Swimming in French Culture

Trip Start Jul 18, 2008
Trip End Aug 02, 2008

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Flag of France  , Midi-Pyrénées,
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One swim in the lake, two dips in the pool, and another beautiful historic village later, we're packing our bags to leave Rodez. JP will drive us to Montpellier where we will catch the TGV to Paris.
The lake community where JP & Laurence have their little cottage is a quaint collection of mini mobile homes right on the lakefront. Many of their friends and family have cottages there as well, so there is plenty of drinking of aperitifs on one patio or another. There is also a cute little bar where we encountered a very typical French scene: five older gentlemen playing a game of cards, complete with berets, cardigans (despite the summer heat), and small glasses of pastis or whatever their aperitif of choice. While at the lake, we took a ride in the boat and stopped out in the middle for a swim. The only way to tell we were in Europe and not at some lake in Saskatchewan was that most of the cottages along the lakefront were stone structures with a historic look about them vs woodframe or log cabins.

Yesterday, we visited the Rodez market in the morning, where JP and Laurence bought bread, fruit, cheese, and other supplies for the evenening's dinner. While in town, we took a peek inside the impressive cathedral, and were lucky enough to catch a few tunes being belted out on the pipe organ. The church is in the midst of updating some of the stained glass windows, so there is a mix of traditional designs contrasting in an odd way with some new very modern-looking ones. I wonder if the old bishops would be mortified?

Next stop was Belcastel, one of the official "most beautiful villages in France:. Since I haven't been to the vast majority of other French villages, I cannot confirm or deny the claim. It certainly was very charming, what with its river valley location, winding cobblestone streets, windowbox flowers aplenty, centuries-old bridge, imposing chateau built into the steep hillside, and lack of fast food outlets.

To beat the heat, we went back home for a swim, where the boys entertained us with their competition to see who could do the best "gros bomb" (cannonball). Then it was time to prepare for dinner, since some friends of the family came over to eat with us. We ate outdoors on the patio. Pierre, who owns one of the local wine shops, brought a few different bottles to sample, all delicious. We had grilled sardines with fleur de sel for an appetizer (they were much better than they sound!), followed by tomato and mozzarella salad. By the time we got around to the main course, it was well after 10 pm. We were treated to a regional specialty called aligot, which is a mixture of potato and cheese. It was delicious, not least of all because it tasted suspiciously like perogies. It was even served with sausage - go figure. The meal ended with fruit cobbler and of course - more cheese!
One last midnight dip in the pool topped off the evening. We were quite content as we sipped our digestifs while floating in the illuminated pool and gazing at the stars. It was a lovely way to end our last night in Aveyron. It will be difficult to say goodbye today, especially for Leanne. She has a close relationship with the family, and I can see why - they are wonderful people, charming hosts, and very open and affectionate. She's lucky to call them "cousine"!
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