Thursday, June 26, 2008

Arles 6 Reunion Tour '08

Yes, I know, there are 7 people in the photo! I'll explain about the guest later in the post! On June 13, I left Arles and headed to Bordeaux by TGV. I settled into the Hôtel Continental, wandered around the city a bit, ate a great ham and cheese sandwich and then returned to the train station to try to find Rich from Oxford, Mississippi. He is really tall, so I figured he would be hard to miss. I had just about given up when, low and behold, there he was towering over everyone else at Gare St. Jean. The next day, he and I returned to the train station, hoping to find Yolanda and Betty. They made it there safely, too! So, four of the Arles 6 were happily reunited. We boarded a train bound for Bergerac (oui, of Cryano fame!) and when we pulled into the station there, Pat and Joan, were waiting for us. That was a wonderful surprise. We thought we wouldn't see them until we reached our house in St. Cyprien and there they were, all smiles. The Arles 6 all together again. We found my rental car and after an initial problem-- not being able to figure out how to put the Renault Scenic in reverse (minor detail), we set off for our house, La Ferme aux Chênes. What should have been a 50-60 minute trip turned into a two-hour one due to the fact that we couldn't seem to get out of the village of St. Cyprien and on the right road to our house, only 2 kilometers away. I would like to blame my navigators, but I can't, in good faith. The directions we were given were faulty and, honest to goodness, there are at least 5 different ways to get to any small village in France. To continue in the honesty strain, it must be said that I am acutely directionally challenged, too.
At last, we arrived at our beautiful home for the week and we were greeted by Michel, the caretaker of the estate of Bagnegrole. The owner, Monique Boucheron, was away for a few days. We unpacked the cars, settled in, and toasted our successful arrival with the bottle of wine waiting on the table for us. Michel pointed us in the direction of the Auberge de Meyrals for dinner and, seeing the blank looks on all six of our hungry faces, agreed to lead us there in his car. Never let anyone tell you the French are rude. They definitely understand the need for a good hearty dinner after missing lunch!
We made it our mission to visit a different local market each morning to find fresh ingredients for lunch or dinner at our house. We visited the prehistoric caves of Font de Gaume. We saw the lights come on one night in Sarlat. Rich and I took a tour of a farm where geese are force fed ( gavager) in order to make foie gras. Pat made it his mission to find the perfect omelet. Yolanda opted for pain au chocolat. Betty made the most delicious tomato, mozzarella and basil salad imaginable. Joan arranged for us to have a tour of Monique's home, complete with a trip to the attic to see how the roof was made, and then to have wine with her-- a 1988 Saint Emilion made by her husband. We ate well all week, but in my opinion, the best meals were the ones we prepared at our house. I must admit, however, that I sat back and let the masters take over and I washed dishes. I am in no way the chef that the others are.
Keeping the vow of "What happens in St. Cyprien, stays in St. Cyprien", I will only say that if there is anything to the saying that laughter takes years off one's life, we should all live for many years to come --if certain individuals watch it when coming down the stairs...
After we left our house, we took to train from Bergerac to Bordeaux. I'd never been there and didn't expect to like it very much-- big city, not much to see, etc. I was wrong. The tram system is very efficient and the city is well tended. Yolanda and Rich befriended a museum guide who gave them a personalized tour of the old city. Pat bought new jeans and he looks really good in them! Rich, Betty, Yolanda and I took a tour of Saint Emilion one day. We visited two châteaux to learn about how they make their wines and ate lunch at one of them. We had a guided tour of the town, including the underground church. We left Bordeaux after 3 days and headed to Paris. Our first night there, while wandering down Rue Cler, we ran into Caroline Bodager, a rising junior at Durham Academy, and her mom. That was awesome!
Our hotel in Paris, the Hôtel Muguet, was incredible. We found it in Rick Steves' Paris book. I left the group early to return to Arles. I did hear, however, that they helped the French economy by arriving at Galeries Lafayette at 8:00 am Wednesday for the first day of the summer sale. I miss you all and want to thank you for making the past two weeks so much fun.

PS- The extra in the photo is Peter, an Englishman who helped us make our plans in the Dordogne. He owns a home in Cahors and likes Americans, even if it is unfashionable to do so. I am sure that we proved to him what a witty and charming lot we are in spite of what they have heard about us!


Caroline Bodager said...

That was so much fun! I can believe we saw you! Hope you are having an amazing time, and I look forward to reading more updates!

Cat said...

PLEASE e-mail when you get a chance...want to hear how all is in beautiful Arles!!! Chef Eric and my buddies there.