Sunday, July 16, 2006

France, part 2

Well, I intended to be quicker to post pictures of the lovely south of France, but while we were out of the country gremlins moved into our house and started breaking things. I should have had the people who took care of the cats watch out for them, but I didn't know we were at risk.

Seriously, since we got back, we've had a refrigerator stop working (it's been 3 days already, and it's not on the schedule to be fixed for another 2 days! At least it's still under warranty.) The water pipes that connect our house to the main started leaking a while ago, but we got the notice to fix it or the city will disconnect our water supply. And RB's laptop died; he lost his hard drive, and most of his email for the last two years. Finally, as a last little glitch, we left an mp3 player in our car in France.

So, we have a couple of estimates for fixing the leak, a repairman scheduled for the fridge, and RB's computer is already fixed (ah, the efficiency of the corporate world!) As for the mp3 player, Hertz hasn't seen any sign of it, so someone over there has a nice new 40gb iRiver loaded with a random assortment of stuff. Sigh. Hope they're enjoying the music, anyway (wouldn't it be a bit of an insult if whoever ended up with it just deleted everything to load Europop?) Maybe someone will discover a passion for 8 Bold Souls or Sondheim.

Back to pleasanter stuff. I probably haven't mentioned, the first week we were staying at a gite in Languedoc (department of Aude), almost 2 hours southeast of Toulouse. The area is mountainous and heavily wooded, and it seems empty; I was hugely surprised when we drove for hours, seemingly to the middle of nowhere (and I'm from Montana, so I know the middle of nowhere,) and then discovered that our cell phone got better reception than it does in Chicago.

One day trip we made was to the Mediterranean. We took the small winding roads through areas that felt even more remote (probably cell phone reception was down to 2 bars) and went first to the Chateau de Peyrepertuse. I don't think of myself as afraid of heights normally, but I have to admit - this one made me nervous.

As an American in Europe, I'm sometimes astonished by their historic tendency to pick the most inconvenient peak in the area and build a town or fortress on it. It seems to me that the goals of town locations are completely different - here, we want to maximize convenience, and proximity to water is most important. In Europe, for lots of the tourist destinations anyway, the goal was strategic - build something that can be used to control territory. Of course there's a selection bias too - tourists don't go out of their way to visit the mundane little town next to the river.

After a stop for crepes we went on to the beach at Canet. The beach itself was enormous and white and beautiful. The town felt like it had been built for approximately a zillion European tourists, and none of them were there - clearly, we didn't arrive during the season, whenever that is.

We went south to Collioure, which was much more our type of destination - the town was beautiful, with the beach smaller and friendlier.

We stopped to play at the playground for a while - a little girl approached SA and they looked at each other while playing with a rope ladder. And as kids do, she started hitting him. Well, I'm pretty sure SA could have won in a fair fight, but he mostly looked startled until her mother pulled her away with a "Doucement, s'il vous plait! doucement!"

Another day trip - we drove up into the mountains and into Andorra. Andorra is mostly a Duty-free shopping haven these days, but the scenery is gorgeous, and the city is pleasant enough (if a bit tough to find parking.) We found a playground there, too!

We spent our other days in Languedoc looking at sites closer to home - this is the Chateau d'Arques, 5 minutes away.

And we spent time just acquiring and cooking our dinners, and enjoying the view from our patio. Wine and cheese and meats were consumed with gusto.

More to come...


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