1.30am and 10 miles down the road on the way to the airport is not a great time to realise that one of your children has developed travel sickness. After such an early start we arrived in Languedoc at midday. You know when you have arrived in the South of France when you can smell mimosa and the chirps of cicadas or crickets. It was nice to be staying in the same area as we did last October because we knew the way to the house, picking up "le stinky cheese", juicily ripe peaches and some wine on the way.
The first two days and nights were very hot and I spent most of my time in the shade, even drafting out a couple of patterns for the Yurt Book before settling down with delicious rose wine around 4 o'clock. We drove up to a farmhouse that allowed "Degustation" and sampled some Malpere wines that were grown and bottled on the premises. It seemed a pity to have to spit out the delicious wine after a tiny sip...
During the week we went for a wander around the Cite Medievale and had lunch on the square. It was much busier than it had been in October and still not yet the height of the tourist season. We bought some soap from Marseille (in Carcassonne) but never saw any genuine Provencal fabric – I need to go nearer to Avignon for that apparently.
We visited the dinosaur museum at Esperaza which also housed a museum about hat making but the children complained that it was boring. That was the day we also drove through dramatic gorges while Fenella was slightly sick with concussion after falling out of bed, hitting her head on a tiled floor; finding places to pull off the twisty road was not easy. She perked up in the afternoon after some Coca-Cola at a quaint cafe and we wondered if a creperie-studio would be successful in Scotland. We hung around in Quillan, dodging thunderstorms, waiting for the evening market but it looked like a jewellery stall and someone selling frites was about the sum of it so we just headed home for pasta and wine instead.
After visiting the "Coffre Geant a Caprespine", a cathedral like cave full of amazing stalactites, we drove across country to Castelnaudary. We were hoping for a hearty and authentic lunch of white beans, sausage and duck at the home of cassoulet, but all of the cafes had finished serving lunch. We were rather disappointed with the down-at-heel town where it seemed that the legendary dish was only available in tins. Cassoulet from this area actually seems to be a bit bland; I always thought it contained rich tomatoes, lots of garlic and herbs but it is far simpler here and only has a handful of ingredients.
The Saturday Market in Carcassonne made up for the lack of flavours the day before. We were encouraged to taste saucisse sec and goats cheese. The fresh salads and vegetables looked incredible. We bought some ridiculously crusty bread, a plait of purple garlic and some strong salami. It was great fun drinking espresso at an outside cafe, watching everyone stocking up on fresh produce for le weekend.
We set off for a picnic at Lac Cavayere on our last day with promises of a pedallo ride and ice-cream. The children were not impressed with their lunch of bread so chewy that it makes your jaws ache and were even less pleased when we were informed that the lake was closed for all activities. My French is pretty lacking but I think it may have had something to do with algae in the water. We couldn't even buy ice cream on the way back to the house because even more shutters were closed than usual. It seems like everyone in France is permanently sleeping or away en vacances. The only thing left to do on a Sunday afternoon was read another book and finish off another bottle of light rose wine – it's such shame we have to leave tomorrow..!
Get a new e-mail account with Hotmail – Free. Sign-up now.