Summer in the Pyrenees of France | Teen Ink

Summer in the Pyrenees of France

September 13, 2014
By Gabrielleamar GOLD, New York, New York
Gabrielleamar GOLD, New York, New York
11 articles 16 photos 20 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Le vent se lève il faut tanter de vivre" –Paul Valèry

Over this past summer, I was photographer at a bilingual French summer camp in a small rural village called Paziols. Paziols is located in the Pyrenees of France and has a population of 519 habitants. Throughout this journey, I captured the essence of the French way of life that is much beyond the Eiffel tower, croissants and loaves of baguette. I have had the experience of a lifetime in a place so small, yet immersed with a culture that is so different than the one I find back home. Although I have been traveling to France each summer with my family, somehow traveling a little farther down the map has made all the difference.

            Coming from New York City, where the smog fills your nose, the lights are always on, and the noise is constant, the environment in Paziols forced me to appreciate small unusual things. The tastes and smells of Mirabelle, freshly picked apricots, and chestnut jam were unique and scrumptious. The campers and I often swam at La Fountaine des Eux, or La Pas Chère Rivière close by from the village. We would feel the flow of water from France to Spain as we floated on our backs, comfortably far away from home.

The camp organized a trip to the fortified city of Carcassonne, a medieval fortress surrounded by myth and legend. In the South of France, the streets shine with their history, life and even act as a sudden transporter through time. I was amazed by the chateau of Carcassonne, as the walls told the story of Dame Carcas, whose sculpture stared down from the fortress’s façade. Even as I wandered through the city, I imagined the medieval residents, Charlemagne and his soldiers waiting below during their failed attempt at a siege of the city. 

            Subsequently, the camp arranged a medieval feast in which campers would dress and eat like the people of the medieval ages. With old, torn, vibrant hues, I sewed gowns for the young campers, cooked adafina, and created spiced fruit juices with locally grown fruit. Avocado skin for bowls, bread for plates, also called trencher, and tablecloth for napkins, we gorged on the delicacies. Following dessert, the campers were warriors. Dressed in costumes representing Jean D’Arc, Charles Martel, and Roland the young campers practiced archery using a homemade set and rode on village horses, as I took photographs of the event and recreated history.

The art of Southern France swarmed around me as Picasso, Dufy, Chagall, Matisse and Marquet captured the beauty of the harbors of Collioure.

With painted faces, sashes of red white and blue, and steaming emotions the camp celebrated Bastille Day. The campers sang Douce France before the habitants of village. We danced for hours, as fireworks shot up in the sky. The vibration of old-fashioned traditional French music by artists like Charles Trenet and Jacques Dutronc swam all throughout the village.

At the end of this journey I discovered that a country’s tourist attractions do not define the country’s culture. The mountains, rivers, trees, and vineyards in Paziols hold timeless connections that one can come across when traveling farther and deeper to find where a country’s true history lies and where it all began. 

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