Friday, August 1, 2008

A walk along the Canal de l'Ourcq


vf sous le trait à la fin du texte en anglais

Daniel and Simone led an Ile de France walk along the Canal de l'Ourcq near Meaux. I think most Anglophone readers think of French mustard (the other mustard city is Dijon) and cheese (Brie de Meaux) when they hear of Meaux. It's has archeological remnants that go back to the gallo-roman times (late Roman Empire). It was occupied by the Vikings in the 9th century and was a major city in the Middle Ages as part of Champagne. The cathedral is a Gothic cathedral started in the 12th century and there are still other buildings around the cathedral from that period. The city was a major prize in the Hundred Years War and was occupied by the English for a short time. So, when you get off the train to find the canal, you do a little sight-seeing, too.

As we walked through the town, one of the Americans among us remarked on the beautiful Bossuet gardens. (Did I mention that Bossuet was the Bishop of Meaux in the 17th century and has a street, gardens, buildings, etc. named after him, so you can't not know that Meaux is very proud of him?) Back to the gardens - they are not very big, but they are impecable, and the remark was that the French take great pride in their public gardens and spend the money to maintain them. That led to some discussion of public spending, public servants and taxes. My own feeling is that the French do not enjoy paying high taxes, but they do understand and appreciate public service, including beautiful gardens.

I met Ann again. Our first walk together was last year at Provins, but I guess, since she and her husband went on the long hike and Paul and I stayed in the town to sight-see, we didn't talk much. We did partner up on a later walk in the fall - the stragglers. And we straggled last Wednesday, too. And here comes the "small world" story: Ann and her husband do not live in Paris; they are here on a temporary assignment. They live near Alexandria, VA. So, I reminisced that I had an aunt and uncle and cousins who had lived near Alexandria, in Hollin Hills, for a long, long time. BINGO. Ann has lived in Hollin Hills for the past 45 years and knew Hal and Bobbie! She says it hasn't changed much. The swimming pool is the same. The woods have grown and some of the trees are so tall, they allow more sun to get through for new growth - more flowers. But many of the people are the same. Children of the original owners have come back. And it's still a politically liberal community.

It was a very hot and sunny day last Wednesday. I guess it was a bit over-ambitious of me to think I could handle a 16-17 km. walk on a hot day just four weeks after the operation. I had to give up after about 12 km. Fortunately, we were near the intersection of the canal with a road and just down the road was a garage for agricultural equipment. The owner of the garage kindly drove me to the train station in Meaux and I had just enough time to get myself some more water (I'd already drunk all that I had started out with) before the train back to Paris arrived.

What else has been going on? Well, Louis turned 26. We celebrated his birthday with the Lebelles home from China on vacation. That's always a treat - well two treats: celebrating a birthday and seeing Pierre-Frédéric, Nadine and the kids. They look and sound great. They've got a busy couple of weeks of vacation, visiting family in the east and the south of France.

--------
Mercredi, il y avait une randonné le long du Canal de l'Ourcq autour de Meaux. Le cathédral est impressionant, mais je suis devenue un peu indifférente à l'architecture gothique. Et il n'y a pas de beaux vitraux. Il y a, bien sûr, la statue de Bossuet, l'évèque de Meaux à la fin du 17è siècle. Ils sont très fier de Bossuet à Meaux et on trouve son nom partout: rue, jardins, bâtiments, .... Les jardins sont impeccablement entretenus, ce qui a enclenché une discussion sur le service public vu par les américains et les français. (Nous étions sept: quatre français, deux américains et moi, un peu des deux). Mon sentiment est que les français n'aiment pas particulièrement payer des impôts mais ils reconnaissent et apprécient à quoi cela sert: les services publics, y compris les beaux jardins.

J'ai rencontré une autre marcheuse, Ann. Ce n'était pas notre première randonnée ensemble et comme nous ralentissons au bout d'un moment, nous nous retrouvons en queue ensemble. Et voilà - le moment "que le monde est petit !"Ann et son mari sont à Paris pour quelques mois seulement ; ils habitent dans la banlieue virginienne de Washington, DC. Alors, j'ai raconté que j'avais de la famille (tante, oncle et cousins) qui avaient habitaient un certain temps, eux aussi, près de Alexandria, à Hollin Hills précisément. BINGO. C'est justement là où ils habitent depuis 45 ans et ils ont connus Hal et Bobbie Williams ! (Harold était le frère de mon père.) Ah, que le monde est petit !

Il faisait très chaud mercredi et j'ai du sur-estimé mes capacités pour faire une marche de 16-17 km. J'ai du abandonné le groupe au bout de 12 km. environ. Nous étions heureusement près d'un pont où une route passait sur le canal. Un petit distance plus loin sur cette route ce trouvait un garage de matériel agricole et la propriétaire m'a très gentilement conduite à la gare de Meaux. J'ai eu tout juste le temps de prendre une bouteille d'eau avant l'arrivée du train pour Paris. J'avais bien bu pendant la marche, mais ce n'était pas assez, je présume. Le temps d'arriver à Paris, j'allais beaucoup mieux, déjà.

Quoi d'autre ? C'était l'anniversaire de Louis - 26 ans. Nous avons fêté son anniversaire au restaurant avec les Lebelles de Verrières, de retour de Chine pour les vacances. Ca fait toujours plaisir - 2 fois: fêter l'anniversaire et voir Pierre-Frédéric, Nadine et les enfants. Ils ont l'aire très en forme et ils ont quelques semaines de vacances bien remplies à rendre visites à la famille dans l'est et dans le sud.

No comments: