Enough of the history and culture of France, already. The kids need a break on the beach. What better place to go than the Mediterranean coast, a town just outside of Cannes to be exact. Images of opulence and movie stars were dancing in our heads as we rolled into La Napoule. Instead, we found ourselves on a small beach, the seaside equivalent of a Parisian park, tucked in between a marina and a castle. It mattered not, it was the swim that counted.
The true purpose of our trip was to meet a friend of a friend. Ralph Torrie and Judy Smith had suggested we hook up with Hélène Connor, one of the key figures in the Quebec environmental movement in the 1970s and 80s. Hélène now heads up HELIO International, a consulting firm with expertise in energy and sustainability.
We had an enjoyable lunch with Hélène, her husband Olivier and their son Eric, chatting about Olivier’s war experiences, Helene’s battles in the environmental field, and Eric’s work as a documentary filmmaker working on modern-day genocide. It was only days after that I began to reflect on the parallels: three people with a passionate desire to make the world a better place; a soldier, an environmentalist, and their son, a filmmaker.
It was a chance, too, to reflect on changing careers and the evolution of the environmental movement. With Hélène, we shared stories of the founding days of the soft energy path and the Societé pour Vaincre la Pollution, and we promised to convey greetings to our mutual friends Ken Ogilvie and Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg. Many of the groups we have all worked on have risen and fallen, if not disappeared, only to rise again or be replaced by new groups, new battles and new approaches. We grew up with the environmental movement, and now that movement is looking for new ways to break through the social barriers to action.
From La Napoule, we headed north to set up our base camp for the next day’s assault on the Alps. That evening found us in the small town of Entrevaux. It’s basically where we stopped when the sun got too low and the roads too windy, but as luck would have it, Entrevaux has its own special dish, secca de boeuf, which was truly tasty.
Entrevaux is a tiny walled town founded on a cliffside in the 11th century. Back then, it was strategically important in protecting the gateway through the Alps. Now, it is the launch point for hikers, and even on an October morning there were groups of hikers with poles preparing to set out for a morning adventure.
Up next for us, a simple drive across the Alps…