Terrorized by la Tramontane

Before I left Ottawa and moved to Liverpool I had never really thought much about wind. It isn’t really a factor in Ottawa, a landlocked city hundreds of miles from both oceans and the Great Lakes. Every so often the city is besieged by a storm that brings with it winds, sometimes small tornadoes as a matter of fact, but other than that it’s a pretty calm city.

It’s no secret that Liverpool and I didn’t get along; I didn’t really like Liverpool and Liverpool, for some inconceivable reason, didn’t really seem to like me. One factor of life in Liverpool that I never got used to was the wind – the incessant, ever-present wind. Day and night, summer and winter, sun and rain, the wind blew, with a force that varied from a stiff breeze to gale force winds. It drove me mad. My ears ached, my nose ran, and my hair swirled around my head in a look reminiscent of Medusa and her snakes.

The wind makes me feel uneasy – unsteady on my feet and unsettled in my mind.

La Tramontane – le vent qui hurle

Here in the Languedoc there is a very particular wind, a wind so notorious it has been given its own name – La Tramontane. It is a savage northwest wind that sweeps down from the mountains and gains speed and ferocity as it is funnelled between the Pyrenees in the North and the Massif Central on the South.

Rose des ventsAlthough we’ve been in the Languedoc since arriving in France, due to some quirk of geography and thermodynamics Pézenas is relatively unaffected by la Tramontane. Not so for our new home in Narbonne. Here the wind whips and swirls down narrow streets and through the vineyards, howling like a banshee as it goes.

Even though we haven’t been treated to the winds at their most ferocious, with the 35-40 km/h gusts only a fraction of the 100+ km/h it can reportedly reach, it’s still been enough to appreciate the local folktales of wind induced madness.

“Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne me rendra fou.”
(“The wind coming over the mountain will drive me mad…” )

– Victor Hugo, Gastibelza

I don’t know if there’s any truth to the legend but I can see where the idea comes from. The wind is cold, and dry, and incessant, causing a roaring in your head as it races past your ears. All in all, a rather unpleasant sensation.

Another local legend, or règle (rule) as they believe in these parts, is that the wind last for either 3, 6 or 9 days – never more, never less. Here’s hoping that hundreds of years of folk wisdom is wrong and that when I wake up tomorrow the north wind will have blown itself out, leaving nothing but blue skies and sunshine in its wake.

Until then I’m staying in front of the fire (except for dog walking), with a hot cup of coffee and a good book. If you’re looking for me, you know where to find me.

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