I am backing up just slightly from our last days in France to take you to our visit to Queribus, the first Cathar castle we attempted to visit with the icy piq-niq in the car. It is even more amazing than Peyrepertus. It is largely intact..well, comparatively. It, too, is perched in an impossibly improbable and inaccessible place..on purpose, of course, given their arguments with Rome. We wondered how supplies were brought up, arms, etc. Really, it is a 15% grade hill leading up to the parking lot alone and then there is the steep climb to the castle itself. But the views were magnificent with the Roussillon plain stretching east to the sea and Mont Canigou jutting out to the south and the Tautavel valley to the north. They could see their enemy from afar, very far. The wind, however, is unforgiving and smashes against the castle walls and tears furiously around the turrets and through any small break in the walls. Truly one would be close to the elemental parts of the spirit up there, never for a moment forgetting that the body is a fleeting thing and you'd better make the most of your time here on earth, whatever your beliefs.
We left Prades and environs a day early to get two whole days in our beloved Perigord Noir and the gite, which is like home to us. On the way, we went through Toulouse (and to the Ikea..the meatballs, the meatballs!!). We stopped in the old city, which is so funky and bohemian and really great. We parked and walked and then got totally lost and supremely irritated. Finally, finding our car, we jetted north toward Castelnaud-La-Chapelle and home.
Return to the Gite
There were literally cries of joy when we pulled up to the gite. Bubby repeated again and again,
"I am so happy we are at the gite!" There is just something about being here that lends itself to complete relaxation. We have barely moved today, just going from outside to in and soaking up the sunshine, the cool, stony indoors. The boys are outside doing un-namable things to a snail so I will have to run out there and save it.
The Ceou has flooded out of its banks and now runs into the fields of walnut trees and beyond into the tall grass and flower meadows. It has re-drawn the lines of its former riverbed, wide and arcing toward the cliffs overlooking the valley and that of Cenac on the other side. The boys lay down on their bellies and swim with the new current, swimming down the road we rode with our bikes and took evening walks to play frisbee and pick poppies. Fish swim in a pothole. We are beginning to ache with the missing we know is coming
We will go back to one last market tomorrow..the St. Cyprien one that we had all the pictures from earlier. We've invited Ian and Ien to dinner and I will try to make something I've not yet tried. I am thinking of lapin..yep, bunny. I've always wanted to try it and we've had everything else.
Well, having read about said lapin, apparently it is better to marinate it overnight and we do not have it on the premises yet, so we decided on lamb instead. At the market, I waited in a very long line at the pull-up boucherie. Couples pointed and pointed and the butcher moved very quickly, sawing great marbled slabs off of hunks of beef, lamb, various cured hams and sausages. He was rotund with a sheen of fatted good health, a perfect description of the butcher who stars in Zola's The Underbelly of Paris, about the great markets in Paris after its architectural re-arrangement. He threw knives down and picked up saws, mowing his way through bone and sinew. Twisting his wrist he would saw the opposite direction , throw down the saw for the stilletto knife to trim some, but not all (very important) the fat off the slab. Then the great spoon dives into the vat of foie gras or perhaps the mixture that Ian fed us earlier of nuts, livers, chicken and duck. Finally it is my turn and I ask for lamb pour faire un ragout, nous sommes 5. Well, we are actually 8 but I have a feeling I will be carrying home an entire side of lamb if I'm not careful.
It is difficult not to just keep buying food..cheeses, anchovy stuffed olives and garlic ones too, thick chunks of grained bread, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, fig and walnut appertifs. But we do and we buy more- leeks and onions, greens and tomatoes with red peppers. Looking for color and opulence in this last gastronomic overload.
The lamb gets caramelized with sugar over the heat and then wine, wine, potatoes, carrots and tiny white onions then into the oven for a few hours. A dog mysteriously appears at dinner time and we have a great show watching Ian and then Henry and Moss chasing it away but it only leads them around and around the gite. We posit this might be the (were)wolf of the Perigord, and so warn the children to be good. Henry later hears a lapping sound and the remnants (of which there were quite a bit) are being licked by the dog with his paws on the kitchen counter. Tant pis.
The rest is just packing and wishing we weren't.
The car was accepted back without the presentation of a bill for E26,000- a happy moment for me, although I do wish it was ours.
We boarded our jet in Charles de Gaulle in Paris and ..mon dieu!..where are the computer screens, where are the professional french staff? where is the great food? Oh, we're not on Air France, non, but Delta, the Trailways of the skies...9 hours later, a cockamamie trip through customs, lost artwork and exhausted kids and we arrive home at one am (that's 8 am Gite-time)
But, the sky is big here, and the storms big, too. We were treated to some violent demonstrations as we scrambled to put our garden to rights (my huge thanks to Dustin and Autumn for their unbelievable work). Of course, the chiggers celebrated by biting every part of me they could reach..unfortunately, it was a lot of parts.
One cannot help but begin scheming anew on how to get back here. I can see coming to the gite in the fall, when the grapes are being picked and the walnuts are falling from the trees. The leaves will turn and be shed by the autumn winds. The sky will deepen its blue under the influence of a late summer and then the bare, quiet cold, perhaps snow. I can see being here to live for a few months, instead of tearing around looking at everything, rather, come with a few empty notebooks, some good paints, graphite pencils and a lot of books. Well, you never know.