Saturday, May 21
We saw on the web that today is supposed to be the end of the world. If that's true, then we're going out in style, having our last meal in the best French restaurant in the area. We have reservations for 7 PM tonight again at La Galinière in Capestang. In the meantime, we are again in search of small picturesque towns and beautiful landscapes. There's apparently no end of either in this part of France.
But first, there are our morning chores. After breakfast, Janis and I take the car to Béziers' outskirts to check out a couple of baby shops and a fabric shop I have seen earlier. While we do that, the guys head to SuperU on foot to buy the few groceries we will need to get us through the weekend, remembering that there are no stores open on Sunday. Saturday is also change the linens on the beds day, so we need to replace towels and sheets with fresh ones supplied in the laundry basket that magically appears outside our door on Saturday mornings.
When we get home, Janis makes us omelets for lunch using the market-bought eggs. They are beautifully soft and rich tasting, filled with lots of good veggies. The Murviel vrac wine pairs nicely with omelets. (What a multi-functional wine, it seems to pair well with everything!) We finish the peaches from market and they make a juicy, sweet dessert.
By 2 PM we are ready to head off in search of great scenery and picturesque towns. We head toward St Chinian, up into the garrigue's rocky valleys. Olga sends us on roads we haven't seen before and the scenery, as usual, delights us. St. Chinian however, seems pretty ordinary as small towns go, much like those we drive through every few kilometers on the regional roads. So we head off to the wine cooperative in St Chinian to see if we can taste wine. We can.
This wine cooperative has a bit more flare with paintings and pottery as well as the wines for sale. The man helping us speaks excellent English with an American accent, no less. (He's been to Connecticut to visit his friends.) He explains that St. Chinian wines come from 3 types of soil, the schist we've seen in the Faugères region, a red clay, and limestone. We taste a white, rosé, 2 reds, and a sweet, fortified wine called Carrigène. They are all good, but we have lots of wine at the house, so just buy 2 whites and one bottle of the best red along with a bottle of the Carrigène for a dessert wine.
Next we head toward St. Pons higher up into the hills. The road climbs along gorges whose name we can't find on the atlas map. Why not? It's beautiful. In St Pons, Janis and Dave find the tourist bureau, a town map and walking tour, and an old church mutilated by the 15th century Protestants who tore down the choir and chancel. This makes the church now backwards to the normal layout with the main entrance where the apse and transcept used to be and the altar against the wall where the walled up former entrance doors are.
The parking lot where we've left the car is the space where the choir should have been. There are other parts to explore in the town as well, but we want to stop at Le Somail so Janis and Clark can get a picturesque view of the Canal du Midi before dinner in Capestang.
We drive down a scenic road with lots of hairpin turns, but this time, the road goes through woods which shade the road in many spots, giving a feeling of tranquility. This feeling is enhanced by the steam rising off the road as the rain from a brief shower evaporates from the hot and now again sunny in spots road. It's as though someone is providing special effects to enhance our driving pleasure. There's supposed to be a panoramic view along this road, but if there is, we've missed it - no signs, except the marking on the map. We're guessing you had to know where it is, and perhaps walk a short distance to see it. We continue on our way, the steep hills and valleys soon opening on wide valleys and undulating low hills.
We've been looking for the perfect broom flowers to photograph all day and find a couple of spots where you can get the idea of both the profusiion of bushes and the delicacy of the flowers.
We arrive in Le Somail right around 6 and spend half an hour looking around. The place is much more lively now than the last time we were here. The tables at the cafe are all full. Several more artists have opened their studios and are displaying their artwork. The larger bar looks like it will not open. It is empty and we are guessing out of business. An opportunity for some enterprising businessman or woman we think.
We get to Capestang about 6:50 easily find a parking place on the street. But the restaurant is still closed. So I check out the trompe l'oeil painting again, this time noticing that the people painted in the picture are portraits commemorating several local favorites, an artist whose "atelier" (studio) was on the corner where the trompe l'oeil is located, a woman who along with her husband ran the local "épicerie" (grocery store), and a man who was a long-time staple in the community as an agricultural producer. That makes the painting even cooler in my mind.
By now the restaurant is open and we enter along with a couple with 2 small children. We decide to eat inside this time and take a long time deliberating over the menu, figuring out what the dishes are. We ask the owner who is also our waiter about the fish (morue - cod) and a dish called gardiane de toril, which is a daube (long, slow-simmered stew) of bull ("taurau"). We all choose to order from the menu at 22 Euros which provides 4 courses, an entrée, plat, assiette de fromage, and dessert. That is an appetizer course, main course, plate of cheese, and, well, dessert needs no translation. We also order a bottle of red (a Faugère from old vines) and a bottle of white (a local Sauvignon from Enserume)
Janis and I order the terrine de truite (trout paté) while Clark and Dave order a salad of duck heart. Both dishes are delicious as we expected with variety and depth of flavors.
Clark and I order the bull for our main course while Dave and Janis order the fish. Once more both dishes are satisfyingly rich and flavorful.
Our cheese plate comes with 3 cheeses, a mild blue cheese, a goat cheese ("chevre") and a cheddar-tasting cheese called Cantal which finishes our wine just perfectly.
Finally, the dessert. Janis, Clark and I order the chocolate mousse which comes this time with a scoop of caramel ice cream and chantilly (whipped cream). Dave orders the oranges with a scoop of apricot ice cream. Coffee (regular for us, decaf for Janis and Clark) finish the meal.
By now it is 10 PM and we have been dining for 3 hours. We're full but not stuffed and feeling very satisfied. We're glad we decided to come back to eat here one more time even though we ate here just 2 days ago. Since they're not open Monday or Tuesday and Janis and Clark leave on Wednesday, we had to go on the weekend and today was the day. If the world is going to end today, we're going out with a bang and a great feeling of well-being.
All photos today are from Clark's camera.