Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fetching Fitzroy

On the second day of our Provençal excursion, Christine and I drove through the Camargue region of the Rhône delta, then visited several sites, to the west of Aix-en-Provence, associated with her maternal grandparents: the charming little hilltop village of Miramas-le-Vieux, the former military explosives factory of Saint-Chamas (where Christine's grandfather was an engineer) and the village of Ventabren (where the grandparents' splendid old stone roadside house still exists, transformed into a gift boutique).

After succeeding in driving through Aix-en-Provence without getting lost, we headed in a north-east direction to a delightful rural gite located near the Verdon.

The following morning, we left early and headed north through Digne-les-Bains and Embrun. We finally reached the ski resort of Risoul 1850, located not far from the celebrated mountain fortress of Vauban [1633-1707] called Mont Dauphin. We were picked up by the Welsh stockman William (the companion of Sylvie) who drove us up a further hundred or so meters (in altitude), in his four-wheel drive vehicle, to his mountain cabin.

There, we were delighted to meet up with Cheng Tsi, a former aeronautical engineer, now engaged professionally in herbal medicine, who had been staying with William for the last few days in order to collect large quantities of various wild Alpine berries, which he'll be drying (on the floor of William's stables) and taking back to his patients in Marseille. We also encountered William's Border Collies in their everyday mountain environment.

We had imagined that it might be difficult to kidnap Fitzroy from his family circle and bring him back to Gamone. On the contrary, it was a pure poem. Christine nursed him while I drove up along the fabulous mountain roads—past Briançon, over the Col du Lautaret, between Bourg d'Oisans and the Alpe d'Huez—to Grenoble. Early in the evening, we reached Gamone, and promptly installed Fitzroy in the kitchen… where he spent his first night here, not surprisingly, complaining bitterly. The next morning, things quietened down to a calm rhythm.

The first thing I did was to take Fitzroy to the veterinary for his vaccination. I came away with a big bag of top-quality pup's food.

At the start of the afternoon, we drove up to Presles to pick up Sophia, who had apparently been a perfect guest at Sylvie's place during our absence. Back at Gamone, the two dogs seemed to deliberately avoid one another. Meanwhile, Christine and I got to work arranging ideally the comfort of Fitzroy.

We've been impressed by the little dog's intensely serious regard.

Within a day of bringing Sophia and Fitzroy into contact, they suddenly took the first big step of playing together. And they've now become perfect companions. There'll be future photos in my blog on this theme.

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