And so Dear Reader, I left you apres a spot of lunch in Cahors. Now, there was some (quite considerable) debate as to the best way forward to our next port of call Cuq Toulza where a fabulous chateau and a hot dinner awaited us and to my eternal shame, I listened to a man! He said ‘let’s take our time and go on the diddly route and see where we get to’ (it was pretty much 3 o’clock at this point). I said ‘ But it’s all the way over the mountains and it looks pretty far and oh look it’s pretty much 3 o’clock’. But no, Dear Reader, I was thwarted and so we set off on a trek across the Luberon mountains. Now, I would not be exaggerating if I told you that the weather was truly biblical. The torrential rain, crashes of deafening thunder and forked lightning were amazing yes, but just a tad terrifying too. I expected at the very least that a swarm of locusts would come and join us in the car but we soldiered on and eventually at just about the height of rush hour hit Toulouse.
You are given a choice just as you approach Toulouse – interior route or exterior. There is also a toll booth to contend with. And yes, you’ve guessed it – we went the wrong way ALL the way round Toulouse. For those of you familiar with the M25 this was almost on a par. And we sat in the interminable traffic. And sat some more. And then I remembered (at around 6.30) the tarte au framboise still in its box since lunchtime. It was devoured, much to the amusement of our fellow traffic victims in a few swift spoonfuls.
And so it was that we turned up at the best hotel ever in a small place called Cuq Toulza – Cuq en Terrasses. Run by the lovely Phillippe and Andonis we fell in the door in a heap at 7.30 to find that we had been upgraded to the beautiful terrace room overlooking the valley. We had a wonderful evening of wine from Gaillac, lovely food and great service, all topped off with Andonis emerging from the kitchen to ‘play’ his self playing piano and us all singing along. A truly memorable evening and more than worth the traffic!
And the view from our wonderful room
Phillippe and Andonis couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming and after a lovely breakfast, off we set for Carcassonne.We went, on the advice of Andonis by way of a town called Albi which boasts (and I may have got this slightly wrong) the highest or maybe biggest brick-built church / cathedral in Europe (it may have been the world, I can’t remember). We were so pleased that we had gone off route to see it and the town.
There was also this ever so slightly realistic and spooky statue
And then on we went over the Montaigne Noire to Carcassonne. Now, it may have been that I developed a cold and wasn’t in the mood but well Carcassone just didn’t do it for me. Maybe there are only so many old walls you can look at or so many churches you can visit and maybe my expectations were over the top but I was distinctly underwhelmed.It was jam packed with tourists (naturally), everything was vastly overpriced and very very average on the food front. I know that isn’t necessarily what you go for but up till now everywhere that we had been had been amazingly tourist free. Phillippe had recommended an inexpensive restaurant to us and we went there and it was fine – not brilliant but then not expensive ether so fine.
It was, of course, impressive at night
Carcassonne is actually most impressive as you drive away from it and see it behind you perched up on its hill. We decided to leave early and made our way to Avignon for lunch (and shoes….well I had to really. Yes and I did need BOTH pairs).
I managed to resist the temptation to warble a quick chorus of ‘Sur le pont’ and after a post lunch stroll around town we made our way to the next stop – Provence. The only thing that was slightly disappointing is that there was no lavender. But then it is October and why should there be, but I was kind of expecting to see just a bit. But it was very lovely (despite another biblical electrical storm) all the same.
We stayed here on night one in Velleron with a lovely dinner in l’Isle sur la Sorgue
And here in Aups on night two
I took a few snaps en route through Provence and at the market in Aix (come on Dear Reader – stay with me – there isn’t too much further to go!)
I do so love a market – Provencal or otherwise!
I have loads more (now don’t sigh in that way – but I shall save them for another post cunningly entitled ‘windows and doors’ I think!)
Now those of you who know me well in real life know that this wasn’t just a holiday but a bit of a pilgrimage too. We had taken the ashes of my lovely friend June with us to scatter in the Med at a place called Cogolin and so last Monday, that’s just what we did. Back when times were good, she had a ‘gin palace’ which she kept in the harbour here
We left her here, to mingle with her husband and son in the warm waters of the Med – somewhere she had always loved and talked about endlessly
And after a couple of glasses of champagne which we drank in her honour we moved onto our stop for the night St Tropez. If there was a place for ostentation and bloody big boats then this is it. And this was out of season! There were more rich folks, botox and high heels than I have ever seen in one small town and we felt somewhat out of place.
Until that is the Mistral began to blow. And oh my goodness blow it did. And then everyone was as one with hair askew, collars turned up battling against the most ferocious of winds. We managed dinner in the one open restaurant in town and repaired back to the hotel for a most amusing late evening drink and chat with the night watchman who turned out to be a bit of a boy with the horses and the women!
And then on for our last gasp. A drive down the Cote d’Azur – a coast so breathtakingly beautiful with its sparkling azure sea, pink houses and amazing residences clinging to the very rocks themselves. If I won the lottery I should have one of those – a pink house with a balcony overlooking the azure sea. I can see why it was such a magnet for the Impressionists and the likes of Cezanne – the light is wonderful and the colours vivid and brighter than anywhere else.
Our last stop, via Antibes for drinks, was Villefranche – flippin’ expensive, completely beautiful and a place to rest our weary heads post 1700km.
After breakfast next morning in Nice (well you have to really) watching the botoxed ladies go by, we came home. It was great, really great. We saw some wonderful places. Drank some fab wines and ate some lovely food. We met some of the most friendly fellow travellers (mostly Canadians) and stayed in some awesome places. But do you know what? It’s nice to be home. Not back at work. But nice to be home.