C'est la vie

Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
Trip End Oct 25, 2010

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Flag of France  , Languedoc-Roussillon,
Friday, June 4, 2010

After walking around a somber and wet Cubjac last Sunday, keeping safe distance from the sorry-looking stallholders who were guarding their sodden bits and pieces - not wanting to give them hope it might yet turn into the profitable spring festival it usually is, I suddenly wanted away.

If the French Meteo's forecast was anything to go by, more bleak days were to be expected and I thought we might as well spend them in the car. Travel south, see what happens, maybe as far as my dear brother, who lives a good 4,5 hours from us, at Durban des Corbières.

We took off around noon next day, and I suppose I had my heart set on romantic, hidden-away restaurants and chambres d' hôtes, set amongst beautiful scenery.
Places to remember, where you feel at peace with the world.

It didn't quite turn out like that.

To begin with, the country's main meal, le déjeuner, is served strictly between 12 and 2pm. This did not coincide with our appetites - a late breakfast, and wanting to make some distance first.
Never mind, we would skip lunch, enjoy the ride and take Gait and his wife Marisha, out for dinner, should we arrive there today.

At some point we unexpectedly found ourselves close to the famous Millau bridge. It connects two mountains of the Massif Central, crossing the river Tarn, it's the highest road bridge in the world, 300 meters, 984 feet. An impressive construction, a work of art, designed by the British Lord Foster.
We decided to make the extra miles and not miss the opportunity to cross it.
The view from the bridge, which is spectacular, seemed stroboscopic when speeding past the railing, too high to look over, and you realise you should have paid more attention when approaching.
However, just as that thought hit me, the sun decided to break though and for a moment it felt like I was gliding down from the heavens.
Some god of architecture must have been smiling then.

It was late in the afternoon, a culinary no-man's land in France; no self-respecting restaurant will have it's doors open at such a time.
But we were getting hungry and I needed to pee, and  for all my visions of delicious food enjoyed in charming restaurants, the familiar sign of Mc Donald's brought water to my mouth.
Talk about paradox.

We moved on, if we wanted to reach Durban in time, we had to start focusing.
Take the highway now and find a nice B&B, not too far from my brother.
Only there is no such thing along the fast roads. Passing the big cities and towns now we saw clusters of F1's, Etaphotels, Novotels - surely we could do better than that.
Montpellier, Béziers, and finally Narbonne, almost there now. We leave the auto route and drive a little land inwards, having spotted a promising little village.
Passing a large motel, in the middle of an industrial site, enveloped by countless trucks of all shapes and sizes, I gasp at it's ugliness. A wide porch in front, lit up harshly, gravel and dirt - I could sooner imagine it a sleazy American road movie.
But just around the corner, I cry: 'Stop the car!' I must be dreaming. This is it. Paradise.
Two lovely, old, stone buildings, one a little taller than the other, leaning into each other, cosy and welcoming.
An inn, a restaurant? I can just make out the curly, girly, pink neon letters:
'Folies Bergère' and 'Moulin Rouge.'

A truckers paradise, I guess. Ja, it figures.

To cut a long story short, the village was deserted, we made a quick detour and were extremely grateful to receive the key to the last available room of the chauffeurs motel.
The bartender asked would we be staying for supper and I was tempted to say 'Yes,' not for the food, a stale buffet laid out in a dark and dingy hall, but I was totally fascinated by the men there, not a woman in sight, who stood staring insolently.
The broody atmosphere, the unfamiliar going-ons, a world I had never seen before. I wanted to take it all in. These men seemed to form a league of their own, a different species, their bodies, their faces as if modeled by an artist intent on creating alarm.

We had to go. Almost 8 pm now and my brother and his wife are notorious for their early nights.
Though it would spoil the surprise, I think it best to call and say we are almost there, catch them before dinner.
After what seems a long time, I get the answering machine. Swallowing my disappointment, I joke: 'Howabout a drink or two?' realising they are probably with their son Joost and his girlfriend, who just moved there from Holland.

My mobile rings, which is strange as no-one knows the number, not even myself.
It's my disgruntled brother, sleepy: 'What do you mean, have a drink.....you woke us up.'

So much for love.
After driving down for 8 hours, hungry and thirsty and longing to see him, this is what you get.
Of course, once they got over the surprise, or, rather, the shock, we had a wonderful time; talking, drinking, so good to see him again, and Marisha too.

Tired, but happy, we drove back to that shoddy hotel, looking back on the day, still hungry though Gait had fried some little loempias, now sitting uncomfortably on half a banana, a handful of salted nuts and a Chrunchie.

Tomorrow we'll have breakfast with them, and be on our way. We wouldn't go hungry; last night Marisha let us take a peep in her oven where a sanglier, a wild boar, was slowly roasting for the next day.
Their lunch, our breakfast - our times are not that well synchronized.
I must try and remember that next time :)

Come to think of it, nothing was. And nothing turned out the way I had imagined.
Good or bad?
Interesting, to say the least, and, what was it you said Gait?

'C'est la vie.' 

(love, Kate xxx)

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alan taylor on

strange - that phot of Marisha bears an uncanny resemb lence to both you and Patsy when you first glance at it! Take care, hinny x

rui on

thanks for make me feel also in hollydays in a beautiful France reading your blog.

Missing you in mahjongtime to play a game.

thanks for share in your blog, your humour seeing the world.

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