This week at my middle school, the Phys Ed teachers organized the first ever night hike up the hills behind our village school. Over 100 students, parents, and teachers planned to participate. Carole asked me about it in the teachers room the other day and asked if I wanted to join. I looked at the poster. A six km hike with headlamps through the revermont (hills) with cake and hot wine after. Hmmm. Carole said, “Let’s do it for the cake and hot wine.” I cracked up and agreed.
As I got dressed for school yesterday, I threw my headlamp (thanks for that, Dad!) and water bottle in my school bag. Everyone was required to wear a fluorescent yellow gilet (crossing-guard vest) and have a headlamp. Each student and parent brought either a sucré or salé dish (sweet or savory) so we could eat back at school after. Apparently night hiking is a common leisure activity in France. I’m not quite sold on it because you can’t fully appreciate the view at the top of the mountain. Sure, seeing lights overlooking the region is pretty cool, but there’s also this feeling of “Huh. I’m sure this looks really cool. If only I could actually see.”
The actual hike was equally fun and confusing to me. There were people of ALL ages. I saw a little 3 year old with his vest down to his ankles toddling along beside some middle schoolers. And this was some serious hiking! There were parents who chatted about extracurricular activities and students racing each other up the incline. All in the pitch black. Carole and I spoke English the whole time so no one could eavesdrop on us and we had too much fun. I did look at her at one point and admit, “They would never let this happen in America. They’d be too afraid to lose children!” She smirked and said back, “If only!” And she continued, “Every year we try, but they all always come back.” This sums up the French parenting style perfectly.
The other completely French thing I couldn’t help but notice was that once we reached Mont July (the summit of the mountain/ hill we were climbing), most of the parents pulled out cigarettes and started smoking. Nothing like a mid-hike smoke break? Only in France.
Back at school, we drank delicious wine (fruit and cinnamon added so it was like cider… except grape instead of apple flavored?) and Carole stuffed me full of anything she found that was distinctly French. She saw pâté croute (yeah I’m still not sure what that is) and said “Oooh eat this!” And then grabbed an assortment of cheeses and sausages for me to try. This proved to be quite entertaining for the other parents and teachers close by. I happily obliged and came home well fed after my first ever randonnée de nuit.