21-28 September 2007

[The previous week I was at Auchinleck House in Scotland]

LAST UPDATED: 31 December 2007

Excerpts from my diary:

Friday 21 September 2007. Mary, Dave, Conrad and I set out from Auchinleck House for Glasgow Airport and later in the day were at Gatwick where we change planes and head on to Toulouse, arriving there about 11 p.m. Conrad's car was there and we drove an hour or so to her farmhouse—Bonjour Haut—which is set in a very rural area of southern France.

Conrad's house and barn (with the Chateau beyond).

After a drink and being late we called it a day and went to bed, David and I up in the attic.

My bed up in the attic.

Saturday 22 September 2007. Conrad's house is nicely situated in an area of rolling hills and expansive views.

Occasional forest and a hilltop village here and there, but mostly agricultural fields. Sunflowers are a major crop, the remnants of which we saw everywhere. Drove into Molieres with Conrad to shop.

The boulangerie in Molieres (or is it Vazerac?). Conrad and Mary deciding.

Later to Vazerac to shop again for bread and to the supermarket. Therese and Ton, Dutch neighbors living in the nearby chateau came over for a drink and a roast beef dinner.

Drinks at Conrad's with Theresa and Ton.

Sunday 23 September 2007. Mary, Conrad and I drove to Castlenau-Montratier, a charming hilltop village, to buy cheese, pork, bread, veggies at the open-air market.

The Sunday market at nearby Castelnau-Montratier, a lovely hill village where Conrad would like to live.

The cheese seller's display. Now some pork from the butcher (and scraps for the Nicholas, the cat)

Veggies from the greengrocer and more bread.

Later we three toured the Chateau which is in the process of being restored, a big undertaking. Pork chops for dinner. I now have a cold.

Theresa and Ton's chateau across the way from Conrad's. Lots of work done; lots ahead to do.

Monday 24 September 2007. We set out this morning to Cahors via Castlelnau where we stopped at a farm to buy foie gras. In Cahors we first went to the rail station and bought tickets for Mary and myself for Paris on Wednesday. Then walked around the town, stopping for lunch at the Glacier under a pergola of wisteria. (Mussels, shrimp, calamari salad.)

Conrad and David enjoying lunch in Cahors. The famous bridge across the river Lot in Cahors.

Through the Cathedral and over the famous bridge with its twin towers. I remember that from a tour with John Thornley many years ago. Headed home via a large supermarket. The shelves of wine go on forever. Cooked a light dinner that evening.

Tuesday 25 September 2007. Around 11 we set off to see some of the nearby picturesque towns. First one was Lauzerte, almost too pretty for words. All done up but in excellent taste. Walked around and had a beer and 'tapas' in the square.

Lunch in the center of Lauzerte after a walk around the village. Hardly a soul there.

Began to rain so we headed off, the next stop being Montcuq, another hill town and equally as deserted. Narrow streets, all stone and attached houses. The church was open. Headed home stopping at a winery (Domaine de Cauquelle) on the way. Rose seems to be a specialty of the region. That night for dinner: breast of duck, also a local specialty.

Wednesday 26 September 2007. Off to Montauban and for me and Mary the train to Paris. Got to this fairly large town about 11:30. The train was uneventful; never got to sit in our reserved seats, though. Arrived in Paris at the Gare d'Austerlitz at around 6:30. Waited forever for a taxi—there had been a strike that day. We were headed for a houseboat moored on the Seine near the Musée d'Orsay. The driver couldn't figure out how to get down to the quay so we ended up walking quite a distance. By the time we got to the boat it was dark. Had trouble finding the key but eventually did and went on board. Very nice boat with lots of custom touches.

Luci's houseboat, the Iorana, on the Seine where we stayed our two nights in Paris. Musée d'Orsay is a stone's throw away (but never got there).

Luci (who was earlier at the SIAFU reunion in Scotland) had rented it. She was off on a several-day tour elsewhere in France and her colleauges (3 Canadian women, Liz, Bev and Paula) were still out for the evening. Mary and I went off to explore a bit and finally found a brasserie (Le Solferino on the Blvd San Germain) where we had dinner (steak au poivre for me; quiche for Mary) washed down with wine (€54). Not too long after getting back the three women return. But not much partying; it's been a long day.

Thursday 27 September 2007. One full day in Paris. What to do? Mary and I decide to do a bus tour. Head off with Bev and Liz who take us in hand on the Metro. Ended up near the Opera and found the tour bus office where we got tickets. Did the Montmarte loop first, getting off to go to the cemetery where Jean-Baptiste Charcot, France's greatest 20th century Antarctic explorer, is buried. Took some photographs, then back on the bus. Had pizza and wine for lunch, then back onto the bus, hitting the major sites: Notre Dame, Louvre.

Two Paris landmarks: Tour Eiffel and the Opera.

Got off at Etoile to photograph the rue de Dumont D'Urville street sign, named for France's other famous Antarctic explorer. Found the nearby Air France bus stop where we'll be leaving from the next day for the airport. Back on to the bus and by the Trocadero, Eiffel tower, etc. Got off for the last time at the Invalides and walked back to the boat.

And two more: Place de la Concorde and a Metro sign.

Soon after Mary and I were off again, this time to have dinner with Maria, a friend of Mary's from her Iran days. Took the Metro to Argentine station and walked from there to Maria's flat in the rue Denis Poisson. We had a glass of champagne and visited for awhile. Her friend Erane English arrived and the four of us walked down the street to Chez Cédric, a cozy small neighborhood restaurant that was very good and very lively.

Dinner at Chez Cédric. Finishing up with raspberry souffles.

Had the equivalent of fish McNuggets, then seabass on mushrooms, followed by a lovely raspberry souffle. Madame English gave us a lift back to the boat in her cab. Tomorrow up early and back home.

Friday 28 September 2007. Up early to a gray, rainy day. After a bowl of cereal I had a walk around the neighborhood trying to figure out the best place to find a cab to get us to the Air France bus. Also needed an ATM. Found the latter but a cab will be a challenge. Back to the boat and about 9:30 Mary and I with the help of Bev got up to the main road in front of the Musée d'Orsay and wauted for a cab. Finally managed to get one and we were on our way. Caught the bus to the airport (€13). Got to there in plenty of time. Checked our bags and had an cheeseburger and fries at McDonalds. Flight delayed a bit. Changed at Reykjavík, then onto Boston. We were met by Mary's driver from and not long after we were back in Jaffrey.