Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Mini Cooper Road Trip Day Two to Castres

French Village Diaries road trip Mini Cooper Castres
Castres river side 

Dinner in Sarlat was wonderful. There have been many times when we have struggled to get a meal on a Sunday evening in France, but there were plenty of good value choices available here. We chose a menu at 14.80€ that gave us four courses of local specialties (goat cheese, goose rillettes, duck, sarladaise potatoes, cassoulet and walnut cake)  and couldn't fault the flavours, the portion sizes or the service. We slept well and as we prefer to head out and enjoy a coffee and a croissant rather than take the hotel breakfast, we enjoyed a morning walk around Sarlat too. Finding a boulangerie however was a problem! Sarlat seems to have more estate agents than boulangeries, which is silly. It may be beautiful, but who wants to live in a town where you can't buy a croissant or a baguette? Having worked up quite an appetite we eventually had our bag of delicious breakfast pastries and sat outside with a coffee by the market Halle for breakfast, although the sunshine of the day before had gone.

We were on our way by mid morning, enjoying the yellow villages, but disappointed by the weather and the lack of open boulangeries. We stopped for morning coffee in Salviac where the boulangerie was open and the boulanger was friendly. Behind the counter was limited selection of sweet treats for our afternoon snack, but our eyes were drawn to two cherry topped cakes. He told us they were puddings made using the leftover pain aux raisins, and we were sold, especially as they were only a euro each.

French village diaries puddings road trip mini cooper France
Puddings from Salviac 


The weather began to improve and as we headed south through twisty forested roads, the vineyards began to appear alongside the walnut orchards. Now we were in The Lot and the Cahors wine area. At home and in the villages towards the Atlantic Coast the houses and villages are full of hollyhocks that grow like weeds at the side of the roads and flower all summer. When we were in the Basque region last year it was the hydrangeas that I noticed in almost every garden, but here it is roses. Climbing roses in full bloom and bright colours look fantastic against all the yellow stone buildings in this area.

We lunched in the sun by the river Lot in Luzech, a picnic of local goat cheese and fresh baguette and then drove to Cahors. On our road trip five years ago we stayed here for a night and it was lovely to see the bridge again as it is one of my favourites. We stopped in a wine cave and chose a couple of bottles of local organic wine, that although were more expensive than supermarket plonk, were still good value for a much improved taste and we do like to indulge in local produce where possible. By mid afternoon the yellow of the Perigord and Lot had gone and the soil and buildings were now tinged with pink. We were close to Albi and decided to detour slightly to visit this pink city that more than one person had recommended. It gave our legs a stretch, we found a shady spot to eat our puddings, which despite being as heavy as lead to carry were rather tasty and we now know more about the artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, who was born here, than we did before. It was certainly impressive and very pink, but Adrian was rather underwhelmed. What I will remember Albi for is the cyclist who from a distance appeared to be cycling naked. Up close we realised he wasn't totally naked, but charging along wearing nothing but tiny speedos, on which was written Albi Triathlon. That was certainly my unusual sighting of the day. By the time we arrived in Castres it was very hot and once we had settled Gizmo into the car park and dropped the bags in the room it was time for a beer in the sun, followed by a walk along the river and into the gardens where the mountains of tomorrow were visible in the distance. We ate dinner outside at an Italian restaurant that had been recommended and have already spotted a boulangerie for breakfast. Next stop Nimes. 

French Village Diaries Mini Cooper road trip to Castres
The gardens in Castres