The past week was a whirlwind of touring with Dave and Vicki, friends from California.
On Saturday, we drove to Barcelona to pick them up. Although we had established a meeting point, through a comedy of errors, we kept missing each other…finally, after a few well-timed phone calls, they were in sight and, after hugs all around, we were in the car and on our way to the cottage.
After a little dinner and a lot of catching up, it was time for bed. We sent Dave and Vicki off to our room and inflated a new airbed in the living room next to the couch. Felix, uncertain what to think about this new series of events, hid in the attic until after our bed was made and we were tucked in…..he then returned to the living room and curled up on the couch for the night (that airbed was too spooky for our scaredy-cat).
The next morning, we had a late breakfast/early lunch at Pom’Cannelle in Colombiers. We’ve been going there for years now…..and at every visit, as we order, the proprietress gently corrects our French. We’ve come to expect it. But this time was different. Arriving with friends, she seated us at a prime table and, when we ordered in our usual poor French, she smiled without saying a word. Could it be? Is it true? We were being treated as regular customers! I’m sure it was her way to help us impress our friends, and we very much appreciated her gesture.
We all ordered ham & cheese galettes, with a “supplement” egg on top…..to quote Dave, “it’s a French Egg McMuffin!” After breakfast, we drove through beautiful park lands on our way to Roquefort-sur-Soulzon…..home to the only producers in the world who can legally call their cheese “Roquefort.” We toured two caves (where the pungent cheeses are aged)…..then sampled different varieties, finally settling on Papillon’s Black Label to take back home with us.
We took a short detour on the way home…..to an engineering wonder…..the Millau Viaduct, the tallest bridge in the world (higher than the Eiffel Tower!). This graceful span over the Tarn Valley was completed in 2004 and shortened the trip from Paris to the south of France by hours.
After a light dinner at the cottage (starting, of course, with roquefort cheese and fig jam), we all toddled off to bed. Felix, a little braver tonight, started his night curled up on the couch but slowly, inch by inch, crawled over Craig’s face and onto his chest….careful not to touch the still spooky airbed.
Monday was warm and sunny…..a good day for a cruise on the Canal du Midi. It was a glorious day…..with clear skies and calms waters, the ride through the beautiful countryside went quickly…..but not quickly enough, we arrived in Capestang at 2:30….after all the restaurants had closed. Pas de problème…..we stopped in a small épicerie, bought a bagette & saucisson (sausage) and had a picnic at one of the cafés on the square.
After dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Capestang…..in a winery’s charming courtyard…..it was back to the cottage and time for bed. Felix, no longer fearing the airbed, bunked down comfortably between us.
On Tuesday, we took oyster-loving Dave to Bouzigues, a “Ville de Goût” (Town of Taste) beside the Étang de Thau (a large lagoon bordering the Mediterranean) that’s home to fields and fields of farmed oyster beds. We chose a busy restaurant on a street across from the étang and placed our orders. Plates of oysters, mussels and whelks soon came our way.
I’ve never had an oyster in my life. I’ve always wanted to try them but, fearing for their freshness and my health, I’ve avoided them like the plague. One of the promises I made to myself was that, during our time in France, I would finally try oysters. Bouzigues…..with oysters as fresh as could be…..seemed the perfect opportunity.
I looked down at the heaping high plate, picked up a half-shell, added a dash of shallot vinegar (a traditional French accompaniment), grasped the soft meat with my fork and gently tugged. Then, before having enough time to think better of it, put the oyster in my mouth…..a sweet, saltiness burst out…..I rolled the oyster around, savoring it’s fresh flavor, and then (as I’m sure many others before have) exclaimed, “It tastes like the sea!”
Wednesday was a work day, at least for us. Despite the cost, we decided to keep our appointment with the OFII, so off we went to Montpellier. While Dave and Vicki explored the old town, Craig and I met with the same French officials we had seen just four short months ago. After going through the motions…..a new chest x-ray and a visit to the doctor, we were again seated with the woman who would give us our OFII stamp, thus making our visa “official”. When she saw that we had already gone through this procedure, she was livid! Not at us, but at the French official who had made us go through this process again. She spoke no English but it was obvious what she was saying…..we must not put up with this! After adding the OFII stamp to our passports, she gave us the phone number of a local agency, reiterating that we must be firm! Of course, we agreed with her…..and put this on our “to do” list…..then we celebrated our success at a local café with Dave and Vicki.
Thursday was our day to show Dave and Vicki the delights of our local area. We started at the food stalls of Les Halles in Narbonne, then moved on to the antique bookstore in Le Somail, went on to olive tasting at L’oulibo and ended up in medieval Carcassonne where we had a delicious (and, at €15, very inexpensive) three-course meal at “Auberge de Dame Carcas.” The day would have been perfect…..had we not returned to find two more chairs missing from the patio…..what the heck is going on here?
Dave and Vicki took the 8:20 a.m. train back to Barcelona on Friday morning. We waited until they were safely aboard then started on our shopping list…..four new patio chairs and a water pump for the sprinklers (the old one was broken, not missing…..maybe that’s what kept it from being stolen).
We went from Saint Marcel to Capestang to Beziers, then back to Narbonne (where Craig found a pump) and on to Trebes (where we finally found the chairs). We joked that Dave and Vicki would be in Barcelona before we got back to the cottage (they were).
While resting outside (on our new chairs) we realized that a plastic table in the shrub-enclosed sideyard was missing…..as was a watering can that Craig had just used yesterday…..this was becoming curiouser and curiouser. Who would take such worn, menial things?
“I would like to make a toast to lying, stealing, cheating and drinking. If you’re going to lie, lie for a friend. If you’re going to steal, steal a heart. If your going to cheat, cheat death. And if you’re going to drink, drink with me.” ~ Anonymous Toast