What a day! We began with our wonderful Gascon breakfast with fresh pastries and fruits. We then went for a lunch of escargot and local delights in the little town of Montreal. After a visit to Roman ruins and the Medieval town of Larressingle, our hostess surprised Madie and I with a joint birthday with local families and huge fireworks.
Lunch in France is more of an experience than an event. It goes on for hours and the French are quite regimented in the proper order of dishes (perish the thought of serving salad and cheese at the same time). We ate at a lovely little cafe called L’Escale in the small square of town. As the children played around the small fountain, the adults enjoyed the local red, white, and rose wines. The mussels were superb. The locals insist (of course) that the French mussels are superior in taste to the larger Spanish mussels. They were incredible. We bought dozens and dozens for a first course, followed by fish and entrecote (steak). They also served smoked duck gizzard, which was excellent. Among the meats was goat head, which was also terrific if you could get by the origin. Dessert included Gascon cake, which ranks as one of the best desserts I have ever had as well as crème brûlée.
We visited the lovely little Medieval church in the town and then went to Larressingle, a walled fortified village that is like walking into a fairy tale. It is surrounded by a drained moat and filled with little passage ways and gardens. Americans can be justifiably proud of this site due to the work of a group of Boston financiers who saved the site and funded its restoration. The kids bought wooden swords and shields to add to their arsenal of weaponry. Leslie and I bought a tapestry for the house in the little shop.
We then went to the Gallo-Roman ruins at Seviac. The site dates back to the 5th century and incredible tire floors have been unearthed. Some of the heated floors with underground pillars to circulate heated air have been restored. The kids were of course most interested in the two skeletons unearthed. It is fascinating to see the thermal baths and pool, and the near complete mosaics. This site existed at the decline of the Roman Empire after the invasion of the Visogoths — and most recently the Turleys.
We then went to an amazing tour of the winery next to the Chateau, which I will describe separately later. This was followed by a dinner of ratatouille and fresh bread and the birthday party — which went on past midnight with fireworks and sumptuous cakes. The news that I did not (and generally do not) celebrate my birthdays was met by horror by our hostess who threw me a belated 50th birthday and Madie an early 6th birthday. Her view is that you cannot miss an opportunity for a birthday party or for fireworks. We spent the evening with the family that runs the local vineyard and two retired Scotland yard detectives who now live nearby. To top it off, Aidan lost a tooth. In France, they do not have the tooth fairy. They have the tooth mouse who proceeded to bring Aidan a piece of cheese and a euro coin in the night. The coin is a thoughtful gesture of the mouse to American kids who expect something more lasting that a piece of cheese under their pillows. (Personally, I was grateful for the money to be in euros given the weakness of the dollar).
Another amazing day in Gascony.
Here are some other photos: