Picnicking with Nymphs…March 22, 2010
To celebrate the first sunny weekend and the start of spring, last Saturday we packed a basket with the basic necessities for a French style picnic; baguette bread, three types of cheese, some sliced ham and pâté, a homemade fruit salad and yoghurt for dessert. Not to forget the wine and a bottle of water. Despite the sun, a light wind still chilled the air, and the bed & breakfast and winery grounds were too brisk to enjoy and outdoor meal. We drove around for a while enjoying the sunny afternoon, the flowering almond trees, and the green grass thanks to the wet winter, discussing various picnic areas. It was still damp so a picnic by the river was out. We drove into the Drome with the intention of stopping at Grignan, a castle set atop a hill. But the wind deterred us from that idea. Nearing La Garde d’Adhemar we remembered the Val des Nymphs, an ancient Gallo-Roman worshiping ground where women once came to worship Nymph goddesses for fertility.
The grounds are hidden off a road which winds its way from Grignan to La Garde d’Adhemar. The centerpiece is the Prieuré du Val des Nymphes , a 12th century chapel near which flow the natural sources once used in the pagan worship ceremonies. An oasis said to possess a certain magic, a place where goddesses and Nymphs once played in the water flowing from deep in the earth.
The park is enclosed by the surrounding woods providing a wind free setting for our picnic. I sat on the steps leading to one of the ponds, the sun warming my back, sharing bread and cheese with Raphael. The girls ran free in the grassy yard, climbing trees and skipping down to the shallow ponds to dip their fingers in the chilly water. We were alone but for one young couple nibbling on their lunch and as is the French tradition, each other from time to time. They took no notice of us nor we of them.
After our picnic, we wandered around the park exploring its hidden corners and discovering what was maybe once a smaller chapel in a nook in the woods. As the afternoon wore on, we were joined by other strollers enjoying the exceptional early spring weather. A few dogs came out to play to the delight of the girls. An elderly couple, pant legs rolled to their knees and jackets thrown over the wall, sat in the glow of the sun, their hands resting on their walking sticks. The afternoon moved on, the kids grew tired, and we soon left the Valley to its Nymphs and the young lovers who were still wrapped up in each other. Did I mention the fertility part?