Sunday, April 12, 2009

Joyeuses Paques

Or, Buona Pasqua da Francia!

So, we are in southern France, spending a few days with my cousin! After a couple of years of trying to fix dates and work out a visit, we finally made it here. Considering it really isn't *that* far from Italy, you wouldn't think it would have been so hard, would you?

Cousin Celia has a beautiful home in a lovely village and, despite the rainy weather, we are having a wonderful time. She and her partner are loads of fun and gracious hosts. We are sampling local fare and vintages, and -gotta say- those croissants are every bit as buttery and tasty as you would imagine.

When I say "southern France" I am not talking about glitzy Nice or popular Provence. You won't find miles of ordered rows of lavender around here; few towns in the area are considered real tourist destinations. This is the Minervois; an area where vines occupy almost every scrap of arable (or semi-arable) land, sliced through with limestone gorges and punctuated by rugged, scrubby-planted hills. We have seen grapes planted right into hopelessly pebbled fields, yet they seem to be thriving. In the distance, on the one clear day when we arrived, we saw the Pyrenees, their peaks still cloaked in snow.

This is the land of medieval Cathars, peasant heroines, and vengeful crusaders. Gloomy Gothic churches are embellished with grotesque gargoyles. The countryside is sprinkled with stone villages adorned with pastel shuttles, in joyful shades of lavender and cornflower blue. We have glimpsed abundant walking paths, a still-operable canal, and tree-lined avenues. Their friends and other local villagers have been eminently patient with our strange blending of Italian and English, when we have ventured out sans our French-speaking relations.

It is a lovely land, and feels very down to earth. We can see why they love it. We head home tomorrow, but are so glad to be here with famiglia. After the heart-breaking week in Italy rattled by wretched news and aftershocks, we feel a little lighter and more rested.

Buona Pasqua! Hope you have a wonderful day.


South of Rome said...

How wonderful. They say grapes that have to really work to survive make the best wine-- could it be true? Buona Pasqua

janie said...

Sounds like a beautiful spot to visit. Buona Pasqua!

Lola said...

And Buona Pasquetta too! Ciao