Exclusice Excerpt: A French Odyssey II

Exclusice Excerpt: A French Odyssey II

Escape to the stunning Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and join Rob and Jane at their holiday home as they embark on more adventures with their beloved duo of fox terriers. Enjoy this extract from part two of A French Odyssey, by Jane Smyth

We arrived at the lake to find it packed with people on pedallos, kayaks and paddle boards. The beach area was awash with tables, chairs and bright parasols, with a large van conveniently positioned beside the footpath, serving hot food, ice creams and drinks. We had both dogs on the lead to prevent any catastrophes linked to balls and followed a familiar pathway that led us to a more secluded spot. Here, if in the water, there appeared less risk of being hit by a wayward pedalo. Both dogs were anxious for a swim, desperate to cool off as the heat had been intense.  

Under a sunny sky, the bright turquoise waters sat amidst tall hills covered in umbrella pines and deciduous trees in full leaf. Behind, the hills rolled towards the north end of the lake, eight kilometres away, gradually gaining height as they marched onwards, finally evolving into the mountains visible in the distance. Opposite, the road we would take later, tracked the meanders created by the water, hugging the hillsides as it progressed over the 100 metre high dam (328 feet) and continued on its way. 


© Jane Smith

The area at this southern end of the lake is crisscrossed by small footpaths through the trees and scrub, some ending at accessible inlets, others winding their way through the hinterland where you may stumble across a derelict building, the sad remains of what appears to have been a restaurant; isolated, covered in graffiti and encroached upon by Mother Nature. It possibly served the village of Castillon, itself no longer existing, sacrificed to the waters and resting 25-30 metres (82-98 feet) deep under the lake’s surface after being dynamited to make room for construction of the dam. 

Back at the end of the nineteenth century the idea of creating Lac Castillon was born. A need for drinking water and irrigation was the main purpose for the lake’s creation. The two world wars were the cause of interruptions to the building work, but after liberation in1945, over two thousand workers, including eight hundred German prisoners of war, pushed construction to completion in 1948. The lake finally reached its maximum depth in July 1949. 

A curiosity we’ve often wondered about, concerns the ruins of a settlement, resting high above the lake. On many occasions we have wandered along a footpath with friends or family to explore this long abandoned place and take images of the stunning views over Lac Castillon’s blue waters. We initially believed it to be part of the village of Castillon, but research finally revealed the ruined castle and its church date from medieval times and were part of the small commune of Demandolx which still exists today a short distance away.

© Jane Smith

We visit the south end of the lake often and generally find it peaceful, devoid of human activity apart from the odd walker or two, with or without a dog for company. However, it was the time of year when all of Europe is on holiday. Peace and quiet had summered elsewhere as the place resonated with the babble created by hordes of holidaymakers having a great time. Above the shrieks and general hubbub, a sudden and distant rumble of thunder focused my attention on a darkening sky which appeared to be heading our way. A few drops of light rain heralded what was likely to be a heavy downpour. 

 “Quick, get the dogs out of the water before we get soaked.” I shouted. Both dogs were called. Maisie arrived beside us, shaking the water from her fur, soaking us in the process. Teddy had other ideas and remained “doggie paddling” around in circles, just out of reach. 

 “You’ll have to go in and get him. I can’t because I’ve got my trainers and socks on”, said Rob as he was placing Maisie on the lead. 

 “What do you think these are then?” I responded pointing to my sandals, “flippin’ waders?” 

 “I know, but you can get them off more easily than me!” he reasoned. 

 “Oh for heaven’s sake, give me the lead.”

Marching towards the lake edge, I grabbed a stick and hurled it towards our aquatic dog. “Playtime”, thought Teddy, who promptly grabbed the stick in his mouth and swam to shore, dropping it at my feet. He’s an intelligent and mischievous boy and now on dry land, he intuited my intention to put him back on his lead, so remained just out of reach. When he’s like this, lunging at him never works. He just moves away, challenging us with a fixed stare. However, we’ve learned over time that a stick is a much yearned-for object and he simply can’t resist the urge to retrieve one. Waving it in front of his nose achieved the desired result as he grabbed it in his jaws and proceeded to play a game of tug that nearly pulled my arm from its socket. Seconds later, with my free hand, I seized his harness and Teddy was once more on his lead, staring longingly at the stick which, after its release, was thrown into the lake and was now floating away into the distance. 

French Tales, Travels and Two Fox Terriers

Follow the adventures of Rob, Jane and their lovely pups as they explore the area around their holiday home in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence

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Lead photo credit : © Jane Smith

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