28.03.2015 - 06.04.2015 18 °C
We've chased the good weather to the south of France and are nestled into a little gite in the garden of a vineyard.We are surrounded by vineyards, a few smalll wheat fields and a peach orchard yet are only a ten minute walk from the town of Pezenas. Exciting news, Neve has learned to ride a bike! So in reward for doing her schoolwork we've been on long rides throughout the countyside. James has not forgotten his french and has been putting on his best accent to order crepes in town, buy food and spices from the market, and talk to people we meet on our outings.
We are certainly enjoying the food and wine in France. The bad weather in the north encouraged long brasserie lunches, three delicious courses spread over two hours. Before Al Mac and Cindy left we a particularly memorable meal on a patio in the heart of the medieval city of Carcassonne-the starter salad was chicken gizzards on top of lettuce, duck cassoulet, and crepes with creme for dessert. Yum. There are picnic spots everywhere so now that spring has arrived we bring our baguette and stinky cheeses every time we leave the house. I am so happy to be having fresh Pain au Chocolat with my morning coffee. Simon can't leave the grocery store without Creme Caramel desserts in the cart. We've tried fantastic local wines and can't believe the quality for less than 5 euros a bottle. But don't worry too much for our health, the fresh produce is also fantastic and way cheaper than we expected it to be.
We've spent a fair bit of time catching up on schoolwork but each day have headed to a different highlight in the region. Pezenas itself has been really lovely to walk through with its 16th century buildings filled with artists and other quaint shops - no tourist crap here! The Saturday market was nearly as lively and interesting as those in asia. I've discovered a love of ornate doors and have found kindred spirits here who collect and display doors in a museum, free for everyone. Pezenas is noted for its sweet/savoury petite pies and berlingot, which are handmade boiled candies. We biked over to the factory and got to watch them make a batch of lemon candies, samples gratuis...
Its not far to the Mediterranean so we spent an afternoon birdwatching along the coastal salt marshes and were thrilled to spot wild flamingoes. In the other direction we drove the Cirque de Navacelles, a large canyon with (of course) a village built at the very bottom of it. In that range of hills there are hundreds of caves carved out of limestone and we toured a very grand one called the Grottes de Demoiselles. Because it is very low season for tourists we had a privite tour and got to hear music in the central cavern called the cathedral. It was huge and had amazing stalactites and stalagmites. The acoustics are so good that they hold church ceremonies and classical concerts here regularly. This region has some really interesting roman relics in betwen a market and a long lunch (ha ha) we were able to check out an underground warehouse built 2000 years ago to store wine and oils. It was a museum, but could still be used today it was so well crafted. The exposed stones on the ancient roman superhighway that runs through Norbonne were good too.
Its Easter and for Albertans used to mostly snow still on the ground, or brown at best, it is post-card spring outside. Daffodils and irises are in bloom, the trees are budding or are full of blossoms, baby lambs in the fields, and we even got to do an egg hunt outdoors today. Neve paid her allowance for the privilege of walking a lamb on a leash, James learned how to steer a go-cart down a hill. Chocolate eggs are really tasty here...Life is good.