We have lived in the beautiful French Department of the Vienne (86) for 7 years now, apart from a 2 year gap in Cannes. It is part of Poitou Charente, south western France. Far enough south to have a different weather system, not far enough to become dry and parched. The capital of the region is the historic, university city of Poitiers. But what makes Vienne recognisable? When we say ‘Vienne’ what do we think of?
Our home in the UK is in Devon, when we say that word to an Englishman we instantly think ‘rolling hills, hedgerows, country lanes leading to beaches, cows, farmers markets, custard and rain’!!!
So what do we think when we say Vienne? ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionheart, the Black Prince, Romanesque churches, low hills, green, deciduous woodlands, purple irises against stone walls, winding rivers, cherry blossom, wood piles, sheep, goats, pale shutters, creamy stone and the empty chateaux’. Does that help put a picture in your mind?
We used to make the journey often between Cannes and Poitiers, a long diagonal jaunt across the mountains to reach home. There came a moment halfway when the cicadas became silent, the umbrella pine trees were replaced by deciduous, the intense azur blue sky turned paler, scorched scrub and white rocks replaced with green fields and creamy stone. My husbands heart would lift at the sight of the gentler, more muted colours of home, whilst I, on the one hand glad to be home, on the other looked back at the disappearing landscape with more than a little sadness at the loss of the intense colours, smells, sounds and heat!
We are all made differently and respond to landscapes at a gut level, with little way of explaining how or why we feel the way we do. As we travel or live somewhere as a foreigner we get to understand what we are drawn to and what we find too strange or alien to ever truly call home.
Parched: Without water. Could refer to the groune or a person. ‘The ground was parched’. ‘I’m parched!’
Rolling hills: Gentle hills, not steep mountains, not flat!
Custard: Local dessert made from milk and vanilla. Creme Anglais.
Deciduous trees: Trees that lose their leaves in winter.
Winding rivers: Rivers that turn and loop gently.
Jaunt: A trip or journey. It’s used either to descibe something long or something that has caused a lot of inconvenience!
Scorched: Burnt or so dry it’s brown and brittle.
Muted: Toned down, gentler.
At a gut level: An instinctive feeling, feel something with no reason attached>