Our second day in Heux was glorious. We ate outside with the kids on local pizza and fresh vegetables — with, of course, local wines. We then went to two wonderful towns, La Romieu and Fources.
La Romieu was founded by two monks (from Rome, hence the name). It became the home of the president of the Templar Knights and has an ancient priory. You go up narrow twisting stairs to the high towers overlooking the medieval town. The church is lovely and the locals play chants and classic music in the church to give it a magical feeling. In the stone work, you can see the carvings of symbols of the Templars, who went off to fight in the Holy Land. The church (once the home of Benedictine monks) is being restored beautifully. The stain glass windows coat the interior of the church in rose and blue colors. From the high towers, you can see a town little changed in hundreds of years. It is a sense of ancient continuity that is unknown to most Americans.
The town of La Romieu is tiny and enchanting. The town has a legend of Angelina who owned hundreds of cats. The legend states that as the cats died, Angelina gradually became a cat herself. All around town are little cats that the kids had fun finding and counting.
We then went to Fources, one of the few round bastides in the region. The town is surrounded by a graceful moat filled with water lilies. I found a quaint tiny bar serving the famous local drink, Armagnac. The small town has only a few shops including a great antique shop (where Leslie and I are debating buying two plaster reliefs from the 18th Century). Antiques are amazing in this area. Our hostess has her château filled with furniture that is hundreds of years old. It is part of the other worldly aspect of this place. People live in homes from the 13th Century and eat of tables that are hundreds of years old. In the United States, such furniture would be immediately shipped to a protected museum display and such homes roped off for preservation. The locals have a respect for preservation and live in the same homes as generations of their relatives.
The kids came back to have another fight of Templar knights up and done the vineyard. We finished with heaps of French mussels and three different local wines — followed by French Napoleons and chocolate eclair. We topped off that mountain of desserts with Ladurée macarons, which we bought in Paris on our way to Toulouse. I love Ladurée, which is famous for its macarons. My favorite is the pistachio macarons.
We finished the evening with glasses of Armagnac. Armagnac ages longer than cognac before it is sold (The most recent bottle for sale today was 1979). While I am a still wine drinker, I loved it. It is very smooth and round. Distilled from white wine grapes such Ugni Blanc, it is distilled only once which allows it to sit in the oak for much longer than cognac (which is distilled twice).
I was able last night to witness the proving of what I thought was an urban myth. Last night, a full glass of red wine was spilled on some of the beautiful white cloth furniture in the sitting room. Without missing a beat, our hostess called for a white bottle of wine and poured it liberally over the sofa arm. It disappeared and this morning you cannot tell any wine — white or red — was spilled on it. One more incredible attribute of wine, though I silently wept to watch the fine local wine being used for fabric cleaning.
This morning is again a wonderful 65 degrees with the sun shining over the grapes ripening in the vineyards as a light wind blows the fields of sunflowers. In the background, my hostess is playing music from the Pink Martini, which I have come to love. My friend, Allison Mabe McBane is out in the garden cutting fresh roses for the breakfast table with is heavily laden with fresh pastries and fruit. The kids who stayed up to midnight are still snoozing and I am about to return to my D-Day book (a refresher for our upcoming trip to Normandy). You may have to send the editors out to get me back to the states.
Here are some other pictures from today: