After the terrible cold of February, when all I wanted to do was stay indoors by the fire, I am ready to get out in the fresh air now. Usually, at the beginning of February, I like to lead some friends on a walk from Verfeil to Cornusson to look at the drifts of beautiful snowdrops in the woods by the Abbaye de Beaulieu which signal that winter is on its way out and spring on its way. This year however, the snowdrops were nowhere to be seen until two or three weeks later than expected.
We park the cars in the deserted village square, walk downhill to leave Verfeil and then head East up the steep hill to Paulhac, where, on the causse, it’s relatively flat. With the cold north wind, it’s a bit raw here, so we speed up, hands in pockets to keep them warm. Passing the eerily quiet turkey farm, where there are no turkeys at this time of year, until we reach the shelter of the woods and begin to head downhill to Cornusson where at the Restaurant de la Vallee, after10 kilometres, we are ready for a good lunch.
The soup is thick, full of vegetables and hot, not always the case in France. Monsieur le Patron, knows our English tastes and serves the bread with the soup. Next comes the salade de gesiers. A salade tiède, with a confit of warm duck gizzards, affectionately known by the Brits as “Geezer Salad”. I do like this occasionally, but as it is on virtually every menu in the cheaper restaurants of this area, I avoid it unless there is no choice. For the main course, I always eat the same dish here, brochette de boeuf, (beef kebab) with chips. Cheese is offered, but most of us decline it to leave room for the pudding, either crème brulée or apple tart. After coffee, we pay the bill, €13 each. Not bad as it includes wine and we certainly couldn’t eat another crumb.
We set off on the flat this time, thank goodness. Soon, we are walking single file through the woods in the valley f a small river, the Seye, and there in front of us, in the dappled sunshine are waves of snowdrops. “Chaste Snow-drop, venturous harbinger of Spring”. The sight of them is so uplifting. I would like to dig some up for my garden, but abstain from the temptation. Further along the walk, on the other side of the river Seye, others have not resisted and there are many in the gardens of the old mills, now holiday homes and completely shuttered in this cold season. Soon we are out of the trees and can see Verfeil perched on the hill ahead. Last time we did this walk, it was the day of a home international rugby match and the rugby fans, keen to get home to watch the match, raced on ahead, not stopping to say goodbye when they reached their cars. Thankfully this year, we planned the walk for a day when there are no pressing sporting engagements.
A short uphill climb and we are back at the cars, telling each other how much better we feel for the fresh air and our glimpse of the snowdrops. Looking forward to getting home, boots off, feet up and a nice mug of hot coffee.