Summer is my favourite season. When the blossoms start blooming spring is settling in, and summer is not far behind. Before you know it the winter chill has succumbed to warmth, and the sky appears patchy under a bouquet of green leaves.
Summer in France, however, is a whole other world. Early evenings are spent sipping wine in a crowded terrace bar, watching a girl sing sweet songs that travel on the wind. Lemon Verbena tea accompanies long conversations that comfort us until the sun finally decides to set. Then when night falls we settle under the stars, shouting in glee as bats dart around above our heads.
One afternoon last August we decided to go canoeing. The midday heat had us sweating before we even reached the river. There were no others in sight to watch us fumble into our canoe and lose an oar in the first few minutes. The water was still and glassy. I reached my hand down among the reeds, surprised by the chill as the strong summer sun caressed our backs. Fish swam eagerly past us as the stream took hold of our boat to spur us onwards.
We were a group of four friends, two in each canoe. The continuous canoeing forced us to stop for breaks every once in a while; we would connect our boats using thick rope and let the current take us while we lay, reminiscing in the heat. After a while the warmth overwhelmed us; the freezing river provided a chilling anecdote, until we needed some warmth back.
The Dordogne River is known all over the world for its picturesque, nostalgic beauty. The towns littered along the river’s edge represent a time long passed. They are a great escape for travellers in need of a return to the simple life. Being there, even only for an afternoon, is enough to rid you of the complexities of modern living. The houses are built of honey-coloured stone. Sometimes all you see for miles is the light catching blissfully on the rivers surface, and rich green meadows by the wayside.
Locals and foreigners alike greeted us as we all attempted to stay in rhythm with our partner to power ourselves forward. Canoeing can be tough, but when you see the day’s end you feel rejuvenated. The surrounding landscape offered perspective. We passed large bridges, thankful for a few moments of shade. They towered over us, their magnificent structures causing us to sit in awe as our canoe drifted underneath them.
The river itself was one such stimulating entity; its vast expanse was inspiring and somewhat magical. A simple glance downwards into the clear water offered a window into a whole other world. We stopped for lunch on a small stretch of pebble beach. The sun scolded our feet when we stepped upon the rocks. My skin was already blushing, a shade of plum pink. We jumped into the river; the cold melted through us, a moment of extreme elation mottled with pain when the chill touched our skin.
While my arms felt tired, the beauty of the river made such discomfort easy to ignore. Small pockets of rushing streams saw us laughing with joy as we tried not to capsize. The river was unpredictable and calming all at once. It offered us solace, a chance to ruminate on our thoughts with no one else there to listen in.
Coming to the end of our journey, we felt exhausted yet invigorated. The heat had overwhelmed my body, now leaving my back a shade of cherry red. The bustle of the town welcomed us back onto the land as others passed us to start their own journey down the Dordogne. We sat in the shade, letting the sounds along the rivers edge drift past us.
The sun had turned a hue of deep orange, ready to retire for another day.