Monday was a day of travel to Alet les Bains (home for me at last!) with a quick lunch stop in the Dordogne. The youth hostel provided us with a great packed lunch which we ate at the beautiful village of Rocamadour. Then, after a couple of hours driving we arrived to a warm welcome and checked into our respective homes. Josy, my friend who runs the little village shop, made us a delicious dinner of baked ratatouille with cheese, green salad with goat cheese and fresh local melon, lovely for such a hot evening. After dinner it was time to wander and explore the little ramparted village and head to bed.
After we got back from Carcassonne, my great friends and neighbours Derek and Dawn, along with my husband Steve and our other close neighbour and great friend Tony pulled together a lovely barbecue in Dawn's garden. Joan Saunders risked the heat of the fire and cooked up the burgers, Cassandra was superb as Dawn's sous-chef. Steve had organised tables and chairs from the village and set up a long table for us all. We had refreshing water melon, burgers and home made mushroom quiches for the vegetarians, salads, baked potatoes, home made Boston baked beans (thanks to Tony), cheeses and a belated home made birthday cake (thanks to Dawn) -with candles of course - to celebrate Mann's 18th birthday. Everyone had a fantastic evening and enjoyed every part of the meal. The community in this village is amazing!
The plan for the group today was a visit to the fantastic Cathar castles at Lastours - do google the Cathars to discover more - before the Catholic church became the dominant Christian group, the Cathars were one of the groups of people who had a different interpretation of the belief system, they were basically completely dominated and killed off by the Catholics, mainly for political reasons. It was the period of the first ever crusade of Christians against Christians and this destroyed the flourishing economy and rich culture of this area for hundreds of years. It was also the period when the idea of the Inquisition was first tried out...it was seen as a very efficient way of domination and developed into the horrors we all know about.The afternoon was at the caverns at Limousis with incredible stalagmite and stalactite formations.
As Danielle couldn't manage the hike to the castles and the caverns, we went to the village open-air pool where Danielle could enjoy swimming and relaxing her legs in the water - it was a little bit cloudy, a relief from the sun and an ideal temperature for swimming. I made Danielle a light lunch and in the afternoon we went to the local dinosaur museum. Once the group got back, we had our supper on Josy's terrace again, a delicious home made meal. After supper, we all headed to the lavoir - all French villages had one of these, either in the village or nearby, it is where everyone used to go to wash their clothes in the river. In Alet, the lavoir is filled with the local spring water which flows through at a warm 24 degrees. We splashed about a bit and of course it ended in a huge water fight with almost everyone, including Gary Choo and me getting completely soaked through, perfect in the 32 degree heat! A great day all round.
Dan's sunburn is much better today, he slept until 10.30 and we headed into Limoux where I treated Dan to a gourmet lunch at la Maison de la Blanquette to make up for him missing going to Spain and the Salvador Dali museum - I don't think he will stay out too long in the sun next time! Dan had a smoked salmon and goat cheese salad, chicken with lemon, sweet potato and carrot puree, followed by fruit salad. We then drove up to Rennes le Chateau, place of much mystery and legend, home of the writer of the book that inspired Dan Brown and his book the Da Vinci Code. We saw the church and the devil sculpture, looked around the little village and saw the castle. I got Dan a great T-shirt as a souvenir from there.Dan was careful to stay out of the sun the whole time. He has headed into his cool living room to watch Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, filmed in Carcassonne. The group should be back in about an hour's time.
Back to Paris tomorrow at 7:00 a.m.