Baignade interdite!


On the way back from buying some food for my Sunday afternoon solitary barbeque, I decided to pop up to Tautavel to see the man who owns the hives close to our vineyard.

He wasn’t there. Probably hunting sangliers like most of the rest of the vignerons on a Sunday morning.

So I swung by the Caune de l’Arago – a wonderful cleft in the rock where the river has carved a gorge, and enters the valley of Tautavel by way of a deep pool. I had my towel and trunks, and thought I’d go for a swim.


But approaching the pool, I was saddened to see that the place was now plastered with ‘baignade interdite’ signs, threatening a €35 fine.

Tautavel has been occupied by humans for over 40,000 years, as some of France’s oldest hominid remains have been found in caves up the side of the valley, and men and women have no doubt been swimming in the pool at the Caune de l’Arago for 39,999 years.

It is such a shame that ‘health and safety’ culture has spread even to this little corner of France.

Luckily quite a lot of the locals choose to ignore such strictures, though sadly not today. Only Englishmen swim in October.

And I did not feel inclined to brook the disapproval of picnicking families and rock climbers who gather in the mouth of the gorge, so I sauntered back to the car.


As I drove home through this perfect little banana-shaped valley, with Canigou crouching on the horizon with its first dusting of snow, I felt a sudden surge of happiness.

The harvest is in. The volume is good overall. The quality is excellent. Amanda and Sam are coming out on Thursday. I have a whole afternoon ahead of me, and the ingredients for a good feed in my shopping basket, and my tummy is beginning to rumble….

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