Broke out the smock and brushes today. Art makes the world go round.
On our second to last day we went to a relatively new vineyard in the town of Limoux. Limoux is a town that has a lot of history as it was the place where champagne was really invented. Monks originally created it here, Dom Perignon came through town, stole the recipe, and set up shot in the town of Champagne where he produced and marketed the sparkling wine, and eventually gained the AOC. The winery we went to, Gayda, does not make limoux though. It was a small production of various whites and reds. After the tasting, we went upstairs to the restaurant for lunch. This was the whole reason we went to this vineyard as the view from the restaurant looked over the Pyrennes.
After Gayda, we went back to our small town and laid low the rest of the day. Naomi and I took a walk around town to see if we could discover anything new. The only thing we discovered was that Naomi loved putting her hands in dirty fountains and posing against various doors and walls. Oh, and that Naomi now has an adopted French Grandma. Then that night after Naomi went to sleep, I ventured to the local pub to watch Liverpool play Real Madrid. It wound up to be just myself and the bar tender. I spoke no French, he no English. It made for a fun time. 2 Guinness and 3 Real Madrid goals later, I was ready to call it a night at halftime.
The following day we did a lot of driving and saw many little things. We went to an olive oil co-op in the morning. Aside from grapes, olives are a big thing in the region and because of that there are many small batch olive oil producers. After tasting many different varieties, and naomi eating an entire loaf of "tasting bread", we headed to an old book store just off the Canal du Midi. It was big, old and smelled like my elementary school's text books. Neat to see but we did not stay long. Next we drove to a nearby village to see the market and have some lunch. Two huge sandwiches and a basket of pomme frites later, we were off to see the goat cheese farm. But, we arrived too early and they were only open in the morning when the goats go out to pasture, and in the evening when they get back. With Kiddo already asleep in the back, there was no way we would have been able to wait 2 more hours. So we just drove through some incredible back roads and enjoyed the landscape one more time before turning in to begin packing. We flew home the following day,
Warning: Heavy on the kid below.
About 15 minutes from our house was Carcassonne, the largest walled city still in operation in Europe. We headed out to this medieval city to a.) find the princess (and the pea) in the castle for Naomi and b.) see the second most visited place in France, behind the Eiffel Tower. The Citadel sat high above the Aude river and was rather impressive with it's multiple turrets and drawbridge entrance. Once you got inside though, you were made to shuffle through about 100 feet of tourist trinkets ranging from 9 Euro wooden swords and plastic suits of armor to magnets, pencils, and the mannequin in a guillotine. But after you made your way through the Jersey Shore boardwalk portion, it opened back up to normal shops and restaurants. We roamed around a bit and it was here where the ultimate croissant was had. Naomi was in heaven.
From here, we walked down to the modern city of Carcassonne to check out a market. After buying a 4 Euro bottle of wine, we went to the local lunch takeaway shop and bought a couple sandwiches. With wine and lunch in tote, we continued to the Canal du Midi. This is a canal that runs from the Atlantic Ocean in Bordeaux all the way across the country to the Mediterranean. There is a lock system along the entire length which enables people to cruise from one end to the other. But we were not here to rent a boat and cruise the canal. Instead, we rented bikes and road along the path on the side of the canal. First time Naomi was on a bike, she loved it. After about a half an hour, we pulled off the path, found a low rock wall on someone's farm, and ate lunch on it. A couple sandwiches and a bottle of wine with no glasses. Perfect birthday lunch.
After lunch we went back to turn in the bikes and headed back towards home. Someone was coming over to the house to cook us dinner that night and we had to get back in time to meet them.
Next up: France: Part V - Villeneuve-Minervois and Etc.
After a day filled with vertical climbs, we decided to go in the complete opposite direction the following day. We got in our Seat Leon a little after 9:00 AM and drove east until we reached Narbonne, at which point we made a right and headed south along the coast. It was a sunny day and the light seemed to dance off of the Mediterranean and we headed into Catalunya. As we neared closer to the Pyrennes, the mountains seemed to roll right into the sea and with just 10 miles left until reaching España, we got off the highway and rolled into the small beach town of Collioure.
