The sunlight, rather than my alarm, woke me up this morning – bliss – on my first day off since arriving. I ate breakfast and sat reading by the front of the house, looking at one of my favourite views, towards the Pyrenees.
I then went for a drive, taking the road out of Raynaudes (with a perfect view of the house as you leave, before you rise to a point overlooking the hamlet) and onto Cordes-sur-Ciel, a nearby bastide town with five layers of city walls, gradually added throughout the 13th century. It’s a cliché, but it’s picture-perfect and charming. The town is far too attractive not to be a tourist magnet, but it’s still a pleasure to visit at this time of year, before the high-season crowds descend.
There are plenty of arty-crafty boutiques, galleries and souvenir shops to lure in wealthy out-of-towners, but I was way more interested in the townhouses lining the steep, cobbled streets. The temptation to stick my head right in through the open windows, have a good snoop and take a few photos was strong, but I resisted – the poor inhabitants probably get sick of visitors’ nosiness (and I’m doing my best to “go local” while I’m living here). I made do with taking a few shots of the buildings’ exteriors and of the amazing, endless views of the countryside, stretching out in bright greens and yellows beneath the town.
This evening we were invited to dinner by some of our guests: a gregarious extended family that has rented all four of Le Manoir’s apartments every April since it opened. The theme tonight was “Tacky 70s Buffet” (no hairstyles were harmed in the making of this meal) and included a pineapple studded with the obligatory cheese, pineapple and ham on sticks, pigs-in-a-blanket, prawn Marie Rose… the full works. Absolutely brilliant. It’s a common misconception that chefs won’t like the food you make for them… Quite the opposite – we love it, especially if it involves a faithful send-up of Peter’s brilliant cheeseboard odysseys, as parodied by David (“le Cheese String has been a favourite of le French schoolchildren for over 100 years”… “and here we have the original 2-D cheese: le Dairlylea slice”). Fuelled by litres of Gaillac rosé, we followed the meal up with a few rounds of a game that involved holding a Euro between your butt-cheeks and dropping it into a pint glass, then the cereal box game. Not sure if this is going to catch on in the smart circles of the Tarn, but maybe this is one bit of culture the English shouldn’t share.