A Walk Along the Voie Verte
In my little town, St. Hippolyte du Fort, we are blessed with lovely walking paths. I'm grateful to so easily engage with the surrounding natural beauty, especially at this time of year. Bursts of color appear as the buds of spring burst and blossom. Deep breaths of fresh-scented air bring to mind the hope of renewal, the cycles and seasons that contain their own particular beauty.
In the last blog, I took us along the river, the first voie verte (literally a “green way”) to the “other château.” Today, we’ll walk along the newer one, which includes a bird's-eye view of the Château de Planque, where I live and work.
High and low perspectives––what a different vantage point from each. The arched viaduct is actually near the middle of the newer voie verte. I’m so glad the mayor and his people turned this unused, beautiful bridge into a walking path. A train used to run along it during the late 19th and 20th centuries. Now, people stroll by on foot, some pushing strollers and chasing little ones on small bikes. Cyclists, alone or in groups, speed past. We hear snatches of conversation drifting down into our château gardens and windows. Signs of life!
Let’s start our walk at another mid-point, the most accessible, from the town center. We pass by the back of the salle des fêtes, the community space used for all sorts of gatherings, from Christmas fairs to concerts to bingo-like lotto games. Our organization hosted our annual national conference in it back in 2016.
Next on our left is an apartment building, in what used to be casernes, military barracks built in the late 1800s. I’ll share more about the young soldiers trained there and some unusual adventures during the Nazi occupation during World War II in a future blog post.
As we move down the path, we pass by some homes, then more fully into natural scenery. Soon, we come to a fork of sorts. The lower road runs down to the street below, so we’ll continue straight ahead.
A bit farther down on our right is a ruin. An old château! Yet another one in this small town. I have had a hard time discovering its origins. The ruins are fascinating; you can see the remains of ramparts and high walls with windows to survey the road and valley below.
Sauntering along, we say “bonjour” to passersby. Some days, especially when the weather is gray, I have the whole path to myself along this stretch. Whether I listen to birdsong, a scripture recording on my phone, or simply let my thoughts wander, it's almost always a nourishing, replenishing moment.
This portion of the voie verte ends here, surrounded by lovely homes. Eventually, it will be extended, but that is another project for another day. In later spring, red poppies spring up, along with other wildflowers. I’m often inspired to get home and try to capture what I see in watercolor.
We retrace our steps and return to the fork and take the way not yet traveled. I love this little intersection and its row of olive trees. Beyond is the tunnel, going through the mountain. Until a few years ago, boards barricaded the entrance, which didn't stop people from making an opening and passing through the tunnel! Now, it’s officially open and lit, a cool passageway to the rest of the voie verte.
At the end of the tunnel, we emerge blinking from damp darkness into the bright sunlight.
We now see St. Hippolyte below and the mountains, beyond which is the Mediterranean sea. Up high, the air blows fresh and cool, and no matter how many times I walk this path, it takes my breath away.
On our left is the river, former château lands, and the Château de Planque. Our organization owns and uses the front portion; we live in the back wing, starting with the tall blue shutters (still working on getting them repaired and painted burgundy! One day…)
Once over the high open bridge, the path nestles between limestone outcroppings.
A little farther on, we come to the end of this portion of the voie verte. It continues for quite a distance, but that’s for another time.
On weekends and sunny days, I enjoy observing the families and friends––very young to not quite so young––enjoying each other and reveling in the beauty all around. In this crazy world, it's helpful and healing to go slow, taking in the gifts freely given, with grateful hearts to the Creator of it all.
La vie est belle!