Collioure was a busy place, but not too crowded. There is an old fortress right next to the beach that made for a truly remarkable landmark. The streets around the fortress were lined with small shops of various types. Bakery, restaurant, leather goods and pottery just to name a few. We arrived just as everything was closing up, it was time for lunch. This is something we quickly learned, the French take lunch seriously. Everything closes for 2 hours and all of the restaurants fill up. After wandering around a bit and eating a beignet before the bakery closed, we decided to partake as well. And since we were so close to Spain, tapas were a necessity. So, back in my comfort zone (I don't know a lick of French), I broke out the español and ordered away. Naomi ate everything we ordered; boquerones, jamon, tortilla, pan con tomate, and chèvre cheese.
After lunch, we took a quick walk on the beach where we could throw some stones into the sea and get our feet wet. Then we shared a gelato before heading out to tour a local vineyard. The tour itself was nothing extraordinary, but the product was. It was a fortified wine, similar to porto, called Banyuls. It was aged for 11 years before even being sold. Yep, we brought some back. After the tour, we headed back up the coast, then turned to the west and drove home into the sunset. Great way to ride out your 30s.
Next up: France: Part IV - Carcassonne and the Canal du Midi
As I mentioned in the previous post, the house we rented was in the Languedoc-Roussillion region of France. More precisely, we were in the middle of the Pays du Cathare (Cathar country). The area is known for the many Cathar ruins, many dating back as far as the 1300s. One of the best remaining ruins was a mere 4 miles from our house, Chateaux de Lastours. So, we figured this would be a great way to ease on into our trip. We'll take a ride, check out some ruins/castles, mozy around and then have lunch. Easy peasy. Not so much. The ruins were at the top of a rather high summit which would involve some hiking. We strapped the kidlet into her backpack and away we went. Up, up and up. About 45 minutes later, we finally reached the top and the view was worth the burning legs and sweaty t-shirt.
Next on the agenda, after a lengthy lunch of course, was a visit the town of Minerve. The town was built on top of a skinny peninsula-shaped plateau where the walls of the town were built right up against the drop off into a deep gorge. There was one way into the town, and that was over a rather stunning arched stone bridge. It was pretty striking to see. This would never pass any sort of zoning in the US. Wandered around for a while, and then got a crepe and a coffee. When in Rome, er, Minerve.
Next up: France: Part III - Collioure
We travelled to the southern part of France last week. We rented a house in the Languedoc-Roussillon region that was older than the USA and day tripped to various places. The next few blog posts are going to be from those travels. I apologize in advance for so many pictures of the kid.
Having never flown internationally with Naomi as a toddler, Andee and I weren't sure what to expect. We anticipated the worst based upon all of the horror stories you hear from random people. "You're going to France, what are you doing with Naomi? Oh she's going with you?! You guys are crazy!" In the end, it was no different than anything else you do with a toddler. Negotiate, distract, and stay just 5 minutes ahead of them at all times. It also didn't hurt that the flight over was only halfway booked and there were enough seats to lay down and go to sleep. Once we arrived in Madrid, she was ready for the 3-hour layover before flying to our final destination, Toulouse.
Next up: France: Part II - Chateau de Lastours and Minerve (and probably more of the kid)
May there always be music and may you always remain just crazy enough.
Someone discovered how to use the dimmer switch in the bathroom. Bright, dark. Bright, dark. Bright, dark...
No real story, the photo speaks for itself.
A couple weeks back, we decided to take a trip to go peach picking. It just happened to be the hottest day of the summer, or so it felt. This was a photo from the covered hayride.
We took a trip downtown for apple fritters and then walked to see the new Dilworth Park. She loves Saturday morning train rides and walking around the city. So much to see. And eat.
Someone wasn't paying attention while walking Milo this morning. She ran out of sidewalk. Here is the sequence of events.
School's out this week, so what better way to occupy a Summer morning than head to the playground. Kid loves the swings and slide, she can't get enough of either.
After a long hiatus, I have decided to resurrect this site once again. And what better way to get things going than to announce I have some photos up on the latest edition of F-Stop Magazine's group exhibition: On the Road. It's a great collection of photos and I am happy to have been selected to be a part of it. You can take a look at fstopmagazine.com.