An hour’s drive south of Genille, depending on the speed the driver wishes to use to navigate the soft, undulating backroads, lies Angles sur L’Anglin, one of the few remaining functioning villages which has its roots in the rock that housed prehistoric people in caves, and whose replicated drawings on the caves, now closed to the public, can be seen at the local museum. Sometime in the 1100s, a fortress was built on the rocks, to do what fortresses all do, and then some centuries later became used for the regional nobility, and as a result of Angles sur L’Anglin situated between an ancient border of English and French territories, exchanged ownership and allegiances throughout the centuries. For those interested in a more detailed origin of the village can certainly find one elsewhere; otherwise, what follows is an encounter of a delightful day in town.
My sister and I left Genille in the beginning heat of an early summer’s day in her Mercedes compressor convertible coupe. To stay our hair, we used scarves; to protect our eyes, sunglasses; to preserve our skin, sun cream; but to project a joi de vie, a lipstick of our choice.
Choosing the scenic tour, we drove from Genille to Loches, then took a meandering road next to a river that ran the length and parallel to the D942 heading south. from there, we passed small villages shuttered against the midday heat, some with an a vendre sign; shops left vacant and abandoned due to a supermarket somewhere else, and always the church, standing tall, of ancient stone and mortar – its bell still ringing in the hour like a heartbeat in an other wise dying body – but more often than not, its wooden doors locked, as if it too had been discarded in favor of cathedral visits in the larger city.
We arrive hungry and enter a small oasis adorned with umbrellaed tables and shade trees, decelerate to an idle in front of the few customers to look for the one parking sign, and then finding it, accelerate into first then second gears all in a moment it takes the lunch guests to pause in their conversation, turn their heads, wonder who these two Rita Hayworth types are in this white convertible before they return to their conversations as if what they have just seen must only have been an apparition in the noonday haze or anachronistic time space experience.
We haul our picnic delights – a cold quinoa, raisin, pea and carrot salad, cucumbers in creme fraiche, shredded carrots with a touch of mustard, vinegar and sugar (mmm, must remember), smoothie juices – from the trunk and walk a short distance to the picnic bench I spied on the way through which gives us a perfect view of the fortress.
There, we listen to the silence of a midday town, tasting the delights of what a French supermarket can put together (sorry, no story yet of finding the quaint little village epicery – although they must exist somewhere) and contemplate the history of the town before us and what appears to be part of the old town wall off to our left. With the windswept affect of an hour in a convertible, the shade and quiet of our afternoon meal becomes a meditative respite from the energy and engine that got us here, and we settle into a relaxed and spontaneous mood.
We walk through town, pass the oasis with the umbrella tables, and find a seat for a post lunch espresso and a Perrier. The proprietor flits her way from customer to customer, reserving comments and conversation to those whom she knows well enough to pass indispensable information, in a crescendo she feels entitled to, and which reverberates through the one car streets branching out in four different directions. The entire town holds its breath behind lace curtains and heat to listen for what she imparts or discloses next.
We left after I took a picture of the town’s memorial inscribed with the names of the WWI fallen. I read each name to myself silently, the men who never returned, who sacrificed their lives to this home town, this small dot of a town on a map, where now tourists rev through with their engines and their cameras and their stories they bring home of a vacation in France; and I wonder if anyone still remembers a family who was victimized by their deaths, or their descendent kin who might still live here, or if they have left long ago, whether they drive by on a Sunday afternoon, to come gaze upon the name that fought for their liberty. Every church in each small town, economically viable or shuttered, has a church or a town square with a plaque or memorial memorializing its fallen, and the simple issuance of a name calls forth the worth and substance and impact that name has had.
Walking down to the Anglin River, we notice on a placard that walking trails of up to 40 km exist between towns up and around this and conjoining rivers, with camping and gites along the way. For hiking enthusiasts and naturalists, rough riders and philosophers, all become historians when walking on the paths of ancient access ways from town to town. We spot canoes tied up on a bank under a bridge, and so for me this idea becomes paramount and takes precedence over the museum and cave drawing replicas. No one nearby was available to ask about the canoes, so we hike it to the fortress to enquire about prices for the fortress, museum, and canoes, which would settle our intentions for the day. We settle for a ticket each to the fortress, one ticket for the museum which my sister would use on a later visit, and receive indirect information about the canoes.
After walking through the ruins of the fortress, a quick look into the dark and dank dungeon, the views which influenced and helped arbitrate political and economical decisions, we walk to the canoes, call a number, leave a voice mail, and head to a cool bar for a cold drink, happening upon a World Cup match between France and Denmark. We order cidres from Bretagne, and the bar owner gives us and other people wandering in each a coaster on which to write predictions of the match which would win us a free drink. We are all optimists that day, as alas, no one in the bar has won. The French could not pull themselves away from a 0-0 result. We are. though, refreshed and reawakened by the cool of an indoor respite from the heat, and meander a little more through the town before returning to the car.