It is four o’clock in the afternoon and I am walking to the next village, some 45 minutes on foot, 10 in a car. The road climbs through olive groves and vineyards, reaches a col, winds down through vineyards—Cotes du Rhone now, so every available patch of land is cultivated. The grapes have been harvested and the vines are turning yellow—soon they will red. I eat some of the tiny clusters the pickers left, glean more to take home for supper. The light is beautiful, warm, glittering off pines trees on the hills above the road.
This is one of my favourite walks—because it is beautiful in the way of land that has been farmed for ages, whose fields are contoured by time and geology; because it goes mostly uphill one the way there and downhill back, as all good hikes do; because the other village, off the beaten track, has changed very little in the past thirty years and because its Place de l’Eglise has a spectacular view of the Dentelles de Montmirail. Houses tumble down the hillside. Above the church there is a rock molar with an old iron cross askew at the top. Its limestone is crumbly. The Dentelles de Montmirail are known to rock climbers around the world; here signs warn us clear, even of the trail that twists up to the cross.