The Tour de France was coming our way on Saturday. Starting in Limoux, the riders would be racing through Carcassonne, Trebes, Homps, Olonzac and Penzenas before ending in Montpellier. We had planned to drive to one of the nearby towns (either Homps or Olonzac), find some shade and wait for the riders to whiz by while we enjoyed a French picque-nique…..but then, we remembered something that completely changed the day’s plan…..it’s not the race we enjoy, it’s the scenery! So we turned on the telly and had our picque-nique indoors….only to be sadly disappointed in the televised coverage. As the Tour raced through Carcassonne and Trebes, live coverage stopped and short films highlighting nearby towns were shown…..interesting footage, but not what we had wanted to see. Coverage started again in Homps…..hooray! But then it stopped again when the riders neared Olonzac. Boo! As if sensing our languor, the winds outside the cottage started gusting, the television started pixelating and our picque-nique basket was empty…..time to turn off the television and get back to work.
Monday through Thursday were a blur of inactivity…..we had postponed jet-lag and it was exacting its revenge.
On Friday, the pitter-patter of hooves against gravel jolted us out of our lethargy. Feeling much like Sleeping Beauty waking from her long slumber, I got right to work preparing the paperwork that had to be sent to the OFII (oh yes, it starts again….new visas, new paperwork, new appointments). By 3:00, everything was in order and we were ready to take our prized parcels to La Poste….but we were trapped in the cottage. The London cab had brought another bride and groom to the bridge in front of the cottage for photos. We waited patiently while the happy couple posed for a few pictures then followed them into Salleles d’Aude.
There was no line at La Poste….we quickly completed the forms that were necessary to receive a return receipt from the OFII and were getting ready to finish the transaction when the clock ticked 4:00 and all the postal machines shut down! There’s no overtime in France….it was time to close up for the day. The unapologetic agent told us that La Poste would open again tomorrow at 8:30….so we gathered up all the paperwork and returned to the cottage. Was this irritating? Perhaps a little, but it’s the French way of life……personal life is held sacred. Who can argue with that?
First up on Saturday morning was a return to La Poste…..this time, we successfully sent off our OFII paperwork. With that mission accomplished, we headed over to Homps for a “Moving Sale” held by a British couple who are returning to England. This wasn’t a French “Vide Grenier” (where only a table or two of items are displayed) or a “Car Boot” sale (the British version of a “garage sale”where items are sold from a car trunk)…..no, this was an American-style “Moving Sale.” We were allowed entry into their home’s inner courtyard where a plethora of items awaited us in all their sparkling glory. A number of people (all English speaking) were milling about, looking at this and that. Craig and I peeked through piles and piles of “stuff” but couldn’t find anything we could use on the boat, in the cottage or at home in California….so we bid the sellers “Thanks” and “Good-bye” and headed out. We stopped for a coffee at a cafe along the canal then drove to a nearby grocery store for a few items.
This store, part of the Utile chain, was very much like our 7-Eleven’s or AM/PM’s….a small store with gas pumps out front. That’s where the similarities ended.
Unlike it’s American counterparts, this store wasn’t another “fast-food” haven. As we approached, the aroma of roasted chicken permeated the air and a young man was adding more plump birds to a large rotisserie.
Inside, there was a full aisle of local wines (with a wine cellar that you could see through a plexi-glass floor), a produce section, a butcher (not just a meat dept….a real butcher), bins of fresh bread from a local boulangerie and aisles of standard “grocery” items….including a British foods section! Any resemblance to an American store was purely coincidental.
“We trust something in a grocery store and assume it’s good. We don’t learn about the most precious thing in life-the food we put in our body. Educate yourself!”…..Paul Prudhomme, American chef
“You’ve got bad eating habits if you use a grocery cart in 7-Eleven.”……Dennis Miller, comedian