A non-cycling post for a change (hooray), although ironically, if I’d chosen to cycle up into the Saint Antoine forest for this gathering, I wouldn’t have been alone.
A group of my wife’s friends have an annual picnic in the woods, followed by a deathwish plunge into the glacial waters that cascade through the forest, over rocks and fallen trees.
The location was one of the many picnic/parking spots dotted along the forest road. They’re quite popular. Clearly, somebody arrived early enough to nab the spot. The barbecue arrived shortly after, consisting of a rusty set of legs with a rusty box (former water tank), loaded up with a sack of charcoal and bits of fallen tree. There was some kind of grate to stick over the top.
Everybody bought food. Since we’re not usually around at this time of year, we just took a few frankfurters, crisps, bread, and drinks, nothing too difficult. Others bought kebabs, chicken joints, big lumps of what they call bacon, but which is really belly (?) pork. Anyway, there was a lot of meat, which is always nearly enough to make me turn veggie. I stuck to the frankfurters.
I also found a spot and sat taking photos. The woods are beautiful, with wonderful light filtered through the trees, made even better with the addition of smoke, as any budding filmmaker knows.
After the meal, many of them (adults and children alike) set off into the woods in their swimwear and shoes, to plunge down the river, jumping into the deeper pools and taking crazy risks. My heart was in my mouth as I watched my kids edge down a precipice and dive into a pool which was bisected by a fallen tree. It was like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie, or from some remote Pacific island. But it was France, about 15 minutes by car from where we live (50 minutes by bike).
The water was numbingly cold. I know this because I burnt my finger on a skewer and put it in the river, which was the nearest source of cold water. My hand was numb in seconds. These kids and some of their parents were plunging into the water, coming up gasping for breath, and their feet were cold for ages afterwards. I really feared for some of the older, plumper, guys, worrying they’d give themselves heart attacks.
Afterwards, much cake was taken, and then the cyclists set off home, followed by the rest of us. Next year, I still won’t go in the water. More pictures on my Flickr account.