I do love a good horse (nearly as much as I hate a bad one), and in he Camargue, there are lovely horses.
Riding in the Camargue had been high on J’s bucket list for a long time. It was lower on mine due to the risk of getting a bad horse. Horses are a bit like bosses. If you have a good one, life is fantastic. You feel like you are mostly achieving things, it’s easy and fun, but you still have to work hard and listen to the boss when required. A bad one makes every minute a bit of a challenge, and not in a “I’m James and I love a challenge” kind of way. More in a “I’m James, and how many rocks do I need to break before I can enjoy my bowl of cold gruel” kind of way.
I had a good boss in the Camargue and it’s a really beautiful area to see from the back of one. Our horses were a mix between the white local horses and Arabic ones. It was a cross that Napoleon favoured (I have taken snuff from the hoof of one of Napoleon’s horses in the mess at St James’s Palace on one of my last nights in the army. I didn’t mention this to my horse in fear he would think I’m a cunt and throw me in a ditch, and he was perfectly behaved. He tolerated my bad riding.
The Camargue is a mix of lovely countryside, canals, rivers, fields, birds, horses, cows and flowers. Bloody lovely.
We stayed for two nights in Arles on the edge of the area, in an airbnb that was always going to be an airbnb; ie, style over substance and all too minimalist. Arles is nice: some lovely old bits, a couple of really great new buildings and a fresh food market that has great cheese, meat, fruit and bread, and there are some lovely places to run. The only disappointment was that the next door neighbours decided they hated each other, shouted a lot all night, banged and shouted at our door when we helpfully banged on the adjoining wall and made me question if my ninja skills were up to scratch enough to protect us.
From there it was am epic long drive on the peage (that we could afford thanks to our Valencia prudence) to striking distance from Paris. My plan was to drive north until I got bored, jump off the motorway, then find a cheap place to crash. By the time I got bored there was few cheap places to crash……. We ended up in an old grand house in an old grand village with an old (closed) grand cathedral.
At this stage I had thoughts about why I am more at home in Spain than France. Firstly I can have a bit of a chat. More importantly, Spain seems to be just a little bit more open (as in shops and stuff are open) and a bit more relaxed. And a bit warmer……..
We ate bad pizza, drank good wine, went to bed early, had a terrible breakfast and hit Paris.
As we were on our way to Giverny, I hated Parisian driving, and we were on a tight schedule, I didn’t want to drive into the city so we parked the car and all our possessions in a dodgy car park on the outskirts of the city, took a train and hit the embassy. We were very proud of our commitment and without declaring how we voted, we didn’t think ‘How good is that!’ when we heard that the misogynist, shit for brains cunt Morrison was to lead our nation for the next few years.
From there we were off to Giverny, the old home of Monet. I have to admit that I really, really love Impressionism, not because it’s a thing that people are supposed to like, but I love light, joy and romance and, to me, it has a bit of all of this.
The village itself is beautiful but is also heart-stoppingly expensive to stay in, so we opted for an airbnb about 30 mins away. The pictures of the place on the tinterweb looked very Monet but the reality was rather more Hogarth (a bit highbrow, but he painted shit places)…. Or Aggie and Kim for the lovers of daytime TV.. I am very tolerant of mediocrity, but the overflowing laundry bin, the filthy kitchen, a garden that looked like Monet had become a badly behaved alcoholic and the loo that made me want to wash my hands before I did anything in there was too much. We left and found a lovely place in a pretty but dead village and only stretched the budget a little. Luckily when we provided a few pictures to Airbnb and suggested we had been miss=sold the place, we got a full refund.
As I said, I was probably predisposed to like the place, but I have to say that Givernay is magical. In spring, it is full of colour and form. The people who manage to get the shape, colour and feel of the place so right are exceptional people. Despite the fact we shared the experience with many, many strangers (go on a week day) and the weather was not great, I could have spent hours in there. I don’t know why, but I genuinely felt emotional to be there. It was perfect…… for me. If you like nightclubs, hard house and fast living, it’s a bit shit. Actually, I like both, so whop wants to build a great nightclub just outside the village with me?de