France has more than twice as many natural and man-made lakes as its northern neighbor Germany. (To be fair, I should also report that Italy dwarfs France with over a thousand lakes.) But numbers don’t really matter. I can visit only one lake at a time.
Fortunately, one French lake is adjacent to my home in Castelnau-le-Lez. The man-made lake is in the nearby town of Le Crès, a small commune of about nine thousand residents.
My new French friends, still thoughtfully helping me adjust to my new life, took me to the lake for a walk. It had rained during the night, so the vegetation looked refreshed and bright green.
The park was amazingly expansive, given its location in the middle of an urban area. Dozens of paths and trails crisscrossed the sixty-six acres of the park. Each time we came to an intersection, we had to decide which way to go.
We walked mostly around the rim of the park along the high bluff encircling the lake.
The contrast of green and blue vegetation against the exposure of the rock walls was striking.
The park is relatively new. While searching the internet, I found a picture of the park taken in 1993 during its early construction phase. Someone clearly had a vision of what could be created on behalf of the local residents.
I’m slowly getting used to living in an urban environment, although I still miss the tall trees in and around Tahoe National Forest, where I lived in California.
Without a doubt, I feel fortunate that I can see greenery from my office window and when sitting in my little courtyard. But not all urban dwellers here enjoy that luxury.
For them, a park like this one is important. City planners know—and researchers tell us—that having access to parks and other green spaces has a positive impact on the health and quality of community life.
At the Lac du Crès, visitors can hike, bike, swim, picnic, or fish. The park also has a skatepark and a stadium for events. Or a visitor can, as I did, simply soak up the view.
John Muir, considered to be the father of national parks in the US, advised people to “Keep close to Nature's heart . . . and break clear away, once in awhile . . . Wash your spirit clean.”
Even though I spent less than a day at Lac du Crès, I felt healthier and more relaxed. Such is the power of breaking away and experiencing nature.
Cover photo by Bernard Jullien