October 19, 2010

18| Ste. Enimie

Ste. Enimie dates from the 6th century and is another on the list of France's 100 Most Beautiful villages. It is located in a narrow section of the gorge, between steep cliffs, with terraced hills all around and a medieval hermitage in full view up one of the hills. The old stone houses with tile roofs are distinctive of very old architecture, one that was used to minimize the risk of fire. The roofs would be visible from my room that night. 

As I neared the village I saw several large vans full of men driving away from town and wondered what those vans were. They turned out to be full of gendarmes, who were also on the roads in the medieval village, aiding with traffic circulation – or noncirculation, as it turned out.  There were many gendarmes, more than I had seen in total this year and last. As I rode about the village, I talked with several of the young men, who teased me about Lance Armstrong (many people compared me to him and I always said no, no, no he rides fast and I ride slow) and asked if I rode across the ocean. It turned out that the route I just passed over had been closed for roadwork, with no one coming or going from town. Apparently more than one road was closed, because the traffic was not moving anywhere. The Tourist Bureau directed me to a campground just out of town, it turned out to be vacant, totally deserted, so I decided to stay in town, went back, returned to the Tourist Bureau and was told that the owners of a chambre d'hôtes I had seen couldn’t get back into town with the closed road, but that they will certainly be here by 5:30 or so, and that I was sure to get a room if I waited.

So I stopped at the bistro to wait, and saw that everyone was waiting, lots of us sitting on the porch:  I was waiting for the châmbre d’hôtes to open, a glass of Suze in hand, others for the hotel to open, wine in hand,  or the roads to open, beer in hand,  everyone relaxed, just watching the world around us. The canyon is quite narrow there, with another canyon joining at close to right angles. Soon we were all watching the weather change, first the dark clouds, typical of the late afternoons, rolled in, over and through, then more and more. Suddenly we could see a wall of fog, or mist, moving down the canyon toward us. Everyone was so mesmerized watching it, that none of us moved. But then a huge monster wind, rain and  hailstorm hit, dropping one inch hail, with winds that blew leaves and branchlets off the trees. Suddenly as glasses blew off the tables and broke on the terrace floors, we an almost as one person into the bistro for shelter, both glad for and welcoming the shelter from the storm, but somehow missing the more direct experience we had watching it arrive outside. My panniers did their job and all stayed dry, although the sidewalk and streets were littered with bits of leaves, branches and twigs, and water running fast in the gutters.
And in it, also during the afternoon, before the storm, there was a helicopter in the large, though currently empty, public parking lot next to the river, just below and in front of the bistro terrace. Several times the helicopter rose high up above the cliffs hovered there, then descended and landed again. I could only guess that it climbed up to get cell service, in order to stay in touch with road crews.  An odd juxtaposition, the cobblestone streets, medieval homes, Renaissance details, and a helicopter rising and landing.


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