Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 20, 2010

Friday, we had a beautiful day at our local beach. The weather was windy but quite sunny and hot. The only other thing we did all day was to have a fabulous 3 hour dinner locally where the chef and her husband were so incredibly nice. They were from Belgium and had been in Portiragnes in 8 years. We had arrived at the same time as the photographer who was here to take pictures for a prestigious guide to fine dining in Languedoc. They asked if we were ok with being in the pictures and said sure.

The dinner was in a lovely garden with a typical restaurant cat - aloof to our attentions until our dinner arrived when he turned into an absolute charmer! And of all in our party, the most hardened to begging was the only one to relent! The dinner was haut cuisine and absolutely fabulous - a husband at another table, despite his wife being across the table from him, asked the chef if she were married as the food was so fine! But the best part was the wonderful couple and their friendliness to us.

The family continues to enjoy French TV and has taken a huge interest in Le Coup de Monde, watching some of most every game played so far, including the one where the American team was totally cheated of their winning goal. Mike and I watched part of the movie The Incredible Hulk the other night. The closer and other shows are just as popular here as in the States. All are, of course, dubbed.

Yesterday (Saturday) we all piled into the car and drove to Carcassonne. It was very simple to get there and really beautiful, took about an hour. We were thrilled to drive right through a wind farm, those wind mills are quite impressive. We understood immediately why they'd build it in the valley. It's a sort of valley corridor between the Pyrannes and the Longue d'oc range (this end being called les Montagnes Noires). It's also the connection between the Mediterrannean and the Atlantic.

The area was wind blown and somewhat desolate, the only area we've seen down here that wasn't fully planted with vines or grains. In the distance we could see one of the famous Cathar castles perched impossibly on a piste (rocks jutting straight up from the earth). This was, I'm sure, just a ruin. If we'd had no kids and more time, a ride from Carcassonne to Peripignan through the mountains would have lead us on a trail of Cathar Castles to visit as well as caves and lots of info about prehistoric man in this area.

These were definately on my list for this trip. But travelling with kids requires a lot of down days, even more than I anticipated. And teens have very little patience for going long distance "just to look at things". And although I don't mind leaving her behind for a few hours, all day is out of the questions - much to her displeasure.

Anyway, we arrived at Carcassonne early enough (in the day and year) to get parking outside the gates and to get right in. It was blustery and overcast so I was glad that Mike had thrown my fleece into the car before leaving.

I had been here 24 years ago and stayed in the Youth Hostel there. But it didn't become a UNESCO World Heritage sight until 1998. I don't seem to remember much from my visit except that I was too broke to go to the shops, the chateau and any other part that required les francs.

This time we walked all over, paid for the entrance into the chateau (13th Century, just the structure with great info at each station and amazing views). After this, we wound our way through the tiny pedestrian streets (all the streets are pedestian within the walls.) We went into numerous ticky-tacky shops along with the only other group of American tourists we've experienced here in Langedoc. Then we went into the amazing cathedral where chamber singers just happened to be singing for their bread. It was quite amazing.

After the church, we decided it was lunch time. Since it was starting to rain out-right, we had trouble finding a seat inside, but finally did where we had a leisurely 1 1/2 hour lunch sampling local dishes such as Cassoulet. By the end of lunch, it was really pouring so we ran from store to store. The girls bought items from a cotton place where everything was handmade and organic. After a few shops and Euros spent, the rain slowed and stopped by the time we deemed it time to leave.

Once again we had no problem getting home until the very end where, conveniently and not for the first time, we got lost due to the construction (and elimination) of our normal exit. Mike and I had no detailed local map and Madame GPS must have been off "Prendant un coup" (getting a drink) because she was no damn help. Now, when I say we got lost, it's quite an understatement. As we took the available exit off the A9 (pay highway) we admired the short 1 hr. drive back. And hour after that, we'd headed every direction away from Beziers EXCEPT the one we needed. As Mike and I tried very hard to not get tense with each other (where the hell was Madame GPS?) the kids turned up there mp3 players and dug themselves even more enthusiastically into their books.

No exageration, an HOUR later, we pulled into our local supermarket for dinner supplies, exhausted and ready to run over pedestrians, cyclists, and smaller Fiat cars. When we got home, everyone headed for different rooms and we finally ate dinner around 8pm (not late for France).

Despite the very frustrating last 5 km which took us that ##$@$(*&&%^ hour to drive, we had a great day.

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