Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gaillac, and Other Points South ...

So I promised you tales of food and glory, and thee shall have them, but first a bit of news: not only has Jerry been accepted for les compagnons, but we now know where and when he'll be - respectively, Nîmes, and to be there at the end of August. Not only that, but he got his bac, despite his dire forebodings.

He made a big deal of not being worried, but on Friday morning, when the results are published on the intartoobz, I came downstairs to find a note stuck on the coffee machine (the one place, I admit, where we're sure to see such things, smart lad) asking us to check up and text him the results.

Which Margo duly did: he'd been working at Stéphane's mum's place that morning, and from what I gather work was rather cut short around 11am, as the apéro rather degenerated. Getting into the spirit of things I went down to the cellar and found a bottle of 2003 Pouilly Fuissé lurking under a cover of dust (most of the bottles down there haven't moved since I stuck them away, we'll have a lot of drinking to do when we shift) but sadly he decided to go off to a concert that evening ...

And then on Saturday, when I'd kind of hoped to be able to open it at last, he decided to go off to a party at Sophie's place: she being away in the Drôme for a couple of days, Lucas decided that it would be the perfect occasion for an end-of-year party. Whatever, we is pleased. Very. If you feel like congratulating him, I'm sure gifts of money would be appreciated: nothing bigger than €100 notes 'cos that does rather draw attention.

So anyway, I told you about Najac: the photo's just there in case you forgot. The place used to belong, it seems, to the counts of Toulouse, and I think it'd be a right bastard if you happened to be the postman, what with getting the mailbag chucked at you from a horse at the top of the village and then having to run 400m downhill and 400m uphill just to deliver a few flyers, a reminder about an unpaid bill from the Vatican for an annulment and the latest catalogue from the Knights Templar.

And the plain brown wrapper thing that her Ladyship ordered, apparently something to do with all the men-folk being off on heretic-hunting or the Crusades, and one must occupy ones-self and let's face it, after a while needle-work becomes desperately boring.

And there's never a troubador, or a locksmith, around when you need them. A shame really then that the "Love Honey" fell through the unexpectedly open temporal warp in its neat package with the prominent warning "Batteries NOT included", as LiOn batteries were not going to be invented for another 700 years or so, which is rather a long time to hang around waiting for a buzzy thrill.

Definitely time to drag out the equivalent of the Yellow Pages, and check up the entries under "Casanova".

I seem to have digressed, the meds must be wearing off. Now one of the reasons for heading down to the Averyon was to check out on the housing market, and to this end we had a couple places to look at. The first was not far from where we were - la Capelle-Bleys, if you remember (don't worry, there will not be an exam afterwards) - and Alain vaguely remembered the place, so we headed off one evening.

Four hectares of land, big house with possibilities ... true, but sadly it was located on a blind corner of a busy road, and you could see why the asking price was only €110 000. A shame because it was indeed lovely, an old posting relay with two wings and stables, think "The Prancing Pony". Not for us.

Then on the way back to the house Alain, being a mayor and everything, mentioned that there was one place for sale only a few km away, and the municipal employee lived just next door and had the keys anyway and we could probably take a look if we wanted ... so we did. Brain-dead person that I am I did not have the camera with me, but the place has possibilities. And at €240 000 almost affordable.

Then on Sunday, just on the off-chance, we all headed off to somewhere near Gaillac to look at their daughter's house, this too being up for sale due to various circumstances, including an acrimonious divorce. Let's not go there. Anyway, it gave us a chance to look at the countryside and all those touristy things, always appreciated.

We arrived to find a stand of massive cedars or whatever, and bulking behind them what they call a "maison de maitre": a bloody big house, in anyone's book. A bit of lawn and a swimming pool out the front, and a big lawn out the back, sloping down to the river. About 2000 m², apparently.

Whilst I think of it, Gaillac is in the Tarn (I think, or maybe it's the Hérault, can't remember off the top of my head and can't be arsed looking it up) and the countryside is very different from the Aveyron.

Aveyron is deceptively flat-looking: you sort of stand somewhere and look out over gentle, rolling terrain. Then you go out for a walk or a drive and realise that what you where looking it was just the tops of valleys, and that to get from point A to point B you actually do an awful lot of going up and down. Often on little windy roads that have hairpin bends everywhere, good thing I'm used to that, having (mis-)spent some time driving in the mountains around here.

Completely different from the Causses (home of Rocquefort, should you be wondering), through which we came heading north after Montpellier. That's sort of high rugged moorland, with great outcrops of rock everywhere and the odd sheep grazing somewhat morosely: very beatiful but I would not want to live there: too stark, too desolate, too isolated. Good place to be if you want to become a hermit, though.

And around Gaillac things definitely change: real, rolling countryside covered with - what else, this is France - vines. Cultivated, nice, but less interesting. I still like having mountains around - they do add a bit of relief. In a topological sense.

That was, should you not have noticed, a digression. Now over, our apologies and normal service has been resumed. But you may have to reboot your iPhone.

So anyway we went off to this place, and I must admit that I fell in love. I seem to keep doing that, often with the most unsuitable people. Or, in this particular case, houses. Out of our price range; at €450K, and as Margo very reasonably said, "do you really want to be mowing 2000m² of lawn every weekend?".

Which, when you think about it, is in fact a pretty compelling argument, given that the answer is an emphatic "Non!"

But it was definitely a beautiful place. Don't worry, I'll probably fall in love with the next one we see, especially if it's cheaper. (I don't actually love them as such, I just say that to get them into bed.)

And after that, we went off and had a surprisingly good - and affordable - lunch at a little restaurant about half an hour away. (Something about the French: they think nothing of driving for an hour to get to the restaurant. They may bitch and moan about how there's nowhere to eat closer, but they'll do it. Us too, these days.)

Anyway, it looked rather unpromising: a sort of concrete blockhouse attached to the little private airport outside Gaillac, and the decor did little to reassure me, but the food was great. They styled themselves as a tapas restaurant, and did it well. And for possibly the first time in my life, the waiter was not only helpful but knowledgeable, suggesting that perhaps the combination I'd picked would not be the best as one would overpower the other - that is just so bloody rare. And, on reflection, he was quite right.

So we wound up with caviar d'aubergines and a dish of fresh marinated anchovies in olive oil to start with (absolutely exquisite, with great hunks of fresh bread), and I personally went on to some tender lamb chunks that had been seared with lemon, coriander, cumin and a few other bits and pieces, whilst Alain & Mijo split an enormous hunk of steak that looked really appealing and Margo settled for lamb chops. With a pichet of the local red and dessert the whole meal came to €95 for the four of us, which is pretty bloody good.

I really do wish I'd thought to note the name of the place, never mind, it's not as though you're likely to go there so you won't know what you're missing.

No comments:

Post a Comment