Sundays are always slow in France. Barely anything is open, save a few cafes, one pharmacy, one bakery, and maybe a kebab shop or two. It’s easy to end up watching Top Chef on the internet while eating the last of your grocery store supplies. But why waste a beautiful winter day doing things I could do back home? This past Sunday we took advantage of the rare sunlight to take a day trip up to les gorges d’Omblèze to go hiking.
I went with Becca, an American assistant from Wisconsin, a French guy named Fred who drove, and his group of friends. Apparently Fred and these friends usually go rock climbing in les gorges d’Omblèze, but the freezing weather had made the rock too cold for that last Sunday. Les gorges d’Omblèze are east of Valence in the Vercors mountains of the Drôme department and include steep cliffs as well as waterfalls. On our drive over there we passed lots of sledders and children building snowmen. Becca and I also got a lesson in French chansons and even got a sing-a-long performance to a “Les Copains d’Abord” by Georges Brassens. We first stopped on a road at the bottom of the gorges and walked by a waterfall, many gigantic icicles, and stomped through the snow. I did not wear appropriate footwear, although my tennis shoes with no traction are about as good as it gets with my France shoe collection. I could only bring so many shoes in my suitcase, although I guess I don’t have any hiking shoes back in Oklahoma. That’s what working for a year in an art gallery will do to your wardrobe, I suppose. Anyway, it was beautiful, although a bit cold.
After the road walk, we drove to another area and took a steep path down to the Cascade de la Druise, a 72 meters (236 feet) tall waterfall. My shoes were yet again not very good for traction and I slid down most of the hill, only attempting a short cut through the brush once where I was attacked by a thorny vine. We eventually caught up to the fast rock climber group after exploring some random ruins (we were behind anyway) at the bottom of the trail that would make a good hermit house. I’m not in the market, but it’s always good to have places in mind.
But we did make to the waterfall and it was spectacular. The spray coming from the plummeting falls was freezing, but we still got as close as possible by maneuvering over slippery rocks and the rocky sides of the river. The water was incredibly clear and after leaving the waterfall turns into rapids over rocks that swerve through the canyon.
We all made it up the steep path back to the cars and then returned to Valence. There was a stop at a sausage store, but I didn’t buy anything and just went in with everyone, trying not to stare with horror at the saran wrapped pig snouts. Back in Valence, we drank hot chocolate at Becca’s apartment and after I went to my apartment to scrape the mud off my shoes and jeans.