Saturday, April 30, 2011

Life without the sea...


I could not have pinpointed the department of Ariège Pyrénées on a map of France, and yet, just six months after visiting this remote area, I upped sticks, left Ireland and came to live here. The mountains bewitched me; it seemed that no-where else on the planet could match the wild beauty of this place.

When the opportunity to move presented itself, I jumped at the chance and home now is a hamlet of just five houses in the foothills of the Pyrénées. The coast, in either direction, is a three hour drive. And here is the problem. Had I any idea how big a part the sea played in my life?

I grew up within walking distance of the sea in Dublin and when I was about twelve years old, my parents suddenly discovered caravan living and we were taken off to spend weeks of summer holidays in County Wexford.


We lived, it seems to me now, like children from an old story book, running in and out of the sea all day, playing on the beach and only stopping to be fed or, very late at night, to fall into our little beds, exhausted and happy, with more fun in store the next day.

Years later, having become chic and civilised, a group of friends would attend the Wexford Opera Festival. Those evenings were elegant, sophisticated, grown up affairs, but I always spent part of the days walking on the beach. October has a magic all its own; a wonderful light and the vastness of the sea and sky.

My aunt lived in Wexford town, my best friend still lives just outside Rosslare and over the years I have enjoyed the excellent restaurants, the great pubs and superb hotels of the area on many, many occasions.


Special memories include the magic of Our Lady’s island, glorious lunches at the Lobster Pot in Carne and always, the outstanding hospitality of any of Liam Griffin’s establishments. Before taking the ferry over to France to begin my new life, my new adventure, I enjoyed my last lunches and dinners in the sunny south east. The background to everything was the sea; did I take it all for granted?

Life here in the hills was wonderful, an amazing change; all the new experiences were fantastic. But, as time went on, it became obvious that something was missing. As magical as this part of France is, I know I am just too far away the sea.

Occasionally we drive over to the Mediterranean or up to the Bordeaux area, which means I get to see the mighty waves of the Atlantic. But those trips are not enough; living here full time, with just the odd glimpse of the sea, isn't the life for me, it appears, after all.


This wonderful department, which undoubtedly for some people has everything; magnificent mountains, rivers rich with trout and stunning areas of forest where the wild boar lives, still lacks, for me, something enormous. The sea was obviously a much more important element than I had ever realised when considering my move here.

The good news in all this of course, is that France has an enormous and tremendously varied coast line, and now, what another fabulous adventure in prospect, as I begin the search for a place nearer to the sea...or, even better, the Seine...because no matter where I live, I am always working towards Paris...
View from Hotel du Quai Voltaire

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