Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Magic Day

Apparently when it comes to planning trips I have a bit of a problem with dates.  I was so proud of my spreadsheet that listed where we were each night, if we had paid, if there was a kitchen, etc.  It was awesome.  Until we realized I had forgotten some dates, or added an extra day.

This happened the night before we were supposed to be heading to the Dordogne region.

Luckily I checked out the spreadsheet and realized that I had missed a day.  We were checking out on the 24th, and then checking in somewhere else on the 25th.  Whoops.

But it’s mistakes like this that lead to the best discoveries.  I consulted my Rough Guide (which after this trip I am throwing out – it is made for people who backpack, not people like me who want to know where to shop) and it said that one of the top things to see in the whole region of Languedoc-Rousillon was to go to Cordes-Sur-Ciel.  Lucky for me I didn’t have Rick Steves because he tells you to go right past it.

Right, that is where we were going to go.  But how to find a place to stay at last minute?

Tripadvisor gave me an idea for a lovely Bed & Breakfast situated below the town – perfect.  And he got back to me right away with the news they had one vacancy!  Hooray!  Fate was playing her fair hand.

So we packed up and left – traveling through what has become some of our favourite countryside in France.  Through Castres, hitting the last of the market and eating paella overlooking the river.  Then to Lautrec – of Toulouse-Lautrec family fame, with it’s winding medieval streets and windmill.  Albi, for the Toulouse-Lautrec museum and some much needed shopping (not that I bought anything with the Engineer hovering about me, checking prices, but I needed to get the ‘urge’ out). 

Finally, we made our way on more winding roads, past fields of green and yellow, cows and foie gras farms, and suddenly, in the distance, we could see Cordes.  And just like its name suggests, it really is in the sky.  Surrounded by rolling fields, it sits on a hill, shining and beckoning us towards it.

Love at first sight.

We were staying at The Aurifat, a tumble-mess of a house dating from the 12th century.  It sits below the town, with a protected view of green fields.  It’s got a lovely garden, a pool and this, and I hate this word, energy about it.  Like the moment you get there you feel as if you have just come home. Plus it comes with its very own 9-month old puppy, Paprika.

The Engineer and I sat for a moment, enjoying the peace and serenity.  We really just checked our emails. 

For dinner, we made our way uphill to the town.  The sun was just starting it’s decent to slumber, casting Cordes in a golden light so the town looked as if it was dripping in honey.  Technically, this town is touristy.  Which it is.  But compared to Carcassonne or Les Baux, it is not tacky or overdone.  Just quietly touristy.  With several foie gras and wine shops (Gaillic wine is AMAZING!  Especially the rose which I am drinking now.  Hence why this is probably sounding extra goobery). 

We found a spot for dinner, under some sort of medieval canopy.  Thanks to two lovely French ladies next to us, we were able to decipher most of the menu.

The Engineer chose another tres disgusting appetizer:  goose gizzard salad.  OH GOD.  Why?  Why does he do this?  I may be the one who appreciates food, but I draw the line at meat parts that are gross.  Whereas he loves all gross meat parts.  Must be because he is ‘chinesey’. 

I had jambon. I thought is was pate because of the pays.  No.  Just ham and salad.

Then our entrees.  The word ‘aligot’ appeared on the menu and not in my dictionary.  Our new French friend told us it was cheese and potato.  We thought it was in a sausage.  She said to try it because it was delicious.  Lucky for me, the person two tables over had it just as our waiter was taking my order.  Therefore, he misunderstood me pointing to it as ‘give me that with duck confit’ as opposed to ‘is that aligot?’.  Happy ‘lost in translation’ because ten minutes later I was the proud eater of a Duck Confit and Arigot OR the plate of fat.

Recipe for Aligot here

If this were not a blog but a video, you would now see me stand up and give the slow clap.  This meal deserves a standing ovation.

So apparently arigot is a fancy French word for potatoes mashed to runny goodness with cream and cheese.  And lots of it.  So that when you take a bite, a part of you cries inside.  Then duck confit.  What can I say about this dish?  Meat cooked for a long time in fat.  It’s the equivalent of heaven for your bouche. 

In that moment, I think I was happier than when the Engineer proposed.  Okay, slight exaggeration but only slight.

The sun set, melting the gold away and turning Cordes-Sur-Ciel into a glimmering nighttime secret.  We were some of the only people.  Lamps lit our way, but we mostly had to rely on the moonlight.  As we made our way back to Aurifat, the Engineer and I both relished in the perfect spring air.  Well, I did.  The Engineer simply said ‘yes, it’s really nice’.  And for him, that level of enthusiasm should prove something.

The air was warm.  It was perfumed with wisteria, wallflowers, and, my favourite, lilac.  So much so that every few steps I stopped, took a big whiff, and fell even more in love.

We passed a house full of French and British women, of a certain age, dressed well, eating and drinking wine.  I couldn’t help but think of my own friends at home who would so love this and love having a dinner party here.  The Engineer pointed out that we do that in Vancouver.  I pointed out that it is much funner in France.  So ladies, who read this, promise me when we get to a certain age we will somehow buy houses in France and drink wine forever?

Back to my story:  We knew the night couldn’t be over, so we grabbed a blanket, two glasses and our Blanquette. Making our way to some chairs under a tree, under the moon and stars, we sat drinking until late at night.  We saw shooting stars, talked about our future, and both mentioned how wonderful it must be to live in a place like this.  BARF.

After our gin rummy tournament (yes, we are nerds), I lay in bed and thought of our hosts, Ian and Penelope who happened upon this spot 11 years ago and decided to buy it.  I would love to do that.  Just take over a bed and breakfast in the south of France, how lucky they were to find it.

During breakfast, which consisted of warm croissants, vanilla yogurt, homemade blackberry jam and honey from the beekeeper down the road, we discovered Aurifat was for sale!   AAAAAAAAAAAAH!  Ian and Penelope were finally taking full retirement. 

So now I am on the hunt for someone to buy this piece of heaven so that I can come again and again. And, if they every need someone to run it for a few summer months I know a certain blogger, and her bridesmaid T, will happily do that for them!

I asked my dad for 730 000 Euros but he said no L

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