French Connections

Cézanne? Monet? Van Gogh?

RECOGNISE the artist? One of the Impressionists? Cézanne? Monet, out
of his garden at Giverny? Mmm, could be. Van Gogh? He painted sunflowers, didn't
he? And yet...

...you're quite right to hesitate. It isn't any of these. Pull up your chair
and I'll tell you.

IT WAS agony, I can tell you. Without going into unseemly detail, it seemed to me only too obvious that I was going to have to walk bow-legged, like a jockey put out to grass, for the rest of my life.
You can hire bicycles in the village, at a place called Oxygène, which is just a shed with a lot of bikes of different sizes in. I suppose it takes its name from the vast amounts of oxygen you need to cope with the mountain tracks this area abounds in. Oxygène relies for its custom on a local feature I've often mentioned before, the old railway line which runs along the valley for miles . . .erm, kilometres and kilometres. Some years ago they took up all the tracks, laid a fine gravel all-weather surface and encouraged its use by cyclists, riders and walkers, and I have to say it has been an entire success. They call it la piste verte, the green track.

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