It’s great to be back … after so many months hunkering down at home. Little by little, as vaccine doses do their thing, we’re getting back into the world — at least in our relative neighborhood. We’ve missed being able to share our little adventures with you.
So we offer a few little pleasures from the last couple of months.
Our first outing was an alfresco lunch at Le Comptoir Nature with our friends from Quarante. Cathey and Ira knew about this casual restaurant next to the Canal du Midi, in the village of Le Somail. Without hesitation, we joined them, and Liz, Sharon and Nigel…
…and a gaggle of geese.
The menu was fresh, simple and typical for the region: salads, foie gras mi cuit, fish soups, duck, pork, lamb, seafood, and, of course, chocolate mousse. The pleasure was being out with friends on a nice early summer day.
The rustic navigation sign post said, “The world is calling!”
One local institution stayed alive through the pandemic lockdowns: Carcassonne’s Saturday open-air market. Masked up, I went almost every week to buy the week’s fruits and vegetables, and sometimes oysters, olives, honey and flowers. Even though the market is outside and everyone was pretty good at wearing their masks properly, I would zip in and out as efficiently as possible. Now, as summer takes hold, it is a pleasure again to stroll among the stands, to say hi to the egg man and the strawberry people, to pick out a bunch of lilies from the always-smiling flower lady.
Each Sunday during the pandemic, we picked up dinner from one of our favorite local restaurants, L’Ambrosia, in the village of Pezens, just next to our village. Chef Sébastien and Sommelier Valérie are a charming young couple. We have always enjoyed eating at their restaurant. They offer delicious fine dining at very reasonable prices. When the pandemic first hit, we read so many stories of restaurateurs and other business people suffering from the sudden loss of customers and the government’s scrambling to provide assistance. When we realized that Sébastien and Valérie were offering take-out meals on the weekends, we were more than happy to order — of course to enjoy the food, but also to help them out during the difficult times. Finally, in the middle of June, the government allowed restaurants to open both inside and outside. We just had to go see our friends and enjoy their good food in the proper way. Reheating food at home is nice, but eating it at table, beautifully plated, fresh from the chef’s hands — that’s the way it should be! This meal out on the restaurant terrace, overlooking vineyards and rolling hills, marked for us finally stepping out from the pandemic.
In non-pandemic years, the Festival of Carcassonne takes place throughout July. There are performances of all types and sizes all over town, including in the open-air theater in La Cité. We bought tickets to a performance of the Béjart Ballet. (Long ago, when I lived in New York, I was lucky enough to see a few of their performances. I was eager to experience what they offer now.) In order to get into the theater, everyone needed to stop at a health-security tent; we showed our proof-of-vaccine and received a confirmation bracelet. The performance was outside, but there was no reduction of capacity (all seats were filled); masks were required. This was the most people we had seen in one place in a very long time. It was a fun long performance (no intermissions so that people can’t mingle) with music mash-up of Mozart and Freddy Mercury!
The village where we live is tiny; while it has been here for hundreds of years, today it is really a bedroom community for Carcassonne. The town hall, medieval chapel, a great plane tree, and a bar / café compose the sleepy village square. In the time we’ve lived here, there have been a couple different café owners; the food has been remarkably unremarkable, and the hours unpredictable. During the pandemic, of course there was no activity. In the last few weeks, we have noticed a new liveliness. So one Friday noon, spontaneously, we stopped in. As we sat down at a simple table under the plane tree, we watched the server deliver a platter with an immense slab of beef, frites, and salad to a table of six people. I assumed that this was a platter for the table to share. Then he returned with another platter loaded down with an equally massive slab of beef. Then a platter of a giant lamb shank. And another. And another. When the server came to us, we pointed at the lamb shanks and ordered one each. Way too much food (we didn’t eat dinner that night!). But we are delighted that our little village café is alive again with tasty carnivore platters.