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Monday, August 10, 2009

La Tour du Pin, part 2

Sorry for the delay! Who'd have thought that Lazy August would be so darned busy!
To continue story of wandering around La Tour du Pin and Lake Aiguebelette in eastern France:

Bright and early I'm out the door and on my way to the station. I'm hoping to pass an open bakery, but no luck. Maybe the bar & restaurant at the station is open to serve coffee and croissants to commuters. No luck. There are a lot of commuters, too. Even in August, there are 20 people lined up for the 6:52 to Lyon, which is late, and 38 for the 7:06. Only six of us are going the other way, to Chambèry and points east.
At Lepin-le-Lac-la-Bauche I've got 13 minutes to change to a bus for Aiguebelette-le-Lac. First I wander into the little convenience store that's right across from the station, remembering that I left my bandaids at the hotel and I often need one for a long hike. No luck. Not a bakery to be seen, even walking up and down the road a ways. I'd love a big cup of café crème at the bar attached to the store, but if I miss the bus for it, that would not be a good deal. In Aiguebelette there's not even the hope of breakfast. It's a one-street village, not a shop in sight, and the lone hotel&restaurant is closed.
So fine. At the station I chance onto one of the trailheads that I came here for, though not the one that goes along the lakeside, and break out the cereal bars and water I packed (darn - left the peaches behind!). Breakfast of champions. It's all uphill, this trail. A good plan - do the hard part first. Up and up and up. The thing about walking in dense forest is that there's never a view. And it's dark. But I should get somewhere eventually. There are vertical cliffs above, quite impressive from a distance, and sooner or later this trail will come out on top of one.
Some day.
Some later day.
When I start going down again, around the far side of the long thin ridge of rock the separates Aiguebelette from Chambèry, I've been at it for a couple of hours. Hmm. This is not going up to a summit. Nor am I in the wilderness, but in a woods with logging roads and the sound of chainsaws in the middle-distance. Now and then I come across a house with a dog in the yard and a couple of cars. How about another cereal bar, and the rest of the water when I get back to the crest of the trail, and I find the trail around the lake after lunch.
I get back to the station at 11:45. Nearly a four hour hike. Pretty good, though my feet are not really used to the new shoes. No blisters, but I'll get some insoles to make them a little softer on pavement. I did get some views of the lake and the surrounding countryside. It isn't much to write home about.
Checking out the train schedules I see there's one at 12:23, the next at 14:25, and various trains later. I'm thinking of lunch (having consumed my lunch for breakfast), and of quitting Aiguebelette for an afternoon hike around La Tour de Pin, whose sign at the station showed a handful of castles in a hikable radius. Wandering around, I see ads for a restaurant serving the usual sandwiches pizza & crepes, down by the vacation/camping area lakeside. Only, I can't seem to find the road that actually goes down there. The village seems rather concerned with keeping its quiet village character in the face of the annual deluge of holiday visitors, and I don't blame them. These lakeside holiday camps tend to be wall-to-wall people doing their best to pack in as much merriment and carousing as they can before it all ends and it's back to the grind.
Whatever, I'll take the 12:23 back to Lepin le Lac, where there was an restaurant near the station (and if that's closed, a sandwich & beer at the bar will be fine). At the one-track station - you know you're in nowhereville when there are not even two tracks at the station! - at 12:22 the barriers come down and here comes a great big train.
And there it goes.
Hey!
The station is too small for there to be anybody. The station building is now a private home with a waiting room attached for travellers. No doubt the residents are in charge of keeping the station in shape, but they're not there to talk to. No electronic signs. No ticket vending machine. There's a train company phone to use if you have a problem.
Um. My train didn't stop for me. It was very mean and just blew right on by, without even slowing down.
But I don't call. What's the point in calling? They're not going to back up for me. I sit for a minute to stew in my annoyance before making my way down toward the lake, determined to find this announced restaurant serving crappy, overpriced food to sunburned holiday makers.
About halfway back to the main street, I hear that familiar two-tone whistle, the ones trains make entering and leaving tunnels. ...leaving the tunnel from Chambèry! My train! As I turn, I hear the barriers coming down to block the road, and I run up the hill.
