Land that stretches as far as the eye can see, villages that emerge like mirages from the earth, the ebb and flow of French from the south, greetings and farewells accompanied by three kisses and the time that passes in between, the landscape that makes you feel so small and the earnestness of the people who live upon it. Every time I come to Southern France, the culture here overwhelms all my senses.
Southern France encompasses a wide area and change is palpable all across the region, not just the area that faces the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the population in the Aubrac region are farmers, but I heard that in the past many families moved to Paris in order to sell their crops or in search of other jobs. Naturally, the journey was made on foot. I asked some local residents why these people made the long trek to the capital even though there are large towns nearby, but I received looks in confusion, as if they had never considered this before. An answer came soon enough: the roads to these towns simply don’t exist. Harsh wilderness divides the towns of the region, which makes it difficult to simply walk there. I regretted my choice of the word “nearby.” I had looked at the map and assumed that the land was as flat as this representation of it. Time and distance between two places cannot be calculated with a straight line. Only by walking the land itself does such an obvious fact become clear.