The travel from Barcelona to Narbonne passed through numerous tunnels, and some as long as ten miles, went  right through the heart of the hills. The landscape on the Spanish side of the border was similar to that of the terai region of Nepal; Low flatlands, followed by hills on either side, and gave me an impression of a fertile valley.  After an interval of every fifteen to twenty minutes, a vibrant town would show up, and as the train sped, the houses would disappear, giving way to an enormous expanse of greenery. It’s always interesting to ponder the magnanimity of these tunnels, the sizes, and the engineering associated with it. 

After an hour or so, the train made its first halt in Girona. The name of this place rhymed with Girauna, a village in Chitwan, Nepal.  As we approached France, we were greeted with blasts of strong wind and the architecture of the houses changed, slightly different than the Mediterranean styles that I saw in Spain.   It’s strange to acknowledge how each one of the houses  is a home to someone. The other stop was was called Perpignan, from where the majestic view of the Pyrenees could be seen. Narbonne, my last stop, was nestled amidst a quiet countryside surrounded by lush green vineyards.  Eloise, was there to meet me at the station. She said that most of the villagers here rely on the wine industry as we drove along. I have had a great fascination for French wine, and to see the sprawling countryside combed up with neat little vineyards was surreal.

This was my first time in France hence the excitement was there. There is always an image one forms about a new country, and I too had one. However, it was not as exact as I had surmised. I remembered the story of Joan of Arc, of Monalisa, the Eiffel Tower, and the incidents of how the Nazis marauded the French, came live off the pages of history books. 

On the way, I saw red poppies, thousands of them, peeping out of tall slender grasses on both sides of the road. The right-hand drive was another contrasting feature that was quite the opposite in comparison to UK or  Nepal. After a half an hour ride, in an  antiquated car, we entered the Residency, a Georgian mansion, more than 200 years old, with a wishing well in the backyard. As soon as Eloise showed me the room, I threw my suitcase, refreshed myself and went out for a walk. The wind was strong, almost at the rate of seventy miles an hour, literally pushing me forward, however, not too strong enough to hold my feet, and I was determined to walk through this new landscape. As soon as I passed the last house of the village, a large stretch of vineyard rolled in front of me, furthermore followed by a host of windmills, similar to that of Scotland. 

I had a map but did not feel like looking at it and followed the path to wherever my instinct took, until the sun turned red on the horizon, and the paths slowly crumbled into the haze. I returned back, still feeling the weight of the wind, hard on my body. 

By the end of the day, quite tired, our host gathered us around a log fire.  I love the smell of burnt wood, as it reminds of something that I have to be happy about.  And as the fire warmed my body, the aroma of it warmed my soul. After dinner, I joined the literary salon and read my works. The  logs hissed and sputtered as  the wind kept moaning outside the window.  Even, when I came into my room, the wind was still whistling as though it had a lot to say to the night. 

By: Nabin K Chhetri




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