to their families and my package was nowhere in sight, so I could move to their room. The package…that fucking package…My parents had send it as soon as I arrived in Ambert and at the post office they garantueed that it would arrive in about 3 business days. Well, within 3 business days it was handed over to French customs and it didnt get released until the 27th(it was there for 7 damn days..). Now France is on a sort of brink of revolution nation wide, the yellow vests (Gilet Jeune’s are just the tip of the iceberg). There were people that worked for the electricity company that turned off the electricity to about 50k households, trains werent working properly like earlier mentioned, post offices were slightly affected and yea.. Just general glitches in the Matrix due to crumbling system. You see this all around the world where if you push people hard enough, they will set the limit to the pushing and after that limits is reached, things like this are but natural. In the Netherlands we have farmers, France has Gilet Jeune, Barcalona has their seperatist movement and the Chilean government raises the price of the metro with 1 € and whole cities go up in flames. France being France and being pushed a little bit harder in certain ways in my opinion, theyre a little bit ahead of the curve. Its whatever. Times of tribulation and all dat jazz..

On Christmas I was alone with just Kevin and everybody else had left, some friends in the area had a husky that was about to give birth to puppies (which were cute as fuck although hard to see since they were just born 5min ago), we went by to look and the girl friend was Swedish and made a sort of fish pie. It, being Swedish actually reminded me a lot about flavors and tastes we use in the Netherlands as well and it was a fun little gift for Christmas. After that Kevin and me got drunk back home and it was a good evening. Weird not being with family like I normally would but not necessarily in a bad way. Of course I did call my parents and they were doing their usual thing of having good food and some small presents.

Didnt really feel homesick but its definitely a first.