QUALITY TIME

p7840450A couple of days ago I grabbed my camera and drove to a village nearby, determined to take a few photos for the blog with the wonderful light that we have at this time of year. It was truly the most sublime day, with clear skies and a sun hot enough to actually make a difference; it was not quite sunbathing weather but for the depths of winter it was not at all bad. A day when one simply had to be outside to appreciate it. There was no wind, and the the rise of mercury had not been too impressive, just reaching double figures – a mediocre 10˚ Celsius. However, it felt like heaven just to feel the sun on one’s back, and that’s the trick here, even in January. If you can find a sheltered spot you really can sit in a t-shirt and feel the sun providing some vital winter vitamin D, its rays actually have some strength to them.

Anyway, feeling happy for no reason other than because it was the sort of day when it was impossible not to be, I arrived in the little village of St Just. I parked and walked and before I knew it I found myself meandering amongst its tiny back streets.

In these cooler months when the trees have been pollarded and flowers are scarce these villages are no longer picture postcard pretty; instead they have a stark beauty that I find equally mesmerising and with nothing to hide behind one notices things quite invisible the rest of the year.

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There is always a church somewhere to be found and in this tiny village it is a huge piece of architecture. Just imagine how long this would have taken to construct 500 years ago. The Eglise Fortifiée de St Just Luzac took over 100 years to build, spanning the 15th and 16th centuries. p7840452

Turning my back on the church and looking the other way is this incredible window. So easy to miss. It must date from the same era and undoubtedly was connected to the church in some way.p7840461p7840455

As I wandered on, shutters caught my attention

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and a simple hand-made ‘For Sale’ sign. AV standing for À Vendre.p7840469

Narrow paths, little alleys and hidden gems urged me to keep clicking away.p7840460

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And then I came to this house. I would call it simply handsome. But what struck me most was the stonework on the front, I don’t think I have ever seen this on a house before.p7840466

On the way home I crossed the Marais, I’ve always loved this ruin – a little renovation project perhaps? I am sure it is not for sale, but just imagine the possibilities if you had a bottomless wallet!  There is even electricity passing by just beside!

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I turned off the main road and drove deep into the marshland. There was not another car or person in sight. I found somewhere just off the road where I could leave the car, where it wasn’t too muddy and I wouldn’t get stuck trying to get back on the road and I set off on foot. It was so silent and so peaceful, the only sounds the occasional ripple of water when a coypu swam away, or the flapping of wings as a heron took flight.

p7840500 I was reminded just how incredible this little slice of paradise is, and what had started out as a quick sortie to take a few photos quickly turned into a wonderful long walk – just me, alone with my thoughts and my camera, and so much wildlife as far as the eye could see. There are many species of waterfowl that over-winter here, and as the Marais stretches for miles, encompassing 16,000 hectares, that means there are a lot of birds. The coast is close by too, and it’s a hive of summer activity which never seems to stretch into the marshlands. The bustling towns of Rochefort and Marennes are on either side, and yet nestled in the middle is this place of protected solitude. When Roddy came to France and found our house with the marais so close by, he knew this would become one of our favourite places to walk and cycle; he knew it was special and he certainly wasn’t wrong.p7840486p7840477p7840488

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Then just as I was nearing the car a wedge of swans in flight caught my eye. Incredibly they turned and flew directly over me. I pointed my camera upwards and just snapped, hoping I might capture something.

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Then they had passed, heading off for the evening.

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A second smaller group quickly passed just in front of me and then they were gone, too. Glancing at my watch I realised I’d spent far longer with my camera than I’d intended; there were jobs at home that would have to be postponed for another day, but it didn’t matter. There’s nothing to compare to quality time like this.

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72 thoughts on “QUALITY TIME

  1. What a wonderful trip to take us on this morning! I feel like I am seeing the town and the marais as a resident and not a tourist. Such a fantastic thing for you to provide us. Thank you! My favorite photo is the one of the swans overhead.

  2. Haven’t had much time to sit and actually read one of your posts lately. Today I took an extra coffee and opened your blog. What a wonderful way to start the day! Imagined myself walking right along beside you. Thank you for the beautiful photos and wonderful story. Miss you all loads. Hugs to all!

