Saturday dawned pretty in pink, accentuated by a solitary cormorant passing overhead. As the rising sun backlit the trees and rooftops across the river Charente with ever increasing brightness, mist gathered gently to envelop the landscape in milky fuzziness.
Inside, morning light filtered through sheer curtains creating mottled patterns across walls and objects.
A few hours later, it was time for some marketing. Saturday mornings see the tree-lined square in the shadow of La Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, transformed into an extensive farmers market, which was my destination.
It was a pleasure to be out on such a beautiful morning, pulling my wheeled shopping bag through the cobblestoned lanes and between the market stalls crowded with enthusiastic shoppers checking out a bounty of agricultural flora from apples to zucchini, herbs & spices, seafood, freshly made pasta, baked goods, marinated olives, cheeses, charcuterie & meats and, so typical for late autumn especially around Toussaint, pots of chrysanthemums with softball sized heads in glowing yellow and crisp white. Those are the times when we pinch ourselves and smile. Yes, we really do live in a town formerly known as Mediolanum Santonum, the western endpoint of the Via Agrippa, an important Imperial Roman trade and military “highway” system centered in Lugdunum, currently better known as Lyon, then and now the most important hub in central Gaul. Thank heaven for the sophisticated infrastructure upgrades over the last 2000 years, though!
On such a pleasant fall day, one wants to be outside as much as possible. In the afternoon I stepped through that door you see above next to the fireplace and settled with my laptop on our veranda. By folding three glass panels accordion fashion, the veranda opens onto a balcony overlooking the river – a perfect spot for people & boat watching in comfort, even though it is a little noisy. Living as centrally in town as we do, offers many advantages and conveniences we greatly enjoy, especially reaching most destinations on foot and being part of the historical heart of our town. But it also comes with urban nuisances like traffic noise, sots bawling and the earsplitting screech of underpowered & over-revved motorcycles. However, combined with little girls exulting in the speed of their pink scooters flying along the smooth sidewalk of the Quai de la République below our balcony, swans floating by on the river with their cygnets and pigeons cooing from rooftops, all of this together forms the grand amalgam of our life in Saintes.
Saturday was also the last day of the river cruising season for the Bernard Palissy II before she disappeared into drydock for her six-months hibernation.
Our fellow townspeople love to be out and about, especially on weekends. The paths along the river, the city park, the pedestrian zone, as well as the main arteries through town, not to forget the sidewalk cafés, are alive with people. Joggers, cyclists, multi-generational family clusters, sweethearts of all ages, gaggles of giggly girls and packs of swaggering young lions pass across my field of vision while perched on the veranda. River activities add to the busy scene in front of me. Anglers dot the banks patiently supervising their rods while silenced powerboats drift in the current till the fishermen briefly crank their engines to move to a more advantageous position. All manners of shells glide swiftly along the smooth river with the telltale sound of oars dipping rhythmically into the glossy surface. We see scullers most often, but even a crew of eight women with cox rowed past followed closely by their coaching team in an inflatable dingy, its sputtery outboard engine drowning out most of the shouted instructions. Someone forgot the megaphone, it seems.
Even Gallo-Roman stegophily can occasionally be observed from our veranda!
Train your eagle-eyed vision toward the Gallo-Roman Arch of Germanicus and note the two small, black fly specks on the south pillar.
As an antiquities zealot, the boys’ attempt to scale the Arch naturally constitutes sacrilege for me. On the other hand, those limestone boulders have survived far worse.
And should the glorious day turn into a misty night, we can still enjoy a deliciously overloaded Flammenkuchen
with a sparkly glass of Bordeaux
behind the shield of those glass panels, which when closed turn our veranda into a cozy nook under the protective curves of the Arc de Germanicus.