Monday, 23 June 2008

Lac de Mondély

So while spring decided to give itself a miss this year, summer has suddenly arrived with a vengeance. No messing about - at lunchtime last Wednesday, exactly as predicted nearly 2 weeks previously by Metéo France, the long-awaited sun came out and the temperature shot up to a much more Midi-like 32 degrees. In the shade. Now it's not a lot of fun doing hard graft in the garden when your body just wants to lie around with a book and a cold beer. So we didn't.

But what we did do (grammar?) was indulge for the first time this year in one of my all-time favourite things. We went lake swimming. I used to be a fully-fledged, paid-up member of the sea swimming fan club, preferably in the Aegean, but over the last couple of years I've become even more addicted to swimming in lakes. And I'm certainly living in the right place - France has hundreds of the things, Midi-Pyrénées has scores of them and Ariège has some real beauties, the best of which is less than half an hour from Grillou (beware - shameless marketing plug coming up).

Here it is:

... the Lac de Mondély. It's in the middle of unaffected nature, as the French like to say, and is a genuinely idyllic and unspoilt place, never over-run, often almost empty even in August. To get there, you drive from either La Bastide de Sérou or Le Mas d'Azil for several kilometres over single-track rutted roads, wondering whether you've got lost, whether your exhaust is going to fall off and what you'll do if you meet a car coming the other way. Then suddenly you're there, and no matter how many times you've been before there's always that same sharp intake of breath.

There's a sand beach, lots of private grassy banks plus trees for shade; if you're feeling energetic there's a lovely walk all the way around, about 8 kilometres; and there's a little summer buvette where you can sit with a cold beer. Oh, and did I mention the swimming? It's fantastic. I like to swim over to the other shore and watch the dragonflies; often there are great crested and little grebes as well, and swallows swooping down to catch insects. There are no windsurfers or sailors, nothing to disturb the peace. You can swim with your eyes closed, just feeling the sensations, without worrying about hitting anything. The water in summer is always warm - around 25 degrees yesterday, with warmer to come - and there are no cold eddies to shock you, no waves to batter you around and no currents to drag you miles offshore.

It's quite simply wonderful. Did I mention that?

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