Craig and I should clean the cottage and work on finances today but France is beckoning…..work can wait ‘til tomorrow. Besides that, I need to practice walking, so we head off to market day in Capestang. Our first stop is the boulangerie…. people were lined up out the door and onto the sidewalk waiting for their baguettes. Bread is serious business in France….it’s a law that each community must have at least one bakery open every day of the week. We joined the queue and waited our turn. Everyone was leaving with baguettes. Not wanting to usurp the locals, when it was our turn, we requested a Pain de Campagne (Country Bread) and two croissants.
We took our croissants to the Café de la Paix , ordered two Café Crème’s and watched the comings and goings of the market. Twice a week in Capestang, there’s an open air market in the town square….booths with chickens roasting on rotisseries, fresh mussels, arrays of colorful olives, all types of cheeses, local honeys and wines, fruits and vegetables, clothes, household items….a plethora of goods. After finishing our petite dejeuner (breakfast), we wandered up and down the square, wishing we could buy some of these tasty morsels but we want to explore the countryside this afternoon so shopping will need to wait.
After meandering around the market, it was lunch and we were hungry. One of our favorite restaurants, La Table de Vigneron, is also a winery that closes during the grape harvest and crush so we decide to dine there. I love its ambiance. You enter through a large arched gateway….inside is a courtyard shaded by a large Sycamore tree, tables are set under its sheltering branches. More tables await within another large gateway….this one leading into the winery itself. No indoor table for us today, the sun is shining and the day is pleasant….we choose a table for two near the comfort of the Sycamore.
“Aperitif?” asked our server, a charming young woman wearing a “Sud de France” t-shirt. No, not today….we instead order a bottle of the house rose. The “menus” (fixed price, multi-course meals) sound good today. We both order the Salad de Jardinere (Garden Salad), Craig opts for grilled lamb chops while I decide on an omelette with ratatouille.
The salads arrive quickly and look mouth-watering….carrots, green beans, beets, onions, garbanzos, purple cauliflower and tomatoes topped by an artichoke heart with a layer of olive tapenade and a light dressing….absolutely delicious. The entrée’s didn’t disappoint. The lamb was very good….three small chops pan-grilled in their own juices. The omelette was light and airy….more like a souffle, the ratatouille provided a savory counterpoint to the mildness of the eggs.
The “menus” we selected had different dessert offerings. Craig’s choices were pure decadence…Crème Brulee, chocolate mousse or ice cream. My “Végétarien” menu offered only fruit or cheese. The well-chosen Crème Brulee arrived, its burnt sugar topping still steaming. My dessert plate consisted of a white peach and a handful of small Mirabelle plums. I, feeling somewhat cheated, bit into a Mirabelle. The skin was taut and tart but the juicy fruit within was sweet with an almost creamy texture. I ate another and then another….these bits of heaven could be seriously addictive….I had to stop. I moved on to the peach. Slicing it released its honeyed essence, one bite and its sweet, sticky juices were running down my chin. I looked at the Crème Brulee….such an ordinary dessert….nothing special, really….and happily realized that I had chosen wisely.
Not wanting this perfect day to end, we took a leisurely drive north and found ourselves in the valley of the Orb alongside the Orb River, parts of it packed with swimmers, kayakers and canoeists and other parts, peaceful and serene. The river looked cool and refreshing but any further exploration will need to wait until I’m sure on my feet again. We wound our way through the mountainous countryside to Saint Chinian, known for its robust red wines….unfortunately, late on a Sunday, none of the caves were open and we left for home empty handed.
Felix, not about to miss aperitif time two days in a row, let us know in no uncertain terms that it was time to go OUTSIDE! So, I walked down the stairs to my awaiting glass of wine (yes, walked….one hand on the rail and the other on the canne, but I walked up and down the stairs today ….no more bum scooting!). Craig and I chatted with friends back home in California and watched Felix testing his new-found freedom before calling it a night and heading indoors to ice my swollen, overworked, but happy leg.
Bonne nuit, mes amis….good night, my friends.