We are staying very close to the German border, among the low, rolling mountains of the Vosges. The air is much thicker here than in the alps. Tall pine trees cover the land except where it is cleared for pasture or hay, and the little houses far away look made of gingerbread.
It is a romantic part of the country. The air smells like flowers, and there are ruined castles on the tops of mountains. It is the home of my ancestors here for many generations.
The farm we are staying on raises sheep for meat. The farmers here are Bernard and Nadine, and there are three grown up children, the oldest in his early twenties and the younger two are very pretty girls in their teens.
It isn’t homey or well decorated here like the last farm, but I rather like the simple, rustic conditions. It feels relaxing and comfortable, no stress of messing up someone’s beautiful home.
We have a little room at the top of a barn. You have to climb up a rickety ladder, and there are big bales of hay piled along one side, and on the other you can look down and see the sheep. They have access to the pasture, but are able to come inside the barn for water and salt.
Every time I wake up in the night, I hear the sheep moving and drinking. It doesn’t disturb me. I am used to sleeping with the sounds of animals all around, and it reminds me of home.
The first day Nadine takes us down to a festival in town. I’m glad the Teenager gets to see it, even if he can’t understand the words, because I spent a bit of time traveling around with my ex boyfriend Vincent to different street festivals like this when I was 17. Teenager duly impressed by the eccentricity and sheer weirdness.
The next day is Sunday, and the girls plan a picnic and hike in the mountains. We leave just after breakfast and drive to Le Lac Blanc, or the White Lake.
This landscape is what fairy tales are drawn from – huge, mossy rocks, dark forests where fox gloves grow in sunbeams, wild brambles, and the clear, blue lake below, with a white circle of stone beach around the water. On top of the mountain, there are wild blueberries.
There is something about coming here that feels like home to me in my bones, some echo of ancestral memory in the essence of my being that resonates here and feels….right.