Despite our late bedtime last night, we had to rise early to meet our friends, Kris and Paul, who were arriving in Barcelona at 10:30 a.m. We woke (to the jarring sound of static on the radio), showered, dressed and headed off to Spain….just a little behind schedule. Thank goodness it was Saturday…..with little traffic on the highways, the three-hour drive was trouble-free, allowing us to arrive at the airport almost on time. Fortunately (for us), our friends’ flight was delayed, giving us time to gulp down a few cups of much needed coffee. Running low on funds after four cups of airport coffee, Craig went off in search of an ATM….and returned with Kris and Paul in tow!
It was great to see them again. Although we’ve only known each other for a few years, it feels like they’ve been friends forever. With hugs all around, we returned to the car and started the trip back to the cottage….chatting merrily and pointing out the sights along the way.
After they were settled in at the cottage, we opened a bottle of wine and finalized the plans for our upcoming trip to Spain…..we’d be together in Barcelona for three days, have a one day overlap in Madrid and meet up again five days later at their timeshare in Marbella, which we’d use as a base for sidetrips to Ronda, Granada, Cordoba, Gibraltar and Tangier. With plans firmly in place, we feasted on Montagnard French Toast, Pistachio Olive Oil Cake and copious amounts of Languedoc wines.
We had two days before we were going to depart for Spain and during this time, we hoped to share our some of our favorite things in Languedoc with Kris and Paul. We started on Sunday with two of our most beloved activities…..cruising on the canal and eating fabulous French cuisine. After a light breakfast, we meandered up the canal and stopped for lunch at the Auberge de la Croisade, a self-proclaimed “restaurant gastronomique” on the bank of the Canal du Midi. As we neared the Auberge, the skies began to cloud but our spirits were bright as we entered the warm, inviting restaurant. We were led to our table by a charming maître d’ with a playful sense of humor. The food was sublime…..raw salmon marinated with herbs & lemon confit served with a mild horseradish mousse, Pequillo peppers stuffed with gesiers and nuts, sesame-mushroom crusted chicken topped with a dollop of foie gras paté….all served, of course, with an amuse bouche, a cheese course and dessert. During lunch, it began raining….then started pouring, but mercifully, the rains ended by the time dessert was served and we cruised back to the cottage in calm waters. Craig docked alongside the cement berm by the cottage and, after we were all safely ashore, moved the boat to it’s permanent mooring further down the canal….next to a high, uneven bank. I went down to help him secure the boat. He threw a line to me. I missed it. Instead of pulling the line in and rethrowing it (as I had suggested), Craig tried to grab for it in the water….bad choice. He slipped into the cold waters. Now we’ve both been baptized by the Canal du Midi.
On Monday, we headed off for the next on our list of “must see” sights…..the medieval city Carcassonne.
Carcassonne enchants you the moment you lay eyes on it. As you wind along the road leading up to it, you’re teased with a few fleeting glimpses. After one final turn, it’s standing majestically in front of you. With it’s crenelated walls, towers, turrets and drawbridge, it instantly transports you to another place and time. Are you in Camelot…. or in Disneyland? Either way, it’s magical.
We explored it’s narrow lanes and alleys before returning to the main plaza for lunch at La Courtine. It wasn’t haute cuisine but it was good food at a great price…. €12.50 for a three- course meal! Paul, who felt he had been eating non-stop since arriving in France, lamented that he couldn’t keep eating this much. No worries, we assured him, in Spain, they eat a light breakfast, snack on afternoon tapas and finish the day with a late dinner. Fully sated, we returned to the cottage and prepared for tomorrow’s journey to Spain.
“When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.” ~ Romans 15:28