  3. How lovely to get lost in time. Being present and full of the moment. Chores can always wait for such a lovely serendipity in your beautiful land. thank you for sharing

  4. Ah, I feel refreshed just reading about your outing! Loved all the pictures of the houses, cathedral and the swans! What a special treat.

  5. D > Lovely photos with the bulrushes and birds! I wonder what you’d make of the winter light here in the Outer Hebrides! It’s soft light, from the sun being so low in the sky (the late has to pass through more atmosphere in order to reach us, and so is disippated by dust and vapour), but also harsh, in that it throws every detail of the landscape into sharp relief. We wouldn’t want our faces photographed in that kind of light!

    1. It would be a dream to visit the Outer Hebrides. One half of my family comes from Bute, going back a long time, we have headstones in t he graveyard there. One day I want to get back and visit more of the Islands with the family. If we didn’t live in France, the Scottish Isles would certainly be where we would be. Xx

  6. Oh, that was a wonderful walk and an Aussie gal did not even feel frostbitten ! Loved the birds and the water but was most taken with ‘that house’ at which perchance I would not have taken a second look had it not been for your smile and nod . . .

    1. No frostbite at all, it was actually a balmy warm breeze. We seem to have had a much colder winter than normal, rarely a frost, but chilly none the less and not as much sunshine as normal. Oh well we can’t have it all!! Xx

  7. Sometimes the best times are by yourself, walking along enjoying life, nature and whatever you find. Looks like a wonderful walk.

  8. Wonderfully evocative writing and photos, Susan. As always! Just back from a few days up north – your old stomping ground. It was just fabulous.

      1. Yes! The main purpose of the trip was so that I could visit Cape Reinga, as I hadn’t been before. Wow! Stayed at Ngunguru, Paihia and Mangonui. Such stunning beaches on that part of the coast. Loved it!

          1. Yes, we had some of the very expensive fish and chips! Nice, but it was all about the waterfront setting, really. Stunning!

          2. Oh yes I agree with that, not sure it is worthy of the best fish and chips in NZ for the actual food, but the setting is great I agree. Hope it hasn’t changed and got too touristy now. xx

  9. Lombardy poplars in the first picture seem to be so French. They are common in paintings by Monet. The first six that I planted were for someone who remembers them from France, where they are grown to stabilize the embankments of canals, and for firewood. Yet, I never heard of anyone seeing them in the Lombardy region.

  10. Thank you so much for this post!
    Amidst all the global bad news and dire economic forecasts this is such a welcome read. You certainly know how to transport us…

  11. Thank you for the pictures! I love the old buildings & the church & windows are so interesting. Timeless. The swans are so lovely too. The fields remind me of where I grew up – in Missouri USA – ! My brothers & I used to tramp them & bring (they did) the cows in. Seems like yesterday!

  12. Thank you for the journey! Lovely pictures! I love the solitude and peace…the swans are wonderful….I live in a suburb that has become more city….so, it is truly appreciated.

  13. The light in the photos is beautiful – really warms the stone.

    What is the purpose of pollarding the trees? What species – or are several types so treated?

    How lovely to see wild swans in flight as a matter of course! We have Canada geese in spades year round but they are not very respectful of the boardwalks along the river. 🙃

    Lovely post!

    1. The trees are pollarded to step them getting to big and out of hand, it is a very common practice here in France. It takes some getting used to, but they are gorgeous in the summer.xx

  14. Lovely photos, as always, Susan! We are chasing summer and are in Queenstown, New Zealand, where there is still twilight until 9:45 p.m. However, and this is a big “however,” today we are having a torrential rain, winds with gusts up to 50 mph. We were shopping in the nearby town of Arrowtown when the power went out in all the downtown businesses! Fortunately, the store could still sell us our emergency food without any electronics, cash only. Enjoy winter!

  15. Post Script to my message from Queenstown, and apologies to any Kiwis who read my grumbling— after about two hours of intense wind and rain, and downed tree branches, yes, summer did reappear, sunshine again, the wind abated, and the only evidence of this summer storm is new snow on the mountains.

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