Hang on dont go posting your replies yet.... read on.
This was just the background. The story begins now.
OK I'm not into beauty treatments and I'm certainly not into pedicures and this post was supposed to be about how hunting friendly I found France to be; but this one experience I had there made the hunting take a back seat. And if it could make me feel like that, it certainly must be worth sharing.
'A', my shooting friend and a fellow wildfowler invited me to his wedding in France. So there I was at St. Pancras international station, waiting to board the eurostar:
But hang on didn't I forget something...oops! I did forget my shooting books and magazines.
Hang on.. there's a WH Smith just round the corner.
The UK's biggest stationary and magazine store chain. I have brought many a magazines from there but I do know from experience that the ones at more 'popular' places like Airports and train stations don't have books on guns, 'killing' (hunting) and other 'evil' things. Well I half expected that so it wasn't a big disappointment.
A few hours later:
I am in Gare Du Nord Paris:
I am just looking for a fizzy drink (cant be promoting a brand here) and go to the first small corner shop within the International station. While drinking my poison, i start browsing through magazines expecting to find something on food/fashion/football etc. I mean look at the tiny size and the location of this shop?
What I do find, is 6 different magazines on guns and hunting right in the second row. And these aren't your pest control/ shooting /ratting magazines but big game hunting magazines featuring guns and hunts for the big five, African safaris, hunting bear in US etc etc.
The adverts sections contained double rifles, nitro express calibre rifles, hunts for elephant, lion, leopard and monster reds!!
Surely this cant be right. I mean there were people of 7 different nationalities in that small kiosk. Most from 'civilised' 'non-blood thirsty' countries. Wouldn't this sort of a first impression upset them or spoil the image of France?
Well no one seemed to care, least of all the owner of the kiosk.
Another few hours later, I am in the small sleepy town of ****** in Champagne Province. According to the latest census the population of the village is less than 350.
It was too late for breakfast so I thought i would have some milk. The hotel owner informed me that the village is so small, there is no train station, no pub, no grocer. Only one part time bakery (really small) which keeps fizzy drinks and juice but they doubted if even they would keep milk.
'I will go have a look' I thought;' It will be good to stretch those legs after a bus ride.'
Well the bakery was small; in fact it was in a rooms of one of the house in the village. It was also the local newsagent, keeping a few local newspapers but what do i know.... This small bakery, in this house in a sleepy village of less than 350 people, had 2 hunting magazines for sale and even some hunting DVDs!!
I was tempted to give them some business but alas they were in French. But I had a good time looking at the lovely pictures especially the trophies shot by some lady who was the first French woman big game hunter in Africa at the turn of the last century.
Well so far so good, I am thinking of the big blog I am going to write about the attitude of the locals towards hunting and visiting the trophy collection of the Count etc but then something happened and I had to cut short the hunting article.
You see, while walking through the village, I Came across a path that led to the river flowing through it.
Now I am a big believer of drinking mineral water and hardly miss a river without sampling its wares. (Read as a kid that Corbett did this to keep his immunity up in the Indian Jungles and have followed the practice ever since; I rationalise it as my training for that elusive African safari).
Well the temperature was in the thirties (above 85 for my american readers) and the water was cool and inviting. Its been almost a decade since I swam in a river, thanks to the English weather (barring a slip and a fall in the lake district but that's another story).
While I deliberated about what to do, a family came down from the village and went for a swim with their toddler kids so casually as if they did this every day (which they probably did). This made up my mind.
I took off my clothes and jumped into the surprisingly cold clear water. Things were fine till I stood up to admire the view.
Suddenly a tickle on my foot. No not a tickle, the slightest, softest bite that felt like a tickle, then another and another.
My god!! piranhas!!
Hold your horses shooter this is the Aube, not the Amazon.
Looking carefully, I found dozens of fish nibbling at my feet.
Since I do not put beauty lotions that contain yummy food (cream, cucumber, almonds, saffron etc), I can only imagine they were feeding at my skin and since it wasn't hurting or bleeding, I can only assume it was dead skin.
This was confirmed when I lifted my foot off the riverbed exposing my sole. They were almost fighting for space!
I then remembered the fish pedicure article read long long ago.
Since I didn't know this was going to happen to me, I didn't go prepared with a camera. So decided to come back the next day with one.
I'm not a good photographer but I hope you can appreciate this wonderful phenomenon in the following pics.
You can also see how clean and unpolluted the water is and if you notice hard enough, you can almost feel the balmy sun on your skin.
I don't know whether it was the swim in the river, walking barefoot in the grass, the fish pedicure or just psychological. But my feet did feel soft. Was the experience worth it? You tell me. Will I do it again? You bet!!