There have been years in my life when it was not possible for me to run up a hill, especially footsore and tired from a long walk. But I do it. I round the corner of the stationhouse just as the engine is pulling up to the start of the quay. The driver had slowed down just in case there was a passenger waiting, but seeing nobody, he'd started to speed up again, and now had to stop after all. When he finally did, the engine had crossed the road, and the first car was straddling it. An ugly stop, but I had my train.
Lunch is excellent. A salad, steak with pepper sauce and fries, chocolate cake; simple fare but well made (ok, the cake was lame. but the fries were perfect.) and just what I wanted.
On the ride back to La Tour, I think about the importance that we put on the task at hand, and how that fits into the larger picture of things. I just had to catch that train in Aiguebelette. I couldn't let it get away, having given up on it once, fooled by the big train going probably straight to Lyon. Missing it would have wrecked my day.
Yeah, you'd have been stuck in that town another 2 hours. Big deal.
Bigger opportunities have come and gone. Missed by chance, or by failure of will, or by some stupid error; there have been so many times in my life when I thought: if I don't get this, I'm cooked. If I don't get this grant. If I miss this plane. If I fail to get this paper accepted. Disaster looms.
Sometimes I squeaked by, like catching that train on the run. Sometimes I had that cold feeling envelop me, the one that comes around when you're searching for plan B, and plans are pretty thin on the ground. But no matter what I failed at, not one of those losses was big enough to keep me from getting to where I am now. Not one of them was fatal. At the time, they seemed like they would be. But not one of those missed opportunities kept me from having a home and a job and a vacation in the french countryside.
Sure, things could have been different. One coin flipped the other way and I could own a house instead of renting one. Another coin flip and I could be spending this vacation with a husband. But in the longer view of things, I'm happy, and all those short-term crises were just that: transient.
I've been reading some Flaubert on this trip. On my trip to Culoz it was Reading Lolita in Tehran, and at the end of that trip two things happened: In Lyon I ran across the used book section of the quayside market along the Saone and picked up five paperbacks for 5€, and my renewed friend Anne posted "100 books I've read the BBC thinks I haven't" on Facebook. I've read 57 of the 100, and I wouldn't be opposed to about half the remaining (including Lolita, ironically). What caught my interest was that all the French books on the list that I'd read, I'd read in French, and yet I haven't picked up a book in French in ages. Apart from the classics I read years ago while actively trying to learn the language, I've had terrible luck with French fiction.
Thus here I am with Flaubert and his slim 'Three Stories' volume. The first story, A Simple Heart, at first bores me. But then I realize I just have to go with it. The structure of 19th century French stories often isn't what you expect of 20th century American short stories. They're not always built around an event, they don't go - setting, conflict, action, resolution. A Simple Heart describes the life, and the being, of a servant in the north of France. Nothing in particular happens. In the first half of this portrait, I at times thought that Flaubert was mocking his subject, Félicité, in her simple manners and naive ways. But he wasn't; he was just showing her as she was, and how that was different, and disdained, by more educated people around her. In the end you feel you know her, there's a certain sympathy that develops for her as you find she's the one able to express her deep love for her mistress's children, she's the one who keeps everything together, she provides the human ties, appreciated or not, in her entourage. A very satisfying tale.

Till next time!

5 comments:

Jude said...

Hello, thank you for visiting.
Maybe you would like to visit my daughter's in laws to be! They live in a gorgeous part of France.
You'll find them on my blog list under DesRevesInFrance.blogspot.com

Jude said...

Isn't it strange how much blogland intertwines, I noticed Crystal Jigsaw in your list..

sciencegirl said...

It is interesting how these webs form. Some of the blogs I like I've found at random by clicking on 'next blog', and a couple by looking at the blog of note, but now most new blogs I visit I find through the links on blogs I already like (figuring, hey, this person has great taste - they probably like blogs I like...). Thus these interlinked webs form and you find friends who already know your friends!

Barry said...

Wonderful, insightful, rich and fully packed post, Science Girl. I enjoyed vicariously joining you on your walk. And that race for the train.

I have a cousin, Jennifer, who taught at the University in Lyon. She currently lives in Montauban

sciencegirl said...

Hi Barry! It's wonderful to hear from you. I don't think I've ever been to Montauban. Hmm. There's rubgy down that way, too. Very tempting! If I go down that way I'll ask you for her number, possibly have lunch, or coffee.